What is a Hebrew?

The generic word Hebrew simply means "stranger" or "wanderer". 

About 2,000 BC Abram came to Canaan from a family of "Hebrews" in Ur, in southern Iraq. 

The first Biblical reference to "Hebrew" appears in Genesis 14:13 prior to Abram being renamed Abraham.

Several generations later, in Genesis 40:15 Joseph refers to his "being stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews". That land was Canaan where lived Hebrew's Jacob and his other 11 sons and families.

Some scholars speculate the word Hebrew comes from one of several Patriarch's named "Eber", the third post-diluvian patriarch after Shem (Gen. 10:24; 11:14). He is regarded by some as the founder of the Hebrew race (10:21; Num. 24:24). In Luke 3:35 he is called Heber.

But we don't know how many other peoples were called Hebrews since we don't know much about Abram's family in Ur or elsewhere. Were Abram's parents also called Hebrews? And their parents? And theirs?  There were lots of Hebrews running loose around the world, at least at that place and that time, and we don't know if they were all related, or some were just random "wanderers".

Abraham was born perhaps 150 years before Jacob/Israel from who's sons come the label "Israelites". This was ~1,000 years before King David, and ~1,600 years before any of his many offspring were referred to as "Jews".


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