Since we were talking recently about Gentiles and Torah, I thought this might stimulate some thinking. Comments are welcome.
There are a number of myths and understandings about Gentiles and the Torah. Many people think Gentiles were called unclean in the writings of Moses and kept away from God. Part of this confusion comes from the Judaism in the time of the New Testament. The Temple then had a court of the Gentiles which kept Gentiles far away. Strict Jewish practice in the New Testament era regarded Gentiles as unclean. But God never said this.
In Torah, there were three ways Gentiles were included: assimilation, participation, and invitation. By assimilation, I mean that a large number of Gentiles became part of Israel, such as Caleb the Kenizzite (not an Israelite by birth) and the mixed multitude at the Exodus. By participation, I mean the sojourner who lived with the Israelites and yet remained separate. He was invited to offer sacrifices and participate almost fully. Though not in the Torah proper, Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8 shows the principle of invitation (1 Kings 8:41-43). Solomon prayed that the prayers of foreigners, directed toward God’s Temple in Jerusalem, would be heard in heaven. Gentiles could join Israel, worship with Israel, or at the very least, pray to Israel’s God.
It is in the Psalms and the Prophets that we begin to see a major theme of God’s love spreading from Israel to the nations to the ends of the earth:
David recognized God’s plan for Israel’s worship to spread to the nations: “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to Adonai; all the clans of the nations will worship in your presence. For the kingdom belongs to Adonai, and he rules the nations” (Psalm 22:27-28).
Israel recognized that the nations would be drawn to God through them: “Let the nations be glad and shout for joy, for you will judge the peoples fairly and guide the nations on earth. Let the peoples give thanks to you, God; let the peoples give thanks to you, all of them. The earth has yielded its harvest; may God, our God, bless us. May God continue to bless us, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him” (Psalm 67:4-7).
Various prayers for all the nations to know God: “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” (Psalm 72:17).
Non-Jews are received as Non-Jews, and not expected to convert: “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name” (Amos 9:12).
The nations will come up to Jerusalem to learn the Torah and to worship God: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of Adonai shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths'” (Isaiah 2:2-3).
Messiah comes for the nations: “I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7).
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
Israel’s restoration will draw nations to God: “Nations will go toward your light and kings toward your shining splendor” (Isaiah 60:3).
Some from the nations will serve as Levites and Priests in God’s Temple: “They shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to Adonai, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says Adonai, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of Adonai. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says Adonai” (Isaiah 66:19-21).
The nations who attack Israel will be cursed: “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it” (Joel 3:2).
Many from the nations will attach themselves to Israel to find God: “When that time comes, ten men will take hold – speaking all the languages of the nations – will grab hold of the cloak of a Jew and say, “We want to go with you, because we have heard that God is with you”” (Zechariah 8:23).
The nations will worship God at the Temple with Israel at the Feasts: “Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, Adonai of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths” (Zechariah 14:16).