The Posuk Says (Gen. 25,23):

שְׁנֵי [גיים] גוֹיִם בְּבִטְנֵךְ וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ

Translated as: Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your innards

What is the diffrence between a גוֹיִם and a לְאֻמִּים

  • can you clarify your question. As you translated, one means nations and one means kingdoms.
    – Menachem
    Nov 22, 2011 at 4:08
  • Unless otherwise specified I am using the Metusdah translation I want to know what the practical difference in the Hebrew the English is Lav Davka Precise Nov 22, 2011 at 6:26
  • 2
    @simchashatorah per the example set by Esther, please give credit in each question to the source of any words that you got from somewhere else, including translations. The easy (and useful to others) way is to link to the translation you're using (e.g. chabad.org). Don't rely on statements like "unless otherwise specified," because 90% of the people who read anything you write here are reading only that piece and have no idea about anything else on this site, including your comments elsewhere.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 22, 2011 at 15:13
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/22967
    – msh210
    Dec 24, 2012 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


Although Rashi (to Tehilim 2:1) quotes Menachem (ben Sruk) who says that the two terms are essentially similar, Netziv and Malbim both say basically the same thing (which Malbim repeats to Tehilim 2:1 and 117:1): A "גוי" is a bunch of people who get together, while a "לאום" is a nation with a unique identity and culture. HaKsav VeHaKabbalah, in a slightly different comment, says that a "לאום" is a people united under a king. Rabbi Hirsch defines a "לאום" as a form of government.


From the context, it is obvious that not every goy becomes an am.

What I imagine the difference is, is that an Am is a group of people with a deep sense of togetherness, as if they all came from the same mother.

A Goy, is a nation, which is a political faction joined together by their ideas and political philosphy. An Am that has a civil war, will become two Goyim.

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    Indeed, this seems to be borne out by Rashi to Gen. 14:1, where he explains that "Tidal king of Goyim" was king of "a place named Goyim, because members of various nations and places gathered together there, and appointed a king over themselves." So there was a single "le'om" (as Rashi here explains, "a kingdom") formed out of many Goyim.
    – Alex
    Nov 22, 2011 at 14:36
  • avi, are you saying l'om and am are the same?
    – msh210
    Nov 22, 2011 at 17:41

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