History of the Jews


According to the Bible, Abraham left polytheism to follow the God who made the universe. Abraham lived about 2,000 BC and he and his descendants were known as Hebrews (Gen 14:13).


Abraham’s son was Isaac, and Jacob was his grandson. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Gen 32:28; 46:1). Since that time Israel’s descendants were known as the children of Israel or the Israelites. The record says that Israel’s family moved to Egypt where his son Joseph was second in command to the Pharaoh. In Egypt the Israelites grew to a large number of people they subsequently under pressure, and Yahweh’s direction, migrated to Canaan in the Middle East under the leadership of Moses and Joshua.


It is believed that the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible) was written by Moses in the early pictographic Hebrew language.


After the Israelites invaded Canaan, and the land divided by tribe, they were eventually ruled by the kings Saul, David and Solomon. King David lived about 1,000 BC. After Solomon, the kingdom became divided into two, with 10 tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and two remaining in the southern kingdom called Yahudah (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10). At that time, Samaria was the capital of Israel and Jerusalem the capital of Yahudah.


In 722 BC, Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians and the Israelites were dispersed into surrounding nations (2 Ki 17). As they assimilated and now have no national identity, they are known as the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel”. However, they weren’t all lost because a few remained in the ancient land and moved to the land of Yahudah. (2 Chron 15:9; 35:18).


In 605 BC and 598 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia invaded Judah and in 586 B.C. Jerusalem the Capital was destroyed. Many of the Yahudim were taken to exile in Babylon. When the Persians conquered Babylon in 538 BC, the Persian King Cyrus permitted the Yahudim to return to their homelands but less that 48,000 ever returned to the ancient land .


Yahudah was the ancestor of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, which was named after him. “Yahudah” occurs 76 times in the books of the Old Testament: – 11 times in Jeremiah (written about 600BC), where it describes Yahudah,– Twice in 2 Kings (written about 550BC), where it describes Yahudah who lived about 750BC and 590BC,– Once in the book of Zechariah (written about 520BC), where it may describe both Yahudah and Israelites,


A related word “Yehudi” only occurs in the books of Daniel and Ezra (written about 530BC and 440BC respectively). Originally, the Yahudi word referred to members of the tribe of Yahudah, but later it described anyone from the kingdom of Yahudah. This could include a few of those from the northern kingdom of Israel who had found their way back to the land of the Yahudim.


As those who returned after the exile settled in Yahudah, they were called Yahudim regardless of their accessorial tribe. In the New Testament, the words, “Hebrews”, “Israelites”, and “Yahudim” are now unfortunately used interchangeably to describe the descendants of Jacob (Jn 4:9;  Cor. 11:22). And today this is also the case today.  Also, the words “Hebrews”, “Israelites”, and “Jews” are used as synonyms. They however they are not the same people, since the Yahudim became a mixture of people groups while in Babylon.


After the Babylonian exile, the name “Yahudim” replaced the name “Israelite” as the most widely-used term for those survivors. The Yahudim religion was known as Yahudah after Jerusalem was rebuilt, Yahudah was ruled by the Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians and Romans, later, the Byzantine Empire, and the Islamic Empire. Although the terms “Hebrew” and “Israelite” continued in use into the Hebrew Bible period, In the New Testament period (Rom 9:4; 2 Cor 11:22; Phil 3:5), the English term “Jew” began to be commonly used in English Translations. At His death, the Romans referred to Jesus as the “king of the Yahudim” (Ioudaios in Greek) in English it became “Jews”. (Mt 27:37).


Hebrew is the Race, Israelite is the ancient people and culture, Israelism is the religion of that ancient Israelite culture.  Judaism became known as the religion of the modern Jew, who is not related to the ancient Israelites.


At one time, the Yahudim and Israelites were one people group, but that is not the case today. Now we have a separate group called Jews. Some of whom are believers in Judaism, but many are named Israelites, for various reasons who are not at all related to the ancient Biblical Israelites, or their religion. Greeks, Romans, and various Gentiles as well as other people groups have converted to Jewish culture, and or Judaism. Jews are basically adherents to the religion of Judaism. The name Jew has nothing to do with a relationship to the ancient Israelites.


Note: Part of this document was written by Jean Kabua, Pastor @Bread of life. Many additions and word corrections were made by AOYcascade.