The gēr is the vulnerable outsider, whether from outside of Israel or from some other tribe or family within Israel.
Migration through the eyes of faith: God’s people, national lands, and universities

Frank Anthony Spina argues that the Hebrew term gēr combines sojourning with experiences of strife and fear. He thinks that term captures someone who comes from afar, escaping conflict and settling in a place where that person might still be afraid. He translates the term as “immigrant,” but since he thinks it includes people from both inside and outside the nation of Israel who have left their place of origin, “migrant” seems a more appropriate term, “Israelites as Gērîm, ‘Sojourners,’ in Social and Historical Context,” in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of His Sixtieth Birthday, ed. Carol L. Meyers and Michael Patrick O’Connor (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 323, 325–27. Mark A. Awabdy is in agreement with Spina, Immigrants and Innovative Law: Deuteronomy’s Theological and Social Vision for the Gēr (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 1–5. Christoph Bultmann views the gēr as a member of a class of Israelites without land or family, Der Fremde im antiken Juda: eine Untersuchung zum sozialen Typenbegriff gēr und seinem Bedeutungswandel in der alttestamentlichen Gesetzgebung (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992). José E. Ramírez Kidd sees the gēr as someone fleeing the northern kingdom of Israel after the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C., Alterity and Identity in Israel: The gēr in the Old Testament (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1999), 5–6. Christiana van Houten sees the gēr as a non-Israelite in Deuteronomy and as a convert in the Priestly Laws that she sees as arising after Israel’s exile, The Alien in Israelite Law (Sheffield: J.S.O.T. Press, 1991), 106–108, 155–157. Spina argues convincingly that accounts of patriarchs as sojourners in and around Canaan and Israel and then of Israel as sojourners in Egypt cannot have arisen during the exile, since only one passage refers to the exile as a sojourning: Ezra 1:4. Nor would there be reason for a story of sojourning to arise during Israel’s settlement in Canaan, says Spina. Instead, the regular testimony to the patriarchs and then to Israel as sojourners and migrants reflects Israel’s memory of an experience as migrants from before the settlement, Spina demonstrates convincingly, “Israelites as Gērîm,” 321–22, 329.

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