Also translated “sojourner,” “resident alien,” and “stranger,” an alien (Hebr. gēr) is technically a person in a community who is not part of its traditional lineages. In the Hebrew Bible, “aliens” usually are non‐Israelites living (“sojourning”) in Israel (Exod. 12.19; Isa. 16.4; Jer. 42.15), but they can also be Israelites of one tribe “sojourning” in the territory of another tribe (Judg. 19.16; 2 Sam. 4.3; 2 Chron. 15.9). Such persons were often financially distressed, forced to be dependents of “native” residents (but see Lev. 25.45, 47). Thus, aliens are often mentioned alongside widows, orphans, and the poor as typically in need of assistance (Deut. 24.17–21; Jer. 7.6; Zech. 7.10). Aliens could be subjected to manual labor (Deut. 29.11); yet, special attention is given to accord them equal status with native Israelites (Num. 15.14–16; Ezek. 47.21–23), making them corecipients of God's blessings (Deut. 10.18) and curses (Num. 15.26; Deut. 31.12; Josh. 8.35). The Israelites are commanded to treat aliens well, because they were once aliens in Egypt (Exod. 22.21; 23.9; Deut. 10.19). In fact, they are to view themselves as aliens “sojourning” on God's land (Lev. 25.23; 1 Chron. 29.15; Ps. 39.12), thereby furthering their sense of dependence on God.

New Testament writers describe their Israelite ancestors as aliens in Egypt (Acts 7.6; 13.17) and the exile in Babylon as the time of “sojourning” (Matt. 1.11, 12, 17). In dealing with the problem of incorporating gentiles into an all‐Jewish community, Paul says that they are “no longer strangers and aliens, but … citizens … of the household of God” (Eph. 2.19). Any hint of separation is thereby eliminated. On the other hand, all who have become members of God's “people” must disavow allegiance to other groups, considering themselves aliens in the world around them (1 Pet. 2.11). In this regard, Abraham is held up as an ancient model (Heb. 11.9; cf. Gen. 23.4).

Timothy M. Willis