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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Stranger

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(prop. גֵּר, ger, or תּשָׁב, toshab). These two Heb. terms appear to describe, not two different classes of strangers, but the stranger under two different aspects - ger rather implying his foreign origin, or the fact of his having turned aside to abide with another people, toshab implying his permanent residence in the land of his adoption. Winer (Realwb. s.v. "Fremde") regards the latter as equivalent to hireling. Jahn (Archoeol. 1, 11, § 181) explains toshab of one who, whether Hebrew or foreigner, was destitute of a home. We see no evidence for either of these opinions. In the Sept. these terms are most frequently rendered by πάροικος, the Alexandrian substitute for the classical μέτοικος. Sometimes προσήλυτος is used, and in two passages (Exodus 12:19; Isaiah 14:1) γειώρας, as representing the Chaldee form of the word ger. A "stranger," in the technical Hebrew sense of the term, may be defined to be a person of foreign, i.e. non-Israelitish, extraction, resident within the limits of the promised land. He was distinct from the proper "foreigner" (נָכְרַי, nokri), inasmuch as the latter still belonged to another country, and would only visit Palestine as a traveler; he was still more distinct from the "nations" (גּוֹיַם, yoyim, usually rendered "heathen"), or non-Israelitish peoples, who held no relationship with the chosen people of God. The term answers most nearly to the Greek μέτοικος, and may be compared with our expression "naturalized foreigner," in so far as this implies a certain political status in the country where the foreigner resides; it is opposed to one "born in the land" (אֶזְרָח, ezrach), or, as the term more properly means, "not transplanted," in the same way that a naturalized foreigner is opposed to a native. The terms applied to the "stranger" have special reference to the fact of his residing (גּוּר, יָשִׁב ) in the land. (See FOREIGNER).

The existence of such a class of persons among the Israelites is easily accounted for the "mixed multitude" that accompanied them out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38) formed one element; the Canaanitish population, which was never wholly extirpated from their native soil, formed another and a still more important one; captives taken in war formed a third; fugitives, hired servants, merchants, etc., formed a fourth. The number from these various sources must have been at all times very considerable; the census of them in Solomon's time gave a return of 153,600 males (2 Chronicles 2:17), which was equal to about a tenth of the whole population. The enactments of the Mosaic law, which regulated the political and social position of resident strangers, were conceived in a spirit of great liberality. With the exception of the Moabites and Ammonites (Deuteronomy 23:3), all nations were admissible to the rights of citizenship under certain conditions. It would appear, indeed, to be a consequence of the prohibition of intermarriage with the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:3), that these would be excluded from the rights of citizenship; but the Rabbinical view that this exclusion was superseded in the case of proselytes seems highly probable, as we find Doeg the Edomite (1 Samuel 21:7; 1 Samuel 22:9), Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11:6), and Araunah the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:18) enjoying, to all appearance, the full rights of citizenship. Whether a stranger could ever become legally a land owner is a question about which there may be doubt. Theoretically the whole of the soil was portioned out among the twelve tribes; and Ezekiel notices it as a peculiarity of the division which he witnessed in vision that the strangers were to share the inheritance with the Israelites, and should thus become as those "born in the country" (Ezekiel 42:22). Indeed, the term "stranger" is more than once applied in a pointed manner to signify one who was not a land owner (Genesis 23:4; Leviticus 25:23); while, on the other hand, ezrach (A.V. "born in the land") may have reference to the possession of the soil, as it is borrowed from the image of a tree not transplanted, and so occupying its native soil. The Israelites, however, never succeeded in obtaining possession of the whole, and it is possible that the Canaanitish occupants may in course of time have been recognized as "strangers," and had the right of retaining their land conceded to them. There was of course nothing to prevent a Canaanite from becoming the mortgagee in possession of a plot, but this would not constitute him a proper land owner, inasmuch as he would lose all interest in the property when the year of jubilee came round. That they possessed land in one of these two capacities is clear from the case of Araunah above cited.

The stranger appears to have been eligible to all civil offices, that of king excepted (Deuteronomy 17:15). In regard to religion, it was absolutely necessary that the stranger should not infringe any of the fundamental laws of the Israelitish State he was forbidden to blaspheme the name of Jehovah (Leviticus 24:16), to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), to eat leavened bread at the time of the Passover (Exodus 12:19), to commit any breach of the marriage laws (Leviticus 18:26). to worship Molech (Leviticus 20:2), or to eat blood or the flesh of any animal that had died otherwise than by the hand of man (Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 17:15). He was required to release a Hebrew servant in the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:47-54), to observe the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29), to perform the rites of purification when necessary (Leviticus 17:15; Numbers 19:10), and to offer sin offerings after sins of ignorance (Numbers 15:29). If the stranger was a bondman, he was obliged to submit to circumcision (Exodus 12:44); if he was independent, it was optional with him; but if he remained uncircumcised, he was prohibited from partaking of the Passover (Exodus 12:48), and could not be regarded as a full citizen. Liberty was also given in regard to the use of prohibited food to an uncircumcised stranger; for on this ground alone can we harmonize the statements in Deuteronomy 14:21 and Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 17:15.

Assuming, however, that the stranger was circumcised, no distinction existed in regard to legal rights between the stranger and the Israelite. "One law" for both classes is a principle affirmed in respect to religious observances (Exodus 12:49; Numbers 15:16) and to legal proceedings (Leviticus 24:22), and the judges are strictly warned against any partiality in their decisions (Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 24:17-18). The Israelite is also enjoined to treat him as a brother (Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19), and the precept is enforced in each case by a reference to his own state in the land of Egypt. Such precepts were needed in order to counteract the natural tendency to treat persons in the position of strangers with rigor. For, though there was the possibility of a stranger acquiring wealth and becoming the owner of Hebrew slaves (Leviticus 25:47), yet his normal state was one of poverty, as implied in the numerous passages where he is coupled with the fatherless and the widow (e.g. Exodus 22:21-23; Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 24:17), and in the special directions respecting his having a share in the feasts that accompanied certain religious festivals (Leviticus 16:11; Leviticus 16:14; Leviticus 26:11), in the leasing of the corn field, the vineyard, and the olive yard (Leviticus 19:10; Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:20), in the produce of the triennial tithe (Leviticus 14:28-29), in the forgotten sheaf (Leviticus 24:19), and in the spontaneous production of the soil in the sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:6). It also appears that the "stranger" formed the class whence the hirelings were drawn the terms being coupled together in Exodus 12:45; Leviticus 22:10; Leviticus 25:6; Leviticus 25:40.

Such laborers were engaged either by the day (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:15) or by the year (Leviticus 25:53), and appear to have been considerately treated, for the condition of the Hebrew slave is favorably compared with that of the hired servant and the sojourner in contradistinction to the bondman (Leviticus 25:39-40). A less fortunate class of strangers, probably captives in war or for debt, were reduced to slavery, and were subject to be bought and sold (Leviticus 25:45), as well as to be put to task work, as was the case with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:21) and with those whom Solomon employed in the building of the Temple (2 Chronicles 2:18). The liberal spirit of the Mosaic regulations respecting strangers presents a strong contrast to the rigid exclusiveness of the Jews at the commencement of the Christian era. The growth of this spirit dates from the time of the Babylonian captivity, and originated partly in the outrages which the Jews suffered at the hands of foreigners, and partly through a fear lest their nationality should be swamped by constant admixture with foreigners the latter motive appears to have dictated the stringent measures adopted by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:2; Nehemiah 13:3). Our Lord condemns this exclusive spirit in the parable of the good Samaritan, where he defines the term "neighbor" in a sense new to his hearers (Luke 10:36). It should be observed, however, that the proselyte (προσήλυτος in the Sept. = גֵּר . in Exodus 12:19; Exodus 20:10; Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9) of the New Test. is the true representative of the stranger of the Old Test., and towards this class a cordial feeling was manifested. (See PROSELYTE). The term "stranger" (ξένος ) is generally used in the New Test. in the general sense of foreigner, and occasionally in its more technical sense as opposed to a citizen (Ephesians 2:19). (See HOSPITALITY). For the זָרָה, zaarh, or "strange woman," (See HARLOT).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Stranger'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/stranger.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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