Q&A: Japheth and the Gentiles

Japheth and the Gentiles

Question

In your answer regarding the origin of the distinction between Jews and Gentiles [Bible and Racial Issues II], you did not mention the descendants of Japheth or Ham where the Gentile nations are concerned. Do we not see passages such as Ephesians 2:11ff. as new covenant elaboration and fulfillment of Genesis:9:27a ("May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem")?

Answer

You're right, I didn't include any generations prior to Abraham because prior to Abraham there was no category "Jew." He was the first. "Gentiles" just means "nations." Prior the Abraham, the whole world was Gentile. I suppose I could have mentioned that there were Semites (descendants of Noah's son Shem), but even most of the Semites (all but Abraham's descendants) are Gentiles.
And yes, I think we can see some new covenant fulfillment of Genesis 9:27. Shem was the special son of Noah, and insofar as Japheth was loyal to Shem, Japheth received great blessings. As time progressed, the special people within Shem's peoples became smaller, so that Abraham and his family were the only special ones. At that point, those who were not of the most favored people were able to partake of the covenant blessings by joining the covenant community and being faithful (as many Gentiles did in the Old Testament, such as Rahab, Ruth, Uriah, etc.). This is exactly what the Gentiles whom Paul addressed in Ephesians 2:11ff. had done, and what everyone else does today when they join the church as believers.
This is a pattern the Bible carries through all its pages. In every age for which we have recorded history, God has a special covenant people. Moreover, that covenant continues by birth and by conversion in all cases. Finally, all these types are fulfilled in Christ and the church.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.