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QUESTION: Was Abraham A Gentile or a Jew?


The following question also came via The Question Box on our congregation’s webpage. Since it is somewhat related to the previous post, I include this as a follow-up to that post.

Pastor R___ said that Abraham was a Gentile and that he became a Jew after he was circumcised.

I assume your question is whether or not the Pastor is correct. Actually, he is partly right and partly wrong.

Yes, Abraham was a Gentile. God called him from among the pagan nations. Joshua referred to this in his farewell to the people of Israel.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15

The forefathers here were the family of Abraham, whom God called Abraham to leave. The River was the Euphrates River, which ran through Ur, the city in which Abraham had lived. Joshua is challenging the nation of Israel to live up to the Covenant God made with Abraham when He called him. He said he and his family would serve the LORD – and the people also responded with vigor: “We will serve the LORD!”

Abraham came from a pagan, Gentile family, and was serving God before he was circumcised.

However, Abraham was neither a Jew nor an Israelite. The name “Jew” comes from the name “Judah.” Judah was a great-grandson of Abraham, born after Abraham had died. Judah was the beginning of the tribe of Judah, which was the tribe of King David and later of Jesus. All Israelites came to be known as “Jews” because of the prominence of that tribe. In fact, the country of the Jews was known as Judea in the time of Jesus, a name that also came from Judah.

In the same way, Abraham was not an Israelite. Israel is the name God gave to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (again, after Abraham was dead). The Israelites were the descendants of Israel. One of the Twelve Tribes of Israel was the tribe of Judah, who eventually gave their name to all of the nation.

So, Abraham was the Father of the nation of Israel and the Father of the Jews – but he himself was neither Israelite not Jew. Those designations came later.

In fact, the Covenant God made with Abraham that called him out of his pagan background came more than a decade before Abraham was circumcised. Circumcision was a sign of that covenant. All of Abraham’s children were circumcised, not just the children of Isaac, the father of Jacob. Both Abraham and Isaac were the fathers of other nations than Israel. Some of those other nations, in particular the Arab nations who descend from Ishmael (a son of Abraham through a concubine, Hagar) still practice circumcision today. They, however, have nothing to do with the Jews. Indeed, they hate them very much.

In the New Testament, Paul makes the point that all who believe (trust) God are the children of Abraham, whether they are circumcised or not.

[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. – Romans 4:11-12 (see the surrounding discussion as well)

All who trust God for their salvation today are also children of Abraham because they share his faith in God.

SEE ALSO: Where in the Bible Does Jesus Say He Came for All People, Not Just the Jews?

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12 Responses

  1. Very interesting read…until I got to…

    “They, however, have nothing to do with the Jews. Indeed, they hate them very much”

    Maybe it is u who has hates Arabs? Peace

    • I don’t bomb Arabs – and I disapprove of our government’s action in doing so. Arabs have a history of warring against Jews – a history that is reciprocated by the Jews. At least, a fair interpretation of the news and history of the past 60+ years suggests this.

      My interest is in seeing all Abraham’s descendants participate in the blessings of the covenant God gave to Him, a covenant that was pointing to Jesus, the Messiah. This covenant, by the way, included “all nations of the world” who were to find a blessing in Abraham.

      Respectfully,

      Jerry

  2. the muslims will finally recognize the israelites as their brother.
    sheba dedan is saudi arabia, they will question russia why they will attack israel in ezek.38,39

    http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/endtimessageradiobroadcast
    http://www.esnips.com/endtimebroadcaster
    http://www.esnips.com/endtimebroadcast

  3. The Jews did not give their name to all of the nation! What ever that means? Paul was a Jew he was from the nation of Judea but he was of the tribe of Benjamen. Paul was also a Israelite but most Israelites are not Jews.

    • Thank you for your comment.

      When there was a division in the Kingdom of Israel after the death of Solomon, ten tribes left the house of David (represented by Rehoboam, the son of Solomon) to follow Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. Those ten tribes from the north were called Israel, while the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin were known as Judah. See 1 Kings 12:1-24.

      The northern kingdom had a very turbulent history with several dynasty changes (coups that installed a new family as the reigning monarch). They went into Assyrian Captivity about 721 BC. The southern kingdom of Judah had a single dynasty, the house of David. They were in Babylonian Captivity from about 606 BC for 70 years when they were allowed to return to their homeland by the Medo-Persian empire that defeated the Babylonians. At that time, a few of the members of the ten tribes of Israel also returned. to Canaan where they were absorbed into the broader designation of Judah and were also recognized as Jews.

      Jerry

  4. They hate both each other, because they don’t know Jesus. Its up to us to let them know who our God is, so let us leave the history behind and pack our bags and get over there to do His will.

    • This is an excellent observation, Brown! If Christians over the centuries had practiced the teachings of Jesus, there would be much more love in the world – and along with that, more joy and peace.

  5. Yeah, and everyone would be marked by the beast out of the sea. The bible itself states that when people say peace, and safety swift destruction shall come

    • Hollis,
      Swift destruction follows those who claim “Peace when there is no peace.” My comment referred to those who are walking after the Spirit of God and bearing the fruit of the Spirit – see Galatians 5:22ff. Your comment appears to me to be somewhat juvenile and cynical.

  6. Thanks for posting.

  7. […] a gentile. Therefore the Jews were never Semites. Then we could get into the whole Khazaria thing. http://committedtotruth.wordpress.co…tile-or-a-jew/ http://www.texemarrs.com/042013/jews…of_abraham.htm They may have been someone's flunkies, but […]

  8. Thanks!
    Most of all,thank’s to our Lord and savior!

    God bless you Jerry!

    Ronnie
    Netherlands.

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