Where does the name "Jew" come from?


When and how did the name “Jew” originate, and to whom does it apply to-day?

The word is an abbreviation of “Judan” and occurs first in 2 Kings 16:6, where we read that “Rezin recovered Elath and drave the Jews” thence. A reference back to 2 Kings 14: 21 tells how Azariah, made King by “the people of Judah,” had smitten Elath and restored it to Judah, which shows that Jews and people of Judah are synonymous terms and represented the Southern Kingdom, after the separation of the ten tribes under Jeroboam. After the Captivity, those who returned though no doubt including Levites, Benjamites and representatives of other tribes, were all known as Jews, the Judans being predominant (see Ezra 4:12; Nehemiah 1:2; Nehemiah 4:2).

Only twice in the Synoptic Gospels do we find the word (Matthew 28:15Mark 7:3), if we except a few occurrences of the phrase, “King of the Jews,” but the name is common in John and the Acts. I believe it is a great mistake to meet the British Israel “hypothesis” (which I believe for many reasons, historical and scriptural, to be a complete delusion), by denying any difference between “the lost tribes of Israel” as they are usually and properly termed, and the scattered Jews. Certainly many Israelites had lapsed to the Southern Kingdom, before their captivity by Assyria, under Sargon, but in spite of this the Northern Kingdom of Israel was able to withstand a three years’ siege from the greatest of the then world-powers. We are distinctly told that they were taken captive, except a feeble remnant, and placed “in Halah and Habor, by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”

Considering that these places were far-removed geographically from Babylon, at a distance of 300 or 400 miles to the north, and that the captivity of Israel took place in 721 B.C., that is a century-and-a-quarter before that of Jehoiachin, it is very unlikely that the two captivities mingled or even came in contact. When a thing is lost it is not a bad idea to seek for it as near where it was lost as possible, and probably the representatives of the lost tribes may still exist in or near those parts.

The difference between Judah and the ten tribes of Israel is preserved in the accounts of the final return to the land, e.g., in Isa. ii. Ia, we read of “the outcasts of Israel” and “the dispersed of Judah.” See also Isaiah 27:13; Zepheniah 3:19, and especially Ezekiel 37:16-22, where God commands prophetically the two sticks to be taken, one “for Judah and the children of Israel his cQmpanions” (representing those individual members of the ten tribes who had lapsed to Judah and are confused sometimes with those tribes themselves), and the other “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions” (i.e., the lost tribes). To meet this British-Israel delusion with a defective argument is to strengthen it, for its advocates will surely take notice of it, though they usually leave the sound arguments, which abound against their theory, severely alone.