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What is the basis for translating the word "Ger" in Devarim 10:19?

The verse is often translated "You shall love the convert because you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

Why not, "Love the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt?"

Why is one word, ger, translated as both convert and stranger, in one sentence? The meanings are so different. Further, various translations are not all in agreement.

Not all translations use the word convert, but many do. For example: Stone Humash; http://www.aish.com/tp/b/tb/48965941.html; http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/tzedaka/memory.htm; https://www.jetottawa.com/blog/; http://www.frumtoronto.com/Blogger.asp?Articles=expand&ShowAll=Series2&BlogCategoryID=96&page=18 (These and more similar translations popped up with a quick web search.) Other translations use the word "stranger" for both occurances of the word "ger" (e.g., Hertz).

  • I'm not sure if part of your concern is that there are 2 different meanings for the same word used in the same verse. That's not so unusual. See Vayikra 23:15 where Shabbat is translated both as "day of rest" and "week". – DanF Aug 10 '15 at 17:43
  • Not certain but I think ger conveys the concept of a journey--physical or spiritual. – JJLL Aug 11 '15 at 18:29
  • Skimming the links you bring, the Aish one (and the Frumtoronto one, which is basically a copy of the aish one, in content) doesn't actually translate the first occurrence of Ger, in the verse. Also, the Shemayisrael link, when translating the verse, translates both occurrences as "stranger". – Tamir Evan Aug 11 '15 at 19:19
  • peleyoetz.com/PeleYoetz.aspx?ID=51 says that the mitzvah is not only regarding converts but also about strangers – hazoriz Aug 3 '18 at 18:57
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Firstly, many "precise" or more literal translations (e.g. the JPS translation) translate this word as "stranger" both times. In truth, it is possible that the meaning of convert comes from the meaning of stranger, since converts come from another nation, and are outsiders to some extent. When we look at it like that, the translations don't differ so much.

Secondly, there is actually an excellent precedent to translate them differently (although perhaps not exactly the way you have seen them translated). Onkelos here translates this verse as:

וְתִרְחֲמוּן יָת גִּיּוֹרָא, אֲרֵי דַּיָּירִין הֲוֵיתוֹן בְּאַרְעָא דְּמִצְרָיִם.

As you can see from the bolded terms, the word "Ger" has been translated as both Giyora (stranger/convert) and Dayar (a sojourner, or something like that).

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Sefaria.org translates the first word as "stranger" and not "convert". I can see that your notion of the word ger means "convert" because we tend to call converts "gerim". However, use of the word "ger" to mean "convert" is not a universal translation in Tanac"h. Often it means "stranger", i.e., someone who is a I.e. a *ger toshav" or a resident alien.

One reason I state that this is its meaning in this verse, is that Rash"i, on this verse says, "Do not remind him of your own blemish" (paraphrase). Well, we certainly were never Gentiles who "converted". But we were strangers living in another land.

See also, Mechilta 22:20 in it he cites uses of the term ger in Tanac"h that don't mean "convert. I'm excerpting this from Sefaria's translation:

Abraham called himself a stranger, viz. (Genesis 23:4) "A stranger and a sojourner am I with you." David called himself a stranger, viz. (Psalms 119:19) "I am a stranger in the land," and (I Chronicles 29:15) "For we are strangers before You and sojourners as all of our ancestors. As a shadow are our days upon the earth, without a prospect." And it is written (Psalms 39:13) "For a stranger am I with You, a sojourner as all of my ancestors."

  • "Well, we certainly were never Gentiles who "converted"." Didnt we do so at Sini? – mevaqesh Aug 10 '15 at 18:23
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    "See also Mechilta..." How does that help? The question was the disparate translations of a single word within the span of a few words (the answer to which is likely the difference between pshat and drash), not the question of whether or not ger can mean stranger. – mevaqesh Aug 10 '15 at 18:26
  • @mevaqesh That focus is not apparent in the question, and the OP has not answered my comment / Q on exactly that point. Once I (we) are certain about that, my comment would replace the current answer. – DanF Aug 10 '15 at 18:39

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