The Gentiles Vs. the Lost Sheep of Israel

herd of white sheep

Jeremiah 16:15, Children of Israel … from all the lands where [YHVH] had driven them … I will bring them again into their land. This verse corresponds to Leviticus 26:33 of this week’s Torah portion, which states as a result of Israel’s disobedience to YHVH’s Torah-Word: “And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you, and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.” When did this prophecy come to pass in ancient Israel? To whom did it apply? (On Israel being dispersed among the nations of the world, see Isa 11:12; 56:3, 6–8; Ezek 36:19; Zeph 3:10; John 7:35. On Israel becoming outcasts from its land, see Isa 11:12; 27:12–13; 56:8; Ps 147:2; cp. Deut 30:3–4.)

Jeremiah 16:16, Fishers. Not only this verse, but all of Jeremiah 16:16 is a prophecy about exiled Israel returning from the lands where YHVH had driven them (verse 15). Jeremiah says YHVH would use spiritual fishermen to fish his scattered people out of all the places—even to the ends of the earth (verse 19)—where he had driven them. Some of Yeshua’s disciples were fishermen by trade whom he recruited to become “fishers of men” (John 4:19). Who has that commission now?

Another way to look at this issue is to compare Israel to lost sheep. How many times does Yeshua liken his mission to that of a shepherd gathering his lost sheep? (Please note Ps 119:176; Isa 53:6; Ezek 34:4, 16; Matt 15:24; cp. Isa 40:11; Matt 18:11; Luke 15:4; 1 Pet 2:25 [cp. 1 Pet 1:1].) When will these lost sheep be regathered? In the end days, YHVH will gather his sheep that have lost their way, been scattered, hurt and wounded by hireling shepherds and self-seeking religionists (Ezek 34:11,16). YHVH will gather them from the nations where they have been scattered and return them to the land of Israel with David (or Messiah Son of David) as their king (see Ezek chapters 34 and 36–37).

Jeremiah 16:19, The Gentiles…ends of the earth. Who are these “Gentiles” that have been scattered to the ends of the earth? The word gentiles is the Hebrew word goyim(Strong’s G1471, Greek: ethnos, Strong’s G1484) This word is translated in the Tanakh (Old Testament) as nation 374 times, as heathen 143 times, as Gentiles 30 times, andpeople 11 times.

Whenever the word gentile is used in the KJV it is the word gowy or goy. According toStrong’s Concordance, the meaning of goy is “a foreign nation; hence a Gentile; also (fig.) a troop of animals, or a flight of locusts.” According to Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon,the word gowy means “a people, a confluence of men,” and “contextually in holy Scripture it is used to refer to the other nations besides Israel, the foes of Israel, and strangers to the true religion of Israel.”

There are times when goy refers specifically to Israel (e.g., the descendants of Joseph in general: Gen 48:19; of the southern kingdom of Judah when it forsook Elohim and its covenant with him and became like the surrounding heathen nations: Isa 1:4; of the southern kingdom: Isa 9:1; of Israel in general: Isa 26:2; 49:7; Ps 33:12; Gen 12:2; 35:11). There are numerous other instances in Scripture where the words goy or goyim are applied to the descendants of Abraham. Scripture’s use of the term is unbiased and lacks any of the pejorative implications that have been applied to the term subsequently (e.g.,Gen 17:4,  5,  6, 16; 18:18; 25:23; 46:3; Exod 19:6; 33:13; Deut 4:6,  7,  8,  34; Ezek 37:22).

As already noted, the word goy simply means “people group.” The Greek word ethnos as found in the Testimony of Yeshua (New Testament) is equivalent in meaning to the Hebrew word goyim. So clearly, in Jeremiah 16:19 gentiles is a reference to lost and scattered Israel who has mixed herself with the heathen (Hos 7:8; 8:8), and who is now returning to YHVH.