Nations – Hebrew: Goyim

גוים or גוי

Goyim or goy in Hebrew means ‘name of a people or nation’

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4).

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham meaning ‘father of many nations.’  Though ‘gentile’ may mean ‘pagan,’ it must be determined by context.  Abraham did not become the ‘father of pagans’ nor should all gentiles be considered pagans.  

Goy is used 561 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and refers to peoples and nations generally in a context of geographical or governmental identity.  They have a unique origin and language.  Only twice is goy used with the idea of pagan and seven times it is  [mis]translated as ‘gentile’.

With this understanding in mind, Abraham became the ‘father’ of many geographical peoples with many different origins, languages and governmental identities – the goyim [nations].  Though those living in the nations may have a pagan belief system, many within those systems would recognize Abraham as ‘the father of  faith’ in the coming redemption for the world.   When they did and do, they were and are the goyim promised to ‘the father of many nations.’ 

“The children fought with each other inside her so much that she said, “If it’s going to be like this, why go on living?” So she went to inquire of Adonai, who answered her, “There are two nations [goyim]  in your womb. From birth they will be two rival peoples. One of these peoples will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:22-23). 

Here again, the Hebrew word for ‘nations’ is goyim.  Two goyim fight in Rebecca’s womb – not two pagans or two gentiles.  Two nations.  These two nations grew from Esau (the Edomites) and Jacob (Israelites).

“Therefore, observe them; and follow them; for then all peoples [goyim] will see you as having wisdom and understanding. When they hear of all these laws, they will say, ‘This great nation [goy] is surely a wise and understanding people” (Deuteronomy 4:32). 

Obedience to God’s commands would lead to the goyim to recognize Israel as a wise and understanding people with a God who is nothing like the pagan gods within goyim.  

““Do not learn the ways of the nations [goyim] or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations [goyim] are terrified by them” (Jeremiah 10:2). 

Jeremiah tells Israel not to learn the ways of the nations.  Of course, the ways of the nations are not God’s ways and could be considered pagan or holding to religious beliefs different from the ways of God.  This does not make the nations pagan, but their practices.

Ethnos is used for ‘a nation or people’ in the Greek.

“… But now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles [ethnos] might come to the obedience that comes from faith…” (Romans 16:26). 

This verse is the evidence of the fulfillment to the promise given to Abraham regarding all nations.  Note that the word ethnos is mistranslated ‘gentiles’ rather than ‘nations.’ 

Pagan, both in the Hebrew and Greek,  is a completely different word than goy.

©2015 Tentstake Ministries

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