Monday, May 14, 2018

Strangers In The Land: Ger 004

Exodus 12

[Sections relating to ger are in bold]

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.

‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger [ger] or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”


And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner [ben] shall eat it. But every man’s servant [ebed] who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. A sojourner [towshab] and a hired servant [sakiyr] shall not eat it. In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger [ger] dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger [ger] who dwells among you.”

Thus all the children of Israel did; as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies.

What Does It Say?

This passage deals with what we might call the founding of the nation of Israel. This is where the family that went down to Egypt that has grown into a new, unique people of its own. And these people are given their first law; the law of the Passover. While God will institute many other laws on Mt. Sinai, Passover precedes that revelation. It is the turning point between what we might call the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant. 

And wile this passage focuses on the Israeli people and how they should celebrate the Passover, it also differentiates between different classes of foreign people; those who do not belong to the ethnic Israeli nation and yet live among them.

The Ben

If this word reminds you of the Hebrew word for "son," you're exactly right. The two words are homonyms (spelled and pronounced identically), although context shows they are two distinct words.

While we don't have time to break down every usage of the word ben in the Old Testament, it appears to be best translated as "stranger" or "outsider" since it does not refer exclusively to non-natives. For example, Israelites who are not sons of Aaron (ie, priests) are referred to as ben  in Numbers 16:40. 

So in order to understand who the ben outsiders are in a given text, we need to know who the 'insiders' are. In Numbers 16, the 'insiders' are the priests, who are qualified to make sacrifices. In Exodus 12, it seems to refer to the uncircumcised residents of the land. We could extrapolate that it refers to non-Israelis who are not permanent residents but are just 'passing through.' 

The Ebed

This is the word translated here as 'servant', but since it refers to a human being who is "bought," it also shares similarities to what we would call a 'slave.' It's clear from the context that it refers to non-Israeli slaves, since they must be circumcised before they can partake in the Passover.

This is slightly different from the modern idea of slaves, since they were considered to be part of the household and had certain legal protections. And since they were part of the household, it was necessary for them to be circumcised.

The Sakiyr

This word specifically refers to "hired servants" or those who take wages. This is closer to our modern idea of a servant or an employee, ie, someone who receives money in exchange for their labor. Presumably, it also refers to a foreign employee, since they are forbidden to take part in the Passover.

Since these sakiyr are not Israeli and, unlike the ebed are not part of the household (being free to come and go), there is no need for them to be circumcised. Since they are generally not circumcised, they are generally forbidden from eating the Passover meal. This coming and going may be why they are closely linked with towshab.

The Towshab

We said before in Ger 002 that towshab seems to refer to non-native temporary residents. That rings true in Exodus 12 as well. As temporary, non-native residents, they would almost certainly not be circumcised and, just as importantly, would not be considered part of any Israeli household.

As mentioned, most sakiyr are probably also going to be towshab, that is, people who are in Israeli to work, not to live for the rest of their lives. This is why the two words are mentioned so closely together in the text; they're not the same thing, but they overlap and reinforce each other.

The Ger

Last we have the ger, or the non-native residents. Ger who desire to celebrate the Passover may do so, provided that they and all males of their household are circumcised and, in essence, become Hebrews. 

Now, there's a lot going on here, so I'd like to put off analysis until next time.

Next: Exodus 12 Analyisis

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