top of page

3.64 Deuteronomy -- Treatment of Foreigners: Sojourners

           e.  The fifth group of foreigners were resident aliens/ sojourners ("ger" - Heb).  These were free foreigners who either traveled through Israel or immigrated to live within Israel's borders. They were not slaves or prisoners of war, nor were they of Canaanite background.  Also, they lived in compliance with many Israelite laws. They could not share in the Passover until all the males in the household were circumcised (Ex 12:48).  Many short passages in Deuteronomy are concerned with the treatment of these aliens:
        -  judges must judge fairly between Israelites and aliens (Deut 1:16Deut 27:19)
        -  aliens must observe the Sabbath (Deut 5:14)
        -  God loves the alien and provides for him (Deut 10:18-19
        -  an alien can eat roadkill, but not an Israelite (Deut 14:21)
        -  every 7 years, the debts of Israelites are forgiven, but not those of aliens (Deut 15:3)
        -  aliens share in the celebration of the Feasts of Weeks and Tabernacles (Deut 16:11-14)
        -  no foreigner should rule as king in Israel (Deut 17:14-15)
        -  foreigners may be charged interest on debts, but not Israelites (Deut 23:19-20)
        -  foreign workers must be treated fairly (Deut 24:14-18)  
        -  aliens share in the harvest leftovers with widows and orphans (14:28-29, 24:19-22)
        -  aliens share in the tithe given to Levites and widows (Deut 26:11-13)
        -  if Israel rejects God, the aliens in her midst will prosper at Israel's expense (Deut 28:43-44)
        -  aliens enter into the covenant made with Israel and must attend the reading of the Law every seven years (Deut 29:11-12,  Deut 31:10-13)  


From these laws, it is clear that freeborn non-Israelites were treated very well.  Equality before the courts, given a share in the harvest and the tithe, allowed to participate in Feast days  -- this is not discrimination.  But more than insisting on mere obedience to these laws, God required a heart attitude of the Israelites:

         And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt (Deut 10:19).


This doubtless reflects God's own attitude towards foreigners -- since He certainly would not command Israel to love people whom He despised.  This means that while a strict barrier was erected against Israel following the ways of other nations, a policy of permissiveness and openness was practised in reverse  -- other nations were welcome to observe what God was doing in the midst of His people, and even to participate in the Covenant life.

bottom of page