(Heb. plural goyum). At first the word "goyim" denoted generally
all the nations of the world (Gen. 18:18; compare Gal. 3:8). The
Jews afterwards became a people distinguished in a marked manner
from the other "goyim". They were a separate people (Lev. 20:23;
26:14-45; Deut. 28), and the other nations, the Amorites,
Hittites, etc., were the "goyim", the heathen, with whom the
Jews were forbidden to be associated in any way (Josh. 23:7; 1
Kings 11:2). The practice of idolatry was the characteristic of
these nations, and hence the word came to designate idolaters
(Ps. 106:47; Jer. 46:28; Lam. 1:3; Isa. 36:18), the wicked (Ps.
9:5, 15, 17).
The corresponding Greek word in the New Testament, "ethne",
has similar shades of meaning. In Acts 22:21, Gal. 3:14, it
denotes the people of the earth generally; and in Matt. 6:7, an
idolater. In modern usage the word denotes all nations that are
strangers to revealed religion.