The word "strange," as used in this connection in the Old Testament, refers to the fact that the god or gods do not belong to Israel, but are the gods which are worshipped by other families or nations. In several cases a more exact translation would give us the "gods of the stranger" or foreigner. So in Genesis 35:2,4; Joshua 24:2; Judges 10:16; Deuteronomy 31:16; 32:12, etc. In a few passages like Deuteronomy 32:16; Psalms 44:20; 81:9; Isaiah 43:12, the word is an adjective, but the idea is the same: the gods are those which are worshipped by other peoples and hence are forbidden to Israel, which is under obligation to worship Yahweh alone (compare 2 Esdras 1:6).
In the New Testament the phrase occurs only once, in the account of Paul's experiences in Athens (Acts 17:18), when some of his auditors said, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods" (xena daimonia). Here the thought is clearly that by his preaching of Jesus he was regarded as introducing a new divinity, that is one who was strange or foreign to the Athenians and of whom they had never heard before. Like the Romans of this period the Athenians were doubtless interested in, and more or less favorable to, the numerous new cults which were coming to their attention as the result of the constant intercourse with the Orient. See preceding article.
Walter R. Betteridge
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