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As a Hebrew ( Hebrew עִבְרִי ʿIvri or Iwri; Aramaic : hubroye) are early members of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible , later also their descendants, the Jews .

Occurrence of the word

The origin of the name comes from the Torah (Genesis 14:13). Father Abraham was the first to be named Iwri because he immigrated to Canaan from the other bank of the Jordan at the behest of God. Later in Egypt Joseph was called Iwri, 'Hebrew boy'. As a group in the Tanakh the Israelites are also called Iwrim in other contexts. The term occurs 33 (34) times in the Tanach / Old Testament . Almost always strangers use the word in relation to Israelites or these in relation to strangers. The external name is always used to express disdain or contempt, and the self-name to express humility.

In Gen 14:13  EU is Abraham called that. The term appears most frequently in the Joseph story ( Gen 39.14.17  EU ; 40.15 EU ; 41.12 EU ; 43.32 EU ) to characterize Joseph and his family to the Egyptians as foreigners from Syria-Palestine. In the tradition of the Exodus from Egypt ( Ex  EU ; EU ; 3.18 EU ; 5.3 EU ; 7.16 EU ; 9.1.13 EU ; 21.2 EU ; Dtn 15 , 12  EU ) “Hebrews” is mostly used synonymously with “Israelites”. To the Pharaoh, Moses introduces YHWH as the "God of the Hebrews" (e.g. Ex. 3:18). Even in the battles with the Philistines "Hebrews" appears as a disparaging term of the Philistines for their opponents ( 1 Sam 4,6.9  EU ; 13,3.7 * .19 EU ; 14,11.21 EU ; 29.3 EU ).

In Jer 34,9.14  EU similar to Ex 21,2  EU and Dtn 15,12  EU "Hebrew" is an attribute ofעֶבֶד'Workers, Slaves'. The occurrence of the word in Jonah 1,9  EU , whose Greek version of the Septuagint "Servant of the Lord" ( Hebrew י יהוה ancient Greek δοῦλος Κυρίου ) reads.

Origin and meaning

Neither the etymology nor the exact meaning of the term in the Bible is certain. Some lexicons bring the word with the name of the progenitor Eber (עֵבֶר, Gen 10,24-25  EU ; 11,14-17 EU ), which in the phrase "the sons of Ebers" (בְּנֵי־עֵבֶר, Gen 10.21  EU ) suggests an ethnicity in connection.

For some presumably post-exilic references ( Gen 14.13  EU ; Jonah 1.9  EU and perhaps Dtn 15.12  EU ) a use of “Hebrews” as a synonym for “Israelite” was assumed. For Ex 21.2  EU , Jer 34.9  EU and maybe Dtn 15.12  EU , some exegetes refer to the word slaves for time or debt slaves, which expresses their legal status.

Many exegetes and ancient orientalists assume a connection between the biblical consonant sequence HBR and the word ʿApiru / Ḫabiru , even if they consider a direct derivation to be improbable. As ʿApiru (Akkadian) or ʿpr (w) (Egyptian), some texts from the late Bronze Age from Amarna , Ugarit , Canaan and Egypt referred to various groups of people who stood outside the social order and who, out of necessity, became mercenaries, workers or a life as Bandits led. The expression is mainly used as a derogatory term for a social status.

Many Bible historians assume that ʿApiru elements arose in the course of the archaeologically unprovable land acquisition in later Israel. Some consider it possible that gradually shifting the ethnic importance took place: Thus, the use of the word "Hebrews" in the Book of Exodus could (eg. Ex 2,11.13  EU a reminder maintain that the ancestors of Israel as) 'Apiru were . Roland de Vaux interpreted both expressions ʿApiru and “Hebrews” as ethnic names for groups that had penetrated from the desert into the cultivated land .

In Hellenistic times, "Hebrew", from the Palestinian Aramaic (עבראיא ʿEbrāyā ) translated into Greek as Ἑβραῖοι , sometimes used as a popular name for Israelites or Jews. The term appears three times in the New Testament with this meaning : once it is used in Acts 6.1  EU to distinguish it from the Greek-speaking Jews and twice Paul uses it as a self-designation ( 2 Cor 11.22  EU and Phil 3.5  EU ). In addition, the so-called Letter to the Hebrews is headed "To the Hebrews" in many manuscripts .

The Aramaic word ʿebrāyā translated into German means something like “those who have arrived”. The Hebrews may have been called that because, according to the Old Testament, they were chosen by God to enter the promised land (today Israel ).

Naturalized in the later tradition is the name "Hebrew language", which comes from rabbinic Judaism (לשׁון עברית) for the language of the Bible and large parts of rabbinic literature.

Today's meaning

Within the Zionist movement of the 20th century, the word Iwri gained popularity as the name of the "new Jew" that Zionism sought to create. The term is no longer used in Israel today. The term for Jews was derived from “Iwri” in various languages, such as the Russian Jewrej, the Italian Ebreo and the Romanian Evreu.

See also


  • Herbert Donner : History of the people of Israel and its neighbors in outline. Floor plans for the Old Testament. Vol. 4/1, 4/2. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001. ISBN 3-525-51664-9
  • Werner H. Schmidt: Exodus, Sinai and Mose. Considerations on Ex 1-19 and 24. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1983, 1990, 1995. ISBN 3-534-08779-8
  • Nadav Na'aman: Habiru and Hebrews: The Transfer of a social Term to the literary Sphere , JNES 45 (1986): 278-85.
  • Detlef JerickeHebrews / Hapiru. In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (eds.): The scientific Bibellexikon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff., Accessed on December 3, 2015.

Individual evidence

  1. 1 Sam 13.7 is not counted among the reliable evidence, since the Septuagint there διαβαίνοντες - has people walking through (the river Jordan) (Detlef Jericke:  Hebräer / Hapiru. In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (eds.) : The scientific Bible lexicon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff., Accessed on December 3, 2015.)
  2. ^ WH Schmidt: Exodus ... , p. 29 f.
  3. z. B. Hebrews . In: dtv-Brockhaus-Lexikon , Volume 8. Mannheim 1988
  4. H. Donner: Geschichte des Volkes Israel , 1, p. 80 ff.
  5. so Niels P. Lemche: The "Hebrew Slave" . In: Vetus Testamentum , 25, 1975, pp. 129–144 (quoted in H. Donner: Geschichte des Volkes Israel , 1, p. 81)
  6. Manfred Weippert: The land acquisition of the Israelite tribes in the more recent scientific discussion . FRLANT 92, Göttingen 1967 (quoted in WH Schmidt: Exodus ... , p. 29)
  7. Roland de Vaux: Histoire ancienne d'Israël, I . Paris 1971, pp. 106–112, 205–208 (quoted in WH Schmidt: Exodus ... , p. 30)