An Alphabetical Analysis
Volume 9 - Prophetic Truth - Page 110 of 223
Am, a people (Gen. 11:6).
Ereb, a mingled people (Jer. 25:20).
The following occur in the New Testament:
Demos, the people as a municipality; the public, from whence
comes our word democracy (Acts 19:30).
Ethnos, a multitude living together.  Is used of a 'swarm' of
bees.  Usually refers to the Gentile nations (Rom. 10:19).
Ochlos, a crowd (Matt. 7:28).
Laos, a people, tribe or nation; all those of the same stock or
language (Matt. 1:21).
Of these thirteen words, am in the Hebrew and laos in the Greek, are
the ones that demand our attention.  Am is the word that enters into the
phrase lo -ammi, and laos is used in the Septuagint more than fifteen hundred
times to translate the Hebrew am, and is only rarely used to translate goi or
The Hebrew word am is derived from a root that means to collect or to
gather.  It can be used of animals and insects as well as of men, for
example, 'the ants are a people not strong' (Prov. 30:25).  'The conies are
but a feeble folk' (Prov. 30:26).  As a particle it means 'with' or
'together' and in the form amith it means a 'neighbour' (Lev. 6:2) or
'fellow' (Zech. 13:7).  'Nearness' is persistent in all its variations.
Gesenius says that this root is very widely extended both in the Phoenicio -
Shemitic, and in the Indo -Germanic languages.  So we have cum and con in the
Latin, and sun in the Greek, beside many other similar words in modern
languages which have the basic meaning of nearness or 'togetherness', an
example being our own English word 'same'.
The first occurrence of am is in Genesis 11:6 where it
is asserted that the people are 'one'.  Again in Genesis 34:16,22 we get this
idea of coming together to form one people: 'we will dwell with you, and we
will become one people'.  The reference to being gathered to one's people
that is so often used of death in the Scriptures further emphasizes this idea
of oneness.
The 'People' in the Book of Genesis
Continuing our study of the use of the word am, people, with its
occurrences in Genesis, we observe that it occurs thirty -three times (once
translated 'folk').  Of this number of occurrences, the first refers to the
'whole earth' before any distinctive 'people' were called into being, and
this passage naturally comes before the call of Abraham, and is found in
Genesis 11:6:
'The children of men ... the people is one, and they have all one
language' (Gen. 11:5,6).
No distinctive intention can be observed in the second occurrence,
namely in Genesis 14:16, for the reference is to the company belonging to
Lot, 'Abram's brother's son' and so no greater distinctiveness is intended.
The third occurrence, however, is in an entirely different category.  It
occurs in conjunction with the rite of circumcision, a rite which gave its
name to the people of Israel who are thus denominated, and consequently in
time the appellation 'the Uncircumcision' became a term of reproach to