Distinguishing Words That Differ: The Stranger (Paper 1)

C. E. Hocking, Cardiff

Category: Exposition

Two statements in Exodus 12 appear contradictory, the one says cate­gorically "There shall no stranger eat there­of (that is, of the passover)", whilst the other states "when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord..." vv. 43,48. The explanation of this apparent discrepancy is not hard to find. All that were not Israelites were "stran­gers", but some were stranger than others! The A.V. has masked the fact that two quite distinct Hebrew words arc used in the verses concerned. Yet a third word is found in verse 45, translated there "foreigner", though even this word is translated "stran­ger" in some passages, e.g. Lev. 25. 45, 47a. We propose considering these three distinct words, together with yet another translated "stranger" at, for example, Exod. 29. 33, so as better to define and distinguish the several terms, and through a clearer understanding of them to find appropriate applications to ourselves.

1. Strangers Danger! Two of the

Hebrew words translated "stranger" by usage form a natural pair. They are zur and uokkrilbun neither.

Term 1: zur. Occurrences — 76. Root idea — to turn aside, away from, deviate. One who turns aside to lodge because distanced, removed, estranged from his home. Partici­ple zar is used of one who distances or removes himself, which as an adjective = "strange", and as a noun = "stranger". It has hostile overtones, the foreign(er) as enemy. Such pose a threat to the estab­lished order and accepted norms.

Term 2: nokkrilben nekhar. Occurrences — 45 t- 36. Root idea — not to know, the unfamiliar, that or those which arc different. Things outside the norm are strange. People outside the family, tribe, are stran­gers. Those of other nations are aliens, foreigners. Overtones of uncertainty and suspicion. Need to beware of the foreign, to put it away, or severely restrict it.

The two words are found in parallel often. The man from another country, culture, or cult was an unknown quantity, difficult to understand, different, even un­settling {term 2), and hence dangerous, sinister, even hostiie (term 1), an enemy to others. The "stranger" himself would find his new environment alien, disturbing, threatening. Unease, a certain tension, even fear existed between the homebom and the stranger who had neither permanent home nor rights in Israel. These words highlight the confrontation between the native and the alien, which can lead to conflict within tribes, nations, religious groups, etc.

1. Use Ethnically — of a foreign people. Both terms 1 and 2 are used to describe an enemy, by whom Israel's inheritance was despoiled, and its people deported. "Our inheritance is turned to strangers (1), and our houses to aliens (2", Lam. 5. 2; "the strangers (1) carried away captive his forces, and foreigners (2) entered into his gates", Obad. 11. In the history of the world, and of Israel in particular, foreigners have been all but synonymous with ene­mies. Term 1 is used more frequently with this connotation; see Isa. 1. 7; Ezek 7. 21; 11. 9; Hos. 8. 7. Was there any shame comparable to that when Israel exclaimed "strangers (1) are come into the sanctuaries of the Lord's house"?, Jer. 51. 51.

Not that strangers always have the tipper hand. Already in Maccabean times foreign armies were put to flight, Heb. 11. 34. Israel, like David, is to be delivered out of the hand of the stranger, Ps. 144. 7, 11. The Lord is to judge the nations, Isa. 25. 2, 5; Jer. 51.-2 ("fanners"); Hzek. 28. 7, 10; 30. 12; 31. 12 (all 1). The day is to dawn when "strangers (1) shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien (2) shall be your plowmen and your vinedres­sers", Isa. 61. 5; cf. Jer. 30. 8; Joel 3. 17 (1), and Isa. 60. 10; 62. 8 (2). Compare David's song of triumph "strangers (2) shall submit themselves to me", 2 Sam. 22. 45f = Ps. 18. 44f.

Israel's troubles at the hands of the nations resulted from their making treaties with them. Political alliances proved dangerous, Ezek. 16. 32; Hos. 7. 9 (1). From another angle, foreign women, some­times married by kings for political mo­tives, e.g. 1 Kings 11. 1, 8 (2), led to the introduction of idolatry; even Solomon "did outlandish (strange — 2) women cause to sin", Neh. 13. 26. The frightening potential for defilement and departure from the Lord was grasped by the leadership of the post-exilic community who saw those of their nation, who had married the daughter of a strange god, Mai. 2. 11. They had married "strange wives" indeed, Ezra 10. 2 (2). How expeditiously Ezra and Nehemiah dealt with unequal yokes of all kinds in their drive to rid the nation of this scourge, and thus avert the fierce wrath of a holy God, Ezra 10. 10,11, 14, 17, 18, 44; Neh. 13. 27 (all 2). The holy seed should not mix themselves with the peoples of the land; they must separate themselves.

2.    Use Morally. The unchaste, immoral woman is different, strange, and danger­ous. Both terms 1 and 2 are used as almost technical terms to signify the loose woman in Proverbs. The women concerned were not necessarily "foreigners". Whether so or not, as those who had forsaken their proper place in society by becoming unchaste, they posed a threat to God's people. Men are warned from being enticed by the strange woman (1), Prov. 2. 16; 5. 20; 7. 5 where the parallel is the stranger which ... (2). In 5. 3, 17; 22. 14 (1) no parallel term is introduced, whereas in 6. 24 (2) the strange woman is paralleled by "the evil woman", and in 23, 27 by "a whore". Men thus ensnared, seduced, should know that stran­gers (1) shall be filled with their strength, and that their labours will be in the house of a stranger (2). Dangerous women and dubious commercial transactions alike lead to penury.

3.    Use religiously. Here there is a warning against the temptation to be drawn after the different, the disallowed, in divine things. There is a tremendous resistance to all that is alien to God in the Scriptures.

(a)   Concerning foreign gods. Israel was warned against permitting any strange (1) God, the parallel clause insisting that neith­er should they worship any strange (2) god, Ps. 81. 9. God had spoken, saved, and declared and there had been no strange (god) among them, (1), Isa. 43. 12. God would search out their departures from Him to a strange (1) god, Ps. 44. 20. Figuratively, stranger(s) is used to describe foreign gods after which Israel had gone, Jer. 22. 25; 3. 13 (1), and which provoked their God to jealousy, Deut. 32. 16 (1) (note the parallel here is "abominations'"). These foreign gods embodied the character and ideas of the foreign nations, and caused Israel to depart from the way, and threaten the very well-being of Israel.

Foreign gods were a snare and a tempta­tion to God's people, Gen. 35. 2*; Josh. 24. 20, 23*; Jud. 10. 16*; 1 Sam.' 7. 3*; 2 Chron. 33. 15* (in all references marked * the gods are to be "put away"). Foreign vanities, Jer. 8. 19, foreign altars, 2 Chron. 14. 3, even the strange gods of (he land, Dcut. 31. 16; 32. 12, were not to be worshipped (all 2). If Israel served strange (2) gods in their own land, they would surely serve strangers (1) in a land that was not theirs, Jer. 5. 19. Israel forgot its God, committing spiritual adultery by taking "strangers" (gods) instead of her husband, Ezek. 16. 32. Because they planted strange slips (fertility gods), Isa. 17. 10 (1), they would be left helpless in a day of calamity, v. 11.

(b)   Concerning things "foreign". God had revealed who and what was acceptable to Him. The unauthorized was a menace to God's established order, and to Israel generally.

There are warnings regarding "strange" personnel. God chose and called those who should be privileged to draw near to Him to offer incense, Exod. 29. 33; 30. 33; Num. 16. 40, and to have part of a variety of holy things, Lev. 22. 10, 12, 13; Num. 3. 10, 38; 18.7. This was to be the priests prerogative alone. Contrast Koran's challenging of this, Num. 16. Again, it was God's decision to set apart the Levites to support the priests in the service of the sanctuary, Num. 1. 51; 18. 4. The "stranger" was well advised not to trespass (all 1).

Warnings were given concerning "strange" practices. God stipulated the pro­cedures in service that were acceptable to Him. There was to be no "strange in-cense", i.e. other than that prescribed; nor were burnt, meal, or drink offerings to be offered at the golden altar, Exod. 30. 9. "Strange fire" was not to be used, only that derived from the coals of the brazen altar, Lev. 10. 1; Num. 3. 4; 26. 61 (all 1), otherwise the consequences would be dis­astrous, as Nadab and Abihu proved, Lev. 10. 2.

God also denounces "strange" children, i.e. those who are degenerate, apostates, alienated from God's people and religiously dangerous. They arc turned away through the excesses of the fertility cuks, Hos. 5.7; they depart from God's law, 8. 12, becom­ing estranged from God through their idols, Ezek. 14. 5, and they go away backward, Isa. 1. 4 (all 1). From the womb such wicked ones are estranged; in thought and practice they forsake their own people, Ps. 58. 3 (1), and becomed a menace to them, 144. 7. 11 (2), rising up against the godly, 54, 3 (1). God had planted a noble vine; the people turned into a degenerate plant of a strange (2) vine, Jer. 2. 21.

The godly as aliens among their own people. Such was the departure in Israel that the one who pleased God became a "stranger" (I) to his brethren, the parallel being an alien (2) in their sight, Ps. 69. 8; cf. John 1. 11. Job complained that those who dwelt in his house counted him a "stranger" (1), yea he was an "alien" (2) in their sight, Job 19, 15; cf. v. 17. His "acquaintance" was estranged (1) from him, 19. 13.

4. Concerning God Himself. The Lord is the Judge of His people. Where there is departure, the ramifications for the com­munity are devastating. He would appear no longer an ally, but an enemy. God would do His "strange" (1) work, the parallel being His "strange" (2) act, Isa. 28. 21. Previously he had not been known in this role, and His action would seem quite astonishing; cf. 1 Pet. 4. 12. After the exile of Judah and Jerusalem, when the glory of the Lord had departed, Ezek. 8-11; cf. Jer. 14. S, the land, the temple and even the Lord were no longer their experienced possessions. Yet the Lord as Judge would vindicate His own.

By Way of Application. Reviewing our findings provides us with many suggestive and challenging links both with the N.T. and our lives. The warning signals flashing from these O.T. beacons are transmitted onward to keep us from shipwreck. For us too there are relationships and things which are potentially dangerous and concerning which we need a loud "beware". The call to separation from all forms of unequal yoke rings loud and clear from passages like that of 2 Corinthians 6. 14 to 7. 1. Consider this in the light of section 1 above. Section 2 above finds a counterpart in the warnings against loose living and immorality in all its aspects, 1 Cor. 6. 9-20. The use of the terms religiously, section 3 above, calls for meditation and application too. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols", 1 John, 5. 21. Whilst we glory in the excell­ing character of God's grace in constituting all believers priests, I Pet. 2. 5, 9, we are not to confuse this with the quite separate issue of differing responsibilities in the field of ministry in the assembly, e.g. 1 Pet. 4. l0; cf. 1 Cor. 12 and 14. Behaviour in God's house is to be consistent with who God is and what He requires. Faithfulness to God and His Word may cause some to "think us strange", and increasingly so as the age draws on to its climactic conclusion. Con­sider carefully, prayerfully, and personally the admonition "Stranger — Danger!". To be continued