Hebrew (hebrew Insight)

What does hebrew mean in hebrew?

Way before we called the people of Israel “Jews” (which happened long after the Babylonian exile was over), the Bible called them “Hebrews”.

The very first “Hebrew” was Abraham – the father of all monotheistic believers. But what does “Hebrew” actually mean in the Hebrew language? What characterized Abraham as such?

The word Hebrew comes from the verb לַעֲבור-La’avor, which means “to cross over.” On the one hand, Abraham crossed over from Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq) into Canaan, which is modern-day Israel. On the other hand, he crossed over from the world of idol worship that was familiar to him and his family to a new realm, one in which one true God was worshiped instead.  In both senses Abraham became forever an עִבְרִי-‘ivri   (a Hebrew) – one who has crossed over.

To cross over into the land of Biblical Hebrew, please, click HERE.





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  1. Kelvin Burks

    The Hebrew the words first occurs as given to Ibrim by the Canaaities, Gen. 14:13, because he had crossed the Euphrates. The name is also derived from erber (beyond, on the other side. Ibrihim and his posterity called Hebrews in order to express a distinct ion between the races east and west of the Euphrates, Gen. 10:24. The term Israelite was used by the Jews of themselves among themselves; the term Hebrew eas 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 on that marked and special feature of national contradistinction , the language.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Kelvin, when you post things that you did not author. You MUST give a reference. This entire text that you posted here can be found http://sabda.org/netbible5/dictionary.php?dict=smith&id=1910 So, please, refrain from doing so in the future. Dr. Eli

  2. Kelvin God's watchman

    Hebrew – This is what is called the Lashon Qodesh, or set-apart tongue, which will be restored during the 7th Millennium, read Zeph. 3:9. The word comes from Ibrahum’s great, great, great grandfather Erber. It was the language our Rabbi spoke to Shaul when he was thrown to the ground, and at Acts 26 Paul explains to Agrppa that he heard a voice speaking to him in Hegrew. Actually, that’s the on,y language Yahudim spoke to each other, except for those who were living in foreign lands. Aramaic is of Hebrew. Paul spoke many tongues.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Hebrew is Hebrew. Aramaic is Aramaic. Greek is Greek. All three were spoken by Jews in Roman Palestine at the time of Jesus.

      1. Vassilena Tanadjikova

        Greek or Koine was spoken at that time. The language of Alexander Makedonian.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Koine is a type of Greek (a common Greek).

  3. Walter

    To Rafael, his post dated 11/28/13.
    If we read Book of Enoch, we will find , that he is the FIRST generation who was able to write, and he wrote more than several books. Adam as far could not write and read propably not. For Enoch This was ordered to him by God, who wanted to relay His Comandments to the rest of the righteos on the Saint Mount . As far as Enoch, has wrote 366 books.
    Oryginal language of God to his People could have been Hebrew, but we have no prooof of that, just interesting structure of the language itself makes to think it is possible asumption..

    1. Rafael

      Thank you for your candor.

      I wrote more than one message on that date. But I know you refer to the one where I mention the tablet theory along with my belief that God wrote the first chapter of Genesis and used it to teach Adam how to read and write, after which, Adam wrote the next chapters, then his descendants, then theirs, all the way through Joseph.

      Regarding the so-called “Book of Enoch”, it may be authentic. It may not be. It was not included as canon, not by the Jews, nor by the gentile church “fathers”. I’ve heard the arguments. But they do not convince me.

      But I AM convinced by odd things in the internal structure of the wording in various places in Genesis, things that I myself noticed, when I was a kid, long before I ever heard of the tablet theory. I asked many people about those odd things. The best answer I ever got was not very good, just that “they talked strange back then”.

      Eventually, I gave up trying to find out. Many years passed. But just a couple of years ago, I read some articles making me aware of the tablet theory and explaining it. Suddenly, all those odd things were no longer strange. They now make perfect sense.

      The tablet theory is a modern theory, devised, I believe, within the last 200 years. But it’s based on some pretty good evidence.

      The so-called Book of Enoch shows some signs that it was authored long after the flood of Noah, not proofs by any means, but indications. Nobody really knows whether or not it was truly written by Enoch. There’s just no proof. And if it claims that writing originated with Enoch, then in view of my fondness for the tablet theory, and decent evidence in favor of it, I’m inclined to NOT trust the “Book of Enoch”. Thank you for giving me a reason to trust it less, even though I’m sure that was not your intention.

  4. Walter Kaczorowski

    “In the reference of this explanation I would like to comment, that many historical researchers rather see source for name being taken from the ancient Tribe Habiru ( or Apiru), who were, undestood, mostly runaway slaves, and combination of their tribe’s name and possible verb “leAVoR” may be was the source to begat THIS word of “Hebrew”= Habiru.
    Migration of Habiru to the land of Caanan and beyond to Egypt were expresly written in many historical writings. Jewish tradition portrays the original Hebrews as runaway slaves, and the authors of the Torah took this tradition seriously enough to write, in Chapter 23, Verse 16 of the Book of Deuteronomy: “You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill treat him”.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Walter, please a few historical original sources you are referring to. We can then consider them together. We should be open to any reasonable interpretive option at all times. Consider it and then choose the most plausible one given available information.

    2. Rafael

      I don’t know much about the sources you cite, but the “authors” of the Deuteronomy passage you mention were writing to a people which had parents who were slaves who “ran away” from their masters in Egypt. I don’t think any ancient tradition would outweigh such a recent memory. In other words, I favor the Deuteronomy passage being more heavily influenced by recent events than ancient ones.

      But I believe the author was God, who probably had in mind all slaves in all times, past, present, and future.

  5. jose daniel

    Shalom Dr. Eli,gracias por su interes en que aprendamos mas este hermoso y profundo lenguaje,
    sabia que hebreo significa” el que esta del otro lado”,pero precisamente del lado de Dios, por eso Pablo decia soy hebreo de hebreos, es correcto ?
    Shalom .

  6. Rafael

    I thought Eber was the first Hebrew, the head of the only branch of humans speaking Hebrew after the incident at the tower of Babel.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Rafael, indeed the was a person named Ever (Eber in English translation) that was his name, but from the people with another name to be called something like Abraham the Hebrew, Abraham indeed was the first one.

      1. Rafael

        Allow me to say it another way. Abraham spoke Hebrew, as did his father and grandfather, all the way back to Babel, yes? Probably everyone who descended from Eber spoke Hebrew. But spoken languages change quickly in isolation if not sufficiently anchored to a written form (as I believe was the case with Hebrew, in accordance with the tablet theory). I believe that Abraham and his cousins could communicate without a translator, and possibly their children, but doubtful their grandchildren. Yet they were all Hebrews and spoke some form of Hebrew, unless I’m wrong?

        1. Rafael

          But Abraham would likely have been about the only Hebrew in Palestine. Most of the others were back in Ur.

        2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          I think you are wrong :-). I thin you are concluding first that EBER was the first hebrew, that it your mind means that he spoke Hebrew, then others got it from him. But it is not at all as simple as that. See if this gets your further research going in another direction – http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/vayigash/sarfati.html

          Let’s keep on thinking together. Alright?

          Dr. Eli

          1. Rafael

            Interesting article.

            I don’t know if you’ve encountered the tablet Theory. As I said before, I’m inclined to believe it. I believe that Hebrew was the original language. I also believe that it was written from day one (or maybe day 6) and given to Adam. I believe that Adam added the next chapters. I believe each of his sons copied those and added their own chapters. I believe each of their sons copied the tablets of their fathers and added their own chapters. I believe this happened all the way to the flood. I believe the only set of tablets that survived the flood was Noah’s copy. And then the process continued.

            I believe that at the Tower of Babel, Eber was the only one who continued to speak Hebrew, and the only one who retained the ability to read it. Perhaps Eber moved his clan to Canaan. Eber was the great grandfather of Abraham’s great grandfather. Perhaps Abraham’s father or grandfather moved to Mesopotamia before he was born. Some of this is speculation and some of it is not.

            Regarding that article, I think I’m more inclined to agree with the Sages. The article influenced which land I believe the Hebrew language was in. But at the very least, Hebrew had to come from as far back as Babylon, and probably came from the events of Genesis 1. The same language may have been called different names in Canaan. When the languages later diverged, the language spoken by “the one who crossed over” (the hebrew), came to be known as the language of the “Hebrew”.

            It’s a little difficult when you have the one word “Hebrew” with 3 different contexts, a language, a group of people, and the meaning of the word itself, not to mention Eber.

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            I agree it is complex. I think my study of hoi Ioidaioi has already shown that same words are used in various contexts to mean sometimes very different things.

          3. Rafael

            I’m bound to be wrong here and there. First, I’m human. Second, I have opinions without all the facts, just like everyone else. Third, I’m not sure I see much of a difference between first and second. LOL!

          4. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            Good approach. We should not take ourselves too seriously. 🙂 Dr. Eli

  7. samuel

    Dr.Lizorkin-Eyzemberg.Gusto en saludarlo,el tema ¿Que significa en hebreo en hebreo? la definición es clara, y el significado es muy profundo,gracias por compartir sus conocimientos.Que DIOS lo bendiga.

  8. Michael

    It seems to be primarily foreigners that used this term in reference to the children of Israel. What do you think about this?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, but… as I mentioned the one who crossed over carries more than just crossing over from another place to here, but also from here (humanity) to there (God). Dr. Eli

      1. Verna Jetter

        I just read your insight into the Hebrew word ‘ivri’ , meaning to pass over. There was no room to continue commenting, so I am barging in here. Hope you don’t mind. After I read your insight, during my best meditation while washing dishes, Jesus’ devarim from John 5:24, came to mind. He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has PASSED FROM DEATH INTO LIFE.” [my caps]. What joy!

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Wow!!!! Wonderful! I sent you an invite.