Bible Review 11:6, December 1995

“The Alien in Your Midst”

Every nation has its ger: the permanent resident. The Torah commands us, first, not to oppress the ger, and then to befriend and love him.

By Jacob Milgrom

Bible Review

The biblical term ger, or its compound form ger toshav, is generally rendered “resident alien.” Hence one might think that it always refers to a non-Israelite. However, this is not its meaning in Genesis and Exodus. Abraham declares to the residents of Hebron, “I am resident alien among you” (Genesis 23:4). Moses in Egypt also admits, “I have been a ger in a strange land” (Exodus 2:22; see Genesis 15:13). Indeed, from a divine perspective the people of Israel has the status of a ger on its own land: “For the land is Mine, and you are but aliens resident with Me” (Leviticus 25:23). Moreover, according to the testimony of the Psalmist, “I am only an alien in the land” (Psalm 119:19): all human beings are but tenants on the earth, charged with the responsibility “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).

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