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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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STRANGER . This seems, on the whole, the most suitable English word by which to render the Heb. zâr , which is a participle denoting primarily one who turns aside, one who goes out of the way, i.e. for the purpose of visiting or dwelling in another country. It has frequently the meaning foreigner , in contrast to ‘Israelite,’ especially with the added notion of hostility (cf. ‘estranged’), and in antithesis to ‘Israel’ ( e.g. Hosea 7:9; Hosea 8:7 , Isaiah 1:7 , Ezekiel 7:21; Ezekiel 11:9 , Joel 3:17 , Obadiah 1:11 , Psalms 54:3 etc.). In P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] the word takes on a technical meaning found nowhere outside the Hexateuch, and exclusively post-exilic. It means ‘layman’ (which might with advantage be substituted for EV [Note: English Version.] ‘stranger’), as opposed to a Levite (see Numbers 1:51; Numbers 18:7 ), or to a priest proper, or Aaronite (see Exodus 29:33; Exodus 30:33 , Numbers 3:10; Numbers 3:38; Numbers 18:2 , Leviticus 22:10; Leviticus 22:12 f. (H [Note: Law of Holiness.] )).

The ‘strange woman’ of Proverbs 2:16 etc. has the same technical sense as ‘foreign woman’ with which it stands in parallelism, viz. harlot .

Sojourner (sometimes tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of tôshâb , ‘settler’ [see below]) is frequently substituted by RV [Note: Revised Version.] for the AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘stranger,’ as tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of gçr . The ger was originally a man who transferred himself from one tribe or people to another, seeking, and usually obtaining, some of the rights of natives. A whole clan or tribe might be gçrîm in Israel, as e.g. the Gibeonites ( Joshua 9:1-27 ), the Beerothites ( 2 Samuel 4:2 ). The Israelites are themselves often spoken of as ‘sojourners’ in the land of Egypt (see Genesis 15:13 , Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9 , Leviticus 19:24 (H [Note: Law of Holiness.] ), Deuteronomy 10:19; Deuteronomy 23:7 etc.). In the oldest Israelitish code (the Book of the Covenant, Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 23:13 ), the gçr is protected against injustice and violence ( Exodus 21:20 , Exodus 23:9 ). The D [Note: Deuteronomist.] code ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 620) goes much further, for, besides making more explicit and urgent the duty of defending, helping, and even loving the ‘sojourner’ ( Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:14; Deuteronomy 24:19 ), and also securing to him his rights ( Deuteronomy 24:17 , Deuteronomy 27:1-9 ), the gçr was to be allowed to participate in the three great annual feasts ( Deuteronomy 16:11 ff; cf. Deuteronomy 5:14 and Exodus 23:12 ). He is not, however, compelled, though allowed, to follow his protector’s religion ( Deuteronomy 14:29 , 1 Kings 11:7 ). That he occupies a status inferior to that of the born Israelite is indicated by the fact that he is classed with the widow and orphan as needing special consideration ( Deuteronomy 10:18 , Deuteronomy 14:29 , Deuteronomy 29:14; Deuteronomy 29:19 ), and that the right of intermarrying is denied him ( Deuteronomy 7:1 ff., Deuteronomy 23:4 ). When, however, we come to P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] and to other parts of the OT which belong to the same stage of history and religion, we find the ‘sojourner’ almost on an equal footing with the native Israelite, he is fast becoming, and is almost become, the proselyte of NT and Rabbinical times. His position has now religious rather than political significance. He is expected to keep the Sabbath and to observe the Day of Atonement, as well as the three great feasts ( Leviticus 16:29 ). He is to eat unleavened bread during Passover week ( Exodus 12:19; Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are now blended), and, if circumcised (not otherwise), to keep the full Passover itself. But the gçr is not even yet the full equal of the Israelite, for he is not compelled to be circumcised, and no one can belong to the congregation who has not submitted to that rite ( Exodus 12:47 ff., Numbers 9:14 ); he has not yet received the right of intermarriage ( Genesis 34:14 ), and is prohibited from keeping Jewish slaves ( Leviticus 25:47 ff.).

The closing of the ranks of Judaism, helped by the Exile, by the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, by the Samaritan schism, and consummated by the Maccabæan wars, led to the complete absorption of the ‘sojourner.’ The word prosçlytos (representing the Heb. gçr ), common in classical Greek for one who has come to a place (Lat. advena ), acquired in Hellenistic Greek the meaning which meets us often in the NT ( Matthew 23:15 , Acts 2:6 etc.). See Proselyte.

The indiscriminate use of ‘stranger’ with the meaning of ‘sojourner,’ and of ‘alien’ and ‘foreigner’ is very confusing. ‘Foreigner’ is the proper rendering of Heb. nokri . The Heb. tôshâb (lit. ‘dweller’) is a post-exilic substitute for gçr (‘sojourner’) in the original non-religeous sense of the latter. For the sake of distinction it might be uniformly rendered ‘ settler ’ (EV [Note: English Version.] ‘sojourner,’ ‘stranger,’ ‘foreigner’). See, for the relations of Israel to foreigners proper, art. Nations.

T. Witton Davies.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Stranger'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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