Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Jews - Judah or the Nation of Israel


Jews - Judah or the Nation of Israel

The usage of the word "Jews" to define the nation of Israel, all 12 tribes, can be seen in the history of the usage of the term.

Jew = Judah

2Ki 16:6 is the first usage of the word "Jews". At this time, the usage was consistent with "the men of Judah". The KJV renders "yehûdı̂y" as "Jews", while the NIV renders "yehûdı̂y" as "people of Judah".

2Ki 16:6 KJV At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day.

2Ki 16:6 NIV At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the people of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day.

Jew = Southern Kingdom

However, transition in the usage of the word becomes apparent following the exile. In Esther we read:

Est 2:5 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish,

Either the writer of Esther is mistaken, for Mordecai is a Benjaminite, or "Jew" is taking on a wider meaning for the nation of Israel. I would submit that the word is taking on a wider meaning, for the infallible word declares a Benjaminite to be a Jew. (See also Est 2:5, Est 5:13, Est 6:10, Est 6:13).

Further, we see that Mordecai's people are also called "Jews".

Est 3:6 Yet having learned who Mordecai's people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

Now this can only mean that "Jews" is taking on a wider meaning that just "people of Judah", for if the word still identified tribal affiliation, then Mordecai's people would be Benjaminites, not Judeans.

Jew = All Israel

In Ezra we read in the letter to King Artaxerxes the complain that "the Jews" were again building the walls of the city.

Ezra 4:12 Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. (See also Ezra 5:1, Ezra 5:5).

We know that "the Jews which came up" included "a large group" of Israelites with them.

2Ch 15:9 Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.

This wider usage of the term "Jew" follows through into the time of Christ. The Festivals would have included members from all of the tribes, yet, the Festivals are called "Jewish" festivals. The Jewish Passover Festival (Joh 6:4), The Jewish Festival of Tabernacles (Joh 7:2). Obviously, the Passover and Tabernacles festivals were not for Judah alone.

In Act 2:5 we read the reference to "Jews from every nation" being gathered into Jerusalem. As a result of the activities there, Peter gives a speech in which He addresses his "fellow Israelites" (Act 2:22). It should be clear that in addressing "fellow Israelites" he is speaking to the nation of Israel, who has gathered together for Pentecost, the nation of Israel whom earlier were addressed as "Jews".

Act 2:5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

Again, in Act 6:1 we have another example of a wider usage of the term "Jews". Luke refers to "Hellenistic Jews" in his narrative.

Act 6:1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

The Hebraic Jews were those who remained in Judea, near Jerusalem. The Hellenists were those who were scattered among the Gentiles, spoke Greek, used the Septuagint. They were from other parts of the world, and thus, could not have been Judeans, in fact, they were basically outsiders to the Judean Jews. Yet, Luke refers to them as Hellenistic "Jews". This is a strong evidence that the word "Jews" is not being used as a reference to those of the tribe of Judah, but for all of the people of the nation of Israel.

David Barron on the "Lost Tribes"

David Barron, in "The History or the Ten 'Lost' Tribes, Anglo Israelism Examined" points out that in Anglo-Israelism, like the Hebrew Roots Movement:

"members of the Ten Tribes are never called "Jews," and that "Jews" are not "Israelites"; but both assertions are false. Who were they that came back to the land after the "Babylonian" exile? Anglo-Israelites say they were only the exiles from the southern kingdom of Judah, and call them "Jews." I have already shown this to be a fallacy, but I might add the significant fact that in the Book of Ezra this remnant is only called eight times by the name "Jews," and no less than forty times by the name "Israel." In the Book of Nehemiah they are called "Jews" eleven times, and "Israel" twenty-two times. As to those who remained behind in the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the Persian Empire, which included all the territories of ancient Assyria, Anglo-Israelites would say they were of the kingdom of "Israel"; but in the Book of Esther, where we get a vivid glimpse of them at a period subsequent to the partial restoration under Zerubbabel and Joshua, they are called forty-five times by the name "Jews," and not once by the name "Israel"! In the New Testament the same people who are called "Jews" one hundred and seventy-four times are also called "Israel" no fewer than seventy-five times. Anglo-Israelism asserts that a "Jew" is only a descendant of Judah, and is not an "Israelite"; but Paul says more than once: "I am a man which am a Jew." Yet he says: "For I also am an Israelite." "Are they Israelites? so am I" (Act 21:39; Act 22:3; Rom 11:1; 2Co 11:22; Php 3:5).

Baron, David. The History of the Ten "Lost" Tribes Anglo-Israelism Examined (pp. 35-36). Kindle Edition.

Act 21:39 Paul answered, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people."

Act 22:3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.

Rom 11:1 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

2Co 11:22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I.

Php 3:5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;


The above should be sufficient to understand usage of the word "Jews" from the time of following the exile was in transition to mean "the nation of Israel". "Jews" is no longer used to refer to just Judah as the transition has taken place since that time towards the wider usage.

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