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SOJOURNER. The following words are tr. “sojourner” or “stranger.”

1. גֵּר, H1731. This term refers to a resident alien, a non-citizen in a country where he resides more or less permanently, enjoying certain limited civic rights. This person, the sojourner, is one who actually dwells among another people in contrast to the foreigner, whose stay is temporary. The KJV generally translates גֵּר, H1731, as “stranger,” which has caused needless confusion since there are other words for “stranger.” Either the term should be transliterated or consistently tr. “sojourner” which best agrees with the verb gûr (Gen 12:10; 19:9; 47:4; Isa 52:4).

2. תּוֹשָׁב, H9369. In some cases this term seems almost synonymous with gēr. Its use is limited to the Pentateuch with three exceptions (1 Kings 17:1; 1 Chron 29:15; and Ps 39:12). In eight passages it is either coupled with, or parallel to, gēr; in three others it is, like gēr elsewhere, coupled with sākhīr. Its usage does not suggest any clear distinction from gēr.

In the earlier period marriages with foreigners were common, though disliked (Gen 24:3; 27:46; Num 12:1; Judg 14:3). Moses required the high priest to marry a virgin of his own people (Lev 21:14); Ezra and Nehemiah carried on a vigorous polemic against intermarriage of any Jew with foreign women (Ezra 10; Neh 13:23-31). In ancient civilizations the “foreigner” and enemy were practically the same.

In the NT the terms “foreigner,” “stranger” no longer apply to non-Jews because of the disappearance of the Jewish national and political base for the life of God’s people; all Christians are aliens on this earth (Phil 3:20; 1 Pet 2:11). In the NT all strangers, foreigners, and sojourners can become, through Christ, full members of the household of God, since the separating wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down (Eph 2:11-19).


M. Guttmann, “The Term ‘Foreigner’ (נָכְרִי, H5799) Historically Considered,” HUCA, III (1926), 1-20; L. A. Snijders, The Meaning of Zār in the Old Testament (1953).

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