Who Is A Jew?

     Jewish people need to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour in order to be saved just as the Gentiles do.  As far as salvation is concerned, there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile.  The Scripture says in Romans 10:12, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.”  There is only one Saviour and one plan of salvation.

     Abraham was the first Hebrew mentioned in the Bible.  He was a Gentile before his call to leave his country.  Abraham lived in Chaldea in the city of Ur.  “Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee (Genesis 12:1).”

     Abraham was a Syrian by birth and is referred to as such in the Bible.  Even Jacob, his grandson, is still referred to as a Syrian in Deuteronomy 26:5.

     The word Hebrew is first mentioned in Genesis 14:13, where Abraham is called Abram the Hebrew.  This word comes from the Hebrew root word “Abar” and means simply “to cross over”.  Abraham crossed over into the promised land and became the first Hebrew.  Since Abraham was a Hebrew, his descendants were also called Hebrews.  Strictly speaking all of Abraham's descendants are Hebrews.  This would include the descendants of Ishmael, who are the Arabs today.  Also, the descendants of Esau, the grandson of Abraham, call Edomites.  But by common usage, this name is applied to the nation of Israel only.

     Abraham was a Hebrew, but he was not an Israelite, nor a Jew.  The first Israelite was Jacob, the grandson of Abraham.  His mother named him Jacob, but God changed his name to Israel.  The name comes from three fragments of other words.  The first is “ish” which means “man”.  The second is “ra” which means “great”.  The third is “el” which is an abbreviation for “Elohim” which means God.  Thus Israel (“Ish-ra-el”) means “the great man of God” or “the child of God” or “the prince of God”.

     Whereas Abraham was a Hebrew, but not an Israelite nor a Jew, Jacob was both a Hebrew and an Israelite, but  not a Jew.  The name “Jew” refers strictly speaking to only a part of the nation of Israel.  After the reign of King Solomon over the twelve tribes of Israel, his son Rehoboam, caused a civil war in Israel by which the northern ten tribes seceded from the southern two tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

     This northern kingdom became known as Israel or Ephriam.

     The southern kingdom was called by the name of Judah.  Around 600 BC, Nebuchadnezzar conquered the southern kingdom consisting of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  He transported a number of them to Babylon.  Many of those returned from Babylon to Jerusalem under Nehemiah, Ezra, and Zerubbabel at the conclusion of seventy years of captivity.  These captives from the southern kingdom were the first to be called “Jews” while they were still in captivity in Babylon.  The first mention in the Bible is in II Kings 16:6,7 and the first point of time that “Jews” are mentioned in Jeremiah 34:9.

     Instead of saying Judah, they began to say “Jew”.  This is a slang word that has been used all these centuries for the nation of Israel.  It has really been a fulfillment of a prophecy.  Deuteronomy 28:37 says, “And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.”  It is true to this day that the descendants of Abraham have been called by the slang word “Jew”.

     So technically speaking, all of the descendants of Abraham are Hebrews.  All of the descendants of Jacob are Israelites.  And all of the descendants of Judah are Jews (one tribe of Israel); however, common usage has been such that any member of the nation of Israel is called a Jew.

     Most Jewish people say that a Jew is someone who practices Judaism.  In other words, Jews are those who practice a certain religion.  Biblically, we must reject this view.  It is believed that the Jews espouse this view to avoid persecution or another holocaust.  They would like to be thought of as merely a religious group rather than a race.

     The Bible definitely teaches that they are a race of people.  Notice how the Apostle Paul, a Jew, identifies himself.  “I say then, hath God cast away His people?  God forbid, for I am also an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1).”  Jesus (God who took on himself Jewish flesh) came from the tribe of Judah.  “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood (Hebrews 7:14).”  The priests in Israel came from the tribe of Levi.  “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood…(Hebrews 7:5).”

     Is God all through with the Jews?  The answer is in Romans 11:2 where we read, “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.”  God has a purpose and a plan for the Jewish nation.  At His Second Coming they will be established as the head nation on the earth.  Christ will rule over them and all of the nations of the world.  After the rapture, God will use 144,000 Jews to be His witness in the tribulation to prepare the nation of Israel and the world for the Second Coming of Christ by preaching the Gospel into all the world.  “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:4).”

     The Jews need to hear and to believe the same gospel that we believe in order to be saved.  “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).”  Percentage wise, there are probably more Jews that have accepted Jesus as their Messiah than there are Gentile believers, but there are still many that are lost and need to hear about Christ.