International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
jen'-tilz (goy, plural goyim; ethnos, "people," "nation"): Goy (or Goi) is rendered "Gentiles" in the King James Version in some 30 passages, but much more frequently "heathen," and oftener still, "nation," which latter is the usual rendering in the Revised Version (British and American), but it, is commonly used for a non-Israelitish people, and thus corresponds to the meaning of Gentiles." It occurs, however, in passages referring to the Israelites, as in Gen 12:2; Dt 32:28; Josh 3:17; 4:1; 10:13; 2 Sam 7:23; Isa 1:4; Zeph 2:9, but the word (`am) is the term commonly used for the people of God. In the New Testament ethnos is the word corresponding to goy in the Old Testament and is rendered "Gentiles" by both VSS, while (laos) is the word which corresponds to `am. The King James Version also renders Hellenes, "Gentiles" in six passages (Jn 7:35; Rom 2:9,10; 3:9; 1 Cor 10:32; 12:13), but the Revised Version (British and American) renders "Greeks."
The Gentiles were far less sharply differentiated from the Israelites in Old Testament than in New Testament times. Under Old Testament regulations they were simply non-Israelites, not from the stock of Abraham, but they were not hated or despised for that reason, and were to be treated almost on a plane of equality, except certain tribes in Canaan with regard to whom there were special regulations of non-intercourse. The Gentile stranger enjoyed the hospitality of the Israelite who was commanded to love him (Dt 10:19), to sympathize with him, "For ye know the heart of the stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Ex 23:9 the King James Version). The Kenites were treated almost as brethren, especially the children of Rechab (Jdg 1:16; 5:24; Jer 35). Uriah the Hittite was a trusted warrior of David (2 Sam 11); Ittai the Gittite was captain of David's guard (2 Sam 18:2); Araunah the Jebusite was a respected resident of Jerusalem. The Gentiles had the right of asylum in the cities of refuge, the same as the Israelites (Nu 35:15). They might even possess Israelite slaves (Lev 25:47), and a Gentileservant must not be defrauded of his wage (Dt 24:15). They could inherit in Israel even as late as the exile (Ezek 47:22,23). They were allowed to offer sacrifices in the temple at Jerusalem, as is distinctly affirmed by Josephus (BJ, II, xvii, 2-4; Ant, XI, viii, 5; XIII, viii, 2; XVI, ii, 1; XVIII, v, 3; CAp, II, 5), and it is implied in the Levitical law (Lev 22:25). Prayers and sacrifices were to be offered for Gentilerulers (Jer 29:7; Baruch 1:10,11; Ezr 6:10; 1 Macc 7:33; Josephus, BJ, II, x, 4). Gifts might be received from them (2 Macc 5:16; Josephus, Ant, XIII, iii, 4; XVI, vi, 4; BJ, V, xiii, 6; CAp, II, 5). But as we approach the Christian era the attitude of the Jews toward the Gentiles changes, until we find, in New Testament times, the most extreme aversion, scorn and hatred. They were regarded as unclean, with whom it was unlawful to have any friendly intercourse. They were the enemies of God and His people, to whom the knowledge of God was denied unless they became proselytes, and even then they could not, as in ancient times, be admitted to full fellowship. Jews were forbidden to counsel them, and if they asked about Divine things they were to be cursed. All children born of mixed marriages were bastards. That is what caused the Jews to be so hated by Greeks and Romans, as we have abundant evidence in the writings of Cicero, Seneca and Tacitus. Something of this is reflected in the New Testament (Jn 18:28; Acts 10:28; 11:3).
If we inquire what the reason of this change was we shall find it in the conditions of the exiled Jews, who suffered the bitterest treatment at the hands of their Gentile captors and who, after their return and establishment in Judea, were in constant conflict with neighboring tribes and especially with the Greek rulers of Syria. The fierce persecution of Antiochus IV, who attempted to blot out their religion and Hellenize the Jews, and the desperate struggle for independence, created in them a burning patriotism and zeal for their faith which culminated in the rigid exclusiveness we see in later times.
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'GENTILES'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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