What does the word Hebrew mean?

In our UDEMY course, Learn Hebrew from the Bible, a student of mine asked this question: what does the word Hebrew mean.  As usual, students inspire teachers.

Interestingly, you won’t find the word “Hebrew” used in the Bible for the Hebrew language. Hebrew comes from the word EVRI עברי. It’s like Eber’s name in Genesis 10:12

For word origin, I always like to go to the verb because that is where the root meaning is. So that takes us to ABAR עבר.

עבר means to pass over, to cross a national border. IVRI people were sort of known as “the people who passed over from the other side.”

The best way to understand a word in Biblical Hebrew is to see how it is used in the Bible. The first time it is used is always significant. Let’s look and see for yourself:

Genesis 8:1

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind TO PASS OVER the earth, and the water subsided.

(This gives you the basic characteristic of the word.)

Genesis 12:6

Abram PASSED THROUGH the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

Genesis 14:3

And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew–now he dwelt by the terebinths of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner; and these were confederate with Abram.

(Now you see how people talk about Abram as the “overpasser” or “passerover”. It’s the same root: עבר

E-Vreet goes over this later in the course. By the way, עברית (E-Vreet) is the feminine form of עברי. The feminine form is used in Modern Hebrew to refer to the language. In Biblical Hebrew, עברית is talking about a female Hebrew. See Exodus 1:19.



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