It seems that the traditional origin of the word “Hebrew” is derived from ‘Eber,’ which means beyond the other side. Abram is first called ‘Hebrew’ by the Canaanites in whose land he dwelt (Cp. Genesis 14: 13a), who at that time the Amorites must have been living in the region. Another point-of-view is that some believe the term refers to Abram crossing over to the West side of The Euphrates River, but the Scriptures do not mention anything about his crossing that body of water during his wanderings, so lacking any credible Biblical evidence to the contrary, such opinions are just pious conjecture and speculation. Since Abram pitched his tent by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which is in Hebron (Cp. Genesis 13: 18b), it is reasonable that he could be called a Hebrew as a result of living in Hebron, but only as a foreigner who perhaps spoke the language, and not as a native-born citizen of the land.
Then Jacob came to his father Isaac at (31c) Mamre, or Kirjath Arba (that is (31c) Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had dwelt.
Since Abraham and Isaac spent some time in Hebron, Jacob probably lived there awhile, too (Cp. Genesis 35: 27; 37: 1). Remember how Joseph was looking for his brothers who were tending their father’s flock in Shechem, out of the Valley of Hebron, and found them in Dothan (Cp. Genesis 37: 1, 12-17). Joseph was called a “Hebrew” (Cp. Genesis 39: 1, 14; 41: 12, 17) and the descendants of Jacob [Israel] were called ‘Hebrews’ by Moses in Exodus 7: 16a. Joseph even stated at one point that he was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews (Cp. Genesis 40: 15a), and so where else would that be except in Hebron? To sum it all up then, Hebrew is probably an ethnic designation as well as a Semitic dialect spoken by the inhabitants living around Hebron in the land of Canaan after the times of the Amorites.
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December 16, 2009