Monday, April 15, 2013

The Children of Eber

By David R. Ferguson
    Moses writes in Genesis 14:13, “Then one who had escaped came, and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother or Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram.” This is a very significant verse because this is the very first time the word “Hebrew” is used in Scripture, and it is specifically applied to Abram. It was to be through Abram that the Promised Seed, Jesus Christ, would come, the One God said in Whom the entire world would be blessed.
    The word “Hebrew” comes from “Eber” and it means “the other side.” I believe there are at least three reasons why Abram became the first man designated as “the Hebrew.”
    First of all, Abram was a stranger “from the other side.” Born east of Canaan in Ur of the Chaldees of Mesopotamia, Abram had come “from the other side” of the Jordan River before settling in Canaan.
    Secondly and more importantly, Abram stood on “the other side” in opposition to the entire pagan world. His recognition of the One True God, Yahweh, and his adamant refusal to comply with the “modern” ideology of the time, set him at odds with the rest of humanity and their false worship of idols created by men.
    Finally, Abram was a descendant of Eber from which the word Hebrew is derived. Eber was the great-grandson of Noah’s son, Shem, and Eber is given special recognition as a man of worth and honor by Moses, who states in Genesis 10:21 [RSV], “To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.” Noah, waking up from his drunken stupor, realized that Shem had not dishonored him as had Ham, and Noah said, “Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem, and let Canaan be his slave” (Genesis 9:26 [RSV]). Just as Abram and the Messiah were to come through the line of Shem, so, too, was the world to be blessed through “the children of Eber.”
    Moses words his commentary in a manner that shows us he fully expected his original audience to know what was so special about this man Eber, and why he and his offspring were mentioned specifically as they were. According to Jewish tradition handed down since before the time of Moses, Eber refused to help in the building of the Tower of Babel as ordered by Nimrod, who had set himself up as world emperor. Later, he went further in declared himself to be god, claiming that he had vanquished the God Who had sent the Flood. Consequently, because of Eber’s righteous stance against the evil Emperor Nimrod, Eber’s and his family’s language was not confused when the building of the Tower was abandoned through the intervention of Yahweh, and Eber and “the children of Eber” were given the special blessing of retaining the original language given to Adam by God at the beginning of time. Therefore, God further honored Eber by designating his called out man, Abram, “the Hebrew,” the one from whom the entire world would be blessed, and also naming the original language of the Earth after him also, Hebrew.

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

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