Most of us are very familiar with the name Jew. This is the given name of a people that began to be some 2500 years ago after the creation of man. World history reveals a remarkable story in which one group of people assumed the identity of another. The vast majority of people who are today called Jews are NOT, in terms of strict definition of the term, Jews at all.
The term ”Jew,” actually a later comer to the Old Testament, originally meant one who can genuinely claim genetic descent from Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. It is Hebrew, the word is “Yhadi,” meaning “of Judah.” Later, it was a kind of a slang word given the whole people because the tribe of Judah was the largest numerical tribe among them.
The true people of Judah were a numerous part of the ancient, twelve-tribed Israelites. As you and I know, the name “Israel” means those who belong to God. It was given to them as a reward won from a wrestling match between Jacob and Christ to shore up Jacob’s faith in the wisdom of God. In time, the Israelites divided into two kingdoms. The southern one was called the “Kingdom of Judah,” and the region it occupied, “Judea.” All of its inhabitants, of whatever tribe, were often called Judeans, and in time “Jews.” As time passed, the Northern Kingdom was taken into captivity and scattered to the north and west somewhere around 700 B.C..
The Kingdom of Judah was later taken to Babylon in 586 B.C , where many stayed and never returned to their homeland. Seventy years later a remnant returned, and gradually, with much struggle, regained its status of nationhood. Unfortunately, the religion they returned with had picked up many pagan elements while in Babylon, this gradually evolved into a system of oral teachings that Scripture condemns as the “traditions of the elders.” Matthew 15:2-3 This “good ole boy” religion was what Christ found when He came to dwell in the flesh and bring the Church of Christ into existence. One could just imagine He who was the author of Judaism and the struggles He had to go through when He “came unto His own and His own received Him not.” John 1:12 When the life of Christ is studied, and one does not see the immediate problem which our Lord faced when He came in physical flesh, they cannot see the immediate differences which He taught and that taught by the scribes and elders. There is something else often overlooked in this study. When Jesus referred to the Jews He always told them they were not the people of God!! It rightfully angered them. When He referred to the Temple of God, He was referring to something they no right to occupy and since they could not be blessed as the “people of God” Christ called them children of Satan. John 8:44.
When some of the Jews returned to their homeland they had no prophet from God, no wise man, nor any credible written law they could follow, so, they made up their own. At this juncture in history, an unusual development occurred that muddled the meaning of the words Judah, Judean, and Jew. Int the second century before Christ, a dynamic priest-king of Judah, John Hyrcanus of the Hasmonean dynasty, conquered the people directly to the south of Judah, the Edomites. These people were also known by the appellation Idumean.
The Idumeans were descended from Esau. Jacob-Israel’s twin brother, Genesis 36:8, married a woman named Adah, a Hittite, thus destroying forever the pure genetic pedigree of his descendants. For this, Esau essentially was disinherited. Rebecca, Esau’s mother, was told by God that Esau would serve Jacob before their birth. She was the only human being alive who had this knowledge. When it came time for Isaac to “bless” his sons, his inheritance from Abraham, she had to act. Genesis 25:23