Ger: Foreigners of the Earth

Ger: Foreigner (Strong’s 1616)

Root: גֵּר

Sounds like: gair

On Wednesday, June 27th, Canada celebrates Canadian Multiculturalism Day. We celebrate being a country founded on a mosaic of worldwide cultures. At the same time multiculturalism and immigration seems to be a hotly debated topic, not just in Canada, but around the world. No matter how hard we work as a civilization to be inclusive, there still seems to be a lot of “us against them” mentalities. The study of Israel as an ancient culture sheds light on how YHWH expects us to treat those who are, (as we say in Prince Edward Island), “from away”.

Leviticus 19:33-34

YHWH: When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must treat the foreigner (ha-ger) living among you as native-born and love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am YHWH your God.

Just as Yeshua said, love your neighbour as yourself, so are you to love neighbours from all nations. And why should we love them? Because YHWH loves them:

Deuteronomy 10:17-19

For YHWH your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and accepting no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and He loves the foreigner (ger), giving him food and clothing. So you also must love the foreigner (ha-ger), since you yourselves were foreigners (ger-im) in the land of Egypt.

Foreigners Belong

If YHWH loves the foreigner, then why do foreigners seem non-existent in all the great stories of Israel? Actually, a careful reading of the Scripture tell us something quite different:

Joshua 8:32-35

And there in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua inscribed on the stones a copy of the Law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, foreigners (ka-ger) and citizens alike, with their elders, officers, and judges, stood on both sides of the ark of the covenant of YHWH facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of YHWH had commanded earlier to bless the people of Israel.

Afterward, Joshua read aloud all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua failed to read before the whole assembly of Israel, including the women, the little ones, and the foreigners (w’ha-ger) who lived among them.

And Joshua’s example does not stand alone. When King Hezekiah celebrates the Passover ALL are invited:

2 Chronicles 30:25-27

Then the whole assembly of Judah rejoiced along with the priests and Levites and all the assembly that had come from Israel, and all the foreigners (w’ha-ger-im) who had come from Israel and those who lived in Judah. So there was great rejoicing in Jerusalem, for nothing like this had happened since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel. Then the priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard their voice, and their prayer came into His holy dwelling place in heaven.

Clearly Joshua and King Hezekiah understood YHWH’s love for all people. Centuries later the anonymous writer of the book of Hebrews would drive this point home:

Hebrews 13:1-3

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Justice for the Foreigner

This concept of fair and just treatment to the foreigner, and to all who are oppressed, were central themes to the Prophets of the Tenakh (Old Testament).

Zechariah 7:8-10

Then the word of YHWH came to Zechariah, saying, “This is what YHWH of Hosts says: ‘Administer true justice. Show loving devotion and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner (ger) or the poor. And do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.’

In fact, those who deny justice to the foreigner are among those who YHWH clearly states He is against:

Malachi 3:5

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. And I will be a swift witness against sorcerers and adulterers and perjurers, against oppressors of the widowed and fatherless, and against those who defraud laborers of their wages and deny justice to the foreigner (ger) but do not fear Me,” says YHWH of Hosts.

YHWH says He will be a swift witness against those who have no respect for His glory (sorcerers), no respect for the sanctity of marriage (adulterers), no respect for the truth (perjurers), no respect for the grieving (oppressors of the widowed), no respect for the marginalized (oppressors of orphans & single mothers), no respect for honesty (the fraudulent), and no respect for equality (refusers of justice to foreigners). These are all equally abhorrent in the eyes of God.

Foreigner on the Earth

Really, the concept of foreigner must be a ridiculous notion in the eyes of YHWH. He created mankind to be in His image, as caretakers of this earth. When did humanity become divided? To really understand the word foreigner we must come to grips that we are, ourselves, foreigners on earth. King David makes this claim after the people donate gifts to build the Temple:

1 Chronicles 29:14-15a

David to YHWH: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. For we are foreigners (ger) before You and travellers, as were all our ancestors…”

ArthurRackham
Artist: Arthur Rackham

The Psalmist also supports the idea that we are all foreigners on this earth:

Psalm 119:17-19

Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word.

Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law.

I am a foreigner (ger) on the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me.

Why a foreigner on earth? Because this is not our true homeland. We were expelled from the Garden and left to wander. YHWH gave us purpose, though, when we were given the role of caretakers for this earth. As immigrants to the planet we were given dominion over the animals and the land and the seas but our true home, where we will one day go, is hashamayim, the heavens, prepared for us. In this way we are all foreigners on this earth, on equal ground before YHWH.

We have divided ourselves into nations, but it is YHWH’s divine plan to bring salvation to all nations:

Psalm 67:1-5

May God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us,

that Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, 

for You judge the peoples justly and lead the nations of the earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

 

Next week: dominion

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