Shalom ,

You may have heard the term “goyim” and know this is the way that Jews often refer to non-Jews, or in English, “Gentiles.” You might even think this is a negative term, an insult which expresses animosity towards those who are not Jewish. In fact, the opposite is true!

All the Nations Together

In the days of the Bible, the Hebrew word goy גוֹי was simply the way of saying “nation.” Each of the great peoples of the world (the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians) is called a goy in the Bible. The people of Israel are also called a goy (Genesis 12:2). The prophet Isaiah imagines a wonderful messianic future where, “nation (goy) shall not lift up sword against nation (goy)” (Isa. 2:4).

The Chosen People Alone

If the nations of the world are all goyim (plural of goy), there is no inherent difference between Jews and Gentiles. So why are the Jews the “chosen people”? The Bible says explicitly that Israel did nothing to deserve being chosen (Deut. 7:6-8). Rather God decided to give Israel the weighty responsibly of being his “special treasure” (segula) so they could be the channel of blessing to all people on earth.

Come to Zion with Hebrew

From Abraham’s family tree, came Israel, from whom eventually the Messiah was born. Now is the time to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah that “all the nations (goyim) shall stream to Jerusalem” to worship the Lord in perfect harmony (Isa. 2:2).

By Yakov Rosenberg,

Professor of Biblical Hebrew and “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” Courses,