A Light Upon Abraham: A Matter of Definition
The identity of Abraham is one of the least understood and most misquoted of Bible facts. Who was Abraham? What was his nationality? Was Abraham a Jew? This article answers these questions.
by John C. Green
The man Abram -- later known as "ABRAHAM" -- came from an illustrious line of ancestors. His family tree contained no less a personality than ANCIENT NOAH. Abraham's family line descended from Noah's son SHEM. So, we should begin by tracing Abraham's descent!
In Genesis 10:1 we read: "Now these are the generations of the SONS OF NOAH: Shem, Ham and Japheth ...." Continuing from this verse, we have listed for us a number of SHEM'S descendants. In Verse 24, and again in Genesis 11:14, we find in the line of Shem a man called EBER or HEBER. Since Heber was in the line of SHEM, he was automatically a SHEMITE. Heber's descendants were known as HEBREWS.
Trace this line down to Genesis 11:24 and you learn of a man named TERAH. Then, in verse 26 we learn that Terah had three sons, "And Terah....begat ABRAM, Nahor and Haran."
Abraham -- note it carefully -- was a descendant of NOAH -- through Shem and HEBER. This makes Abraham a "HEBREW-SHEMITE" or a "SHEMITE-HEBREW." Thus, this is the answer to question One.
By researching a little further, we find in Genesis 11:28, that Abraham's brother Haran died -- but we also learn something further enlightening relative to our research. It reads: "And Haran died ... in the land of his nativity "IN UR OF THE CHALDEES."
Do you grasp this thought? -- Haran was born in the City of Ur of the Chaldees! Since Haran was Abraham's brother, we can safely assume -- scholarship also supporting this view -- that Abraham also was born in Chaldea. Abraham, therefore, was a CHALDEAN!
Now, in view of his triple background,
just what was Abraham? What was his nationality'? He was, on the basis of this
Bible revelation, a descendant of Shem and Heber at the same time, a NATIVE
CITIZEN OF CHALDEA. This, then, is the answer to question Two.
Now let us examine the third and perhaps most contentious question, "WAS ABRAHAM A JEW?"
Indeed, on the basis of his TRIPLE background, we must honestly conclude that Abraham was not a Jew! By no stretch of the imagination does his Biblically revealed background reveal or permit this! Then too, he was NOT an ISRAELITE nor ever called one!
But the Bible does clearly reveal that Abraham was a SHEMITE-HEBREW-CHALDEAN! Perhaps new and shocking to you, but true!
"But," you insist, "didn't Abraham BECOME THE FIRST JEW?"
Again, I invite you to examine and analyze the facts and Biblical information relative to this question! Let's review the Bible record!
If we carefully search the statements of the Bible, we must honestly confess that we search in vain to find recorded even ONCE such statements as: "ABRAHAM THE JEW," "ABRAHAM THE FIRST JEW," or even "ABRAHAM THE FATHER OF THE JEWS!" These statements or descriptions just do not appear as part of your Bible record!
In fact; the first time the plural term "JEWS' (the actual translation from the Hebrew should be "JUDAHITES," indicating the people of the Southern Kingdom of JUDAH) is used is in 2 Kings 16:6, where Syria, an ally of ISRAEL, interestingly, is at war with "the JEWS."
The singular term "JEW" is not used before this time! In reality, it does not appear until about a century or more after the use of the plural term. In fact, in Esther 2:5, where we read: "Now in Shushan, the palace, there was a certain JEW whose name was Mordecai ... a BENJAMITE." Here the Hebrew of the term "JEW" again implies a JUDAHITE, this time from the tribe of Benjamin, which tribe, along with Judah, formed the Nation of the Jews (or the southern kingdom) after the Kingdom split into two parts, the northern kingdom being the Nation of Israel.
So, you see, the term "JEW," in its true Bible sense -- and not the almost universal use of the term today -- was never used until centuries after the death of Abraham.
Now, I ask you, is some of this Bible Truth beginning to come clear? Can you see that what the Bible says about this subject is not what man has traditionally believed and taught about it? And we must recognize that with the understanding of Bible truth goes also the responsibility and challenge of acknowledging, accepting, and acting upon this truth!
So, remember, ABRAHAM was a HEBREW, as were Isaac and Jacob -- ALL DESCENDANTS OF HEBER. The Almighty, in time, according to the Bible record, changed Jacob's name to ISRAEL. The twelve sons of Jacob-Israel were the first Israelites! Notice carefully they were not Jews! Nevertheless, the religious world -- despite these completely obvious facts -- still tenaciously holds to this assumption and goes on calling Abraham, Isaac, Jacob-Israel and Jacob's sons "Jew." But, the Bible NEVER does!
I offer one final point to bring the name "Jew" into proper focus. This term, i.e., "JEW," linguistically is derived from the Hebrew word "YEHU-DAH" or JUDAH, one of Jacob's TWELVE sons. Notice the similarity in the English pronunciation of "JEW" and the first syllable of the name JUDAH, namely "JU." That answers question number three, that is "Abraham was not a Jew. "
Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.