I was reading through this passage in Isaiah 56:

4 For thus saith the LORD concerning the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and hold fast by My covenant. 5 Even unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting memorial, that shall not be cut off. 6 Also the aliens, that join themselves to the LORD, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and holdeth fast by My covenant.

My question is, are these aliens those who converted to Judaism or are these just the people who worked for the Jewish people in Judah at the time? My understanding is that the Gentiles are not supposed to keep the Sabbath, so this must be one or the other.

What does the Rabbinic teaching on this say about who these aliens are?

1 Answer 1


The general consensus among the commentators is that these "aliens" are converts to Judaism. (The phrase actually comes already in verse 3, right before where you began your quotation.)

The confusion may be arising from Mechon-Mamre's translation that you are using. The words in Hebrew it is translating is "בני הנכר" (Or, in verse 3, the singular: "בן הנכר"), which translates more literally to "son(s) of the strange one". "Strange one", or "alien" as it is often translated, is a common reference to non-Jews. And here, the reference is to the children of the non-Jews who "join themselves to the LORD", which is understood to mean those who have converted to Judaism.

  • 1
    Do you have any quotes from the Talmud or any reference that I can maybe read? Your answer helps, that's why I accepted it but I would appreciate something from the Talmud if you knew of anything related to this. Thanks for the answer.
    – user1190
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 2:20
  • 1
    @nickecarlo, Rashi in English can be found here. If you read Hebrew, see Radak, who is a little clearer about things. As far as I know, this is not discussed in the Talmud at all.
    – jake
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 12:14
  • Thanks, I will check it out. I don't speak Hebrew, unfortunately, so I have to resort to English interpretations.
    – user1190
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 2:24
  • Although in a negative sense, Rashi in Shemot 12:43 says that "נכר" does not only refers to non-jews. -- chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9873/showrashi/true#v43
    – Menachem
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 17:06

You must log in to answer this question.