The Israelites, … multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land. Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves.—Exodus 1:7-11, NLT
Before the children of Israel came to Egypt, a group of Canaanites known as the Hycksos invaded the country and took power, reducing the native population to servitude and ruling the land for 200 years. Because of the great prosperity of the Israelites and their dramatic growth in number, “they became extremely powerful and filled the land.” Although hundreds of years had passed since the fall of the Hycksos’ dominion, the Egyptians feared another invasion from the East, and they suspected that the Israelites—having come from Canaan—would not be faithful to them in such a situation. Furthermore, since the fertility rate of the Israelites outstripped that of the Egyptians, the Hebrew population would sooner or later take control of the country.
This particular case from Ancient Egypt presents an interesting example. A country that does not manage to assimilate its immigrants will, sooner or later, see serious ethnic conflicts. In ancient times as well as in ours, when a group of immigrants become very numerous in a country, nativism will break out and racism will surge among people who see themselves as threatened by the new group. As for the Israelites, the Egyptians had success in dominating the immigrants and reducing their power . . . for a time.
The general history of the world suggests that change is inexorable. Change doesn’t prevail in every battle, but it wins all its wars. Civilizations, cultures, and nations do not remain immutable forever. They change with time, affecting the native born as well as the newcomers. Immigrants who want to establish themselves in their new country should reflect a great deal about how they can integrate into and be a blessing to the national population.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life y The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.