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Bible Dictionaries

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Foreigner


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Almost every large community contains some people whom the community regards as foreigners. This often creates tensions (Numbers 12:1; Nehemiah 13:23-25; Acts 18:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:16), in spite of God’s desire that there be tolerance and harmony (cf. Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18; Ephesians 2:14-16).

When the Israelites migrated from Egypt to Canaan, many foreigners were among them (Exodus 12:38). In Canaan more foreigners were among them, because of the Israelites’ failure to wipe out the local people (Joshua 17:12; Judges 3:5). (Concerning the specific reasons for exterminating the Canaanites see CANAAN.) Israelites themselves brought in more foreigners by taking people captive in war and bringing them back to Israel to work as slaves and labourers (Numbers 31:9; Joshua 9:22-24; Joshua 17:13; 1 Kings 9:21; see SLAVE).

God has a special concern for those who are resident foreigners or who belong to other minority groups that are liable to unfair treatment by the majority (Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Psalms 146:9). He instructed Israelites to treat foreigners with tolerance and kindness, and to remember how they themselves felt when they were foreigners in Egypt (Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 24:19-22; see HOSPITALITY).

Foreigners who worked for Israelites were to have one day rest in seven the same as Israelites (Exodus 20:10). They were under the law of Israel (Exodus 12:19; Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 18:26; Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 24:16), but they also shared the national blessings of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:10-13; Joshua 8:33; Joshua 20:9). They could join in some of Israel’s ceremonies (Numbers 15:14; Deuteronomy 26:11), but they could not join in the Passover unless they had formally become members of the covenant people (Exodus 12:48-50; see CIRCUMCISION; PROSELYTE). Under the new covenant, by contrast, there is no distinction between Israelites and foreigners. All believers are united in one body through faith, regardless of nationality (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:19; see GENTILE; RACE).

Among Old Testament Israelites there was a sense in which even they were foreigners. The land of Canaan belonged to God and the Israelites were like foreign visitors, or pilgrims – people whom God allowed to live for a time in his land. That was why, after Joshua divided the land among the families of Israel, no one was to sell any portion of land permanently (Leviticus 25:23; see JUBILEE).

In a sense all the inhabitants of the world are like foreign visitors, for the world is only their temporary dwelling place (1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalms 39:12). This is particularly true of believers, whose real dwelling place is heaven (Hebrews 11:13-16; Hebrews 13:14; 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 2:11).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Foreigner'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/f/foreigner.html. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 24th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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