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Hebrews (or Hebertes, Eberites, Hebreians; Hebrew: עברים or עבריים, Standard , Tiberian , , "traverse or pass over") are an ancient people defined as descendants of the prophet Eber, son of Shelah.

In the Bible, the patriarch Abraham is referred to a single time as the ivri, which is the singular form of the Hebrew-language word for Hebrew (plural ivrim, or ibrim). But the term Hebrew almost always occurs in the Hebrew Bible (Tenach, or to Christians, the Old Testament) as a name given to the Israelites by other peoples, rather than one used by themselves. For that matter, the origins of the term Hebrew itself are uncertain. It could be derived from the word eber, or ever, a Hebrew word meaning the “other side” and conceivably referring again to Abraham, who crossed into the land of Canaan from the “other side” of the Euphrates or Jordan rivers.

Some authors believe Hebrew/Ibri denotes the descendents of the biblical patriarch Eber (Hebrew עבר), a great grandson of Noah and an ancestor of Abraham, though the term has not been found in biblical or extra-biblical sources for any tribe or nation other than Abraham and his descendents. Note however that Abraham is once referred to as "Abram the Hebrew" (Genesis 14:13).

Hebrews are known as the ancestors of the Israelites, who used the Hebrew language. Israelites were the writers of the Hebrew Bible. They are also the theological and historical ancestors of the Jews. In the Bible and in current language, the word Hebrews is often used as a synonym for Israelites, and sometimes for the users of the Hebrew language (Jews and Israelismarker).

Etymology

From Middle English Ebreu Old French Ebreu Latin Hebraeus or Hebraic Ancient Greek Ἑβραῖος Aramaic עברי ('ibrāy) Hebrew עברי (ʿIḇrî), meaning to traverse or pass over. The origins of the term remains uncertain.

Hebrews vs. Israelites vs. Jew

Israelites are defined as the descendants of Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. Eber, an ancestor of Jacob (6 generations removed), is a distant ancestor of many people, including the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, Ammonites, Midianites, Qahtanite, and Moabites. Among historical scholars, there is some disagreement about the relationship between the Hebrews and Israelites.

The terms "Hebrews" and "Israelites" usually describe the same people, called Hebrews before the conquest of the Land of Canaan and Israelites afterwards. Occasionally, "Hebrews" is used to designate the Jews, who use the Hebrew language. The Epistle to the Hebrews was probably written for Jewish Christians.

In some modern languages, including Greek, Italian, Romanian and many Slavic languages, the name Hebrews survives as the standard ethnonym for Jews, but in many other languages in which there exist both terms, it is considered derogatory to call modern Jews "Hebrews."

The term "Jew" describes all followers of the Jewish faith. The word comes from the Latin meaning "from the Iudaea Provincemarker". The Latin was derived from , Yehudi which sometimes refer to the members of the Biblical tribe of Judah but, most often, refers to the people of the kingdom of Judah.

Language

Within the area known as the Land of Israel and prior to the establishment of the Israelite civilization, the Land of Israel was politically dominated by Phoenicianmarker, Philistines, and Canaanite tribes. There is a modern debate to the degree that the biblical account of a mass emigration to the Land of Israel is accurate or whether, as some archaeologists believe, that the Israelites simply arose as a subculture within Canaanite society . The Hebrews lived within the Land of Israel by at least the 2nd millennium BCE and in addition to speaking Hebrew also spoke Canaanite languages and dialects, which played a role in the Hebrew languages. The extent of the distinction between the culture of the Canaanites and the Hebrews is a matter of great debate, touching as it does on strong religious sensibilities. It has been argued that the Israelites were themselves Canaanites, and that "historical Israel", as distinct from "literary" or "Biblical Israel" was a subset of Canaanite culture. It is also known that Israelites and later the subdivision of Israelites known as the Judeans spoke Hebrew as their main language and it is still used in Jewish holy scriptures, study, speech and prayer. Since the late 19th century, Hebrew has undergone a secular revival, to become the primary everyday language of Jews in Israelmarker and became one of the official languages of the State (the other being Arabic).

Habiru vs. Hebrews

Some argue that the name “Hebrew” is related to the seminomadic Habiru people, who are recorded in Egyptian inscriptions of the 13th and 12th centuries BC as having settled in Egyptmarker. This is rebutted by others who propose that the Hebrews are mentioned in these Egyptian texts as Shasu.

See also



Notes

  1. Jewish Encyclopedia article on Eber
  2. entry in britannica.com
  3. Hebrews entry in Jewish Encyclopedia
  4. entry in britannica.com
  5. entry in thefreedictionary.com
  6. Encyclopedia Britannica: Hebrews, Epistle to the


References




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