Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily, and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. (Esther 3:4)
The Hebrews And The Jews
Esther is a book about a Jewish maiden who became queen of Persia. The story revolves around Esther being chosen to replace the first queen of Persia, Vashti, and the conflict between Haman, a prince of Persia, and Mordecai, a relative of Esther. Haman had been promoted by the king to receive honor and glory, but Haman would not bow and give reverence to him. When Haman inquired who Mordecai was, it was reported that he was a Jew. The name Jew was not always a part of the history of Israel. When Abraham came to the land of Canaan, he was called a Hebrew because he had come from the other side of the Euphrates. The Hebrew distinction could have come from an ancestor of Abraham called Eber. As the people of Abraham began to grow, they were known as the Hebrews.
Potiphar’s wife referred to Joseph as the “Hebrew servant.” The Egyptians called the family of Jacob Hebrews. Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and the next day saw two Hebrews fighting each other. The term Hebrew became the distinction of the people of Abraham and also became the derivation of their language. The children of Israel came from the lineage of the twelve sons of Jacob. After wrestling with the Man all night, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. The Hebrew nation would be known as the nation of Israel and its citizens, Israelites. Before the law was given at Sinai, the people were known as the Hebrews. When they became a nation at Sinai, they were the people of Israel. 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.
Following the death of Solomon, Israel divided into the ten tribes who rebelled with Jeroboam, and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained faithful to Rehoboam. The northern tribes were called Israel and the southern tribes Judah. In 722 B.C. Assyria took Israel captive, and the ten tribes were never heard from again. Judah and Benjamin were carried away to Babylonian captivity in 606 B.C. Before the Babylonian captivity, the remaining Hebrews were called Jews as a corruption of the name Judah. Jeremiah would call his people Jews. By the time of Esther and Mordecai, the people of God are referred to as Jews, a name that will become synonymous with the children of Abraham.
The wise men seeking Jesus called Him the King of the Jews, and the woman at the well called Jesus a Jew. John uses the term Jew extensively in his book, and Luke writing the Acts of the apostles, refers to the Hebrews as Jews. Paul shows the distinction of humanity when he refers to the Jews and the Gentiles (Greeks). There is one lineage of men that come from Adam, and there are those who by heritage comes from Adam through Abraham. While the tribal identities have been lost over time and no Jew can identify which son of Jacob they have descended, they remain Hebrews or Israelites by birth. The Hebrews came out of Egypt and became the Israelites at Sinai. After the fall of the northern tribes and Judah and Benjamin remained, then the Hebrew Israelites became known as the Jews.
Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, and He was called a Jew. God sent His Son to die for everyone called a Jew and all those called Gentiles. In the eyes of God, there is no distinction. The Jews cannot be saved without Jesus, and no Gentile (non-Jew) will be saved without Jesus. Only in Jesus are the Jew and Gentile brought together as one. There is no distinction. Thank God for His mercy and grace to all men.