Gentile Conversions are not a New testament Phenomenon

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Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Surely, all would agree that the expansion of the gospel is clearly seen in the New Testament. But, gentile conversions are not germane only to the New Testament. In fact, in Nineveh alone, the scriptures tell us that 120,000 people came to faith.

We see these gentile conversions in the Old Testament:

Adam/Eve

Seth

Noah, his wife and children

Abraham

*The above people mentioned were not a covenanted people of God prior to the Abrahamic covenant.

Zipporah (Possibly, her father, Jethro)

'Mixed Multitude' ex 12:38

Slaves that agreed to circumcision Gen 17:10-14

'Many people of the Land became Jews' Esther 8:17 *There is no way to actually tell which of these people were doing this out of fear alone....the scriptures tell us they were fearful 'of the Jews'.

Ruth

Nineveh-120k Jonah 3:5 *This is most likely the largest mass conversion documented. Nothing like this even in the NT.

Isaiah 56:6-8 'foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord...'

Rahab

Exodus 12:48-49 "And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee..."

1st Kings 8:38 "What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man..."

Isaiah 2:3 "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD..."

Num 32:12 Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the LORD.

Jos 15:17 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.

Job and his three friends. Elihu, Job's true and faithful comforter. Hiram, King of Tyre, the friend of David (whose mother was of the tribe of Dan).

Uriah the Hittite. Ahithophel and his family were also Hittites Araunah the Jebusite.

King Nebuchadnezzar

Joseph's Egyptian steward Gen 43:23

The Queen of Sheba 1 Kings 10:8-9

Have I missed anyone?
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
(Seems like my answer has been partly preempted by some additions above)

I would want to urge some (a degree) of caution about proclaiming the whole city of Nineveh (@ 120,000+ Jon.4:11) converted. While I think we should be enthusiastic about many (perhaps thousands) of persons turned to the true God from idols, we don't see the kind of fruit we'd expect from a good tree; and in fact the prophet Nahum and others return to the topic of the judgment due to Nineveh and the Assyrians, which falls.

So, just as the revivals in Israel were often superficial, so also the legitimate revival in Nineveh was more unseen than seen. But, just as God credited Ahab with his public repentance (1Ki.21:27-29), so also the king of Nineveh was answered by the Lord's relenting, Jon.3:10.

That said, I would like to add to the list of the converted who were united to the God of Israel, beginning with an oppressor of Israel, Naaman the Syrian. I believe his conversion rings true. And I think Nebuchadnezzar's also is true (I think Dan.1-4 could be titled: Nebuchadnezzar's Story, for he is the main character of it; the persons of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar are striking contrasts of God's fixed sentence of justice on one hand, and his persistence to pardon on the other).

Bringing up Pharaoh brings to mind the mixed multitude that went up from Egypt, the Land of Death, with the redeemed core of Israelites escaping; and were evidently incorporated into the tribes. Caleb the Kenezite (Num.32:12) could well be so characterized, Kenaz being an Edomite (Gen.36:11) and so Caleb's extraction would have been heard and understood in his generation--yet he was summoned to represent Judah as a spy of the land. This marks him in my view as one of the mixed multitude to begin with.

What interests me, is to see how the first generation of converts were even in days of old more fervent in faith than many of the "holy stock" of long standing. This holds true in David's day: remember Ittai the Gittite (of Gath), a Philistine (they were called Pelethites to distinguish them from the enemies of Israel, the difference is a dot in the letter Pe). This passage from 2Sam.15 always moves me deeply:
18 And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.

19 Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile. 20 Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.

21 And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be. 22 And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.
He prefers to remain united to the Lord's anointed. Having already cast aside all other allegiance and forsaken his former home, he is willing to do so again. The church may turn away from her Lord, but his once-alien servants will suffer expulsion for his name, even if the apostates with perfect pedigrees take charge.

Cherethites also mentioned were natives of Cyprus (the Kittim). We should probably mention Uriah the Hittite here also. Ahithophel (another dissent on my part, not sure how he's counted a Hittite) seems to apostatize in turning away from David by contrast.

Others: 318 of Abraham's servants (militia) and Abraham's steward; one Jarha an Egyptian (1Chr.2:34-35); the Gibeonites, their descendants at least. Quite a few Gentiles of note are women: Ruth a Moabitess, Rahab of Jericho, Hagar an Egyptian, Jael (a Kenite), Zipporah a Midianite, perhaps the queen of Sheba?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Israel was supposed to be a light to the Gentiles. It largely failed at that endeavor. Thankfully, Gentiles were saved in spite of the failure of the nation. The Book of Ruth is a beautiful picture of God's redemption and provision of someone who was born outside the promise.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Bruce,
Thanks for your insight. In regard to Nineveh; I don't think it too much of a stretch to believe that all of Nineveh converted to the faith. It may be a stretch to believe all of those that converted were true believers (given the local church distinction).

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Jon 3:5.

Continuing in Jonah:

6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and jsat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 qWho can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and tGod repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Jon 3:6–10.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Excellent list!

Yes, there were gentile conversions in the OT....but the Bible treats the Gentiles coming to faith as a NT promise. While a few dribbled in before, now the Gospel goes to the WHOLE world. The majority of the believers soon were from the Gentiles... that would have been totally shocking and unexpected to an OT believer.

Your phrasing is like saying, "Europeans had always been coming to North America before Jamestown and Plymouth" and then pointing to a few viking trips.

The WHOLE method of Gentiles coming in also changed. Whereas before they came INTO Israel, now ISRAEL goes out to all nations. Before it was a gathering in (Reflected in prophecies such as Isaiah 2 were all nations would gather there) and now it is a going out with the Gospel, reflected in the Great Commission and like statements.
 
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Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Excellent list!

Yes, there were gentile conversions in the OT....but the Bible treats the Gentiles coming to faith as a NT promise. While a few dribbled in before, now the Gospel goes to the WHOLE world. The majority of the believers soon were from the Gentiles... that would have been totally shocking and unexpected to an OT believer.

Your phrasing is like saying, "Europeans had always been coming to North America before Jamestown and Plymouth" and then pointing to a few viking trips.

The WHOLE method of Gentiles coming in also changed. Whereas before they came INTO Israel, now ISRAEL goes out to all nations. Before it was a gathering in (Reflected in prophecies such as Isaiah 2 were all nations would gather there) and now it is a going out with the Gospel, reflected in the Great Commission and like statements.
Would the big outreach by God to the Gentiles under the New Covenant be due to He had to wait for that until Messiah came and died so that both Jews and gentiles under same flock and Shepherd now?
 
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