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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament

Gentile, Heathen

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The only word rendered either Gentile or heathen in the O.T. is Goi (גוי ); it is generally used in the plural number, and after the time of Moses was generally used of outside nations. Goi is translated nation in all passages where the A. V. has adopted this word, with the exception of about thirty-five in ten passages it is rendered people in nineteen out of twenty places in which the word is found, the LXX has adopted ἔθνος as a rendering, and hence is derived the English word heathen. The first passage in which goi appears is Genesis 10:5, where the historian, writing of the children of Japheth, says, ' by these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.' The word for 'isles' may perhaps he used here in the more extended sense of 'territories.'

The word goim frequently occurs in connection with the promises made to Abraham. his seed was to inherit Canaan, which was at that time possessed by goim; he was to be the father of many goim; and in him and his seed were all the Goim of the earth to be blessed.

Where the word has been rendered people it will always be found to be in the singular number, and in these cases it usually refers to Israel; there is, however, one exception, namely, Zechariah 12:3, where we read of all the people (i.e. nations) of the earth being 'gathered against Jerusalem.'

Throughout the historical books, the Psalms, and the prophets, the word Goim primarily signifies those nations which lived in the immediate neighbourhood of the Jewish people; they were regarded as enemies, as ignorant of the truth, and sometimes as tyrants. Yet gleams of brighter and better days for them appear on the pages of Scripture from time to time. The Goim were to seek after the Messiah, the son of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10); God's Chosen One was to minister judgment to them (Isaiah 42:1); He was to be not only a covenant to the people (of Israel), but also a light to the goim (42:6), and a salvation to the ends of the earth (49:6) in Isaiah 60:16, and elsewhere, the Goim are described as contributing to the glorification of the regenerated Israel; whilst in other places we read of them as agents in punishing Israel (Jeremiah 4:7). Their idolatry was fearful, and their abominations were great (2 Kings 16:3). Their triumph over Israel and their ignorant fury against Israel's king are denounced in strong terms; but, after all, they are to be God's inheritance; they are told to rejoice in his coming to judge the earth, and all nations whom God hath made are to come and worship before Him.

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Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Gentile, Heathen'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.
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