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The OT.

The words most often found in the OT are גֵּר, H1731, and נָכְרִי, H5799.


This term referred to a person who lived in a country or town of which he was not a full native citizen. It is used particularly of free aliens living more or less permanently among the Israelites. The word was, however, also used of Israelites—for example, the patriarchs in Pal. and the Israelites in Egypt (Gen 15:13; Exod 22:21; 23:9; Lev 19:34; Deut 10:19; 18:6; etc.).

There were strangers among the Israelites from the first. A “mixed multitude” went up from Egypt with Israel; after the conquest, Israelites and Caananites dwelt side by side. The latter were never exterminated. The historical books frequently make mention of resident aliens, e.g., Uriah the Hittite. There were many strangers (aliens) in Pal. in the days of Solomon (2 Chron 2:17).

A free Israelite who became a slave of a ger could be redeemed by a relative at any time on payment of a fair price (Lev 25:47ff.). Gerim who became slaves were not released during the year of Jubilee, as Israelites were (Lev 25:46).

After the Babylonian captivity, many of the gerim became proselytes to Judaism, and their identity was absorbed in the Jewish nation.


The gerim were non-Israelites who made their home in Israel; the נָכְרִ֖ים came into temporary contact with Israel as travelers or as traders. In the matter of rights and privileges in Pal., their position was no different from that of the gerim. A temporary resident would naturally not have the same interest, at least normally, in the religion of the land. They were treated hospitably, but they were expected, while in the land, to conform to Jewish laws about sabbath keeping. They could not eat of the Passover unless they were circumcised (Exod 12:43) or eat of a holy thing (Lev 22:10). Israelites could lend money to them for interest (Deut 23:20). Israelites were forbidden to buy for sacrifice, defective animals purchased from a foreigner (Lev 22:25).

The NT.


M. Guttman, “The Term ‘Foreigner’ Historically Considered,” Hebrew Union College Annual, III (1926), 1-20; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1961), 74-76.

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