From the Scriptural genealogical record comes some of the most well-known terms relating to Israelite people: Semite and Semitic originate from Noah's son Shem, and Hebrew is derived from Eber, the ancestor of Abraham. According to Bible History -
"The Sons Of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japheth...The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram. The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech. Arphaxad was the father of Shelah, and Shelah the father of Eber. Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan. Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan. Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah and Abram (that is, Abraham). The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael." (1 Chronicles 1:4,17-28)
From two other people come two other very well-known identities: Israelites are the descendants of Isaac's son Jacob, who God renamed Israel, and from Jacob's son Judah come the terms Jew and Jewish.
So how do all of these designations relate to the people involved?
- The term Shemite is derived from Noah's son Shem.
- The term Hebrew is derived from Shem's descendant Eber. Eber was a Shemite, and the first Hebrew, but not an Israelite or a Jew because neither existed yet.
- Abraham was Eber's descendant. Abraham was a Shemite and a Hebrew, but not an Israelite or a Jew because neither existed yet.
- Isaac was Abraham's son. Isaac was a Shemite and a Hebrew, but not an Israelite or a Jew because neither existed yet.
- Jacob, who God renamed Israel, was Isaac's son. Jacob was a Shemite and a Hebrew, but not a Jew because Jews originated with his son Judah. The first Israelites were the children of Jacob.
- Judah was one of Jacob's twelve sons (see Children of Jacob and The Tribes Of Israel). Judah was a Shemite, a Hebrew, and an Israelite. The first Jews were the children of Judah. The descendants of the other eleven of Jacob's sons were not Jews, but were themselves named accordingly e.g. from Levi came the Levites, from Benjamin came the Benjamites and so on.
A vitally important fact in understanding Bible Prophecy is that while all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews. All are Hebrews, but only the descendants of Judah are Jews. Many prophecies apply specifically to the Jewish people of today, while other prophecies apply specifically to the descendants of the other so-called "lost" tribes of Israel (see The Chosen People and The Scepter and The Birthright)
Fact Finder: Of what Israelite tribe was Jesus Christ descended?