Who Are The Gentiles? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

The Bible talks about Gentiles?  Who are the Gentiles?  Does this refer to all the unsaved of the world or those who are not Christians?  Are Gentiles simply anyone who is not a Jew?

There is a great misunderstanding about what the word Gentile means in the Old and in the New Testament.  It is not so much related to Pagans or the unsaved as it is to the nations.

There is a great misunderstanding about what the word Gentile means in the Old and in the New Testament. It is not so much related to Pagans or the unsaved as it is to the nations.

Who are the Gentiles?

There is a great misunderstanding about what the word Gentile means in the Old and in the New Testament.  It is not so much related to Pagans or the unsaved as it is to the nations.  The word Gentile is derived from the Latin word “gens” which refers to a family or clan. Generally, when we see the word Gentile we should think about non-Jews because in the Greek the word Gentiles is “ethnos” or nations.  To be a Gentile is to be someone who is not Jewish.  When the word Gentile appears in the Old Testament it is from the Hebrew word “goy” which means the same thing as the Greek word does; nation or nations, depending upon whether the singular or plural is being used.  Actually the word Gentile that appears in the Old and New Testament is somewhat of a mistranslation because it is either “goy” (in the Old Testament) or “ethnos” (in the New Testament) and refers to any ethnic group, people group, family, or nation that is not from the 12 tribes of Israel or is not Jewish.  One misunderstanding is that not all of Israel is Jewish but all Jews are Israelite.  What I mean is that the Jews consist of the tribes of Judah, the majority of Levi and the remnants of Benjamin. This was the Southern Kingdom that split apart from the Northern Kingdom which consisted of the remaining tribes and is sometimes called Joseph/Ephraim.  They were later taken captive and were dispersed among the nations.  So we must think about it this way; every Jew is from Israelite but not all of the tribes of Israelites were from the Jewish people.

Old Testament Gentiles

God was never an enemy of the Gentile nations (or non-Israel nations) but any Gentile could join with and become part of the nation of Israel.  This was possible only if they rejected Pagan worship and their associated false Gods such as Baal or Asherah.  God was very concerned with the souls of the Pagan nations and never had intentions of destroying them all.  Most Christians who may not know the Old Testament believe that God was against any nation that was not Israelite and was trying to wipe them from off the face of the earth. Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, Jesus’ has Pagan people like Ruth in His lineage showing that He desires the worship of all nations.  That will finally occur after His second coming. ( Related reading: Biblical Signs of The Second Coming of Jesus)

God expressed and poured out His love for the Pagan nations, believe it or not.  He was not set in His heart to destroy them all.  Read what God says about those whom He loves, Jew or Gentile:

Deuteronomy 10:18 “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Did you catch that?  He loves the “sojourner.”  Aren’t we presently a sojourner…a pilgrim?  Were we not a foreigner before becoming part of God’s family?  The point is, even in Old Testament times, He loved them and gave them food and clothing just as He did the nation of Israel.

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

God did pity those who were not part of the nation of Israel which is exactly why He sent Jonah to help saved Nineveh in the greatest revival in human history.  Nineveh was saved against’ Jonah’s will but not against God’s.

Exodus 12:19 “For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land.” 

God didn’t play favorites.  He punished His own chosen people just as He would those from outside of Israel if they didn’t obey Him.  God is no respecter of persons or nations.

There are dozens and dozens of other verses from the Old Testament that essentially say the same thing.  God loved these people, He has compassion or pity on them, He loves the sojourner, He gives them food and clothing…and He also offered them salvation. He took no pleasure in their destruction (Ezk 18:23).

New Testament Gentiles

You can read some of the Scriptures mentioned in the Conclusion section at the end of this article to know that Gentiles or non-Jews alike are accepted by God but only if they repent and place their trust in Christ.  In Acts 13:47-49 Paul said that “the Lord has commanded us (Paul and Barnabas), saying,“ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.  And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.” God promises “glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.  For God shows no partiality” (Rom 2:10-11).


Who are the Gentiles?  Anyone who is not in the family of God is one but that will not matter if they trust in Christ.  Paul said that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28) and because this was so important, he repeated something similar in Colossians 3:11 writing, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  Once you are born again you are part of His family and actually part of God’s chosen people (Eph 1, 2).  Paul wrote that “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Rom 2:28-29) “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29).  Now that’s good news.

If you are born again then you are seen as Abraham’s seed because like Abraham, we have faith…faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This is good news because “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith” (Rom 4:13).  That is what happens if we have faith in Jesus Christ.  In God’s family there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free” but all who are saved are part of God’s very own family.  That makes us “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17) “And because you are sons [and daughters], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father” (Gal 4:6)!

Another article you might be interested in: End Times: Are We In The Last Days?

Resources: New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

Share this post:  |  |  |  | Twitter

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda November 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

Thank you Jack for the proper meaning of a Gentile, now it makes much more sense to me as I read the bible. I’m so happy to be an heir. Bless you.


Jack Wellman November 1, 2013 at 10:36 am

Linda, thank you so much. Your comment matches the meaning of your name, which in Spanish means “beautiful.” I appreciate your kind words.


william mungwira November 2, 2013 at 5:35 am

so when the Israelites were taken out of Egypt were they mixed with this Gentiles or what


Jack Wellman November 2, 2013 at 6:36 am

Thank you Mr. Mungwira. Yes, there were both Eygptians and Israelites mixed together but the point is that this is about the new and better covenant under Jesus’ atonement where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female but all of Christ’s who repent, confess and trust in Him.


Mr Anthony Cotton November 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm

The most important thing that you say Jack is that God see`s no difference between any peoples.
He did not make the jews any more important than the gentiles,or any other race.
When it is said that the gentiles were overjoyed that God recognized them is proof.
The downside to the Jewish nation was especially Hitler was tying to exterminate them all.
Sadly it still remains so today. I personally don`t have any race issue`s at all. It`s the extremist`s,and fanatics in any religion today that are to blame.


Jack Wellman November 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Amen Anthony…well said. I am glad that you say the thesis behind this article and that God is no respecter of persons…for which I for one, am glad. Sad, yes, there are those who still judge from the outside when it truly what is in the heart that counts. Thank you friend.


DocReits November 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Hi Jack,

I have a question and you know how I like to play “you know who’s” advocate…;-)

Abraham was chosen out of all of the people on the face of the earth to be “a peculiar people” to the Lord. This “peculiar” means special, set apart, not the same as those living along side his offspring.

It was to them and not the goyim that God gave the promise and shared His real presence. Sure, as you alluded, if the goys wanted to become a member of the eventual Israelite clan there were rules to become such….but they became grafted into Israel and became worshipers of the true God and, as such, received His blessing.

I do not see any evangelistic efforts to get the message out about Jehovah in the OT to the goyim. The only time I recall is when the inhabitants outside the arc were destroyed and when the deceptive sons of Jacob hoodwinked a bunch of guys to get circumcised so they could kill them as they were healing…. in retribution for the King’s son raping their sister.

Now we have the NT where we are told to keep our lamps filled and our garments white for the eventual coming back of our Lord Christ.
We are told to proclaim the Gospel., yet at the same time satan is hardening the hearts of those God knows will be unsaved….ironic? It’s a “God thing”…;-)

“17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of[d] the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”(Eph 4:17-19)

The god of this age(Satan) has blinded those who choose to walk in darkness because they hate the light and rather have darkness:

“3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor 4:3)

““Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). In other words, they want darkness, they don’t want light.

All the preaching in the world will not change the hearts of those destined for darkness. Do we stop preaching…No! Because we do not know what God knows. Are we a special people called out of darkness? Yes! Why? To become His bride and bring Glory and Honor to His Name.

Watchman Ne believes in special election…to wit…those whose garments are white and lamps full, watching and waiting for the return of our King, will be swept up to meet Him in the clouds where the wedding supper of the Lamb will take place. Those who are saved but are lax in faithfulness and are living as the world, will populate the kingdom, but not as the bride.

I am on the fence there. I can certainly understand Watchman’s position and have sat under really smart pastors supporting this idea, but I am not convinced.

So you can see my query. Watchman Ne would argue that we are a special people still called out by God and that the number of enrollees have been decided. The dinner guests are known. Yes there are no Greeks, Jews, or Gentiles at the dinner feast…we are all His bride, but the goyim are still without the camp. The “other nations” still exist.

Your thoughts?



Jack Wellman November 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Thanks Doc. Maybe you didn’t know but the word “goyim” is a derogatory label for non-Israelites or as the Bible dictionary calls it ” Often Disparaging. a non-Jewish person; gentile” and is used as a disparaging term for one who is not a Jew. Let me also say that I don’t have a lot of time to point-counterpoint as I am still at work…and even had to work on my birthday today. I wish I didn’t have to work on my birhtday all day but I am still blessed. Exausted with school (seminary), family, work, pastoring, the website, and more but thnank GOd anyway. Israel was to be an example to other nations and not to proselytize. God never told them to evangelize the nations.

Jehovah Witnesses believe that the number of saved (the supposed 144,000) is already full but this is not biblical as Jesus said to go and make disciples of ALL nations and go into ALL the world and not just wait until there’s 144,000. That number from Revelation has nothing to do with a certain limit of people being called and then we are to stop. God will draw ALL men and all tongues, nations, and peoples will come to worship the Lamb at His return (Rev 7:9) and in the meantime we are to “GO!” and not to wait and stop when so many are reached.

JW’s are totally a cult and have had so many false prophets predict and fail Christ’s return that they would have been stones in the Old Testament. Prophets must bat 100% or else their not from God! If the organization did not actually prophesy the end in 1925 and 1975, then how come so many Witnesses left the faith immediately afterwards? (“They lost roughly three-quarters of the movement between 1925 and 1928, then suffered huge losses after 1975, when the end didn’t come as they had implied over and over again,” said Jim Penton, an ex-Witness who writes entries on Jehovah’s Witnesses for the Encyclopedia Americana.) Since the Organization has received “new light” regarding the 1914 generation, and completely changed their view on this, does this mean that all the former Jehovah’s witnesses who were disfellowshipped years ago for the same view the organization is now teaching will automatically be accepted into fellowship again? Were these Ex-Jw’s in fact disfellowshipped for truth and knew things that the governing body did not?If the Watchtower organization rejects others calling them “inspired” yet the Watchtower organization does call themselves “God’s Spirit-directed Prophet” what is the difference? Is there such a thing as an “uninspired prophet”? NO!

How do we know that there were any vacancies, if any, in the 144,000 class if Jesus offered this to first century Christians? How can the organization know the exact number of vacancies today without any records from the first century? The Watchtower Society teaches that the 144,000 of Rev 7:4 is to be taken literally. If chapter 7 of Revelation is to be taken literally, where then does the Bible say that the 144,000 will come from? (See Rev 7:5- 8). If there are 144,000 spirit anointed people who have a heavenly hope, and a great crowd of people who have another hope of everlasting life on paradise earth, why does Paul say that there is only ONE hope (Eph 4:4), instead of two? In Mk 3:35, Jesus says, “Whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother …”. Therefore, according to the Bible, whoever does the will of God is a brother of Jesus and a partaker of the heavenly calling. How can this be if the Watchtower Society teaches that only 144,000 people go to heaven? Heb 11:16, in speaking about some of the faithful people of the Old Testament (Abel, Noah, Abraham, etc.) says, “But now they are reaching out for a better [place], that is, one belonging to heaven…” and, “… their God for he has made a city ready for them.” The footnote on the word “city” refers to HEAVENLY Jerusalem of Heb 12:22 and Rev 21:2. How can this be since according to the teachings of the Watchtower Society, the only people who will go to heaven are the 144,000 spirit anointed who have been chosen from people who lived after Christ died?

As for Watchman Ne, let me show you some very serious errors this man taught”

Nee outlines no method of Bible study and interpretation and appears to deny evangelical hermeneutics. In his book Spiritual Authority, he sets himself and his elders up as the unquestionable authorities. By all appearances, Nee saw himself not as a servant but as a guru.

One gets the impression from Nee that the Bible was not nearly as important as Christians generally consider it. In his book The Ministry of God’s Word, Nee says, “Words alone cannot be considered God’s Word.” In this book, Nee becomes very philosophical, mystical and incoherent. He says that only as we deliver the Word in terms of the “reality behind it,” using what he calls “Holy Spirit memory” and “presenting the pictures as well as speaking the words” will the words be correct; otherwise they are not real.

Nee overemphasizes emotions. In The Ministry of God’s Word, he claims that the effectiveness of a preacher’s delivery is a product of his emotions. If a preacher does not feel emotionally charged in delivery, “the Spirit is stuck” and the “Spirit is inevitably arrested,” Nee says. He continues, “The Spirit flows through the channel of emotion.” Then he arrives at a strange conclusion: “Nose in the Scripture stands for feeling. Smelling is a most delicate act, man’s feeling is most delicate.” Therefore, Nee says, a preacher in speaking needs to “mix feelings with the words spoken, else his words are dead. If our feeling lags behind, our words are stripped of the spirit.” To say as Nee does, on page 210, that the Holy Spirit only rides on feeling is dangerous.

Nee uses terms imprecisely. One example is his writing about a minister’s receiving “revelations” in his “Holy Spirit memory” and those revelations being remembered in us by the Holy Spirit. This sort of metaphysical mumbo jumbo is impossible to understand, since there is no direct scriptural reference to a “Holy Spirit memory.”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post:

Next post: