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 (Gen 10:21,25). Abraham was a Hebrew, being descended from Shem through Eber (Gen 11:10-26; 14:13). The descendants of Abraham, therefore, were also Hebrews (Gen 39:17; 40:15; 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’ (Exod 1:15; 2:6,11; 3:18; 5:3; 21:2; 1 Sam 4:6; 13:19; 14:11; 29:3; Jer 34:9; Jonah 1:9; Acts 6:1; 2 Cor 11:22; Phil 3:5). A third name, which came into use later, was ‘Jew’, and this has remained in common use till the present day (Jer 34:9; John 1:19; Acts 2:5; Rom 11:1; see JEW). (Concerning Hebrew as the language of the Old Testament see MANUSCRIPTS.)

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