It’s either Jew or Hebrew. In a book I was re-reading recently the author used the terms interchangeably and it started to irritate me.
The book was about Joseph (of the coat-of-many-colours) and his position as prime minister under Pharaoh; the author called him a Jew.
Jew or Hebrew?
The father of Joseph was Jacob, whom God renamed Israel.
Jacob, or Israel as God renamed him, had twelve sons. Joseph was the eleventh son. Ultimately those twelve sons became the start of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Remember the name change?)
Judah, the fourth son, is the one from whom Jews were named. Joseph, the eleventh son was not a Jew, although he was Hebrew. From Joseph came the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh who were his sons.
All the other sons of Jacob/Israel had tribes named after them. You will find Jacob’s blessing of his sons, by name in Genesis 49.
So, Joseph was NOT a Jew.
Was Moses Jew or Hebrew?
This was another mistake the author made… calling Moses a Jew. Moses, like his brother Aaron and sister Miriam, was a Levite, from the tribe of Levi. (The third son of Jacob.)
It is easy to ‘lump’ them all together, and adding to the confusion is that the modern country of Israel would be comprised mainly of descendants of Judah. There are Levites, and some Benjaminites mixed in with the members of the tribe of Judah living in the land now called Israel.
If you are confused, don’t be concerned. In two years at a Bible Training Centre, I very much enjoyed the sessions on Biblical history, but found it hard to keep a track of the twelve tribes after Solomon’s death when the nations split into the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom.
The ten ‘lost tribes’ of Israel never came back from captivity, the two and a half tribes making up Judah did return to their lands.
Does it matter?
To me it does… and to anyone who enjoys reading Biblical fiction/Christian historical fiction. And because I write in this genre I have so much research that a mistake screams at me.
It is also important when you need to follow the lineage as do the Levitical priesthood today, and the priestly families within the priesthood.
Suffice it to say that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, those early ‘church fathers,’ were not Jews. They lived before the descendents of Jacob and the latter’s renaming as Israel
Jesus Christ however, as prophesied, came from the line of Judah.
The following links might help clarify – a Jew is a Hebrew, but not all Hebrews are Jews.
And if you write Biblical/Christian Historical fiction this blog might help… https://www.susanprestonauthor.com/hints-to-writing-better-biblical-fiction/
Well, that’s it for another week, and my apologies for being absent for two weeks. Unfortunately I have been suffering from what the doctors call ‘an exacerbation’ of my medical conditions. It hasn’t been pleasant, but I am on the road to recovery now, even if it is at a slow pace.