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Who Was The First Jew?

Although millions of people commonly think so, Abraham was not a Jew. Nor was his son Isaac. Nor was Isaac's son Jacob, who God renamed as Israel. Moses and Aaron were also not Jews as is commonly written and spoken by many people, including from a vast number of pulpits every week. As shocking as that is to many people (even some Jews), that is what the Holy Bible says. So, what were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob if they were not Jews? And who actually were and are Jews? And who was the first Jew?

"Jew" Is An Abbreviated Form Of "Judah"

From the genealogical record of the Bible 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 (although some people dispute that point, despite what is written in the Scriptures), the ancestor of Abraham. According to Bible History:


"Shem, Ham, and Japheth [see Sons Of Noah] ... The sons of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram, and Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Meshech. And Arphaxad begat Shelah, and Shelah begat Eber. And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg; because in his days the earth was divided: and his brother's name was Joktan. And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah, Hadoram also, and Uzal, and Diklah, And Ebal, and Abimael, and Sheba, And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan. Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram; the same is Abraham. 1:28 The sons of Abraham; Isaac, and Ishmael." (1 Chronicles 1:4,17-28 KJV)

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 (although some disagree) 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 key descendant of Judah was King David, and the key descendant of King David was Jesus Christ. King David and Jesus Christ were Jews.

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 Galilee Captivity).

Fact Finder: The apostle Paul at one time said that he was a Jew but at another time said that he was a Benjamite. Did Paul contradict himself, or was he entirely right in both statements?
See Was Paul A Jew or a Benjamite?

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