Throughout the history of the Jewish people, there have been numerous Gentiles who have chosen to be joined to Israel. When Abraham initially responded to the call of God, he "took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan." (Gen. 12:5) "The persons which they had acquired" is literally "the souls that they had made." Therefore the rabbis say that these were Gentiles who became proselytes to the faith of Abraham. (cf. Babylonian Talmud, Sanh. 99b)
When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, "a mixed multitude also went up with them." (Ex. 12:38) Before the people entered into Canaan, Moses spoke to them about the covenant which they were about to enter into. The covenant was made not only with the Jewish people, but also with "the alien who is within your camps" (i.e., the Gentiles who joined themselves to Israel) and even with "those who are not with us here today." Some individuals who did not belong to that time, that place, or that people, were included in the covenant. (Dt. 29:10-15)
The Gibeonites are an example. Although they had deceived Joshua and the leaders of Israel into making a covenant, or treaty, with them, their lives were spared and they became "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord." (Josh. 9:27) Their faith in God allowed them to enter into His covenant, although they were not Jewish. (Josh. 9:9-10)
Earlier, Rahab and her family had joined Israel. Knowing that the purposes of God for and through Israel could not be defeated, she had hidden two Jewish spies. After the destruction of her city, Jericho, she and her household were united with the people of Israel. "Rahab the harlot and her father's household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho." (Josh. 6:25)
She had chosen the Jewish people and their God. From the perspective of her countrymen, had they survived, Rahab was a traitor and a betrayer. But ultimately, life is only judged by God's standard. Rahab married Salmon, and became an ancestress of the Messianic line.
In the same way, under very different circumstances, Ruth joined herself to Naomi, a barren, hopeless, Jewish widow. Ruth made the decision to give her life to the people and the God of Israel. "Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." (Ruth 1:16)
She chose the unknown of a new people and a new land, and a walk with God. Though she remained "Ruth the Moabitess," she was grafted into Israel, both physically and spiritually. She later married Boaz, Rahab's son, and also became an ancestress of the Messianic line.
During the exile, in the time of Esther and Mordecai, the Jewish people were about to be annihilated by the hatred of Haman. God turned things around, and preserved and prospered His people. Though there were great, numerous, and powerful enemies arrayed against them, many joined with the Jewish people for their defense. (Esth. 9:27) Many of these allies actually became proselytes. (Esth. 8:17)
What then is the position of the strangers who truthfully joined themselves to the Lord and to His people? Can they only be servants as the Gibeonites were? Or can they expect to be honored as Ruth and Rahab were? We read in the book of Isaiah: "Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, 'The Lord will surely separate me from His people.' ...For thus says the Lord, '...the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.' " (Is. 56:3-7)
Will the Gentiles who have joined themselves to the Lord be separate from His people? The God of Israel says, "No. They will be part of My household, My family." Will the Gentiles who join themselves to the Lord be excluded from the holy place and service of the Lord? God says, "No. They will worship Me in My house, along with those of the dispersed of Israel whom I have gathered. They will be gathered to the remnant of Israel."
"In the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills: and all the goyim will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths, for the law [Torah] will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.' And He will judge between the goyim, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." (Is. 2:2-3, Mic. 4:1-3)
God gave Ezekiel visions of a time to come when living, healing water would flow out of Jerusalem. (Ezek. 47:1-12) The Lord told Ezekiel that the alien in the midst of Israel will be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. (Ezek. 47:21-23)
Thus, there are two contrasting images of the Gentiles. The predominant image presented in Tanakh is epitomized in Psalm 2:1-2: "Why are the Gentiles in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed."
God called Abraham out of the goyim. He called Israel to be separate from them; not to make any covenant with them, nor to intermarry with them. Yet there were Gentiles, like Ruth and Rahab, who chose to leave their people and everything else behind in order to follow the God of Israel. Because they made that choice - the same choice Abraham had made - they were included in the community of Israel and in God's covenant, promises, and blessings.

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(go back)
 In the Beginning
The Goyim Were First
Hopeless Gentiles
The Origins of Israel's Separation
The Gentiles who joined themselves to Israel
A People Set Apart
Jews and Hebrews
You Shall Be Cut Off
The Faithful Remnant of Israel