I love studying the Hebrew meaning of words! This is an excerpt from my teaching at The Ridge Church on the One New Man of Ephesians 2:
Paul says in Ephesians 2:19 "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s Covenant household".
So what exactly is a "stranger and alien"? What did it mean to the first century believer? The answer lies in the Hebrew! There are actually four Hebrew words that are translated "stranger" (also called foreigner or alien).
1. zuwr: a person who is not part of the community of Israel - often used in describing Israel's enemies. (Think of the current attacks from Gaza on the southern border of Israel)
2. nekar: someone who is completely foreign from the promises and covenants of Israel, but not necessarily an enemy. Someone with a temporary visa to visit or conduct quick business with no intent to become a citizen (Like our modern-day tourists)
3. toshab: a visitor to Israel with a long-term visa. Often in the Land to conduct business, but not with the intent to become a citizen. (For example, someone with a journalism visa who can work in Israel for one year)
4. ger: a person who wants to become a citizen of Israel. They have applied for citizenship and have obtained their “green card” - living in the Land and learning to become a citizen. (This would be like a non-Jew who immigrates to Israel today. A biblical example would be Ruth.)
The person Paul is talking about is #2 - the nekar. He is quoting a promise from Isaiah 56:6 "And the foreigners (nekar) who join themselves to the LORD to minister to Him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be His servants— all who keep the Sabbath without profaning it and who hold fast to My covenant, I will bring them to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer."
Paul is teaching them that even the "nekar" can become a part of the covenants and promises of Israel! If they join themselves to the LORD, keep the Sabbath and hold fast to the covenant, the foreigner can become a part of the Kingdom of Israel. They can join to Judah and become One New Man in the LORD. How cool is that!
Have a great week. Shalom!