Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hebrews, Israelites & Jews

Hebrews, Israelites, & Jews: Are they the same people?

Today, Israel refers to a nation, whose culture is Jewish and its language Hebrew. Yet in biblical times, the Hebrews were a people, Israel refers to a religious group and Jews were treated as a race – confusion!

The people who came from the extended family of Jacob (along with his servants and slaves) and settled in the land of Goshen in Egypt by Joseph’s invitation, were known as the Hebrew people. Moses led them out of slavery into the desert for 40 years. Joshua and Caleb then led the next generation of Hebrews into Canaan. Some Canaanites joined the Hebrews in worshipping YHWH and formed the religious nation of Israel (the name the Lord gave to Jacob, the second son of Isaac, the second son of Abraham). After the death of Solomon (926 B.C.), Israel was divided into the northern kingdom of “Israel” (10 tribes) & the southern kingdom of “Judah” (with the tribe of Benjamin. The Levites were given only cities, but Joseph’s sons, Manasseh & Ephraim, had lands of their own). In the 8th century B.C. the northern kingdom fell to Assyria. They were dispersed and intermarried. These lost tribes never recovered their national integrity. The southern kingdom of Judah was conquered in the 6th century B.C., many were exiled and also intermarried, but some returned to rebuild the old capital, Jerusalem. Following this, other Israelites began to describe themselves as the race of the Jews, after the tribe of Judah, even if they belonged to other tribes (e.g., Esther was a Benjamite but understood herself to be a Jew).


The biblical Hebrews belonged to a class of nomadic people to whom the more established groups applied the term “’Apiru” or “Habiru” . They included the relatives of Abram (who eventually called themselves “Israelites”) and many inconspicuous peoples scattered through Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Syria, Canaan, and Egypt. The term ’Apiru does not refer to an ethnic group but to a social stratum of people who lacked citizenship in the established nations of the Near East; “wanderers” or “outsiders” who lived a rootless existence on the fringes of society. The biblical word “Hebrew” was used as an ethnic term, found almost exclusively in biblical materials from the Abrahamic period to just before the Davidic period. Today, “Hebrew” describes the language of the Jewish people of nation of Israel.


In the Bible, the word cannot be reduced to nationhood. While Hebrew is more of an ethnic term, Israel transcends ethnicity and even politics. It is a religious term. After their exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews of Jacob’s descent became known as Israel. Moses declared that Israel has become “the people of the Lord your God” (Deut. 27:9). God’s covenant with them for entry to the promised land was conditional. If they did not obey God, they would be cursed; “scattered among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other” (Deut.28:64). God ruled them through a succession of Judges. Desiring to be like the other nations, they defied God and pestered Judge Samuel for a human king. Israel the nation was formed (like the other nations). It ended in destruction and exile. Israel the religion had become Israel the political entity.

Is the modern state of Israel biblically privileged? No. This is a misidentification. The ‘nation of biblical Israel’ has been replaced by the spiritual nation of the Church. The promise to biblical Israel is now the promise to the Church – this was declared in Jeremiah 31:31-34 as ‘a new covenant’ which will ‘not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors.’ Modern day Israelis (nationality) are not the biblical Israelites.


This English word “Jew” is derived from the Middle English, Iewe, a translation of the Hebrew “yehudim” which means “from the tribe of Judah”. The term gained currency after the Fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. With the dispersal of the lost tribes of the northern kingdom to Assyria and the exile of many Judahites from Judah to Babylonia, the identity of the Israelites were at risk. By the time of the Persian period, the descendants of the former Israelites adopted the name “Jews” to identify themselves with the only intact tribe, Judah (which included the tribe of Benjamin) .

What was the motivation to give up one’s tribal identification (Dan, Reuben, Levi, etc.) in favor of another (Judah)? The social cost was high – those who did not share this “Jewish” identity were regarded as belonging to “the nations” (Acts 14:2), that is, Gentiles. Although Hebrew-speaking Israelites became known as the Jews, observing Jewish law, and describing themselves as culturally Jewish, the decisive factor in biblical times was not citizenship or language but religion . However, today, being Jewish refers to a cultural identification with no obligation to believe in God and being an observant Jew refers to the practice of modern religious Judaism that developed from rabbinical Judaism, the revised version, as it were, of the original Mosaic religion. The biblical reference to the Israelites is obsolete. The modern state of Israel is not a return of the lost tribes but a coming together of racially mixed groups who identify with the ancient religion of the Hebrew people as well as secular people groups who identify with the culture of rabbinical Judaism.

Both Jesus and Paul identified the composition of biblical Israel as those who obey the commands of God and his Son. Christians became the Israelites (not Israelis) of the New Testament. We are inheritors of God’s first chosen people, who were never meant to be a racial or genetic pedigree. That explains the racial intermarriages in the lineage of Abraham (including the pedigree of Jesus) that included non-Jews such as Keturah, Zipporah, Rahab, and Ruth. The definition of being Israel and indeed, Jewish, was fidelity to God; not to race, culture, language or geography. Hebrew, Israelites and Jews are not synonymous terms.

So What Are The Implications?

1) Christians are the new “biblical Israel”.

We possess the rightful claim to the God of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the Judges, the Kings, the prophets, the Apostles, the Apostolic Age, the Church Fathers and down to the present age. The Christian faith lies in a continuous succession of those whom God has called to be His own. A false understanding of being “chosen” was disastrous for Judaism. Their expectations were completely undermined by the Holocaust. A Messianic (Jewish) Christian stands with all other Christians before God. The claim that this is ‘replacement theology’ betrays an unfortunate misunderstanding of the scriptures. God made only one covenant with humanity. The Christian claim is that we are the chosen people because God loved us first.

2) Are the modern Jewish people biblically privileged?

No. While we acknowledge and celebrate the people first chosen by God to bring the good news to all nations, anyone who calls upon Christ as Lord and savior are among the chosen ones. There are not two ‘chosen’ peoples. The Gentiles have inherited the Jewish mandate. Indeed, from the religious meaning of being Jewish, believing Gentiles become Jewish, so that there is no difference before God (Gal.3:28). Present-day Jews hold no privileged salvific position and Paul noted that not all who are of Israel will be saved (Rom. 9:6). Thus we are charged to also witness to the Jews.

3) Is the modern state of Israel biblically privileged?

No. The modern Jewish state of Israel is not a part of the messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ, a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36).

The New Testament clarifies the Christian position: Mark 3:35 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother”. Galatians 3:7 “Those who believe are the children of Abraham”; 3:9 “those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham; 3:29 “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise”.

We must treat both the Palestinians and the Israelis with the respect and compassion due to a people at war, who nevertheless need to hear the gospel.

4) How are the Jews related to the Arabs?

The Hebrew language shares a Semitic history with the Arabic language. Many Arabs and all Jews claim that they are descendants of Noah through his son Shem and the patriarch Abraham/Ibrahim. Other Arabs claim their lineage from Abraham (Ibrahim) through his son, Ishmael and grandson Adnan – the Prophet Muhammad is one such Arab. Some Arabs are Bedouins who came from the Assyrian desert.
The term Arabs also refer to “the desert dwellers”. On this view, Abram/Ibrahim was a Mesopotamian (Chaldean) from modern Iraq and fathered many Arabian tribes (including the Midianites from Keturah), through his half-Egyptian son Ishmael; as well as the Arabian tribe we call the Jews, through Sarah’s grandson Jacob. The Jews could be understood as a sect of the Arab peoples, not a separate race. They are thus cousins among the “desert dwellers”.

5) Is there any Scriptural mandate for Zionism in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Many Christians tend to be Zionistic, i.e., believing that the church is obliged to defend political Zionism, the claim that a modern state of Israel should exist in the former “Palestina”. The misunderstanding rests with the presumption that (i) biblical religious Israel corresponds directly with the modern political state called Israel, and (ii) Israel is the location of Christ’s second coming . Since neither the state of Israel nor the Jewish people are biblically privileged, and the location of Jesus’ second coming is unknown, the Christian church has no Scriptural warrant nor mandate to choose Israel over Palestine.

The founding of Israel on May 14th 1948 was premised upon the return to the promised land based on the biblical covenants. However in Deut. 30:5, the biblical promise was explicitly conditioned on the people’s “return to the Lord”. In any case, once formed, modern political Israel operated as a secular nation.

Any legitimate claim for modern Israel cannot rest on biblical nor theological grounds. It was a political “settlement” endorsed by guilt-ridden western powers whose indifference to the horrors of European anti-Semitism failed to stop the Holocaust.

The establishment of Israel on May 14, 1948 by a United States resolution was yet another redistribution/invasion of Canaan, but this time, without any divine mandate.


Anders said...

Hello! I found your website. My name is Anders Branderud, I am 23 years and I am from Sweden.
By practising Torah non-selectively we make the world a better place to live in!

To realize that one can follow two polar-opposite masters — the authentic, historical, PRO-Torah 1st-century Ribi from Nazareth – the Messiah - and the 4th-century (post-135 C.E.), arch-antithesis ANTI-Torah apostasy developed by the Hellenists (namely the Sadducees and Roman pagans who conspired to kill Ribi Yәhoshua, displaced his original followers (the Netzarim) and redacted the NT); is a step in that direction!

So who then was the historical Jesus? His name was Ribi Yehoshua.
The research of world-recognized authorities (for example Barrie Wilson; in this area implies that Ribi Yehoshua was a Pharisee (a Torah-practising Jewish group - who according to 4Q MMT (a Scroll found in the Qumran-caves) practised both written and oral Torah (oral Torah in an unbroken chain since Mosheh (Moses); commanded by Mosheh in Torah; oral Torah is recorded Beit-Din (Jewish Court)-decisions of how Torah shall be applied).. As the earliest church historians, most eminent modern university historians, our web site ( and our Khavruta (Distance Learning) texts confirm, the original teachings of Ribi Yehoshua were not only accepted by most of the Pharisaic Jewish community, he had hoards of Jewish students.

For words that you don’t understand; se ; the link to Glossaries at the first page.

Ribi Yehoshua warned for false prophets who don’t produce good fruit = defined as don’t practise the commandments in Torah according to Halakhah (oral Torah; see the above definition). See Devarim (Deuteronomy) 13:1-6.

The research of Scholars in leading universities which implies that Ribi Yehoshua was a Pharisee necessarily implies that if you want to follow him you need to practise his Torah-teachings.
So you need to start follow the historical Ribi Yehoshua – the Messiah – by practising Torah (including oral Torah)!

Finding the historical Jew, who was a Pharisee Ribi and following him brings you into Torah, which gives you a rich and meaningful life here on earth and great rewards in life after death (“heaven”)!

From Anders Branderud
Geir Toshav, Netzarim in Ra’anana in Israel ( who is followers of Ribi Yehoshua – the Messiah – in Orthodox Judaism

David V.S. said...

Anders visited my blog with the same troll-writing. My rebuttal is here.

Anonymous said...

My dear brother. There is no such word as Jew in ancient Hebrew language. It is an insult to call the nation of Isarel Jews. Each of Isarel's sons had a name that identified their tribe. Do you have brothers, or even sisters also? Would you not be insulted to have your sons called by your brother or sisters name. The nation of Isarel left Egypt as the nation of Isarel. After many (Babylon/Chaldea, Medo/Persians, Greeks and diverse nations including Rome, and modern day Japheth and Edomites, (non gentiles) nations took over their land, because they walked away from their covenanted GOD, YHWH to worship idols. And they have been gone from their homeland even today as we live. Punished, for disobedience, loss of memory hated by all nations on this earth, hidden in plane site from themselves and the world. But only the wise of us know who we are without a voice.Deuteronomy 28:16-68 describes them to a tee. And believe me my brother they are not Jews.

Anonymous said...

["Khazars" are Southern Turkish Europeans who came into Israel after the Israelites were kicked out. This took place about 1100 0r 1200 AD. They proclaim Judaism as their Natural Heritage.

"Edomites" are the decendants of Esau. Esau was called Edom after he sold his birth-right. He later became known as the progenitor of the Edomites. {SEE OBADIAH}

The Edomites were in Israel when the JEWS were in Israel. King Herod which was not a JEW was an Edomite. They dwelled amongst the JEWS, ate with the JEWS adopted their practices, culture etc. Later when Titus besieged Jerusalem and killed the Israelites and sold the younger ones to the Ethiopians, Arabs, and Egyptians.
The Edomites who resided in Israel, later proclaimed themselves to be the house of ISRAEL, and are now recognized as Israel today by the majority of the world.]
+To discover the descendants of the ten "lost" Tribes of Israel we must search in the old lands of Assyria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Persia, Babylon, Syria and the Mediterranean islands (Isaiah 11:11). Today these Israelites are Muslims, and therefore not considered in any census as "Jews" . . . or Israelites.
source :

Anonymous said...

A few centuries after this final dispersion, a nation called the Khazars took over in Palestine, after officially adopting the Jewish religion of Judaism. The descendants of these people and those who escaped the final destruction of Jerusalem have become the present day Zionist Jew. These people do NOT constitute a nation. They are held together purely by, and as, a religion. They are made up of people from every nationality under the sun. THERE IS NOT AN OUNCE OF ISRAELITISH BLOOD IN THEIR VEINS.