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Let's tackle another confusing subject. This may be a little lengthy but I don't think you'll regret the ending:
What is a "Nation" in the Bible?
In today's culture we think of the term nation as in a country, nationality, or ethnicity. That's all well and good if we're talking about today. But in the context of the Bible, the word translated nation has a different meaning.
In Genesis the 10th chapter, the word nation could not mean ethnicity or nationality since it is obvious that Ham, Shem and Japheth were not different ethnicities.. or what some might call nationalities. "Countries" definitely would not make sense in that chapter because the conversation was about descendants.
I know that this culture tries to imply that Noah's 3 sons were different ethnicities - but that is found nowhere in the Bible or history. I won't spend much time on this as we have made this clear on my article Noah and His Three Sons.
I'll just say Ham, Shem, and Japheth were brothers - all having the same mother and father. They were the three sons of Noah and his one wife - in which Scripture gives no hint of Noah's wife not being a Hebrew.
And in all reality, according to Scripture there were no different ethnicities or races at that time.
So, if you know the ethnicity of one person in the family, you know the ethnicity of the whole family. And like I've stated before: out of the three sons of Noah - there is only one son of Noah with any proof of his ethnicity - which was Ham, the so-called African.
I'll just leave that one right there...
But returning to Genesis the 10th chapter with all of this in mind, we see the word "nations" referring to each one of Noah's son's descendants.
Get your Bible out and read it again...
It says about Japheth's descendants in 10:5 - "By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their NATIONS ."
It says about Ham's descendants in 10:20 - "These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their NATIONS."
It says about Shem's descendants in 10:31 - "These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their NATIONS."
And then all of them are spoken of as Noah's sons in 10:32 - "These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their NATIONS: and by these were the NATIONS divided in the earth after the flood."
**Did anybody else notice that Ham's descendants were not referred to as Gentiles? Just a thought. But I digress...
So if "nations" meant ethnicities, these verses would make no sense. And not only these, but many, many more references throughout the Bible would not make sense using the term "nation". Remember, God's Word was written to intelligent people. I can't see Him giving His people anything that wouldn't make sense to them.
Otherwise would they receive it?
Stay with me... So what did that word translated "nation" mean?
In all simplicity - the term nation in the Bible always referred to a very large family. "Nation" represented the family in the absolute largest sense of a family unit.
Now the natural instinct of anyone researching the meaning of Biblical words is to go to Strong's concordance and simply look it up. Strong's is one of the most credible research tools available to most laypeople today. But his definition of the word translated "nation" is very disappointing, and clearly does not line up with the context of the Bible.
That word nation is translated from the Hebrew word that Strong's defines in H1471 as: גּוֹי gôwy, go'-ee; rarely (shortened) גֹּי gôy; apparently from the same root as H1465 (in the sense of massing); a foreign nation; hence, a Gentile; also (figuratively) a troop of animals, or a flight of locusts:—Gentile, heathen, nation, people.
I cannot say that Strong's definition is completely wrong, but it is definitely misleading. Strong's should have included family in his definition of nation.
The nerve of me to challenge James Strong??
Ok, that's fine.. but just look with me at the way the word nation is used in the Bible.
This western culture's definition clouds it up, but it's amazing how clear things appear when the smoke is gone.
There are many places that I could start but let's start with Abraham:
"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great "nation", and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." ~ Gen 12:1-3
One researcher said:
"Although the modern-day definition of nation is commonly that of a politically organized body of people under a single government (i.e. a country), the original meaning of nation in Bible History was a grouping of related people. Beginning with a single individual (such as shown in the above example with Abraham), a nation was composed of tribes, which were composed of clans, which were composed of families."
Read the article here
Probably the best example of this in the Bible would be in the story of Achan:
"Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!" ~ Joshua 7:13-15 (NIV)
Israel was a nation, made up of 12 tribes representing Jacob/Israel's 12 sons. The tribes where made up of clans - which from my research of the Hebrew text, clan is synonymous with a thousand. Clans were made up of families, and I am inclined to believe that a group of families descending from a single person became a clan when that person's number of descendants reached a thousand.
But this basic structure of nation, tribes, clans, and families is true in Native American and so-called African cultures also.
In John J. Ollivier's 1994 Pulitzer Prize nominated book "The Wisdom of African Mythology", in the section titled "African Family Life" on page 144, Ollivier wrote about the African family:
"African tribal society was divided into clans. Clans were the major subdivisions of the tribe. Some tribes had over a hundred clans, and some clans had over a thousand people. The clan was further divided into gates which were made up of a number of similar families. When a gate reached a certain size, it became a clan. Members of a clan assisted each other in time of need, especially in time of war."
Ollivier went on to say
"The family included far more than just members of a household. A family included it ancestors both living and dead. It included all the wives, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was the sum of all those who had common ancestors. Families themselves were divided into households, while each household was further divided into individual members." ~ John J. Ollivier
We know that Biblical Israel was a nation. We know it as the nation of Israel in the Bible. We also know them as the "children" of Israel. Of course children are descendants, and therefore family.
Hebrew culture kept strict records on genealogy and bloodline because God was, and still is very serious about the family and its structure. There is no structure without boundaries.. and healthy boundaries are good. Much to say on this but again, I digress...
So... going back to Genesis 12:1-3 when God told Abraham in verse two ".. And I will make of thee a great nation.."
God was not saying that he was going to create a new ethnicity like many incorrectly imply.
In the context of that conversation, God basically told Abraham to leave his family, and God was going to reward him with a great family of his own. A great family meaning many, many descendants. All one family. A holy family in covenant with God.
And in verse three God went on to say "...and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
God didn't say all ethnicities shall be blessed. God didn't say all races shall be blessed. God didn't say all countries shall be blessed. God is speaking to families. The first kingdom was a family, and all kingdoms in the Bible were rooted in family.
People also use the idea that nation means ethnicity in the story of Jacob and Esau in Gen 25:23 but, once again this was not implying that the twins Jacob and Esau would be different ethnicities. Esau being born "red" in vs 25 doesn't mean white either.
Everybody reading this most likely know a black person with the nickname "Red" - because they are so bright. And we know many black people who are hairy. I could go on and on on that...
Researching the original Hebrew language in Gen 25:23 shows the Bible was saying the twins would be different, but it did not say anything about different ethnicities.
As a matter of fact, I always say that if Esau was Red - as in Caucasian, it would seem to me that in Gen 27:21 where it reads:
"And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not."
It seems like the wise and intelligent father Isaac would just feel Esau's hair?
It's also hard for me to believe that the twin's intelligent mother Rebekah would have even made black Jacob to imitate his white brother. How would she know Isaac would not place his hand on Jacob's head and feel his hair? And even though Isaac was blind, the only difference that Jacob mentioned was that Esau's skin was hairy. This sounds like they were not different ethnicities, but the same ethnicity.
So when God told Rebekah in Gen 25:23:
"Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels..."
The word nations was speaking of very large families. And as explained above, we know that Jacob/Israel was one nation. And I simply do not see how two manner of people has to mean ethnically. The context of scripture does not support this notion.
Many won't receive this because they want Esau to be White... Believe what you want to believe. I'm just giving information. We have been building on another's foundation.
Brothers and sisters, the family is, and always has been God's heartbeat.
When you read the Bible with this understanding, you will notice that everything was about the family - which was God's sacred institution on earth. The self-sufficient system placed here by God to be the answer to many of our problems.
No time to really go in on this but our families today are simply way too small. Families are the solution set up by God Himself, but it goes way past grandma and grandpa. Don't be distracted by the dysfunctions of the family... many Biblical families had dysfunctions. The truth is there is power in unity, which begins with how YOU see it.
He that hath an ear, let him hear...
But implying that Biblical "nations" means ethnicities only benefits non Black people. Otherwise how else can "others" place themselves in scripture? I know this is thick, but think about where all of that came from... Initially Black people did not come up with the notion that a new ethnicity was created with Abraham. White researchers did, but that theory is incorrect.
All physical descriptions in the Bible describe God’s people as Black, African looking people. No hate or disrespect to anybody, we are simply starving for the unfiltered truth. Some of us need some meat. The milk diet is killing us as a whole.
So when you see the word "nation" in the Bible from now on, you will understand - and we should start teaching - that it was not talking about ethnicities per se, or countries. That may be true in this culture's context.. but in the Bible, "nation" was always speaking in terms of the absolute largest unit of blood related family.
Families > Clans > Tribes > Nation
I hope you received some grace from this article and it helps in you in your studies.
God bless everybody and their families.
The truth shall make you free!
Concerning the Bible, incorrect history will produce incorrect theology
By Minister Rodney Jones, specializing in Biblical History
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