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The Term "Jew"

Our nation was historically called Israelites or Hebrews. I am wondering why always you refer to the Israelite or the Hebrew Nation as "Jew" when only after the captivity of 722 BCE that the people of the Tribe of Judah were called "Jews." Nowadays, “Jew” is the common term for any believer or follower of the "Jewish" belief. Am I wrong?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

From the time of the prophet Joshua, when the Jewish people came into the Land of Israel, each of the 12 Tribes settled a different area of land. The area that each tribe settled became known by the tribe's name – for example, the region around Jerusalem is known as Judah. At this time, when the term "Judah-ite" was used, it only referred to those who came from that tribe.

In the late 700s BCE, approximately two-thirds of the Jewish nation was taken into captivity. The only parts of the Land of Israel that remained were the portions of Judah and Benjamin. (Since then, the Ten Tribes' whereabouts has been unknown.) When the Romans became the ruling power of the Middle East 2000 years ago, they referred to this entire region as "Judea," since that Judah was significantly larger than Benjamin. Therefore, all the people came to be called "Judean," from which derives the English word "Jew."

There is a deep lesson to be derived from this historical reality. In Hebrew, the word Judah includes all the letters to spell out God's four-letter name, plus a Daled ("D"). The Daled stands for King David, who was the first king over the united Jewish people, and the forefather of the Messiah.

Yehuda means "to admit" or "acknowledge." In the Bible, when Tamar was about to be executed for adultery, Yehuda risked his personal reputation and stood up for the truth, admitting that he was the one responsible for her predicament. For thousands of years, that has been the hallmark of the Jewish people: standing up for what is right, even at personal expense.

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