The Origins of the word ‘Goy’

By Richard Edmondson for Veterans Today

“Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world—only to serve the people of Israel.”

Those are the words of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas Party in Israel, as quoted in the October 18 edition of the Jerusalem Post. And lest you get the idea that Yosef is regarded as a minor crank or off-the-wall nut job, consider that the Shas Party holds four cabinet posts in the Netanyahu government, and that Yosef’s following is such he was even selected as a poster child for Carlsberg Beer.

The word “goyim” is plural for “goy”—which in modern-day Jewish use is a designation, sometimes derogatory, for non-Jews. Given the fact that such comments as Yosef’s are being expressed openly by religious leaders in Israel—and given also the obsequious (we might even call it “slavish”) deference paid to Israel by American political leaders—it would behoove us to look at the word “goy” more closely and examine its history and origins.

The word is a Hebrew term, and in biblical translation it is usually rendered as “nation.” But where did it come from, or as we might say what is it’s “etymology”? In their book, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, volume II, Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren inform us goy is derived from the West Semitic gāwum/gāyum—found in the Mari dialect of Akkadian, a language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia as far back as 2500 bce. The word gāyum is thought to have meant “people,” or possibly, more precisely, “group, (work-)gang,” although indications are it may also have implied “tribe” or “territory.”

Eventually goy, the Hebrew adaptation of the word, came into heavy usage—there are more than 550 occurrences of it in the Old Testament (OT)—but it’s important to realize that initially the word carried no negative connotations. Under the so-called “documentary hypothesis,” also referred to as the Wellhausen theory, the first five books of the Bible—the Torah, or sometimes called the Pentateuch—are believed to have been composed in the main by four different sources at four different times. The earliest of these, the so-called “Yahwist source,” dates to around 950 bce, and here the word goy is largely content neutral. Thus in Genesis 12:2, Abraham is even promised that his own descendants will become a goy. It’s perhaps worth pausing here and noting, however, that the OT never gives a precise definition of what actually constitutes a goy. Is it racial origin? Is it land or territorial occupation? Is it the fact that a people may have a king or governing body of some sort? Botterweck and Ringgren say all three of these were important factors:

At any given point, one of these features could be regarded as of primary importance, but it is misleading to attempt a definition on the basis of such a single aspect. Normally all three aspects were combined in the formation of a goy, which thus formed the counterpart of what in the modern world would be regarded as a nation.

Thus it would seem that, at least initially, designating someone, or group of someones, as a goy was not so very different from referring to them as a “people.” In fact the Hebrew words am, “people,” and goy, “nation,” were often used interchangeably. Often, but not always. As Botterweck and Ringgren note, there was one important difference: in the Bible, goy is never used in conjunction with the name of a deity. Thus we have a number of instances of Israel proclaiming itself as am yhvh, or “the people of Yahweh”—and in Numbers 21:29 we come across a reference to am kemosh, or “the people of Chemosh” as it applies to the Moabites—but nowhere do we find corresponding uses of the word goy. So even in the earliest times, there does seem to have been that important distinction.

In the centuries following the composition of the Yahwist source material, Israel found itself increasingly at turmoil with its neighbors in the Middle East. The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 721 bce, while the Babylonians, in 586 bce, sacked the Southern Kingdom, including the city of Jerusalem, and carried a significant portion of the population off into exile. The so-called “Deuteronomist source,” often abbreviated simply as D, is thought to have been a product of these years of turmoil, dating most likely to around 650 bce. In the Pentateuch, the book of Deuteronomy is generally attributed to D, although the same source probably also contributed to the books of Joshua, Samuel, and Kings. Here we find the word goy taking on what Botterweck and Ringgren refer to as a “stronger political coloring.” Israel had always regarded itself as having a special religious character, making it distinct from other goyim, but in the D-inspired material the non-Israelite goyim begin to be described as engaging in “abominations” (Dt. 18:9, 1K 14:24), with Moses promising that Israel will conquer and “possess” these nations provided only its am obey the commandments. It should be noted that especial rancor seems to have been harbored for the Amalekites, whose genocide is ordered in 1S.15:3, where Yahweh directs Saul to wipe out the entire nation, including women, children, and even infants, as well as all their domestic animals.

Important to remember, however, is that at least up until 586 bce, Israel (or at any rate its southern half) remained a goy itself. As Botterweck and Ringgren note:

In a usage in which Israel could describe itself as a goy, there was clearly no possibility of the term taking on a completely hostile religious meaning, although a development in this direction does begin to emerge. Alongside the lessening tendency for Israel to regard itself as forming a goy, we find a usage in which the term acquires an increasingly adverse religious sense. While only the first steps of this tendency are traceable in the OT, they are undoubtedly evident.

The fall of the Southern Kingdom in 586 was a dramatic event, largely dismantling Israel’s status as a goy in its own right. It is at this point we arrive at the “Priestly source,” usually abbreviated as P, the most recent of the four main sources of the Pentateuch. Many scholars date P to the period of the Babylonian exile, or “post-exile” period, and according to Botterweck and Ringgren, here “we find a marked restraint in the description of Israel as a goy, which undoubtedly reflects the fact of the beginning of the diaspora and the political situation of the Persian Age in which Israel lacked several of the normal characteristics of a goy.” The term now begins to take on, if anything, even more of a “coloring” than had been the case in the D period. To get an idea of how negative the connotations became, in Strong’s Concordance, goy (entry number 1471 in its Hebrew/Chaldee dictionary) carries the following definition: “a foreign nation; hence a Gentile; also (fig.) a troop of animals, or a flight of locusts:—Gentile, heathen, nation, people.” *

Doubtless millions of Gentiles the world over never thought of themselves as “locusts” before, but the designation is not perhaps quite as bad as it would appear on the surface. In Leviticus 11:22, written perhaps not surprisingly by the P source, locusts are named among the animals to be regarded as clean. In other words, Jews are allowed to eat them.

In fairness, it should also be noted that Israel was commanded to love the stranger, for “you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Dt. 10:19), and that Ruth, a woman from a non-Israeli goy, became great-grandmother to David. Thus it would have to be said that in OT times, the word goy was, to borrow a modern-day colloquialism, very much a “mixed bag.” Goyim could clearly carry out “abominations,” but at the same time, Israel never stopped longing for a restoration of its own status as a genuine, bona fide goy. Or as Botterweck and Ringgren put it:

Existence as a goy was a goal to be desired, and the term did not itself imply any adverse religious connotation. In line with this, there is no support in the OT for the usage which emerged in Talmudic Hebrew where the singular goy could denote an individual member of a non-Israelite nation. Rather, such a person is simply described in the OT as an ish, “man.” Nevertheless, the tendency to regard the non-Israelite nations adversely on account of their religion, combined with Israel’s own political misfortunes, lent a distinctive coloring to the term goyim. When this is viewed in conjunction with the preference found in the OT for Israel to describe itself as an am, “people,” and a mishpachah, “family,” rather than a goy, in view of the political overtones of the latter term, it is not difficult to see how the ground was prepared for the later Talmudic usage in which goy and goyim took on a specific and adverse religious meaning.

The Talmud began to be written in about 200 ce; what had occurred in the intervening years, of course, were the birth and death of Christ, the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, and the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 ce. Here the word goy makes its transition from a plural, or collective, term to an indicant of single individuals, although it can be difficult for those not fluent in Hebrew to determine just precisely what the Talmud does and doesn’t say on the subject. There has been a tradition, apparently going back several centuries, of publishing “watered down” versions of the Talmud in English editions, a matter discussed by Israel Shahak in his 1994 book Jewish History Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years. Today there are any number of websites out there—put up by both “pro” and “anti” Semites, as well as perhaps a few neutral “in-betweens”—purporting to give the “real story” on just exactly what’s in the Talmud. How much of this is accurate, how much is error-prone, and how much is outright propaganda, is difficult to say, but here are a few points covered by Shahak in his book:

  • Since Jews are forbidden from doing work on the Sabbath, the Talmud provides a dispensation for them to employ a “Sabbath Goy” to perform needed chores on Saturdays, and in Israel today Palestinian workers are employed by the Army in such capacity.
  • Under Halakah (the aggregate body of Jewish law, encompassing biblical as well as talmudic and rabbinical commandments) it is the duty of every Jew to save the life of a fellow Jew, but as for Gentiles, “the basic talmudic principle is that their lives must not be saved.” In other words, don’t murder them, but also don’t go out of your way to save them, or as the applicable quote from the Talmud words it, “Gentiles are neither to be lifted (out of a well) nor hauled down (into it)’.
  • The murder of a Jew is a capital offense, but a Jew who murders a Gentile is guilty only of a sin against the laws of Heaven, not punishable by a court, while to cause indirectly or accidentally the death of a Gentile is no sin at all.
  • It is forbidden for a Jewish doctor to “desecrate the Sabbath” by treating a dangerously ill Gentile patient, although as Shahak comments, “in modern times most Jewish doctors are not religious and do not even know of these rules.”
  • The concept of adultery does not apply to intercourse between a Jewish man and a Gentile woman; instead, the Talmud equates such intercourse to the sin of bestiality.

Summing all this up, Shahak comments: “An important effect of all these laws—quite apart from their application in practice—is in the attitude created by their constant study which, as part of the study of the Halakah, is regarded by classical Judaism as a supreme religious duty.” In other words, while such laws may not be practiced either officially or even de facto, their net effect is to “inculcate an attitude of scorn and hatred toward Gentiles,” giving rise to a situation in which “an Orthodox Jew learns from his earliest youth, as part of his sacred studies, that Gentiles are compared to dogs.”

In addition to his comments about goyim being born to serve the people of Israel, the ultra-orthodox Yosef also averred that the lives of Gentiles are safeguarded by God, but it would probably be a mistake to interpret this as sentiment of shared humanity. The reason God looks out for Gentiles, he says, is to prevent financial losses to Jews.

“Why are Gentiles needed?” he asks. “They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat.”

And come dinnertime maybe the rabbi will order a side dish of locusts to go along with his meal, perhaps washed down with a Carlsberg beer and served by a Sabbath Goy waiter.

*My version of Strong’s Concordance is the one published in 1997 by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI. In some online versions found today, see here for example, the words “animals” and “locusts” have been eliminated.

Richard Edmondson is a journalist, novelist, and author of The Memoirs of Saint John: No Greater Love. Visit his website at


  1. This is the craziest and the most demented site I have seen in my entire life!!
    The writers as well as some readers are totally paranoid. I hope that you have good psychiatrists people because you are off the chart intelligencewise!!
    You have an unbelievable preoccupation with Israel/Jews.The name veteranstoday
    is a misnomer.It should be called evil Israel and Jews today!! It is very comforting for me to know how genuinely you are scared of Jews and Israel.
    Got some very bad news for you today. There has been a very large gas discovery
    off the coast of Haifa Israel.Perhaps the largest in the world. Do you know
    what this means to you? It means that coming destruction of Jews and Israel will have to be postponed. Moreover, now Israel will stop buying gas from this
    filthy cloaca of humanity called Egypt.Also not from russians.So grind your
    yellow teeth,Israel is here to stay. No to Palestinian state.
    There is no such thing as a palestinians. They were invented in 1964 to destroy

  2. Z.E. — You have take all this from a book with holes in it? You did say holy book, didn’t you?

    Ah, holy books. The words of the Mystical Masters perverted over time by lazy, devious human minds for control and profit. Every beautiful Mystical Master is rolling in his or her spot in the heavens at the misinterpretations and destructions of their divine messages.

    None-the-less, I’ll let you know, I followed your paces.

    Yogi X

  3. Ibbar Cam, our backwards friend, I think you are to be eaten for thinking our Israeli friends are nothing more than a group of typical humans attached to (stuck with) giant inferiority complexes.

    The spiritual meaning of ‘Mt. Zion’ and ‘goy’ and ‘Moses’ form of Judaism’ is completely out of most humans’ grasp, including the so-called Zionists. So, they make up sometimes dangerous fantasies to cover their sense of being lost in this world of chaos, much of it their own making.

    Yogi X – Indian descendent of a lost semite speaking tribe of Arabia (unless of course, I’m not).

  4. Hello. I assume you are a well meaning person and not a troll. So please try the following – straight from the holy book:

    Masters over the world

    Below is the transcription of the subtitles off the screen. The theology which spawns “goy” is systemic in jewish theology, it is not an aberation, and is entirely rooted in the following chosen peoples ‘ubermensch’ complex to the fanciful extent that it puts the Nazi’s ‘Gott Mit Uns’ to abject shame:

    “It’s obvious that since every Jew, men and even women and children, brings about the existence of the entire creation, they become masters over the world, and thus every single creation owes them recognition for this good.”

    I am sure you don’t believe any of it. That’s great – but much of Israel believes it, even its atheist, with the orthodox argued as being less than 4 percent (some suggest 1 percent; while empiricism to me suggests 100% of zionists whereever they might be are 100% Orthodox by definition, despite their pretenses of being atheist and secular).

    If you think that’s a nonsequitur, in 50 years it will be visible to all the blind as well, when the dream of Casa de Rothschild to create an orthodox state for the Jews is projected to be realized, by most Jews of Israel openly proclaiming Orthodoxy with no further need for the Hegelian Dialectical covers of Left-vs-Right gifted the world by the Rothschilds in order to seed the strategy of tension from which all things are created in modern times. The Jews of Zion will all be openly proclaiming what only a handful openly proclaim today, all fervently beliveing exactly the fanciful crap of the chosen people lording upon the goy, drawn straight from their own Rabbinical works.

    But since the world is slated to be ruled from Jerusalem by the Rothschilds, the lording is upon all goys of the world, nay, universe, nay entire creation. You think I am kidding – right? Well, read their own theology below and try to reflect upon its implications if ever brought to absolute power:

    Transcription of the subtitles:

    ‘The weekly Torah portion begins with the verse, “today you are all standing together,” with the strength of a King.

    When does this take place?

    The Alter Rebbe explains in Likutei Torah, and it’s explained elsewhere as well, that the verse refers to Rosh Hashana.

    The literal meaning of the verse and certainly according to its expounded meaning, refers to the day when all Jews gather together with the same intention, to beseech G-d that He become King over them.

    This is implied in the verse, “you are standing today, all of you,” which continues with the enumeration of the ten types of Jews.

    The verse, however, begins the word “all of you,” thus uniting both concepts.

    Men, women, and children stand individually, each one receiving the ability to coronate the King.

    Hashem’s request that He be coronated compels the Jews to carry out this request.

    This itself intensifies our joy in being empowered to accomplish the coronation.

    Hashem’s request to coronate Him draws down a unique spiritual energy that precedes the entire spiritual chain of events that occurs through the coronation of the King itself.

    One must first receive the request.

    The coronation is accomplished by the mere existence of the Jew, who is a true existence.

    Even though his soul is enclothed in a body in this physical and lowly world, of which there is no lower, nevertheless, he is able to coronate G-d.

    This, in turn, bring about the reality that, “from the Truth of His being came all existence.”

    All of existence depends upon G-d becoming a King over the entire world and this is accomplished through the Jews’ request for G-d to rule over them.

    The coronation is accomplished by both men and women and even children.

    Every Jewish child knows that when Rosh Hashana comes, Hashem becomes King, once again, over the entire world.

    When he asks others – and even before he asks – he is told how G-d agrees to and fulfills his request to become a King.

    He is told that initially there has to be the existence of a Jew.

    Through this existence, he creates the existence of all other things.

    From this fact, the truth and strength of a Jew’s existence is self-evident.

    What type of Jew can accomplish this?

    We are not talking about someone who has special qualities in regards to his service to G-d.

    The only spiritual service requested of him is that he beseech G-d to rule over him.

    Although one cannot compare those who are in the category of “heads of tribes” to “wood choppers and water carriers,” nevertheless, the coronation of G-d is identical for every Jew, superceding all differences.

    The point is that a Jew has strength, ability and power to create the desire within G-d to accept and become King over the entire creation.

    It’s understood, that the existence of the entire creation, in truth, is brought about by the Jew’s coronation of G-d, and through which He becomes a King over the entire creation, which ultimately results in the fact that all of creation comes from the Primary being, G-d.

    It’s obvious that since every Jew, men and even women and children, brings about the existence of the entire creation, they become masters over the world, and thus every single creation owes them recognition for this good.

    Being that through the Jew, all beings were created, he therefore becomes the master over all of them.

    This is especially so in regards to what needs to be accomplished on erev [every?] Rosh Hashana.

    Since the judgment of Rosh Hashana is primarily regarding physical matters, as explained in Likutei Torah, therefore the Jew is in complete control, particularly over physical matters.

    The physicality of the world itself has to recognize the good that the Jew has accomplished.

    Through the Jews they came into being, and their true existence is through their unity with the True Being.

    Since G-d and the Jews are one, each Jew becomes a True Being, and is thus able to bring about all of creation.

    He therefore has control over all of creation and not only that, but they owe him thanks and are indeed thankful, for being provided with abundance in physical and especially spiritual matters.

    We should have a good and sweet year with the ultimate abundance in both quality and quantity.’

    – ### –

    Now please check out some empiricism.

    The following is courtesy of an interesting email I received:

    and the following is a compilation of images of the ultra-Orthodox having unfettered access into world’s corridors of power today as representatives of an “iron wall” that none can breach:

    Now ask yourself: how can these bearded judeofascist mullahs get into such corridors of power? Unless it is known to those in power that these are the representatives of an even greater power to whom they are all beholden to.

    Logic and analysis which is rooted in empiricism, will always trump all bullshit. That trumping begins here:

    I believe there is a version of that article on this website as well.

    The goy have a lot to fear primarily because we have been incapacitated in not being able to think. Partially because we cannot often conceive of such grave evil and often accept it being dismissed by the PR spokespersons who try to cajole the sheep while the butcher is sharpening his knife.

    The hijacking of judaism by zionism should be as much an anathema to the Jewish people as it must be a cause of warning to fight it to the goy. No moral person, jew or otherwise, can accept this bullshit. So long as it remained theology, I have no problem with it – believe whatever crap you want. When it becomes foreign policy, domestic policy, cause for ressettlement of another’s land, and prime-mover for world government under control of the same zionofascist cabal, it is of no less concern than “Hilter”. I put that in quotes because Nazis were the variant of the same hegelian dialectic as zionism, sharing the same financiers and prime-movers. The evidence is only for those who can see – the blind by definition will not see it.

    See my pamphlet for further analysis –

    If you can convincingly refute my analysis, I’ll accept your thesis on the anvil of commonsense. Otherwise, you accept it and disavow zionism, get your fellow jews to disavow it. Soon, it will be illegal to write what I have written here – as any challenge to the existence of Israel is already deemed “terrorism”. It will be legalized in the same way as the zionist narratives of the holocaust has been legalized. Any challenge and you are invited as state guest in any location of your choice in Europe. Coming to America shortly. Muslims, interestingly, don’t seem to be much impressed by such measures up to this time as many of us think it is merely a jude-christian squabble – we shall soon will learn to be, as even to enter our mosques, we might have to pay “jizya” to Zion.

    Sorry to put anyone who bothers to read all this through the paces.

    Thank you.

    Zahir Ebrahim

  5. FTA: ”giving rise to a situation in which “an Orthodox Jew learns from his earliest youth, as part of his sacred studies, that Gentiles are compared to dogs.”

    The idea of the master race didn’t begin with Hitler, and he, at least, didn’t pretend that he had some divine mandate to make everyone else subhuman.

  6. Mac,
    You have a chance to come back and tell us that Nuttyahoo and his racist rabbi are scum. We will love you for it.


  8. Yeah, I had an ex girlfriend that called me “goy boy” when she was mad at me…defo an insult.

    also, interesting that Goy or Goyim don’t come up in the spell check. Mistake? I think not.

  9. This brings to Mind a story a friend told me of how when he was a child in Hebrew school, his teacher instructed him that his duty as a Jew was to go out amongst the many peoples of the world and eat them.

Comments are closed.