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Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

 Ezra 4:8-6:18 Ezra 7:12-26 Daniel 2:4-7:28 Jeremiah 10:11 Isaiah 19:18 Nehemiah 13:24 Isaiah 36:11Apocrypha

Biblical or classical Hebrew belongs to the Northwest Semitic branch of Semitic languages which includes Ugaritic, Phoenician, Moabite, Edomite, and Ammonite. This linguistic group is referred to commonly as Canaanite, although some prefer not to call Ugaritic a Canaanite dialect.

Hebrew has an alphabet of twenty-two consonants. The texts were written right to left. The script was based on that of the Phoenicians, a circumstance which did not make it possible to represent or to distinguish clearly among all the consonantal sounds in current use in classical Hebrew. For example, s and sh were represented by the letter shin, “ and g (sayin and gayin) by the letter sayin, and h and ch by the letter heth. In addition six letters, beth, gimel, daleth, kaph, pe, and taw presumably had both soft and hard pronunciations depending on whether the letter was preceded by a vowel sound. It was not until the fifth century A.D. or later that dots and diacritical marks were employed to distinguish certain sounds. The “square” or Aramaic script began to be adopted for Hebrew in the post-exilic age of Judaism, although the archaic script continued to be used alongside it for quite sometime, even as late as the time of the Qumran or Dead Sea Scroll materials.

The distinguishing characteristics of Hebrew are for the most part those shared by one or more of the other Semitic languages. Each root for verbs and nouns characteristically had three consonants, even in later periods when the use of four consonant roots was increased. Nouns are either masculine or feminine. They have singular, plural, or even dual forms, the dual being used for items normally found in pairs, such as eyes, ears, lips. While most nouns were derived from a verbal root, some were original nouns which gave rise to verbs (denominatives). The genitive relationship (usually expressed in English by “of”) is expressed by the construct formation in which the word standing before the genitive is altered in form and pronunciation (if possible).

The Hebrew verb forms indicate person, number, and gender. There are seven verbal stems which serve to indicate types of action: simple action, active or passive; intensive action, active, passive, or reflexive; and causative action, active or passive. In classical Hebrew the isolated verb form did not indicate a tense, but rather complete or incomplete action. Thus verbs are often referred to as perfect or imperfect, there being no past, present, future, past perfect, present perfect, or future perfect. The tense can be determined only in context, and sometimes even that procedure produces uncertain results. Classical Hebrew is a verb oriented language rather than a noun oriented or abstract language. The usual word order of a sentence is verb, subject, modifiers, direct object. The language is quite concrete in expression. However, the relatively simple structure and syntax of classical Hebrew did not keep biblical writers from producing countless passages of unparalleled beauty and power.

While historical development took place in classical Hebrew from the eleventh century to the emergence of Mishnaic Hebrew, it does not seem possible to write the history of that development. It is generally agreed that the most archaic texts are poetic, such as  Genesis 4:23-24;  Exodus 15:1;  Judges 5:1 , although often it is difficult to decide what is archaic and what may be the result of an archaizing style. Books written toward the close of the Old Testament period, such as Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Ecclesiastes, show the Hebrew language undergoing a number of significant changes due primarily to Aramaic influence. Most of the Hebrew Bible now shows a homogeneous style which was most likely due to scribes in the late pre-exilic period copying the older texts in the dialect of Jerusalem. Thus, to be able to date an extant text does not necessarily mean that one can date the material contained in the text. There is some evidence of dialectical variations in the Hebrew spoken in biblical times. For example there is the shibboleth-sibboleth incident in   Judges 12:5-6 . Some Bible students think many of the difficulties of the text of Hosea may be clarified by considering the Hebrew of that book as an example of northern or Israelite idiom.

The growing number of Hebrew inscriptions dating from the pre-exilic age provides an important supplement to the study of classical Hebrew. These inscriptions were chiseled into stone, written on ostraca (broken pieces of pottery), or cut into seals or inscribed on jar handles and weights. Some of the most important inscriptional evidence includes the Gezer calendar (tenth century), the Hazor ostraca (ninth century), the Samaria ostraca (early eighth century), the Siloam inscription (late eighth century), Yavneh-yam ostracon (late seventh century), jar handles from Gibeon (late seventh century), the Lachish ostracon (early sixth century), and the Arad ostraca (late seventh and early sixth centuries). To these may be added the Moabite Stone (Stele of Mesha, ninth century) and the Ammonite stele (ninth century) which contain inscriptions in languages very similar to classical Hebrew. Several benefits may be gained from these and other inscriptions for the study of classical Hebrew. First, we now have available an adequate view of the development of Hebrew script and orthography from the tenth century to New Testament times. Second, it now appears that literacy was earlier and more widespread in Israel than was thought previously. Third, the addition of new words and personal names and the like have enriched our knowledge of classical Hebrew. And fourth, details of the texts add new data on matters of history, material culture, and religion.

There has probably not been a time since its inception when Hebrew has not been in use, even if mainly as a scholarly or literary language. Classical Hebrew was followed by Mishnaic Hebrew, the language of the Mishnah, which reflects Hebrew as it was known from around 200 B.C. to about A.D. 500 Mishnaic Hebrew was the language of the academy where the Scriptures were interpreted and where the oral interpretations of the sages were passed down. The language differs from the classical idiom in several important respects, including a greatly expanded vocabulary with the addition of words from Aramaic, Greek, and Latin, the use of new particles, idioms, and patterns of speech, and especially extensive development of the verbal stems.

After A.D. 500 Rabbinic Hebrew was used as a literary language by the scholars who spoke different vernaculars. The medieval period saw a great flowering of Hebrew literature of all kinds, especially commentaries and philosophical works. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have witnessed the development of modern Hebrew into a vital, living language as suitable for the sciences and literature as for everyday use, but this language represents a vast development and change from classical Hebrew of the Bible, particularly in the verbal system. See Aramaic; Semitic Languages; Mishnah; Moabite; Hebrew Inscriptions.

Thomas Smothers

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Shem is called "the father of all the children of Eber," as Ham is called "father of Canaan." The Hebrew and Canaanites were often brought, into contact, and exhibited the respective characteristics of the Shemites and the Hamites. The term "Hebrew" thus is derived from Eber ( Genesis 10:21, compare  Numbers 24:24). The Septuagint translated "passer from beyond" ( Perates ), taking the name from Eeber "beyond." Abram in Palestine was to the inhabitants the stranger from beyond the river ( Genesis 14:13). In entering Palestine he spoke Chaldee or Syriac ( Genesis 31:47). In Canaan he and his descendants acquired Hebrew from the Hamitic Canaanites, who in their turn had acquired it from an earlier Semitic race. The Moabite stone shows that Moab spoke the same Hebrew tongue as Israel, which their connection with Lot, Abraham's nephew, would lead us to expect.

In the patriarchs' wanderings they never used interpreters until they went to Egypt. In Israel's bondages in the time of the judges they never lost their language; but in the 70 years' captivity in Babylon their language became in a great degree Aramaic or Chaldee, and they adopted the present Hebrew alphabet. Thus it is proved the Israelites spoke the languages of the surrounding peoples. The sense of  Genesis 10:21 is: as in  Genesis 10:6-20 the three Hamite settlements are mentioned, Babylon, Egypt, Canaan, so next the Shemite races are spoken of as commencing at the most easterly point of the Hamites, namely, Babylon and the Euphrates.

Shem was "father of all the children of Eber," i.e. of the nations settled eastward, starting from beyond the Euphrates. The name Hebrew, applied to them in relation to the surrounding tribes already long settled in Canaan, continued to be their name among foreigners; whereas "Israelite" was their name among themselves ( Genesis 39:14;  Genesis 39:17;  Genesis 43:32;  1 Samuel 4:6;  1 Samuel 4:9). In New Testament the contrast is between "Hebrew" and those having foreign characteristics, as especially the Greek or any Gentile language ( Acts 6:1;  Philippians 3:5 (See Greek ; Grecian  2 Corinthians 11:22;  Luke 23:38).

The name Hebrew is found in Genesis and Exodus more than in all the other Books of the Bible, for it was the international name linking Jacob's descendants with the nations; Israel is the name that separates them from the nations. After the constitution of Israel as a separate people (in Exodus) Hebrew rarely occurs; in the national poetry and in the prophets the name does not occur as a designation of the elect people among themselves. If, as seems implied in Genesis 10, Eber be a Patronymic , his name must be prophetic (as Peleg is) of the migrations of his descendants.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

Designation of Abraham and of his descendants. The name is first met with when Lot had been carried away prisoner, one came and told Abram 'the Hebrew.'  Genesis 14:13 . Hence it is applied to Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob in distinction to the name of Israelites (from the name of Israel given to Jacob), which is their covenant name, the name of promise. It may be remarked how Saul king of Israel had lost the sense of this when he said "Let the Hebrews hear."  1 Samuel 13:3 .

The term occurs in the N.T. only in  Acts 6:1 to distinguish the Greek-speaking Jews from those of Palestine, and in   2 Corinthians 11:22 and   Philippians 3:5 concerning the ancestors of Paul, wherein, to meet the cavilling of the Judaising teachers, he calls himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews, one who had descended without any Gentile or proselyte blood.

It is not very clear why Abraham was called a Hebrew. It is generally supposed to be derived from his ancestor Eber or Heber; but it will be seen from  Genesis 11:17-26 that there were five generations between Eber and Abraham, so by this derivation many others might have been called Hebrews.   Genesis 10:21 says that Shem was "the father of all the children of Eber." This shows that the Hebrews were Shemites, but many other tribes were 'Shemites' that could not be called Hebrews. In scripture the name is not applied to any except to Abraham and his descendants, and only to those who descended through Isaac and Jacob, to the exclusion of the children of Ishmael and Esau. So that there must be some other reason for the name and for its being thus restricted.

The root of the word is 'to pass over,' as when one passes over a river, or from one region to another. Abraham was bidden to leave his country and his kindred and to go into the land of Canaan, and the word Hebrew is not employed until Abraham had left his country and was in the land of Canaan.  Genesis 14:13 . When there he was a 'sojourner,' in a strange country, dwelling in tents.  Hebrews 11:9 . The name was therefore characteristic, and the people of the land could go to Abraham the 'sojourner' and tell him that Lot had been taken prisoner. Joseph when in Egypt said he had been stolen from "the land of the Hebrews."  Genesis 40:15 . The above characteristic was doubtless subsequently lost, and nothing seen in it but the natural descent from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob; the same persons being mostly called Israelites. The descendants of Ishmael and Esau were not sojourners in the promised land, but wandered whither they would. The name Hebrew does not occur in the O.T. after 1Samuel except in  Jeremiah 34:9,14 and once in   Jonah 1:9 .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

The name ‘Hebrew’ comes from Eber, a descendant of Shem, the son of Noah. This means that the Hebrews were one of the Semitic peoples, Semites being those descended from Shem ( Genesis 10:21;  Genesis 10:25). Abraham was a Hebrew, being descended from Shem through Eber ( Genesis 11:10-26;  Genesis 14:13). The descendants of Abraham, therefore, were also Hebrews ( Genesis 39:17;  Genesis 40:15;  Genesis 43:32).

In time the meaning of the name ‘Hebrew’ became more restricted in that it applied only to those who were descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. In other words, ‘Hebrew’ became simply another name for ‘Israelite’ ( Exodus 1:15;  Exodus 2:6;  Exodus 2:11;  Exodus 3:18;  Exodus 5:3;  Exodus 21:2;  1 Samuel 4:6;  1 Samuel 13:19;  1 Samuel 14:11;  1 Samuel 29:3;  Jeremiah 34:9;  Jonah 1:9;  Acts 6:1;  2 Corinthians 11:22;  Philippians 3:5). A third name, which came into use later, was ‘Jew’, and this has remained in common use till the present day ( Jeremiah 34:9;  John 1:19;  Acts 2:5;  Romans 11:1; see Jew ). (Concerning Hebrew as the language of the Old Testament see Manuscripts .)

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

He'brew. This word first occurs as given to Abram by the Canaanites,  Genesis 4:13 because he had crossed the Euphrates. The name is also derived from Eber , "Beyond, On The Other Side", Abraham and his posterity being called Hebrews, in order to express a distinction between the races, east and west of the Euphrates.

It may also be derived from Heber , one of the ancestors of Abraham.  Genesis 10:24. The term Israelite, was used by the Jews of themselves among themselves; the term Hebrew was the name by which they were known to foreigners. The latter was accepted by the Jews in their external relations; and after the general substitution of the word Jew , it still found a place in that marked and special feature of national contradistinction, the language.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

  • A third derivation of the word has been suggested, viz., that it is from the Hebrew word 'Abhar , "To pass over," whence 'Ebher , In the sense of a "sojourner" or "passer through" as distinct from a "settler" in the land, and thus applies to the condition of Abraham (  Hebrews 11:13 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Hebrew'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/h/hebrew.html. 1897.

  • People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

    Hebrew ( Hç'Brew ), a name given to Abram by the Canaanites,  Genesis 14:13, because he had crossed the Euphrates. The name some derive from ʾÊber, "beyond, on the other side," Abraham and his posterity being called Hebrews in order to express a distinction between the races east and west of the Euphrates. It may also be derived from Eber, or Heber, one of the ancestors of Abraham.  Genesis 10:24 See Jews.

    Webster's Dictionary [8]

    (1): ( n.) The language of the Hebrews; - one of the Semitic family of languages.

    (2): ( n.) An appellative of Abraham or of one of his descendants, esp. in the line of Jacob; an Israelite; a Jew.

    (3): ( a.) Of or pertaining to the Hebrews; as, the Hebrew language or rites.

    King James Dictionary [9]

    HE'BREW, n. Heb. Eber, either a proper name, or a name denoting passage, pilgrimage, or coming from beyond the Euphrates.

    One of the descendants of Eber, or Heber but particularly, a descendant of Jacob, who was a descendant of Eber an Israelite a Jew.

    1. The Hebrew language.

    HE'BREW, a. Pertaining to the Hebrews as the Hebrew language or rites.

    Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [10]

    HEBREW . See Eber; Text Versions and Languages of OT.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

    (Heb. Ibri עַבְרַי , Plur. עַבְרַים or עַבְרַיַּים  Exodus 3:18; fem. עַבְרַיָּה , "Hebrewess," plur. עַכְרַיּות Greek Ε᾿Βραῖος ), a designation of the people of Israel, used first of their progenitor Abraham ( Genesis 14:13; Sept. Τῷ Περάτῃ ). This name is never in Scripture applied to the Israelites except when the speaker is a foreigner ( Genesis 39:14;  Genesis 39:17;  Genesis 41:12;  Exodus 1:16;  Exodus 2:6;  1 Samuel 4:6;  1 Samuel 4:9, etc.), or when Israelites speak of themselves to one of another nation ( Genesis 40:15;  Exodus 1:19;  Jonah 1:9, etc.), or when they are contrasted with other peoples ( Genesis 43:32;  Exodus 1:3;  Exodus 1:7;  Exodus 1:15;  Deuteronomy 15:12;  1 Samuel 13:3;  1 Samuel 13:7). See Gesenius, Thes. Heb. s.v. (The only apparent exception is  Jeremiah 34:9; but here there is probably such an implied contrast between the Jews and other peoples as would bring the usage under the last case.) By the Greek and Latin writers this is the name by which the descendants of Jacob are designated when they are not called Jews (Pausan. 5. 5,2; 6:24, 6; Plut. Sympos. 4, 6, 1; Tacit. Hist. 5, 1); and Josephus, who affects classical peculiarities, constantly uses it. In the N.T. we find the same contrast between Hebrews and foreigners ( Acts 6:1;  Philippians 3:5): the Hebrew language is distinguished from all others ( Luke 23:38;  John 5:2;  John 19:13;  Acts 21:40;  Acts 26:14;  Revelation 9:11); while in  2 Corinthians 11:22 the word is used as only second to Israelite in the expression of national peculiarity. On these facts two opposing hypotheses have been raised; the one that Israelite or Jew was the name by which the nation designated itself (just as the Welsh call themselves Cymry, though in speaking of themselves to a Saxon they would probably use the name Welsh); the other is that "Hebrew" is a national name, merely indicative of the people as a people, while Israelite is a sacred or religious name appropriate to them as the chosen people of God. This latter opinion Gesenius dismisses as "without foundation" (Lexicon by Robinson, s.v.), but it has received the deliberate sanction of Ewald (Ausf Ü hrl. Lehrb. der Heb. Spr. p. 18, 5th ed.).

    Derivation of the Name.

    I. From Abram, Abraei, and by euphony Hebrcei (August., Ambrose). Displaying, as it does, the utmost ignorance of the language, this derivation was never extensively adopted, and was even retracted by Augustine (Retract. 16). The euphony alleged by Ambrose is quite imperceptible, and there is no parallel in the Lat. Meridie =Medidie.

    II. According to the sacred writer, עברי , Hebrew, Is a derivative from עבר , Eber, the ancestor of Abraham; at least the same persons who are called Hebrews are called בני עבר , Sons Of Eber ( Genesis 10:21); and עבר Eber ( Numbers 24:24); and this is tantamount to a derivation of the name Hebrew from Eber. In support of this, it may be urged that עברל is the proper form which a patronymic from עבר would assume; according to the analogy of מואבי , A Moabite דני , A Danite, כלבי , A Calebite, etc. (Hiller, Onomast. Sac. c. 14:p. 231 sq.). What adds much force to this argument is the evident antithesis in  Genesis 14:13, between אברם העברי and ממרא האמרי ; the former of these is as evidently a patronymic as the latter. This view is supported by Josephus, Suidas, Bochart, Vatablus, Drusius,Vossius, Buxtorf, Hottinger, Leusden, Whiston, and Bauer. Theodoret (Quaest. in Genesis 61) urges against it that the Hebrews were not the only descendants of Eber, and, therefore, could not appropriate his name; and the objection has often been repeated. To meet it, recourse has been had to the suggestion, first adduced, we believe, by Ibni Ezra (Comment. ad Jon. 1, 9), that the descendants of Abraham retained the name Hebrew from Eber, because they alone of his descendants retained the faith which he held. This may be, but we are hardly entitled to assume it in order to account for the fact before us. It is better to throw the onus probandi on the objector, and to demand of him, in our ignorance of what determined the use of such patronymics in one line of descent and not in others, that he should show cause why it is inconceivable that Abraham might have a good and sufficient reason for wishing to perpetuate the memory of his descent from Eber, which did not apply to the other descendants of that patriarch. Why might not one race of the descendants of Eber call themselves by pre-eminence sons of Eber, just as one race of the descendants of Abraham called themselves by preeminence sons of Abraham. But Eber, it is objected, is a name of no note in the history; we know nothing of him to entitle him to be selected as the person after whom a people should call themselves. But is our ignorance to be the measure of the knowledge of Abraham and his descendants on such a point? Because we know nothing to distinguish Eber, does it follow that they knew nothing? Certain it is that he was of sufficient importance to reflect a glory on his father Shem, whose highest designation is "the father of all the children of Eber" ( Genesis 10:21); and certain it is that his name lingered for many generations in the region where he resided, for it was as "Eber" that the Mesopotamian prophet knew the descendants of Jacob, and spoke of them when they first made their appearance in warlike force on the borders of the promised land ( Numbers 24:24).

    On the other hand, it is contended that the passage  Genesis 10:21 is not so much genealogical as ethnographical; and in this view it seems that the words are intended to contrast Shem with Ham and Japhet, and especially with the former. Now Babel is plainly fixed as the extreme east limit of the posterity of Ham (Genesis 10), from whose land Nimrod went out into Assyria (Genesis 11, margin of A. Vers.): in the next place, Egypt (Genesis 13) is mentioned as the western limit of the same great race; and these two extremes having been ascertained, the historian proceeds ( Genesis 13:15-18) to fill up his ethnographic sketch with the intermediate tribes of the Canaanites. In short, in Genesis 6-20 we have indications of three geographical points which distinguish the posterity of Ham, viz. Egypt, Palestine, and Babylon. At the last-mentioned city, at the river Euphrates, their proper occupancy, unaffected by the exceptional movement of Asshur, terminated, and at the same point that of the descendants of Shem began. Accordingly, the sharpest contrast that could be devised is obtained by generally classing these latter nations as those beyond the river Euphrates; and the words "father of all the children of Eber," i.e. father of the nations to the east of the Euphrates, find an intelligible place in the context.

    It must also be confessed that in the genealogical scheme in  Genesis 11:10-26, it does not appear that the Jews thought of Eber as a source primary, or even secondary of the national descent. The genealogy neither starts from him, nor in its uniform sequence does it rest upon him with any emphasis. There is nothing to distinguish Eber above Arphaxad, Peleg, or Serug. Like them, he is but a link in the chain by which Shem is connected with Abraham. Indeed, the tendency of the Iraelitish retrospect is to stop at Jacob. It is with Jacob that their history as a nation begins: beyond Jacob they held their ancestry in common with the Edomites; beyond Isaac they were in danger of being confounded with the Ishmaelites. The predominant figure of the emphatically Hebrew Abraham might tempt them beyond those points of affinity with other races, so distasteful, so anti-national; but it is almost inconceivable that they would voluntarily originate and perpetuate an appellation of themselves which landed them on a platform of ancestry where they met the whole population of Arabia ( Genesis 10:25;  Genesis 10:30).

    III. Hence others (as Jerome, Theodoret, Origen, Chrysostom, Arias Montanus, R. Bechai, Paul Burg., Munster, Grotius, Scaliger, Selden, Rosenm Ü ller, Gesenius, and Eichhorn) prefer tracing עברי to the verb עָבִר , To Pass Over, or the noun עֵבֶר , the region or country beyond,. By those who favor the former etymology, "Hebrew" is regarded s equivalent to "the man who passed over;" by those who favor the latter, it is taken to mean "the man from the region beyond;" and under both suppositions it is held to be applied by the Canaanites to Abraham as having crossed the Euphrates, or come; from the region beyond the Euphrates to Canaan. Of' these etymologies the former is now generally abandoned; it is felt that the supposition that the crossing: of the Euphrates was such an unparalleled achievement as to fix on him who accomplished it a name that should descend to his posterity, and become a national appellation, is somewhat too violent to be maintained; and, besides, as the verb עבר signifies to pass from This side to That, not from That side to This, it would not be the term applied by the people of Canaan to designate the act of one who had come from the other side of the Euphrates to them. The other etymology has more in its favor. It is that sanctioned by the Greek translators (Sept. Περάτης , Aq. Περαϊ v Της ); it is in accordance with the usage of the phrase עֲבֶר הִנָּהָר , which was employed to designate the region beyond the Euphrates ( Joshua 24:2-3;  2 Samuel 10:16;  1 Chronicles 19:16); and it is not improbable that Abraham, coming among the Canaanites from beyond the Euphrates, might be designated by them "the man from the region beyond," just as Europeans might call an American "a transatlantic." But, though Bleek very confidently pronounces this view "without doubt the right one" (Einleitung Ins A. T. p. 72), it is open to serious, if not fatal objections.

    1. There is no instance of עבר by itself denoting the region beyond the Euphrates, or any other river; the phrase invariably used is עבר הנהר . Rosenm Ü ller following Hyde (Histor. Relig. Vet. Pers. p. 51), seeks to supply this desiderated instance by taking עבר as epexegetically of אשור in  Numbers 24:24 " affligant Assyriam et totam transfluvialem regionem." But the learned writer has in his zeal overlooked the second ענו , which quite precludes his exegesis. Knobel avoids this error by simply taking אשור =Assyria, and עבר =Mesopotamia; but in this case it is the proper name עבר , Eber, and not the preposition עבר , Trans, which is in question.

    2. If עברי was the proper designation of those who lived on the other side of the Euphrates, we should find that name applied to such as Continued to dwell there, not to a race descended from one who had left that region never to return.

    3. Though Abraham, as having been originally a transfluvian, might be so called by the Canaanites, it is improbable that they should have extended this name to his posterity, to whom it in no sense applied. No one would think of continuing the term "transatlantic" to persons born in. Britain on the ground that a remote ancestor had come from across the Atlantic to settle in that country! As to the sanction which this etymology derives from the Sept., no great weight can be attached to that when we remember how often these translators have erred in this way; and also that they have given Ιπαιοᾷχ as the rendering of בני עבר in  Numbers 24:24; "Plus vice simplici hallucinati sunt interpretes Graeci eorum ut nobis standum cadendumve non sit autoritate" (Carpzov, Crit. Sac. V. T. p. 171). We may add that the authority of the Sept. and Aquila on such a point is urged with a bad grace by those who treat with contempt the etymologies of the Hebrew text as resting on mere Jewish tradition; if a Jewish tradition of the time of Moses is subject to suspicion, Afortiori is one of the age of Ptolemy Lagi and of Alexandrian origin. Ewald pronounces this derivation "quite uncertain." 4. This derivation is open to the strong objection that Hebrew nouns ending in י are either patronymics or gentilic nouns (Buxtorf, Leusden). This is a technical objection which-though fatal to the Περάτης , or Appellative derivation as traced back to the verb-does not apply to the same as referred to the noun עבר . The analogy of Galli, Angli, Hispani, derived from Gallia, Anglia, Hispania (Leusden), is a complete blunder in ethnography; and, at any rate, it would confirm rather than destroy the derivation from the noun.

    IV. Parkhurst, whose works occasionally present suggestions worth consideration, has advanced the opinion that עברי is a derivation from the verb עבר in the sense Of Passing Through Or From Place To Place (compare  Genesis 18:5;  Exodus 32:27;  Ezekiel 35:7;  2 Chronicles 30:10, etc.); so that its meaning would be a sojourner or passer through, as distinct from a settler in the land. This undoubtedly exactly describes the condition of Abraham and his immediate descendants, and might very naturally be assumed by them as a designation; for, as the apostle says, "they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" ( Hebrews 11:13). In this case the statement in  Genesis 10:21;  Numbers 24:24, must be understood as referring to the posterity of Eber generally, and not to the Hebrews specially or exclusively. The most serious objection to Parkhurst's suggestion arises from the form of the word עברי . A word from עבר , to convey the meaning of Transitor, or One Passing Through, we should expect to find in the form עוֹבֵי or עֹבֵר .

    On the whole. the derivation of Ibri (Hebrew) from Eber seems to have most in its favor and least against it. (See on this side Augustine, De Civit. Dei, 6, 11; Buxtorf, Diss. 3, 27; Bochart, Phaleg, 2, 14; Hottinger, Thes. Phil. p. 4; Leusden, Phil. Heb. Diss. 21; Morinus, De Ling. Primcev. p. 64; Pfeiffer, Diff. Script. Locc., Opp. p. 49; Carpzov, Crit. Sac. p. 165; Hezel, Gesch. d. Hebr. Spr. sec. 4; Ewald, Asfiihrl. Lehrbuch der Heb. Gram. p. 19, 5th edit.; Geschichte des V. Israel, 1, 334; Havernick, Introd. to the O.T. p. 125; Baumgarten, Theol. Comment. sum Pent. ad loc. On the other side, see Theodoret, Quaest. in Genesis 16; Chrysostom, Hom. 35 in Genesis; Selden, De Diis Syris, p. 13; Walton, Proleg. p. 15 sq., in Dathes edit. p. 68; Gussetius, Comment. Ling. Heb. Diss. Proem. p, 7; Michaelis, Spicileg. Geogr. Heb. Ext. 2, 66; Gesenius, Gesoh. der Heb. Spr. p. 11; Grammar, sec. 2.) (See Jew).

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [12]

    A Semitic language, the ancient language of the Jews, and that in which the Old Testament is written, the words of which, as indeed of others of the same stock, are derived from triliteral roots, and the verb in which has no present tense, only a past and a future, convertible, moreover, into one another.