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Bible Dictionaries

People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Jew. 2 Kings 16:6. A name applied first to men of Judah. The most common title for Jews in the Old Testament is "Israel" or "Israelites," but in the New Testament "Jews" is most frequently used. The terms "Israel" and "Israelites" occur in Scriptures about 2460 times; "Jew" and "Jews" about 275 times, and "Hebrew" or "Hebrews" about 50 times. "Jew" is a broader title than Hebrews, as it may include Hellenists, Greek proselytes who became Jews, Acts 6:1; Acts 24:18, and less specific than Israelites. See John 1:47; 2 Corinthians 11:22.

Hebrew is probably from Eber, a Hebrew word meaning "to pass over," and the name of an ancestor of Abram, Genesis 10:24; Genesis 11:13. Abram is first called "the Hebrew" in Genesis 14:13. The Egyptians, Genesis 39:14; Genesis 41:12, and the Philistines, 1 Samuel 4:6, knew the people by this title. But they sometimes use it of themselves, but only when foreigners are thought of. Genesis 40:15; Exodus 2:7. The favorite name was "Israelites," and after the captivity the title "Jews" came into vogue, but the title "Hebrews" was still used for the more strict Jews, who preferred the Hebrew language, in distinction from the Hellenists or Grecian Jews. The Hebrew people were descended directly from Abram, Genesis 12:1, through Isaac and Jacob, and are frequently called the "seed of Abraham," Psalms 105:6; John 8:37, or "children of Abraham," Galatians 3:7, or "children of Israel," Exodus 1:13. God, to carry out his purpose and preserve his church, called Abraham to leave his father's house and his country, and separated him and his household from the rest of mankind; gave him special promises, made covenants with him, and constituted him the "Father of the Faithful" to the world. From that time, for two thousand years, the visible church of God was confined to the family of this man; and for fifteen centuries the history of this family is the only sacred history of the world. During fifty generations of the children of Adam the family of this man, or rather the descendants of a part of it, "elected according to the purpose of God," Romans 9:11, enjoyed exclusive privileges; to the Israelites alone "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 Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." Romans 9:4-5. They were separated from the world by most stringent laws; and it was necessary during all that time for the rest of mankind, through the Jews, to learn the way to be saved. The darkness of death overshadowed all other lands. Thanks be to God 1 when the fullness of time was come, when salvation was completed by the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the reservoir of truth was thus filled, the gates were opened; and the command was given to the church to go forth and to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation to all nations and to preach the gospel to every creature. "The gospel preached unto Abraham," before the giving of the law: "In thee shall all nations be blessed" was the first proclamation "that God would justify the heathen through faith." Galatians 3:8. Nothing can more conclusively show the hand of God in directing the history of the world, and in controlling the affairs of nations, than the prophecies and the facts connected with the history of Abraham and of his descendants. Two thousand years after the promise was made to him; in thy seed shall all the families and all the nations of the earth be blessed. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18. It was fulfilled in the advent of the Son of God, born of the seed of Abraham. The fearful prophecies of God concerning the descendants of Abraham, Tittered before they entered the promised land, have been continually in progress of fulfillment to the letter. The Jews have not only undergone the horrors of the siege and the loss of their country, so graphically foretold and described in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy; but they are at this day, living witnesses to the truth of God's word. More than three thousand years ago, while on a conquering march, with visions of glory before them, they were warned of their future apostacy, and were told of the judgments that would fall upon them and upon their land. It was said to them, "Thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb and a by-word among all nations, whither the Lord shall lead thee." Deuteronomy 28:37. "These curses shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed." Deuteronomy 28:45-46. "The Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other;... and among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest." Deuteronomy 28:64-65. This has been literally the sad lot of this wonderful people for the last eighteen hundred years. Besides these foretold judgments upon the Jews there are also in the word of God promises of blessings yet to be enjoyed by them. In some of these the world has an interest. While telling the Israelites of the woes that should come upon them, God added: "And yet, for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God." Leviticus 26:44. We are told "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." Romans 11:25. Paul tells us, "Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles." Romans 11:11. And he informs us that the world is again to be indebted to the Jews; he says: "Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" Romans 11:11-12. The restoration and conversion of the Jews is thus connected with the great ingathering of all nations into the Church of Christ; and the time of this is at hand. The Jews by their talents and industry exert great influence among Christian nations. They have long been the great bankers of the world. The Rothschild family with its immense wealth has controlled the money market. The Jews have furnished great scholars and statesmen. Neander, the church historian, and Stahl, the jurist, were converted Jews; the great musicians, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Spinoza, Edersheim and Lord Beaconsfield, were of Jewish extraction. They have distinguished themselves in all the occupations except agriculture and manufactures. They are divided into orthodox and liberal or reform Jews, who differ from each other as the Pharisees and Sadducees of old. The former prevail in Russia, Poland and the East; the latter in Germany and America. Many of the Jews today are deists, or rationalists. The number of Jews in the world is estimated at 9,000,000, of whom 50,000 live in New York city, where they accumulate great wealth. The last word of Christ and the apostles concerning this wonderful people—which, like the miming bush, are never consumed—is a word of promise and hope that their blindness will be removed, and that after the fulness of the Gentiles has come in "all Israel shall be saved." Romans 11:26. We are indebted to the Jews for our knowledge of God, and of the way of salvation. All of the Scriptures were written by Jews. Moses, the prophets, and the apostles were all Jews. Jesus Christ, our Lord, "was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;" and he says: "Salvation is of the Jews." John 4:22.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Jew'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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