By: William Jackson
Doing a study for Passover, I found what appeared to be a inconsistency in Exodus 12. In verse 43 it says that a “foreigner” is not to eat the Passover meal, but in verse 48 it says a “foreigner” can eat the Passover meal. Is this a contradiction? I first looked up the Hebrew word for foreigner in verse 43, it is “nekar”. I then looked up the Hebrew word for foreigner in verse 48, it is “ger”. So, I went to a lexicon and that wasn’t much better:
Nekar (nay-kawr’) = alien, foreigner, stranger (1)
Ger (Gare) = alien, foreigners, immigrants, sojourner, stranger (2)
It’s like the two words are the same. Kind of like our word alien. Without putting legal or illegal in front of it, it could be either good or bad. Frustrated, I dug into the Tanakh and research the verses that used nekar and the ones that used ger. From this study, I found the two distinct meanings for each word. In this article, I will refer to ger as foreigner and nekar as stranger to eliminate confusion.
Most of the verses that use Nekar seemed to be talking about strange gods which are pagan. In these situations, Israel was told to separate themselves from the nekar gods (Genesis 35:2, 4, Deuteronomy 31:16, 32:12, Joshua 24:23, Judges 10:16, 1 Samuel 7:3, 2 Chronicles 14:2, 33:15, Psalms 81:10, Daniel 11:39, Malachi 2:11). When Nekar is referring to people it’s stranger instead of strange. We are told, here again, to separate ourselves from nekars (strangers), Nehemiah 9:2, 13:30, Psalms 144:7,144:11,Ezekiel 44:7-9. The stranger appears not to just be only a none Jew. He appears to be somebody with distinctly different beliefs then the Torah observant people (Genesis 17:12, Nehemiah 9:2, Psalms 144:7, Psalms 144:11).
Now lets look at “ger”. The first time it is used in the Torah is when Abram’s (Abraham’s) off springs will be gers (foreigners), Genesis 15:13. And latter on, Abram calls himself a ger (Genesis 23:4). And then, Moses names his son Gershom from the root word ger (Exodus 18:3, 2:22). Even HaShem refers to the Israelites as gers in relation to His land (Leviticus 25:23). Certainly no negative meanings here (3). Whereas Adonai wants the Israelites to separate from the Nekar (stranger), He encourages community with the Ger (foreigner). Adonai tells us the Gers will follow the same laws as the Israelites (A), in turn, the Israelites will treat the Gers respectfully (B):
A. Israelites and Gers follow the same laws:
B. Israelites are commanded to show compassion to the Ger:
Differences between Gers (foreigners) and Nekars (strangers):
The Ger (foreigner) and Nekar (Stranger) are both none Jews but each holds a different belief systems. The Stranger worships his own god or gods (pagan), maybe he is even an agnostic or atheist. The foreigner worships YHVH, the Elohim of Israel, Maybe this was the sticking point to why he had to be circumcised to take the Passover meal (Exodus 12:44,48). This would have been a sign that he committed to the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:10-27, 21:4, 34:14). But, this does not mean he is a postulate or convert (4).
Adonai says that the stranger (nekar) will eventually submit to Him (2 Samuel 22:45-46, Psalms 18:45, Isaiah 60:10-15). Obviously, the foreigner (ger) has already submitted to Him, which confirms another distinction between the two. Although the nekar worships strange gods or no gods there is still hope for him. Adonai will bless the stranger that joins himself to Him (Isaiah 56:3-7) thus making him a foreigner (ger).