A gracEmail subscriber writes: “My husband and I were discussing that all persons are descendants of Adam and Eve. Since Isaac and Ishmael are the fathers of the Jews and the Arabs, we were curious as to what descendent of Adam and Eve was the father of the Gentiles?”
That would be Noah, who with his wife, their sons Shem, Ham and Japheth and the sons’ three unnamed wives were the only humans who survived the Flood (Gen. 7:13, 23). Everyone born after the Flood descended from one of Noah’s three sons (Gen. 9:18-19). In the Bible, the Gentiles (literally “the peoples” or “the nations”) are all the non-Jewish people in the world. The Jews traditionally thought of 70 nations of Gentiles in round numbers, all descended from one or another of Noah’s three sons (Gen. 10).
The Bible thus defines the Gentiles in relation to God’s chosen people who descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob — they are everybody else! The chosen people, on the other hand, are known as “Hebrews” (descendants of Noah’s great-great-grandson Eber), the Israelites” or “children of Israel” (descendants of Jacob, whose name God changed to “Israel”) or the “Jews” (residents of the southern kingdom of Judea, particularly after the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C.)
Through the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus the Christ (Messiah; “anointed one”), God began to fulfill all the promises he had ever made to his chosen people the Jews to rescue them from their enemies (including that spiritual enemy, sin) and to bless them with peace (shalom) and intimacy with himself (Acts 3:24-26). But it was always God’s intent to work through his chosen people to bless everyone else (all those Gentiles), and he did this through his Messiah Jesus also (Gen. 12:1-3; Isa. 49:5-7). Even the widespread unbelief of the Jews at present fits into this divine plan and will finally lead to faith and salvation for the Jews as well as the Gentiles (Rom. 11). As it turns out, the Jews were only part of God’s “chosen” — a vast group seen finally to include those from all nations who are recipients of God’s eternal grace (Rom. 9:22-26; Eph. 1:3-10).