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- This article refers to the Hebrew people; the descendants of Eber. For the language, see Hebrew. For the specific descendants of Jacob, see People of Israel. For all uses, see Hebrew (disambiguation).
The Hebrews (Hebrew: עברים, ʻIḇrīm; Greek: Ἑβραῖοί, Hebraīoi; Latin: Hebræi; "ones from beyond") are descendants of Biblical patriarch Eber, the great-grandson of Shem, son of Noah (Genesis 11:10-14 ). The ethnonym "Hebrew" thus is derived from the name "Eber" which means, "to traverse or cross over." The Biblical word ʻIḇrī (Hebrew: עברי)—the plural form is ʻIḇrīm (עברים)—is usually rendered as Hebrew in English, from the ancient Greek Ἑβραῖος (Hebraīos) and Latin Hebræus and is intended to denote the people who came "from the other side of the river" (i.e. the Euphrates) from the region of Haran (Genesis 11:31 ). In Canaan, Abraham was known to the inhabitants of the land as the stranger from beyond the river (Genesis 14:13 ). "Hebrew" means, simply, an "Eberite," a "descendant of Eber."
Israelites are defined as the descendants of Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. Eber was a direct ancestor of Abraham (Genesis 11:16-27 ). Eber is a distant ancestor of many peoples, including the Israelites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Midianites, and Joktanites. The name "Hebrew" is found in Genesis and Exodus more than in all the other Books of the Bible, for it was the international name linking Jacob's descendants with the other nations; Israel is the name that separates them from the nations. After the constitution of Israelites as a separate people usage of "Hebrew" rarely occurs; in the national poetry and in the prophets the name does not occur as a designation among themselves.