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Hebrews (or Hebertes, Eberites, Hebreians; Hebrew: עברים or עבריים, ʿIvrim, ʿIvriyyim ʿIḇrîm, ʿIḇriyyîm, "traverse or pass over") are an ancient people defined as descendants of biblical Patriarch Abraham (Hebrew אברהם), a descendent of Noah.

They were called Ibri, meaning the people from over on the other side of the Jordan river.[1] They lived in the Land of Canaan (the Levant).

Some authors believe Hebrew/Ibri denotes the descendents of the biblical patriarch Eber (Hebrew עבר), a great grandson of Noah and a Abraham's ancestorJewish Encyclopedia article on Eber, though the term has not been found in biblical or extra-biblical sources for any tribe or nation other than Abraham and his descendents.entry in britannica.com Note however that Abraham is once referred to as "Abram the Hebrew" (Genesis 14:13).

Hebrews are known as the ancestors of the Israelites, who used the Hebrew language. Israelites, whose remnant is the Jews, were the writers of the Hebrew Bible. They are also the spiritual and historical forerunners of the Christians and Muslims. In the Bible and in current language, the word Hebrews is often used as a synonym for Israelites, and sometimes for the users of the Hebrew language (Jews and Israelis).


From Middle English Ebreu Old French Ebreu Latin Hebraeus or Hebraic, Ancient Greek Ἑβραῖος Aramaic עברי ('ibrāy) Hebrew עברי (ʿIḇrî), meaning to traverse or pass over (referring to the fact that they lived on the other side of the Jordan River).

Hebrews vs. Israelites vs. Jew

Israelites are defined as the descendants of Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. Eber, an ancestor of Jacob (6 generations removed), is a distant ancestor of many people, including the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, Ammonites, Midianites, and Moabites. Among historical scholars, there is some disagreement about the relationship between the Hebrews and Israelites. Clearly the Israelites were the sole surviving culture of the Hebrews. One thing is certain, that by the time of the Israelite Monarchy the tribes of Israel were the sole inheritors of the Hebrew peoples and culture.

Jews are all people of Jewish faith, regardless of ancestry.

The terms "Hebrews" and "Israelites" usually describe the same people, called Hebrews before the conquest of the Land of Canaan and Israelites afterwards.Hebrews entry in Jewish Encyclopediaentry in britannica.comOccasionally, "Hebrews" is used to designate the Jews, who use the Hebrew language.entry in thefreedictionary.com The Epistle to the Hebrews was probably written for Jewish Christians.

In some modern languages, including :el:Εβραίοι|Greek, :it:Ebreo|Italian, :ro:Evrei|Romanian and many Slavic languages, the name Hebrews survives as the standard ethnonym for Jews, but in many other languages in which there exist both terms, it is considered derogatory to call modern Jews "Hebrews."


Within the area know as the Land of Israel and prior to the establishment of the Israelite civilization, the Land of Israel was politically dominated by Phoenician, Philistines, and Canaanite tribes. There is a modern debate to the degree that the biblical account of a mass emigration to the Land of Israel is accurate or whether, as some archaeologists believe, that the Israelites simply arose as a subculture within Canaanite society. The Hebrews lived within the Land of Israel by at least the 2nd millennium BCE and in addition to speaking Hebrew also spoke Canaanite languages and dialects which played a role in the Hebrew languages. The extent of the distinction between the culture of the Canaanites and the Hebrews is a matter of great debate, touching as it does on strong religious sensibilities. Recent genetic studies, however, do show a separation between Canaanite and Hebrew/Jewish bloodlines. And there is evidence of a clear division between the cultures. It is also known that Israelites and later the subdivision of Israelites known as the Judeans spoke Hebrew as their main language and it is still used in Jewish holy scriptures, study, speech and prayer. Since the late 19th century, Hebrew has undergone a secular revival, to become the primary everyday language of Jews in Israel and became the official language of the State.