Stranger and Sojourner in the Old Testament
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The Resemblance Between the Old Testament and the New.
... habitation is attested by these words, "I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner,
as all ... us learn that the holy fathers under the Old Testament were not ...
/.../the institutes of the christian religion/chapter 10 the resemblance between.htm

The Kinsman-Redeemer
... The same thought recurs frequently in the Old Testament, especially in the second
half of the prophecies of Isaiah, and ... If a stranger or sojourner with thee ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture h/the kinsman-redeemer.htm

With, Before, After
... Never mind, though you are a stranger, if you have ... mind, though you are only a sojourner;
if you ... the very frequent expression of the Old Testament about 'going ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture k/with before after.htm

Abram the Hebrew
... under this terebinth tree; for I am here as a stranger and a sojourner.' No doubt ...
Abram is in that respect the Old Testament type of a God- fearing hero ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture k/abram the hebrew.htm

The Death of Abraham
... That phrase is only used in the earlier Old Testament books, and there only in ... his
kindred; all his days he was a pilgrim and a sojourner, a stranger in a ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture k/the death of abraham.htm

Letter Lxxi. To Lucinius.
... already fulfilling the prophet David's words: "I am a stranger with thee and a
sojourner, as all ... [2257] For as the true text of the old testament can only ...
/.../jerome/the principal works of st jerome/letter lxxi to lucinius.htm

Chapter xxiii
... thought involved in this verse in the use of the terms "stranger and sojourner"
carries deeper ... content of the words of the men of God of the Old Covenant. ...
/.../ of genesis volume 1/chapter xxiii.htm

Psalm XXXIX.
... but he reckoned it one of the things of the "old days," that have waxed old, and
therefore ... "For I am a sojourner with Thee, and a stranger." Therefore it ...
/.../augustine/exposition on the book of psalms/psalm xxxix.htm

Introduction to the Old Testament. ... but most of all to the needy"the stranger, the
Levite ... a sweet and irresistible reasonableness""Love the sojourner, for ye ...
/.../mcfadyen/introduction to the old testament/deuteronomy.htm

Appendix xii. The Baptism of Proselytes
... of the gate) and Ger Toshabh (sojourner,' settled among ... the words of Maimonides,
a stranger sought shelter ... a return to the purity of Old Testament teaching, but ...
/.../the life and times of jesus the messiah/appendix xii the baptism of.htm

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Stranger and Sojourner in the Old Testament




1. Legal provisions

(1) Principles

(2) Rules

2. Relation to Sacrifice and Ritual

3. Historical Circumstances



1. Marriage

2. Exclusion of Some Races from the Assembly


Four different Hebrew words must be considered separately:

(1) ger, the American Standard Revised Version "sojourner" or "stranger";

(2) toshabh, the American Standard Revised Version "sojourner";

(3) nokhri, ben nekhar, the American Standard Revised Version "foreigner";

(4) zar, the American Standard Revised Version "stranger."

I. The Ger.

This word with its kindred verb is applied with slightly varying meanings to anyone who resides in a country or a town of which he is not a full native land-owning citizen; e.g., the word is used of the patriarchs in Palestine, the Israelites in Egypt, the Levites dwelling among the Israelites (Deuteronomy 18:6 Judges 17:7, etc.), the Ephraimite in Gibeah (Judges 19:16). It is also particularly used of free aliens residing among the Israelites, and it is with the position of such that this article deals. This position is absolutely unparalleled in early legal systems (A. H. Post, Grundriss der ethnologischen Jurisprudenz, I, 448, note 3), which are usually far from favorable to strangers.

1. Legal Provisions:

(1) Principles.

The dominant principles of the legislation are most succinctly given in two passages: He "loveth the ger in giving him food and raiment" (Deuteronomy 10:18); "And if a ger sojourn with thee (variant "you") in your land, ye shall not do him wrong. The ger that sojourneth with you shall be unto you as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were gerim in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33 f). This treatment of the stranger is based partly on historic recollection, partly on the duty of the Israelite to his God. Because the ger would be at a natural disadvantage through his alienage, he becomes one of the favorites of a legislation that gives special protection to the weak and helpless.

(2) Rules.

In nationality the freeman followed his father, so that the son of a ger and an Israelitess was himself a ger (Leviticus 24:10-22). Special care was to be taken to do him no judicial wrong (Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 27:19). In what may roughly be called criminal law it was enacted that the same rules should apply to gerim as to natives (Leviticus 18:26, which is due to the conception that certain abominations defile a land; Leviticus 20:2, where the motive is also religious; Leviticus 24:10-22; see SBL, 84;; Numbers 35:15). A free Israelite who became his slave was subject to redemption by a relative at any time on payment of the fair price (Leviticus 25:47). This passage and Deuteronomy 28:43 contemplate the possibility of a stranger's becoming wealthy, but by far the greater number of the legal provisions regard him as probably poor. Thus provision is made for him to participate in tithes (Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 26:12), gleanings of various sorts and forgotten sheaves (Leviticus 19:10; Leviticus 23:22 Deuteronomy 24:19, 20, 21), and poor hired servants were not to be oppressed (Deuteronomy 24:14).

2. Relation to Sacrifice and Ritual:

Nearly all the main holy days apply to the ger. He was to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:12, etc.), to rejoice on Weeks and Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16), to observe the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29), to have no leaven on the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:19). But he could not keep the Passover unless he underwent circumcision (Exodus 12:48). He could not eat blood at any rate during the wilderness period (Leviticus 17:10-12), and for that period, but not thereafter, he was probihited from eating that which died of itself (Leviticus 17:15 Deuteronomy 14:21) under pain of being unclean until the even. He could offer sacrifices (Leviticus 17:8; Leviticus 22:18 Numbers 15:14 f), and was subject to the same rules as a native for unwitting sins (Numbers 15:22-31), and for purification for uncleanness by reason of contact with a dead body (Numbers 19:10-13).

3. Historical Circumstances:

The historical circumstances were such as to render the position of the resident alien important from the first. A "mixed multitude" went up with the Israelites from Egypt, and after the conquest we find Israelites and the races of Palestine living side by side throughout the country. We repeatedly read of resident aliens in the historical books, e.g. Uriah the Hittite. According to 2 Chronicles 2:17 (Hebrew 16) there was a very large number of such in the days of Solomon, but the figure may be excessive. These seem to have been the remnant of the conquered tribes (1 Kings 9:20 f). Ezekiel in his vision assigned to gerim landed inheritance among the Israelites (47:22). Hospitality to the ger was of course a religious duty and the host would go to any lengths to protect his guest (Genesis 19 Judges 19:24).

II. The Toshabh.

Of the toshabh we know very little. It is possible that the word is practically synonymous with ger, but perhaps it is used of less permanent sojourning. Thus in Leviticus 22:10 it appears to cover anybody residing with a priest. A toshabh could not eat the Passover or the "holy" things of a priest (Exodus 12:45 Leviticus 22:10). His children could be purchased as perpetual slaves, and the law of the Jubilee did not apply to them as to Israelites (Leviticus 25:45). He is expressly mentioned in the law of homicide (Numbers 35:15), but otherwise we have no information as to his legal position. Probably it was similar to that of the ger.

III. The Nokhri Ben Nekhar.

The nokhri or ben nekhar was a foreigner. The word is far wider than those considered above. It covers everything of alien or foreign character regardless of the place of residence. By circumcision a foreign slave could enter into the covenant with Abraham. Foreigners were of course excluded from the Passover (Exodus 12:43), but could offer sacrifices to Israel's God at the religious capital (Leviticus 22:25). The Israelite could exact interest of them (Deuteronomy 23:20) and the payment of debts in cases where an Israelite debtor was protected by the release of Deuteronomy 15:3. Moses forbade the appointment of a foreigner as a ruler (Deuteronomy 17:15, in a law which according to Massoretic Text relates to a "king," but in the preferable text of Septuagint to a ruler generally). Later the worship of God by foreigners from a distance was contemplated and encouraged (1 Kings 8:41-43 Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 56:3, 6 f; etc.), while the case of Naaman shows that a foreigner might worship Him abroad (2 Kings 5:17). A resident foreigner was of course a ger. The distinction between these three words is perhaps best seen in Exodus 12:43, 45, 48 f. in the first of these verses we have ben nekhar, used to cover "alien" generally; in the last the ger is contemplated as likely to undergo a complete naturalization; while in 12:45 the toshabh is regarded as certain to be outside the religious society.

1. Marriage:

In the earlier period marriages with foreigners are common, though disliked (e.g. Genesis 24:3; Genesis 27:46;; Numbers 12:1 Judges 14:3, etc.). The Law provides for some unions of this kind (Deuteronomy 21:10; compare Numbers 31:18), but later Judaism became more stringent. Moses required the high priest to marry a virgin of his own people (Leviticus 21:14); Ezekiel limited all descendants of Zadok to wives of the house of Israel (44:22); Ezra and Nehemiah carried on a vigorous polemic against the intermarriage of any Jew with foreign women (Ezra 10 Nehemiah 13:23-31).

2. Exclusion of Some Races from Assembly:

Deuteronomy further takes up a hostile attitude to Ammonites and Moabites, excluding them from the assembly of the Lord even to the tenth generation, while the children of the third generation of Edomites and Egyptians could enter it (23:3-8 (Hebrew 4-9)). From 1 Kings 9:20, 21, 24 1 Chronicles 22:2 we learn of the existence of foreign quarters in Israel.

IV. The Zar.

The remaining word zar means "stranger" and takes its coloring from the context. It may mean "stranger in blood," e.g. non-Aaronite (Numbers 16:40 (Heb 17:5)), or non-Levite (e.g. Numbers 1:51), or a non-member of some other defined family (Deuteronomy 25:5). In opposition to priest it means "lay" (Leviticus 22:10-13), and when the contrast is with holy, it denotes "profane" (Exodus 30:9).


Harold M. Wiener



Stranger and Sojourner in the Apocrypha and the New Testament

Stranger and Sojourner in the Old Testament

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