From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

Person from a different racial, ethnic, and linguistic group as in contrast to a "native." Circumstances during biblical times often forced people to emigrate to another country, where they would become "resident aliens" (see  Genesis 19:9;  Ruth 1:1 ). A less permanent settler was known as a "stranger" or "temporary resident." Sometimes the term "foreigner" is used to translate a Hebrew word that generally means an "outsider" from a different race, tribe, or family.

The Old Testament . The creation account records the first human residence in the garden of Eden. With the fall, humanity is exiled from God's immediate presence into a "foreign" land. This is the background to the important Old Testament theme of the promise of land.

After the judgment of the flood, the Book of Genesis records the Table of Nations (chap. 10), portraying the remarkable growth of the human community with its variety of racial, linguistic, and political divisions. The tower of Babel incident (11:1-9) is the reason for these divisions, as God confuses the language and disperses the human race. A divided humanity, alienated from God and from itself, is in desperate need of a home.

If the early history of the Bible ends with curse—the disintegration of humanity into many nationsthe beginning of Israel's national history (chap. 12) commences with blessing as a family receives a divine pledge of land and a promise of progeny that will bless the alienated nations. Abram and his family, the founders of the Israelite nation, obeyed the call of God to emigrate to this land, leaving Mesopotamia to become resident aliens in Canaan (12:10; 20:1; 23:4). The patriarchs' lives were marked by a rootlessness, as the only land they actually received was a grave for Sarah, Abraham's wife (chap. 23). This pilgrim existence characterized early Israel ( Exodus 6:4 ), as the embryonic nation was shaped in Egypt, another foreign country ( Exodus 22:20;  23:9 ).

When Israel was constituted as a nation at Sinai ( Exodus 19-24 ), a concern for resident aliens was etched into the legal system. The alien peoples received special protection under the law ( Exodus 22:21;  23:9 ), and were even to be loved as native Israelites ( Leviticus 19:34 ). Such protection was particularly necessary as immigrants would not have the social network of kinship relations for support during exigencies. Yet, although ancient Near Eastern law codes stressed protection for the widow and orphan, only Israel's contained legislation for the resident alien. This was probably due to the peculiar circumstances of her origin.

After Sinai and the wilderness wanderings, Israel received the gift of the promised land. In order to occupy it, however, she had to purge the land of its foreign population. Foreigners in this context represented hostile agents that would contaminate Israel and render her unholy before God. For the same reason, covenants and marriages with foreigners were forbidden. Paradoxically, only if her religion was pure could Israel be of help to foreigners (cf. Rahab, Ruth, Naaman, the widow of Zarepath). If Israel became sinful in the holy land, she would lose God's permanent presence, as he would become like a temporary resident ( Jeremiah 14:8 ).

And yet Israel's entire existence was bound up with being a blessing to foreigners ( Genesis 12:3 ). Some psalms envisioned the time when all nations would become subject to an Israelite king who would rule the world with justice. Solomon's prayer at the inauguration of the temple implied that it was to be a house of prayer for all peoples, as Israelite and foreigner could both pray to its Lord ( 1 Kings 8:41-43; cf.  Isaiah 56:3-8 ). The prophets predicted that all nations would go up to Jerusalem to learn the Torah and depart changed people, no longer alienated from each other ( Isaiah 2:1-4;  Micah 4:1-5 ). There would be one humanity ( Isaiah 19:23-25 ), speaking a purified language ( Zephaniah 3:9 ).

Although Israel received a residence in the promised land, she was reminded that the land was God's and that he allowed her to settle on it as a resident alien ( Leviticus 25:23; cf.  1 Chronicles 29:15;  Psalm 39:12;  119:19 ). Israel must wait for a true home.

The New Testament . By the time of the New Testament, Israel had become extremely exclusive, largely forgetting her mission to the nations. When the Messiah arrived, however, foreigners were present ( Matthew 2:1-12 ). During his ministry, he constantly interacted with them, indicating that God's love embraced the world ( Luke 17:18;  John 4 ). A Roman soldier pronounced a eulogy at his death (  Luke 23:47 ). Death broke the hostile powers that caused human divisions ( Ephesians 2:14-18 ). In Christ there was no longer any important racial, linguistic, or ethnic difference ( Galatians 3:26-29 ). Pentecost ( Acts 2 ) reversed the judgment of the tower of Babel ( Genesis 11:1-9 ).

At the same time, there was the realization that while members of the church had their citizenship in heaven, they were resident aliens on earth ( 1 Peter 1:17;  2:11 ). Before the coming of the kingdom, they had to live a nomadic existence as strangers and pilgrims, much like the patriarchs of the Old Testament ( Hebrews 11:9-16 ). They must live in hope and faith, praying for the invasion of the kingdom and waiting patiently for the gift of a new Canaan, a new Eden, where they can reside with their God ( Revelation 21-22 ). Meanwhile the church must act by helping literal strangers and foreigners, remembering her own identity and God's love for the powerless ( Matthew 25:35,38,43,44 ). Hospitality ( philoxenos, lit. love for the stranger) is to be a characteristic of the follower of Christ ( 1 Peter 4:9; cf.  Romans 12:13;  Hebrews 13:2 ).

Stephen G. Dempster

See also The Nations

Bibliography . G. Ahlsträ , TDOT, 4:52-58; F. C. Fensham, JNES 21 (1962): 129-39; D. E. Gowan, Int 41 (1987): 341-53; D. Kellerman, TDOT, 2:439-49; B. J. Malina, Int 41 (1987): 354-67; G. C. Moucarry, Themelios 14 (1988): 17-20; R. Patterson, BSac 130 (1973): 223-34; H. E. von Waldrow, CBQ 32 (1970): 182-204.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

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).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [3]

 Exodus 22:21 23:9 Leviticus 19:33,34 23:22 Deuteronomy 14:28 16:10,11 24:19 Exodus 12:49 Leviticus 24:22 Numbers 15:15 35:15 Exodus 20:10 Leviticus 17:15,16 18:26 20:2 24:16

King James Dictionary [4]

FOR'EIGNER, n. for'aner. A person born in a foreign country, or without the country or jurisdiction of which one speaks. A Spaniard is a foreigner in France and England. All men not born in the United States are to them foreigners, and they are aliens till naturalized. A naturalized person is a citizen but we still call him a foreigner by birth.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [5]

 Ephesians 2:19 (a) This describes the spiritual condition of those who have never accepted Christ Jesus and therefore do not belong to GOD's family, GOD's church, nor the "holy nation" of the saints.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(n.) A person belonging to or owning allegiance to a foreign country; one not native in the country or jurisdiction under consideration, or not naturalized there; an alien; a stranger.

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]


Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Foreigner . See Nations, Stranger.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [9]

See Stranger.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

( נָכְרַי , Nokri',  Deuteronomy 15:3;  Obadiah 1:11, a Stranger, as elsewhere rendered; תּוֹשָׁב , Toshab',  Exodus 12:45, a Sojourner, as usually rendered; Πάροικος , lit. a Neighbor,  Ephesians 2:19, elsewhere "stranger" or "sojourner"), a resident in a country not native to him, i.e., in the Jewish sense a Gentile. (See Alien). Such non-Israelites ( גֵּרַים , Josephus Ἀλλοτριόχωροι , Ant. 3:12, 3) as resided among the Hebrews were by the Mosaic law not only commended in general to the sympathy and humanity of the citizens ( Exodus 22:21;  Exodus 23:9;  Leviticus 19:33-34;  Deuteronomy 10:18 sq.; comp.  Jeremiah 7:6;  Ezekiel 22:7;  Zechariah 7:10;  Malachi 3:5; see Josephus, Apion, 2: 28), but were also entitled to certain privileges belonging to the poor, namely, to participation in the festivals and decennial feasts ( Deuteronomy 14:28 sq.;  Deuteronomy 16:10 sq.;  Deuteronomy 26:11 sq.;  Tobit 1:7), to gleanings in the vineyards and fields ( Leviticus 19:10;  Leviticus 23:22;  Deuteronomy 24:19 sq.), and to the harvest in the year of jubilee ( Leviticus 25:6); prescriptions which found a definite point of support in Oriental hospitality. Before the courts they had equal rights with the native-born residents ( Exodus 12:49;  Leviticus 24:22;  Numbers 15:15 sq.;  Deuteronomy 1:16;  Deuteronomy 24:17;  Deuteronomy 27:19), and the cities of refuge were appointed for them likewise in case of unintentional homicide ( Numbers 35:15). On the other hand, they also were not allowed to perform anything which was an abomination according to the Hebrew law ( Exodus 20:10;  Leviticus 17:10;  Leviticus 18:26;  Leviticus 20:2;  Leviticus 24:16;  Deuteronomy 5:14;  Ezekiel 14:7); yet they were exempted from the prohibition of using the flesh of animals that died of themselves ( Deuteronomy 14:21; but there are also other distinctions between this passage and  Leviticus 17:15. (See Carcase) ).

Foreign slaves must be circumcised, but were then entitled to eat the passover ( Genesis 17:12 sq.;  Exodus 12:44). It was lawful to take interest from foreigners for loaned capital ( Deuteronomy 23:20). (See Debt). Under certain restrictions, when they submitted to circumcision, they became naturalized, and received the prerogatives of Jewish citizenship; Edomites and Egyptians in the: third generation ( Deuteronomy 23:7 sq.; comp. Theodoret, Quaest. In Deuteronomy 26 ), others after a longer time. Only Ammonites, Moabites, castrated persons, and the off-spring of public harlots were altogether excluded from this privilege ( Deuteronomy 23:1 sq.; comp.  Nehemiah 13:1).. Foreigners accordingly appear in the royal service ( 1 Samuel 21:7;  1 Samuel 22:9;  2 Samuel 11:3;  2 Samuel 11:6, etc.). SEE Gittite Later fanaticism, however sought to expel all foreigners from the country ( Nehemiah 13:3; on the contrary,  Ezekiel 47:22), or impose the hard conditions of circumcision (Josephus, Life, 23). See generally Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 2:443 sq.; Jahn, I, 2:346 sq. The legal treatment of foreigners was in the earlier ages the more humane, as originally at Rome (Adam, Rom. Ant. 1:145) and at Athens. (See Proselyte)..

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

for´in - ẽr The translation of נכרי , nokhrı̄ , "unknown," "foreign," frequently rendered "stranger" ( Deuteronomy 15:3;  Obadiah 1:11 ); of תּושב , tōshābh , "a settler," "an alien resident" ( Exodus 12:45; the Revised Version (British and American) "sojourner"; compare  Leviticus 25:47;  Psalm 39:12 ); of pároikos , "dwelling near," "sojourner" ( Ephesians 2:19 , the Revised Version (British and American) sojourners").

Revised Version has "foreigner" for "stranger" ( Deuteronomy 17:15;  Deuteronomy 23:20;  Deuteronomy 29:22; Rth 2:10;  2 Samuel 15:19 ), for "alien" ( Deuteronomy 14:21 ); "the hand of a foreigner" for "a stranger's hand" ( Leviticus 22:25 ). See Alien; Stranger And Sojourner .