Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hebraic Jews and Grecian Jews

God chose Abram and called him for a special purpose. God promised Abram [Genesis 12:1-3, see also Gen 15:4-5 and many other passages] that “I will make you a great nation” and changed his name to Abraham, which is what he is remembered by today. Abraham and his wife Sarai (whose name God changed to Sarah) had a son whom they named Isaac. Isaac married Rebekah and they had twin sons Esau and Jacob. Although the younger twin, Jacob was chosen by God to be the heir of God’s promises. Jacob, who was also known by a second, God-given name, Israel, married two women (Leah and Rachel) and they (and their two maid servants) bore him 12 sons and at least one daughter. The 12 sons of Jacob became the heads of the 12 tribes of the nation Israel. Thus the tribes of Israel were:
1 Reuben
2 Simeon
3 Levi (set apart for the LORD to serve as priests)
[Numbers 1:47-53, 3:5-13. Exodus 32 gives the story behind this, especially Exodus 32:25-29]
4 Judah
5 Dan
6 Naphtali
7 Gad
8 Asher
9 Zebulun
10 Issachar
11 The two half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (descended from the two sons of Joseph)
[Genesis 48 gives the story behind this, especially Genesis 48:5-6]
12 Benjamin

It was not until several generations later that the nation of Israel, led at the time by Joshua, claimed the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of the 12 tribes lived in a portion of the land, as decreed by God. The only exception was the Levites, who dwelled in cities among the other tribes but had no inheritable land of their own; they were supported by the tithes of the Israelites [Numbers 35:1-8, Numbers 18:21-32]. The nation of Israel was ruled for a while by a series of Judges, and then later by a king appointed by God.

The first king of Israel was Saul. The second was King David, who came from the tribe of Judah. David’s son, Solomon, became king of Israel after him. The rules of King David and King Solomon were prosperous and glorious days for Israel. However, shortly after Rehoboam succeeded Solomon as King [1Ki11:43], Jeroboam rebelled against Rehoboam and set up own northern kingdom, Israel, with ten of the tribes [1Ki12:16-20]. Rehoboam’s southern kingdom became known as Judah, although it was comprised of people from Judah and Benjamin. Jeroboam set up idols and appointed his own priests in Israel [1Ki12:26-33], and consequently Levites and others who sought God left Israel and were absorbed into Judah [2Ch11:13-17].

Later, both the northern kingdom Israel and then the southern kingdom Judah were exiled by invading nations. Only Judah returned from exile, although there were probably some people from each of the 12 original tribes of Israel absorbed into this new nation, called the Jews. In Jesus’ time, after the Return, the Jews mainly lived in Judea, but also in other areas of Roman-occupied Palestine, the ancient “Promised Land”. These Jews were Hebraic Jews, that is, they were Jews who were descended from Abraham.

There were also Greek converts to Judaism, who had been circumcised and thus they and their families were also legitimately recognised as Jews. These were the Grecian Jews, and they were often considered to be somewhat second-class Jews.

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