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habited by Jacob and his family, whence Joseph is brought, is called "the land of the Hebrews, Gen. xl. 15. God himself, when he sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, took upon himself this title and character," The Lord God of the Hebrews," Ex. iii. 18. Which character is often mentioned in the accounts of Moses's appearances before Pharaoh. Ex. v. 3; vii. 16; ix. 1; x. 3.
I do not now inquire into the origin of this name, though the disquisition might be curious. I had rather, for the sake of brevity, refer to others. Whatever was the origin of the name, it was early known, and seems to have been peculiar to Abraham and his descendants, by Isaac and Jacob, when Moses was sent to conduct the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. And " the Lord God of the Hebrews," and "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," are used as equivalent. Ex. iii. 6, 15, 16, 18; iv. 5.
It was a common denomination of the children of Israel, when they dwelt in Egypt: And "the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives". -And he said: "When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, if it be a son, ye shall kill him- -And the midwives said unto Pharaoh- -because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women," Ex. i. 15, 16, 19. When Pharaoh's daughter found Moses, she said: "This is one of the Hebrews' children. Then said his sister unto Pharaoh's daughter; Shall I go, and call thee a nurse of the Hebrew women?" Ex. ii. 6, 7. Afterwards, when Moses was grown, he went out unto his brethren, and espied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren- [And] when he went out the second day, behold two men of the Hebrews strove together," ver. 11–13.
Hebrew, or Hebrews, is often used in the first book of Samuel, as equivalent to Israelites, or the people of Israel. 1 Sam. iv. 6, 9; xiii. 3; and elsewhere.
When the mariners in the ship said to Jonah, i. 8, 9, "What is thy occupation? and whence comest thou? What is thy country? and of what people art thou? He said unto them; I am an Hebrew. And I fear the Lord God of heaven, which made the sea and the dry land."
This denomination is seldom found in the later books of the Old Testament. However, it is in Jeremiah, ch. xxxiv.
a Vid. Bochart. Geo. S. P. i. l. 2. c. 14. Scalig. Not. in Græca Eusebii. p. 410. Voss. de Orig. Idol. 1. 3. c. 44. p. 356. Br. Walton, Proleg. iii. Huet. Dem. Ev. Prop. iv. cap. 13. Jo. Cleric. Comm. in Gen. x. 21. xiv. 13. et Disserta. de Ling. Hebr.
The place is remarkable, and will be of use to us in the present inquiry. "This is the word, that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord- -That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maid-servant, being a Hebrew or Hebrewess, go free: that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother-Then they obeyed, and let them go. Afterwards they caused them to return, and brought them into subjection for servants, and for handmaids-Therefore the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying; Thus saith the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers, saying; At the end of seven years, let ye go every man his brother, an Hebrew, which has been sold unto thee
Let us therefore observe the laws, which are here referred to. Ex. xxi. 2, " If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve thee; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing." Deut. xv. 12, " If thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee." Lev. xxv. 44-46, "Both thy bondmen, and thy bond-maids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen [or the nations] that are round about thee. Of them shall ye buy bond-men, and bond-maids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them for an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession. They shall be your bond-men for ever. But over your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule one over another with rigour."
"By strangers sojourning among them," I understand proselytes, men circumcised after the manner of the Mosaic law. We here therefore see the great difference between the children of Israel, or native Jews, and strangers, or proselytes. And in speaking of this matter, for preventing ambiguity, the words Hebrew or Hebrewess, are used by Jeremiah, as certainly denoting the descendants of Abraham and the other patriarchs.
In the laws, just transcribed from the books of Moses, there are clearly mentioned three sorts of persons: "Hebrews, [or] children of Israel," that is, native Jews; then "strangers sojourning among them," or proselytes; lastly,
heathens," that is, the nations, or Gentiles. The prophet demands liberty after six years' servitude for the first only, not for any of the others. The law of Moses did not em
power him to do more. And the command of God, by the prophet, certainly, is agreeable to his own laws, first delivered by the hand of Moses.
I shall just observe, as we go along, that Josephus says of himself, heb was a Hebrew by birth. And Eusebius says of Moses, that he was a great divine, and a Hebrew of Hebrews. He also observes the antiquity of this name, and says, that Joseph was a Hebrew of Hebrews, but there were yet no Jews. Which is very true. For the people of Israel were not called Jews, tille about the time of the Babylonish captivity. After that, a man of any nation, who embraced the religion of the Jews, and was circumcised after the manner of Moses, became a Jew. But he never could be a Hebrew, that denomination being peculiar to the descendants of the ancient patriarchs.
There are three places in the New Testament where this title is found. One is that of the text under consideration. Another is 2 Cor. xi. 22," Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I." The third is Philip. iii. 5, " Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews." He was circumcised the eighth day; which is a proof, he was born of parents, who were themselves Jews, and punctually obeyed the law of Moses. However, this might have been, and he have been no more than the child of a proselyte; He therefore proceeds, and says, he was of " the stock of Israel," or the seed of Jacob; and particularly, “ of the tribe of Benjamin,” an honoured tribe, upon divers accounts, particularly, as Benjamin was one of the sons of Jacob by Rachel, his wife, as shef is styled in the catalogue of Jacob's family, which went into Egypt; but especially as this tribe had, in a great measure, preserved itself from idolatry. "An Hebrew of the Hebrews," or rather," an Hebrew of Hebrews:" meaning, that he was himself a Hebrew, and descended from Hebrews.
As Paul was a Hebrew, though born out of Judea, at Tarsus in Cilicia, where the Greek tongue was used, we are fully assured, that by the Grecians cannot be meant Jews, who used the Greek language.
b ——уevel 'Eßparos. De B. J. 1. i. pr. 1.
c 'Ο τοινυν μεγας θεολογος Μωσης, ̔Εβραιος ων εξ Εβραίων, ει και τις αλλος. κ. λ. Pr. Ev. 1. 7. c. 7. p. 305. Πλην αλλα και στος ̔Εβραιος, εξ 'Εβραίων, εχι δε Ιεδαιος, ότι μηδε ην πω τα Ιεδαίων. Ib. cap. 8. p. 312.
Josephus dates the origin of this name after their return from the Babylonish captivity. Ant. 1. 11. v. 7. "The sons of Rachel, Jacob's wife: Joseph and Benjamin," Gen. xlvi. 19.
From all these texts, therefore, now alleged from the Old and New Testament, it appears, the denomination or character of Hebrew, is the privilege of birth, not of choice, or acquisition, or accidental circumstance. All descendants of Abraham the Hebrew, by Isaac and Jacob, wherever they are born, and whatever language they use, are Hebrews. Nor can any other men be Hebrews, but only they who are descended from Abraham.
This then, is the first consideration, tending to determine who these Grecians were. To whom we now proceed.
Grecians, or Hellenists, as in the original. The word Grecians occurs thrice in our English version of the New Testament; here, and ch. ix. 29, and xi. 20. But it is well known to the learned, that in the second of these places the Alexandrian MS. has Greeks; which also is the reading in the third text, not only in the Alexandrian manuscript, but likewise in the Latin Vulgate, and several other versions. Whatever are the readings, it is apparent, that the same persons are not intended in the third and last text, as in the two former.
Various have been the sentiments of learned men concerning the Grecians, mentioned here, and in ch. ix. 29. The most prevailing opinions are these two. Some hereby understand Jews, born out of Judea, who spake Greek, and used the Greek version of the Old Testament in their synagogues. The other opinion is, that these Grecians were proselytes, or men of other nations, who had embraced the Jewish religion.
That the former are not here intended, has been, as I apprehend, sufficiently shown already. I therefore go on to support farther the opinion, that these Grecians were proselytes.
Which, I think, may be argued from the neglect they had met with. There arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected, Tарelewрevто, were overlooked, passed by, omitted, in the daily ministration. There was no regard had to them. There were no allowances or distributions made to them.
This may have been owing to two reasons, because they were few in number, and because they were despised. There may be some reason to think it was chiefly owing to
Seven different opinions have been taken notice of by some learned writers. Vid. Fabr. Bib. Gr. 1. 4. c. vi. T. III. p. 226. et Lux Evangelii, cap. iv. p. 59, 60. et Wolf. Curæ ad Act. vi. 1. η Παρεθεωρεντο.] * despicerentur,' id est, negligerentur, et contemnerentur. Joach. Camer. in loc.
The Jews of this time knew very well how to pay respect to proselytes of distinction, as they did to Helena, queen of the Adiabenes, and her son Izates. But for the most part native Jews, descendants of Abraham and the patriarchs, must have been preferred to proselytes. I cannot conceive any reason why any Jews should have been neglected, barely because they were born out of Judea, and used the Greek language. But proselytes might be overlooked, because they were reckoned much inferior to Israelites. Proselytes were admitted to eat the passover, and to communion with Israelites in all religious privileges. But they were far from enjoying equal civil privileges with the children of Israel. This must be apparent from what was before alleged from the thirty-fourth chapter of Jeremiah, and parallel places.
I beg leave to take notice of some other things relating to them from the Old Testament. When the Gibeonites had beguiled Joshua, and the elders, and their deceit was known, "all the congregation murmured against the princes:" however, as they had" made a league with them, to let them live, and the princes of the congregation had sworn to them," they would not falsify their oath. They gave them their lives, but took from them their lands, and made them slaves, or little better. As it is said, Josh. ix. 26, 27, "Joshua delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not. And he made them hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord."
And we are told," that Saul sought to slay them," or endeavoured to extirpate them, in "his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah," 2 Sam. xxi. 2. Which shows, that they were not beloved, and that this zeal of Saul was popular. But it was resented in the time of David.
This sort of men were employed in the laborious works for building the temple. 1 Chr. xxi. 2, “ And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel. And he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God." And 2 Chr. ii. 17, 18, " And Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel, after the numbering, wherewith David his father had numbered them. And they were found an hundred and
See Ex. xii. 48, 49; Numb. ix. 14; and other places.
- * Και συνήγαγε Σαλόμων παντας τες ανδρας τες προσηλυτες, τες εν γη Ισραηλ. κ. λ. LXX.
Numeravit igitur Salomon omnes viros proselytos, qui erant in terrâ Israel. Hieron.