Posts Tagged ‘ethnos’

Pagan – Hebrew Words


Komer in Hebrew is the word for ‘pagan’ and means ‘idolatrous.

“He did away with the pagan [idolatrous] priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts” (2 Kings 23:5). 


Zikkaron is another Hebrew word for ‘pagan’ and means ‘memorial.’

“Behind your doors and your doorposts you have put your pagan [memorial] symbols. Forsaking me, you uncovered your bed, you climbed into it and opened it wide; you made a pact with those whose beds you love, and you looked with lust on their naked bodies” (Isaiah 57:8). 

“The enemy laid hands on all her treasures; she saw pagan nations enter her sanctuary— those you had forbidden to enter your assembly” (Lamentations 1:10). 

In this verse there is only the word goy or nations.  There is no separate reference to pagan which suggests that the translators added it to differentiate from Isaiah 56:6-7 when foreigners from all nations [goyim] will come to worship God on His holy mountain.  Whatever the reason, the nations entering the sanctuary had been forbidden to enter.  Lamentations is about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  During the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, the goyim, the Greeks, entered the sanctuary and defiled it with pig’s blood.  Thus their actions were pagan, but they were will goyim.  


Tame is another Hebrew word for ‘pagan’ and means ‘unclean.’

“‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan [unclean] country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land” (Amos 7:17). 

Greek Words for Pagan

“If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan [nation] or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). 

The Greek word for pagan in this verse is ethnikos with comes from ethnos and means ‘nations’.  It is mistranslated numerous times as ‘pagan’ and ‘gentile’ and not its intended meaning of ‘nations.’  Those who refuse discipline in the Body of Messiah are to be treated as one would treat an outsider, one of the ‘nations.’

“For the pagan [nations of the] world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them” (Luke 12:30). 

The Greek word for pagan in this verse is ethnos and means ‘nations.’ Again, there is no specific word for pagan in this verse.  

“Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry” (1 Corinthians 10:7). 

The Greek word for pagan here is paizo and means ‘indulge in pagan revelry.’   It is only used once this way in all of Scripture.   Nations, unclean, memorial and idolatrous have been substituted with the word ‘pagan’ and even ‘gentile’ creating a mistranslation of the Scriptures and ultimately a division within the Body of Messiah. 

“But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles [ethnos], how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!  I am talking to you Gentiles [ethnos]. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles [ethnos], I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people [Isra’el]  to envy and save some of them” (Romans 11:12-14). 

The  mistranslation of the words goy and ethnos into ‘pagan’ and ‘gentile’ in this passage creates an identity crisis in the Body of Messiah.  Those of the nations, the goyim, though they may be living among ‘pagans’ are not always ‘pagan’ and learning the ‘ways of the nations’.   They are living in the nations because of the foresight of God who knew His people would be dispersed among the ‘nations’.   Those of the goyim or ethnos who have put their faith in Yeshua have the responsibility to make Isra’el envious for their Messiah.

©2011 Tentstake Ministries

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