Are the Jews Gentiles?

Posted by on May 29, 2016


We have been taught that gentile means a person who is not a Jew, especially a Christian, a heathen. The Hebrew word behind gentile/heathen is goy and it simply means a “nation.”

The Scripture calls the nations, other than the nation of Israel, goyim (plural). But can Israel be goy, too? The answer is yes; Israel is also called goy for the simple reason that the children of Israel are a nation. At Mount Sinai, YHVH called them goy,

and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a distinguished nation (goy). Exo 19:6

In Gen 12:2, Elohim promised Avraham that he would make a great nation, goy.

Or, another example. The people who passed over the Jordan River, the Israelites, were called goy.

And all Israel passed over on dry ground, until all the nation (goy) had completely passed over the Yarden. Jos 3:17

Notice that the Hebrew word translated as “people” is the very word goy as found in another passage where it definitely means “heathen” such as,

And the children of Israel who had returned from the exile ate together with all who had separated themselves from the uncleanness of the gentiles (goy) of the land in order to seek Yehovah Elohim of Israel. Ezr 6:21

Why have the translators not been consistent throughout the Scripture to render the word goy as “nation” but have “fixed” the text for us? Why have they translated goy as “nation” if Israel is in the context and as “gentile” when it comes to the other nations.

We may find the answer in the origin of the word “gentile.” It comes from the late Latin word gentilis meaning “foreign.” The translators, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have tried to convey the idea, for different reasons, that the non-Jews are foreigners and, therefore, are to stay separate from Israel contrary to the word of YHVH,

Let the stranger (ger) who dwells among you be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself. (Lev 19:34)

And you shall divide this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. And it shall be that you divide it by lot as an inheritance for yourselves, and for the strangers who sojourn in your midst and who bear children among you. And they shall be to you as native-born among the children of Israel – with you they have an inheritance in the midst of the tribes of Israel. (Eze 47:21-22)