Christianity has its roots in the Hebrew religion given by Yehovah [YHWH or YHVH] to Moses. From the Jewish people we receive the Ten Commandments, the moral code, protocols of worship, and our Messiah. The Jewish people are one of the oldest cultures still existent – practicing many traditions over 4,000 years old.
Who are the Jewish people, is an interesting question? The chosen nation of God is a simple answer.
The term Jew is first seen in 2Kg.16:6 and transliterated as “Yehudim,” articulating the tribe of Judah. In the book of Ester however, the term “Yahad” is used as a designator for a nation. The original name Judah [Yuda, Yudas, Yudah] which means “praise” in Hebrew, usurped the national designation of Israel, which means, “ruling with God.” This differentiation occurred during the reign of King Rehoboam [975BC], son of Solomon, when the Northern Kingdom [Israel], under Jeroboam, split away from the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, with Dan being discharged into Israel, Judah and Philistia.
The division between the tribes was more than physical or political. The Northern Kingdom rejected the worship of Yehovah, in Jerusalem, probably because the worship of a god reflected the dependence of a nation. King Jeroboam of the Northern tribes, wanted to ensure his dynasty apart from Judah – and the Judean King commanded the worship of Yehovah. If King Jeroboam worshiped in Jerusalem, he may have been thought of as a vassal king. Therefore the Northern Tribes set up their own gods [images of golden calves], which they set in Dan and Bethel – along the main routes into Judah. From this point on, the North is referred to as Israel, and the south as Judah.
Today, the nomen, “Jew” is most often considered a derogatory term. However, the term “Jewish” sets the proper civil designation. Oddly, modern Jewish peoples do not consider themselves as Hebrews, and place the Hebrew designation into the past and consider it defunct.
But who were the Jews, or Israel? A more specific criterion is that they are the offspring Jacob a son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. But who was Abraham – just how many children did Abraham have?
Since Abraham came from the city of Ur, a Chaldea enclave [Gen.11:27-31] one supposes he was a Babylonian or an Assyrian, who in turn were descendants of the Akkadian and Samarian speaking Semites, but this is not so!
In Genesis 11, it gives us the genealogy from Shem [son of Noah] to Abraham. It further explains that the family was living in Ur. It says that Haran, the brother of Abraham, was born and died in Ur. But it does not say he was of Urian ancestry [genetically]. It says that Nahor, Abraham’s father, took the whole family and moved to Haran – the city of Haran – a journey of 600 miles into north-western Mesopotamia. Nahor probably name his youngest son after a place of fancy, the city his relatives were in – Haran. The name may have been designed to remind Nahor of his desire to return. Effectively, after his son’s death Nahor packed up the family and moved back to his roots. The city of Haran would comfort that lack of his son affections. [ie. Gen.37:31-35]
The Mara and Elba Tablets express that Haran was a flourishing metropolis during the 19th and 18th century BC – the time of Abraham. It later became one of the capitols capitals of Assyria, until the 6th century BC. It was a merchant’s outpost with many nomadic tribes using it as a way-stop.
TRADITIONAL BEE HIVE HOUSING, USED FOR FIVE MILLENIUM – VILLAGE AREA IN HARAN, TURKEY
[Wikipedia file – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harran]
So what has God to say concerning the Abraham’s genetic family ties?
“Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous” [Deut.26:5].
Did God really mean that Abraham was genetically an Aramean? – Apparently so, since the Bible also states that Abraham was living among the Canaanites and instructed his servant to, “ go to MY country and My own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac” [Gen.24:4]. Armed with his charge, Abraham’s servant set out for in “Aram–Naharam” (North-West Mesopotamia) [Gen.24:10]. The Bible further states unequivocally that “…Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean” [Gen.25:20].
Who were the Arameans? They were semi nomadic tribesmen that lived in and around what is now East Lebanon, and Syria. It is presumed by scholars that the Arameans descended from the Semites or Shemites [Shem the son of Noah], because the Bible relates that Shem had five sons Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram [Gen.10:22]. One of Aram’s brother was Asshur, which gave rise to the Assyrians and the early capital of Asshur, along the upper Tigris, East South-East or Aram!
The problem comes in that Abraham did not descend directly from Aram, but from Arphaxad [Gen.11:12-27]. Proximities of family groups can have a significant impact on the final outcome of where a person is thought to originate. Consider that the absorption of the tribe of Simeon, and as well, the absorption of portion of Dan into Judah, would over time give the progeny the name as “Yehudim” or Judeans, rather than Simeonites or Danites.
The map below shows the kingdoms of Elam, Assur and the Aram(aens) – during the period of the Egyptian enslavement of Israel. Similarly it demonstrates the character and geography of the emerging Middle-Eastern kingdoms from city states, and easily develops the relationship between the river valleys, and what was once called the Fertile Crescent.
Middle Assyrian Period 1390 – 1076 BC
A similarity of language is also to be found between the Aramean [Aramaic] and Hebrew. Aramaic is considered a North-Western Semitic language along with Canaanite. Hebrew is listed as a Canaanite language. So, Aramaic and Hebrew are very similar. Jesus spoke Aramaic. The language of Hebrew is thought by epigraphers to come from the root “ibri” with foundation in Eber, “ebr,” a predecessor of Abraham. The etymological educated guess is that the roots of these words mean to “cross over” – from the verb “ibrim.” What they crossed over is uncertain. Was it a mountain or a river? Hence, Abraham was found in Ur [lower Iraq] rather than Aram [Lebnaon-Syria], simply because he had crossed over the Euphrates.
There is a subtle, but major problem with this educated guess, leaving room for a more common sense suggestion.
Perhaps a better explanation is that the tribe of Arphaxad crossed over the Lebanese mountains or from an Island, after they formed during the time of Peleg, son of Eber – since it states in Gen.10:25 that “…the Earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan” which means “little.” At a time when life was the least mean survival, “little” does not sound good!
The word of God many times explains scenarios, by the use of what wasn’t said – that was expected, and by means of a noman’s intent. Let us use a deductive rationale: Abraham found himself absorbed by his cousins the Arameans, because several generations back, his ancestors were trapped on the other side of the mountains or sea, [because of the geologic division of the land, and they crossed over with small and sickly extended family members. Upon reaching familiar surroundings, they decided to stay close to the camps of Aram, for this weighed as a better solution for survival.
But you may argue, if the Hebrew language wasn’t known for crossing over the Euphrates, then how did they get into Ur? Well, surprise, surprise – one need not cross over the Euphrates to get to Ur. Ur is on the West bank of the Euphrates!
The student of historical Archeology must always go back to those other stacked books to get the whole idea. The area from lower Iraq, to Lebanon and Syria, is about the size of New England. A drive from Boston, Massachusetts to Corning New York is about six hundred miles – actually, not far, even by leg. Bedouins today travel by Equines and Camels, over hundreds of miles, as they did thousands of years ago – so why not Abraham who it was said was a, “wandering Aramean.”
In conclusion, it can be said that the Jewish people were originally cousins to the Arameans and because of their small size they were absorbed by their cousins, until God called Abraham out of Haran [Gen.12:1] telling him to leave his father’s land, and country (Aram).
But we can’t close without making mention to all those other extended family members – the half brothers of Isaac. Keep in mind that Abraham’s concubine Hagar birthed Ishmael, the father of ten nations. But it doesn’t end there. Abraham was prolific! No Viagra was needed for his moon lit nights.
Abraham married Keturah who gave him six more sons that formed nations [Gen.25:1-4], some of which were Sheba, and Midian. If you follow the descendants of Isaac’s half brothers closely, one can find that they are the nations that give Israel less trouble, today, ie. Arabia, Jordan, UAR, Kuwait etc. But these investigations are better suited for another article.