Friday, November 21, 2014


Have you ever wondered where the name Hebrew came from? When did the Israelites start being known as Hebrews? And why? Recently these question came to my mind.

Strong's Concordance defines Hebrew as being related to Eber, who was a descendant of Noah's son Shem and an ancestor of Abram. That's an interesting connection, but why not say "the Shemite" if you're going to refer to a relative. The NKJV Concordance simply called it a term used in referring to Jews.

The Chronological Study Bible and The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible along with an article in the Biblical Location of the Lost Ten Tribes gave me a better explanation of the term.

The first one to be called a Hebrew is Abraham, while he is still known as Abram. We see this reference in Genesis 14. Prior to this Abraham is just Abram, the man God called to leave the home he knew, taking his family and way of life to the mysterious land God promised him. So what happened to change how Abram was known?

Well, during that time there were a group of wanderers that were called Habiru, also known as Hapiru and Apiru. (Just a side note: the root word here comes from a word meaning to cross over.) These people left their homelands, for whatever reason, and wandered about other lands, finding no place to rest and settle. Some of these groups were large and fought as an army. And, as is with all groups, some of these people caused trouble wherever they went.

Let's do a quick review of Abraham's story and see if he falls under the definition of Habiru.

Abram and Lot left their homeland to travel to this promised location. They never settled anywhere because they went where the grass was green and their flocks could feed. But after leaving Egypt Abram decides they need to part company in order to keep the peace between their workers. So Lot chooses the land where the grass is green enough that it resembles the Garden of Eden and Egypt, and Abram goes into Canaan. So now there's two related groups with very large flocks roaming the countryside in two directions.

And when Lot is captured, an escapee goes to the other wandering relative, Abram, to bring his army of 318 men to rescue the captives. And he does. Unfortunately for Lot, he is returned home to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I don't know about you, but the definition of Habiru sure seems to fit Abraham. I can see where people would have looked at him as being a Habiru. And it's so similar in spelling to Hebrew, they look like they might have been pronounced similarly. Although, the article linked above states the words are pronounced differently. In spite of this, it totally makes sense to me.

Of course, the reference stuck. Descendants of Abraham still call themselves Hebrews. And, Israel calls their language Hebrew.

But I have one more tidbit of information. Hebrew isn't the only descriptive word given to the Israelites. According to the referenced site mentioned above, many Hebrews, or Israelites, migrated to the north into Europe. The Romans saw these people as uncivilized and called them Barbari or Iberi. From those names came the term barbarian. Who knew? All this time I thought barbarians were a rough, unkempt, murderous people. Actually, the definitions found in include uncivilized and savage. But it also includes philistine, and someone living outside the Roman Empire or a Christian country.

Isn't word history interesting? This has given me a greater understanding of how others viewed the father of many nations when he first came on the scene. And, it fills in the gaps, so to speak.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What's the Therefore There For?

Have you ever looked at 2 Thessalonians 1:11? Paul is writing to the Thessalonians and tells them, "Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,..." (2 Thessalonians 1:11)(NKJV)
A friend asked me to prepare a devotional thought on this verse and I have to admit at first it left me a little perplexed as to its meaning. But then I remembered a lesson I received many years ago. . .when you see "therefore" go back and see what it's there for. So I did. I read the whole chapter. Turns out, it's a wonderful blessing written by Paul.

In essence he's saying, "You're doing a great job and we're bragging on you. Don't worry about what you're going through because those who are trying their best to put you down and tear up your families, homes and businesses are going to find themselves in the middle of destruction and far from anything God has to offer. Also, because you've been doing a good job up to now we're praying that God keeps giving you the power and faith to complete all your desires to do this good work. In this way you can glorify Jesus and He can glorify you."

With this message in mind, I come away with a couple of thoughts. One, God gives me the strength to continue striving to be His example before others no matter what life throws my way. And for the record, one thing I've learned is that what one person sees as a huge persecution is nothing  to someone else. It's all in what we can individually handle. God knows this. He knows us better than we know ourselves. In fact, He's there through each little or big struggle helping us to succeed.

And, secondly, that old adage of troubles showing where you truly stand with God is reflected in this scripture. Troubles and frustrations, which I'd rather not have, aren't there to add stress to my life. They are opportunities to show love to my fellow believers; to show tolerance, love and guidance to those who have yet to find Jesus; to bring glory to God because no matter the outcome He walks through those troubling times with me.

All I can say is, "Ouch." I don't always remember this. Unfortunately, I know I don't pass the test every time. And when I compare my dealings to the persecutions believers on the other side of the world deal with, I feel as small as a mouse. But then I remember, God knows this. And He's there for each of us in each struggle we face cheering us on to be a shining light to those who live in our circle of life and thus bringing glory to Jesus.