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The name ‘Hebrew’ comes from Eber, a descendant of Shem, the son of Noah. This means that the Hebrews were one of the Semitic peoples, Semites being those descended from Shem (Genesis 10:21; Genesis 10:25). Abraham was a Hebrew, being descended from Shem through Eber (Genesis 11:10-26; Genesis 14:13). The descendants of Abraham, therefore, were also Hebrews (Genesis 39:17; Genesis 40:15; Genesis 43:32).

In time the meaning of the name ‘Hebrew’ became more restricted in that it applied only to those who were descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. In other words, ‘Hebrew’ became simply another name for ‘Israelite’ (Exodus 1:15; Exodus 2:6; Exodus 2:11; Exodus 3:18; Exodus 5:3; Exodus 21:2; 1 Samuel 4:6; 1 Samuel 13:19; 1 Samuel 14:11; 1 Samuel 29:3; Jeremiah 34:9; Jonah 1:9; Acts 6:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5). A third name, which came into use later, was ‘Jew’, and this has remained in common use till the present day (Jeremiah 34:9; John 1:19; Acts 2:5; Romans 11:1; see JEW). (Concerning Hebrew as the language of the Old Testament see MANUSCRIPTS.)

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Hebrew'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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