The 2001 Translation Translator NotesNote

Gentiles, Nations, or Ethnics

When the Bible speaks of ‘the people of the nations’ or ‘the gentiles’ (gr. tas ethne – or literally, the ethnics), we think of all those that aren’t referred to as ‘IsraElites’ or ‘Jews.’
However, in Genesis we find another definition of the term.
Notice that we have rendered Genesis 10:2-5 as saying (with added notes):
JaPheth’s sons were Gamer, Magog, Madoi [the Medes], Jovan, Elisa, Thobel [of Tubal], Mosoch [of possibly Russia], and Thiras [Islands of the Aegean Sea]. Gamer’s sons were Aschanaz [Germans], Riphath [of Northwestern Asia Minor], and Thorgama [the Armenians]. Jovan’s sons were EliShah [of Tyre], Tarshish [of Spain], Cetians [of Phoenicia], Rhodians [of Rhodes]. [They settled the] islands, which lands were divided by tribe and nation among the gentiles, each according to his own language.’

So from this account, we can see that the term, ‘the people of the nations’ or ‘gentiles,’ originally referred to just the descendants of JaPheth (white races) that lived separate from the sons of both Shem and Ham (who lived in the Middle East and Africa).

Also notice that in the battle that AbraHam fought so as to save his Nephew Lot who had been captured (see Genesis 14:1), one of the kings that he fought against was, ‘Thargal, the king of gentiles.’

So notice again that this King Thargal seems to be differentiated from the other non-IsraElite kings, which could mean that he came from among the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth.

Therefore, this raises the question of whether the Bible’s references to the gentiles originally indicated only those that lived in Europe and the Mediterranean islands, and if the term was thereafter extended to include all nations other than just the Tribes of IsraEl.

It is also important to note that the words ethnics, gentiles, and nations, which are all derived from the Greek word ethnos, may in several instances carry a highly symbolic meaning, especially in prophecies. For these words refer to peoples that are not (or were not) in a covenant relationship with God.

Take for example, the reference at Revelation 7:9:

‘And after all that, I saw {Look!} a crowd so large that no one could count them.
They came from all countries, nationalities, ethnic groups, and languages;
And they were standing within sight of the throne and within sight of the Lamb.’

Since ‘the twelve tribes of IsraEl’ had been mentioned previously (in verses 4-8), these ‘ethnics’ stand out as a different group, and the term may refer to those who were previously non-Christians (those not claiming to be in a Covenant relationship with God). Also, later references to the nations or ethnics in the Revelation appear to be speaking about those that had yet to make peace with Him.

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