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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Names


By Jeff A. Benner

Abraham is the first person called a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13) in the Biblical text. What does the name "Hebrew" mean and where does it come from? Abraham's 5th Great Grandfather was Ever (or Eber). And Arpakshad bore Shalach who bore Ever (Genesis 10:24). The Hebrew spelling of the word Hebrew is עברי (ivriy) and the Hebrew spelling of Ever is עבר (ever). When the letter י is placed after a name it means "one belonging to the family of ..." and in this case a Hebrew is one who belongs to the family of Eber. By definition, a Hebrew is one who is descended from Ever and this would include Abraham as well as his brothers Nahor and Haran. While the lineage's of Nahor and Haran seem to disappear, probably absorbed into other cultural groups, only Abraham and his descendants remain Hebrews to this day.

The root עבר (Ah.B.R) means to "cross over" or "pass through". As names play a very significant role of the ancient peoples of the Near East, this name and its meaning is indicative of Abraham and his descendants. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were nomads who by definition are ones who travel or pass through many lands on their nomadic journey. In Genesis 12:6 we read (From the KJV) "And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land." The phrase "passed through" is the Hebrew verb עבר (the same word as the noun/name Eber).

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