Lessons on Immigration from Jamestown

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Only 400 years ago the United States did not exist as a country. But the beginnings of America were already taking shape with the establishment of the first English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia.

This year marks the 400th anniversary. Britain's Queen Elizabeth was present to start off a summer of celebrations.

Jamestown and the James River were named after King James I, while the colony of Virginia got its name from Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. Right from the start, the new settlers were aware of the Native Americans who lived near them. "Trouble between the Indians and the settlers started on the first day the English stepped ashore on the banks of the Chesapeake" (Kieran Doherty, Sea Venture, 2007, page 8). At least one, John Rolfe, married one of the natives, Pocahontas. Within months, the number of settlers dwindled from 104 to less than 40, mostly as a result of disease and the harsh local conditions.

It is doubtful that any of the Native Americans at that time foresaw that eventually these new arrivals would take over. Yet it would be quite true to state that the arrival of a handful of settlers in 1607 led to the subjugation of most of North America.

Could a handful of new arrivals 400 years later accomplish the same? The idea may seem preposterous, but history shows a continuing progression of nations changing hands. So does the Bible.

As Americans debate the issue of immigration, they would do well to learn from the lessons of history!

Bible prophecy and history show that the peoples of the United States are descended from the biblical patriarch Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel (Jacob). Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh was to become a great people, the United States, while his younger brother was to "become a multitude of nations" (Genesis 48:19), a prophecy fulfilled in the British Empire and Commonwealth. In verse 16, Israel said "let my name be named upon them." In Deuteronomy 28:1 God promises these Israelites, "Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God ... [He] will set you high above all nations of the earth."

England, from which the earliest settlers to the American colonies came, had only recently rejected papal control from Rome and begun to publish the Bible. As author Benson Bobrick wrote, "Englishmen carried their Bibles with them—as the rock and foundation of their lives—overseas …. Beyond the shores of Albion (England), it fortified the spirit of the pioneers of New England, helped to shape the American psyche, and through its impact on thought and culture eventually spread the world over …." (Wide as the Waters, 2001, page 12).

Deuteronomy 28 also mentions the consequences upon the modern descendants of Israel if they fail to obey God. Included in these is the growing dominance of "aliens" (foreigners).

"The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head and you shall be the tail" (verses 43-44). Eventually, "a nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land, and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually" (verse 33).

Earlier this year, the Census Bureau revealed that the US population had surpassed 300 million. A few weeks later, it was announced that the number of people classified as minorities has reached over 100 million. By the middle of this century, minorities are projected to be the majority.

Two groups in particular reportedly have a very high birthrate and are set to be the major beneficiaries of this change—Hispanics and Muslims. In the 1970 census there were only half a million Muslims. Today there are at least seven million.

Just before the celebrations in Jamestown, I was returning to the United States from Ghana in West Africa, on a direct flight from Accra to New York. Almost everybody on board was Ghanaian, almost all of them moving to the US. It struck me that there were more people moving to North America on that flight than arrived in Jamestown four centuries ago. And that flight was just one of dozens making the daily transatlantic route, bringing thousands of people per day to America's shores.