Which are you a Hebrew, aJew or an Israelite?
According to Judaism 101 (http://www.jewfaq.org/whoisjew.htm) a “Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism“.
The dictionary http://www.yourdictionary.com says that a Hebrew is: “A member or descendant of a Semitic people claiming descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; an Israelite; a Jew”.
If you or I are not born from a jewish mother or have not gone through a formal convertion to Judaism, but love Torah and are observant of all its precepts and follow Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, what are we biblically?
The word “Hebrew” was first applied to Abraham and his family when they came to Canaan.
Genesis 14:13 “And one who had escaped came and informed Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the plains of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and brother of Aner, and they had a covenant with Abram.”
The Hebrew word “ abar” (Strong H5680) means “to pass over,” a reference to Abraham coming from “beyond the Jordan” to settle in the land of Canaan. Also the Hebrew Word H5677 sometimes used as “Hebrew” means “a descendant of Eber” a granfather of Abraham, the third post-diluvian patriarch after Shem (See Gen. 10:24; 11:14; Luk 3:35). Hebrew seams to mean the one who is opposed, of the other side, and different from all others. Abraham was a solitary believer of one God in a sea of idolatry.
With time “Hebrews” became a special people who lived in Canaan: in Genesis 40:15 Joseph refers to his “being stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews”. Also the Word “Hebrew” became associated with the only and mighty God “YHWH” and they were called: Exo 7:16 “The YHWH God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go”.
The word “Hebrew” or “Hebrews” appears 34 times in the Tanack (OT) from Bereshit (Genesis) to Jonah and even Jonah identified himself as “a Hebrew” (Jonah 1:9) and Paul used it once to explain who was he:
Piliphians 3:5 “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee”
Today, a “Hebrew” is usually thought of as any member of a group of ancient people who traced their lineage from Abraham though Isaac and Jacob.
Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” in Genesis 35:10:
“And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land“.
Jacob and his descendants from that moment on were called “Israelites.” With time Israel became a nation in Egypt as it is stated in:
Shemo (Exo) 1:7 “And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them”.
With this name “Israel”, Moses took them out of bondage into the promise land. Through out this time YHWH guide them into a Covenante and they became the biggest “congregation” of all times:
Shemo (Exo) 16:10 “And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of YHWH appeared in the cloud”.
Also YHWH began to teach them Torah, the principles of how to live their lives apart from other semitc people.
Shemo (Exo) 24:17 “ And the sight of the glory of YHWH was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel”.
Sometimes the words “Hebrews” and “Isrealites” appear to be something different:
1 Samuel 14:21 “Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan”.
All Israelites are Hebrews because all of them descended fom Abraham, but, not all Hebrews are Israelites. Since only those who descended from Israel can be Israelites, including Jacob, Abraham and Isaac are excluded, they are Hebrews. An Israelite is a person who is part of a nation called Israel.
That is way Paul say in 2 Corinthias 11:22 “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I”.
The Word “Jew” or “Jews” (Strong H3064) appears 92 times through out the Tanack (OT). The word comes from Jacob’s fourth son named “Judah,” and his descendants were called “Judahites” or “Judeans.” Later, the name “Judean” was shortened to “Jew.” It appears first in 2 Kings 16:6 and goes through Esdras, Nehemias, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel.
Even YHWH our God used it in:
Zechariah 8:23 “Thus said YHWH of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all languages of the nations take hold, yea, they shall take hold of the edge of the garment of a man, a Jew (Yehuḏite), saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that Elohim is with you.”
Yeshua the Messiah of Israel, a Hebrew, an Israelite and a Jew, explain that “Jews” are a special people consecrated to YHWH the Elohim of Israel:
Yohanan (John) 4:22 “You worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because the deliverance is of the Yehuḏim (Jews)”
At the same time he diferenciate between “Jew” a spiritual being and “Israelite” a nationality:
Yohanan (John) 1:47 “Yeshua saw Nethanel coming toward him, and said of him, “See, truly a Yisraelite, in whom is no deceit”
Technically, Jews are Israelite Hebrews from the region of Judea—they come from Abraham (a Hebrew) and Jacob (an Israelite), through Judah (a Jew); thus, strictly speaking, all Israelite Hebrews are not Jews. Because not all come from Judah.
With time it became common usage that the words: Jews, Israelites, and Hebrews refer to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the chosen people of God.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HEBREW, ISRAELITE AND JEW
In Romans 9:3-17 Paul explains in detail the difference between the words mentioned
“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Messiah for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Messiah came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
(6) Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel (Israelites), which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
(8) That is, They which are the children of the flesh (see Romans 2:28-29 down), these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
(9) For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
(13) As it is written (God speaking), Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (see Malachi 1:2-3).
(14) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth (See Exo 9:16)”.
And Paul explained even further the sentence “the children of the flesh”:
Romans 2:28-29 “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God”.
The same theme comes from Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 4:1-4 “If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith YHWH, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. And thou shalt swear, YHWH liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. For thus saith YHWH to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to YHWH, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings”
Even Yeshua the Messiah said about it:
Matetiahu (Mat) 15:6-8 “And in no way he honors his father or his mother. And you annulled the command of YHWH on account of your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, saying: (Isaiah 29:13) “And YHWH says, Because this people draws near with its mouth, and they honor Me with its lip; but its heart is far from Me, and their fear of Me is taught by the commands of men”.
- Israel is a nation, with a special location in Caanan and which capital is Jerusalem.
- An Israelite is a person who is part of a nation called Israel.
- A Hebrew is that who follow the calling of God and His Mitzvot Commandments). The Chosen People of YHWH.
- A Jew, is a spiritual being; circumcision in the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; who praise God
- All Israelites are Hebrews because all of them descended fom Abraham, but, not all Hebrews are Israelites.
- No all Israelites are Jews, only half practice Judaism.
Ephesians 2:12-14 “That at that time ye were without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Yeshua the Messiah ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Messiah. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us”
Now we that fear God and follow his Mitzvot are Hebrews, Jews and thanks to Messiah Yeshua of the commonwealth of Israel in faith and spirit. And we will always love, sharish and embrace the Jewish People and Israel because from them came the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, the promises and deliverance through Yeshua.
We pray for the Jewish People and peace over Jerusalem.
Rabbi Yosef Ben Marques © December 2017