Jews, Hebrews, Israel, & Zion: What is the difference – why the war?

Ever since the Israel-Hamas war recently broke out in the middle east, there have been inquiries about the situation and questions about what will God do to save Israel. I admit it is hard to wrap our minds around what is going on, but these questions are coming from Christians who are really concerned about God’s favored people.

And I admire their interest, for they are a sincere group who cares, rather than the greater majority who don’t even have a passing interest is what is going on in the world. But it is hard to get to the truth behind current events, when what we are able to learn only comes from news that is hand-fed to us by mainstream media organizations1 who have their own agenda.

Listen to this article: Click the > button to start audio – click again to pause – click the speaker icon to mute. Adjust volume on the right side.

For instance, early New Year’s morning I checked my reliable sources for current news from around the world. I learned about serious geologic and heavenly events, dire economic forecasts, global war confrontations, and civil riots in many places, most of which were not reported by the mainstream news media. When I did check a large mainstream news source, I noticed that the front-page top news-worthy event of the day was that Taylor Swift and her football player boyfriend shared a passionate kiss to welcome the new year.2

Credit: New York Post

I know I’ve said this probably a hundred times, but again, if you want to know the truth about what is going on in the world, don’t go to the controlled mainstream news; start reading and viewing independent sources,3 for that is where the truth will be found. Of course, many don’t want to know the truth about what is really going on, but only things such as the frivolous lifestyles of celebrities and their Satanic driven lives. Some people would rather be ‘dumbed down’ than educated, but knowing what is going on in our world could make the difference between life and death.

I am going to give you my beliefs concerning the unfortunate situation in Israel, but first let’s construct a brief overview. We’ll answer a few questions that will give us a better perspective of Zionism, Jews, and God’s attitude.

 

Jews — Historical and Modern Views

Sometimes I’m asked, “What is a Jew?” That is a reasonable question, since the great majority of scripture within the Old Testament of our Bible concerns the Jewish people. And in the New Testament, until after our Lord’s death and resurrection, nearly all Christians were also Jews.

So, historically, what is a Jew according to Jewish law? A Jew is anyone who was born of a Jewish mother, or has undergone a conversion process to Judaism. That’s the way it’s been since Biblical times and it’s also firmly established in the Code of Jewish Law. And as weird as it seems, once you are a Jew, you are always a Jew. For instance, a Jew who becomes an atheist or converts to another religion, is still a Jew. And if a female convert changes her mind and reverts to her original religion, then any children she has will still be Jewish, because she is still a Jew. So, once a Jew, always a Jew — no one can throw you out.4

But, the other extreme in this matter is that someone who was not born a Jew and has not converted according to Jewish law — even if holding all the proper beliefs and keeping all the laws and practices of Judaism — is not a Jew. Being Jewish seems more of an ethnic or tribal identity, rather than a religion.5 It’s confusing, isn’t it?

Today, human opinion has crept in. For instance, when the new State of Israel began in 1948, Israel’s Law of Return stipulated the only requirement to be a Jew was they had a Jewish mother or someone converted to Judaism and was not a member of another religion.6 However, those simple qualifications were weakened by some groups who thought it should also recognize Jewishness by way of the male line of descent.7

Others feel Jewish identity is commonly defined through ethnicity and religion. So, in modern times, even among Jews, there is a difference of opinion about who is a Jew. But still, opinion polls suggest that the majority of modern Jews see being Jewish as predominantly a matter of ancestry and culture, rather than religion.8 As you can see, claiming to be a Jew in this world can be virtually impossible to hypothesize, for it involves ethnic and religious issues that are both complex and controversial.9

 

Should we support Israel in this war?

In a recent article, I wrote that many Christian churches teach that God instructs us to support the Jewish people.10 They quote scripture they say proves this. For instance, God told Abraham the following.

“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3, NRSV).11

Of course no one wants to be cursed by God, but we must realize that this covenant — which is a promise for fulfilling a contract or agreement — was dependant upon Abraham and his descendants doing what God demanded. Abraham did what was demanded and God’s promise began to be fulfilled. God continually contracted with later descendants of Abraham, but many broke those agreements and God then stopped protecting them. When they later repented, God welcomed them back and again provided protection and direction. This obedience seesaw of acceptance-rejection happened over and over throughout history.

The last time the Jews broke their contract with God — when most rejected Jesus as their Messiah and had him killed on the cross — God then opened the doors to the original promise to the gentiles (all non-Jews). As the Christian community grew, they were considered spiritual Israelites in God’s eyes, because they accepted his son’s teaching. And if you and I follow our Lord’s standards, believe in him, and consider him as our savior from sin and death, then we are spiritual Israelites too.

But, since the ancient Jews in the flesh did not accept our Lord as their Messiah (they are still waiting for one to arrive), therefore they continue in an estranged relationship with God. These alienated Jews will again be welcomed back, if and when they realize the truth about Jesus being the Messiah and accept him as their King and Savior.

So, God has withdrawn his protection from the Jewish people since their rejection of Jesus Christ more than two thousand years ago. That is the reason why he isn’t now protecting or helping the state of Israel in their war.

The same type of action is currently happening to my country. The United States of America was created not as a democracy, but as a constitutional republic and governed by laws which were based upon biblical principles; we began our country as a Christian nation. Ninety-five percent of our founding fathers were Christian, so our U.S. constitution is structured on the Judeo-Christian biblical principals of morality and ethics.12

Every time our government does something that rejects Godly principles, the more God removes his protection from us. This situation has devolved so much that I think the greater majority of United States politicians and corporate leaders are corrupted and controlled by Satan and his agents. In our whole population there is only a small remnant of true Christians left.

 

Israelites & Hebrews

Today, most everyone tends to use the terms Israelites, Tribes of Israel, Hebrews, and Jews interchangeably. And to avoid being overly technical, I have a tendency to do the same when writing or speaking. Even in the Old Testament the term Israelites is used interchangeably with the term Twelve Tribes of Israel, but the terms Israelites and Jews are not always exchangeable.13

Israelites refers to the people and direct descendants of any of the sons of the patriarch Jacob, or converts to their faith. Hebrews, on the contrary, is used to denote only the Israelites and descendants who dwelt in the land of Canaan. That is a lot to absorb or remember and it is rather confusing, but it gets worse.14

For a time, their nation was divided with the southern Kingdom of Judah, whose inhabitants were called Jews, and the northern Kingdom of Israel, whose inhabitants were called Israelites. Later, when the Kingdom of Judah absorbed the remnants of the Kingdom of Israel, the term Jews as well as the term Israelites could be used to denote the combined descendants who formed the new group.15

And the term Hebrews is generally synonymous with Israelites, but technically it denotes an Israelite who is from the nomadic era preceding the Kingdom of Israel. It actually means an ancient Semitic-speaking people and is applied to Israelites in Scripture only by one who is a foreigner (see: Genesis 39:14, 17; 41:12). In the New Testament there is the same contrast between Hebrews and foreigners (see: Acts 6:1; Philippians 3:5).16

Even in ancient times, there was a transition period of confusion — as there still is today, to some extent — depending upon geographical areas, ethnic subgroups, historical literature, theology issues, etc. But the description given above is acceptable as a simple overview of the situation.

Unless you are speaking about a detailed or technical circumstance, I think Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews can generally be used interchangeably. Why add more confusion, when it doesn’t matter that much? Just be aware that others may not think this way. I write a bit differently to historians and biblical scholars, than I do to a general audience.

 

Zionism

Zionism does not really refer to a religion, but to a Jewish nationalist and political movement whose goal was the creation, support, and maintenance of a new Jewish national state. This nation was to be in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews. Although this idea originated during the 16th and 17th centuries, the new State of Israel was only finally established in 1948.17

Anyone can be a Zionist. You and I can too. Being a Zionist only means to support Judaism’s claim to Israel above any and all other claims to the land. But it is not a religious movement, only a political land grab disguised as restoring Jewish rights. Most adherents are more interested in owning the land, rather than obeying God’s laws.18

Personally, I am not a Zionist, and I receive many insults for saying this. But, if the Jewish nation broke their contract with God and lost their land several thousand years ago, who am I to support some political group of people who want only to steal it from other people instead of serving the Lord.

I do realize that everyone is inclined to pick a side in war, but picking a side can shrink our view. We must see both sides in order to make proper judgements.19 One thing I see on both sides is hate, and hate is a hard thing to discard, and I see that this hate is demonstrated by atrocities from both sides. I also understand that hate is an attribute of Satan.

Today, political Zionism sustains the new country we call the State of Israel. Its citizens are mostly a mixed-race of European descendants currently estranged from God and at war with Hamas, an Islamist militant group who, ironically, Israel helped to create back in 1988.20 And it now seems that other groups are entering the conflict too.21

Mount Zion, Jerusalem

So, where did this term ‘Zion’22 come from anyway? This word was used by biblical writers in a variety of ways and therefore underwent a progression in its usage throughout the Bible.23 Some psalmists used the term to refer to the temple built by Solomon (Psalms 2:6; 48:2; 84:7, 132:13). In Isaiah 1:27 the idea of ‘Zion’ included the whole nation, but in Amos 6:1, it stood only for the capital of Judah.24

But the most common usage of ‘Zion’ in the Bible is to refer to the future city of God in the New Age yet to come (Isaiah 1:27; 28:16; 33:5). Therefore it is understood to be heavenly Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:14; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1), where the Messiah will appear in the end times, and the glorification of the messianic community will take place on the holy mountain of Zion.25 This mountain named Zion was the southernmost hill in Jerusalem, which was conquered by David around 1000 BC.26 Over time, this hill’s name came to signify the city itself and God’s dwelling place with his people after the resurrection.27

 

What about this war?

Fundamentally, the modern State of Israel is a man-made creation, not one created or ordained by God. The current political leadership is not representative of God’s people any more than the priestly Jewish leadership was in Jesus’ day. Our Lord even commented about those priests and scribes this way.

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned,” (Matthew 12:34-37).

Jesus’ birth upon earth was God’s way of providing the promised Messiah that would be physical Israel’s savior. The Jews were the first to be invited to be members of Jesus’ new way of life — through a spiritual process of love rather than just obeying the Mosaic Law. He combined all God’s commandments into just one new demand, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Galatians 5:14).

When the Jewish leadership and most individuals rejected the Messiah, God decided to open the promises made to physical Israel to everyone. Anyone who accepted our Lord as savior and followed his teaching — whether a Jew or gentile — would now be considered spiritual Israelites as far as the promises were concerned. This meant that descendants would no longer be chosen for eternal life through physical birth, but become righteous for eternal life through a spiritual change of faith; they would be born again.28

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he vindicates his position that all who believe in and follow Christ become children of God.29 “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29).

 

Conclusion

So true Christians are spiritual Israelites who will receive the promise of God’s blessings. These blessings includes inheriting the earth and receiving eternal life, but what about all the descent moral people that have not accepted Jesus as their savior? Are they lost to those blessings? Well, I look at it this way. If they live their lives in a moral fashion as Jesus taught, then they are probably halfway in their race to obtaining the prize. And they will surely win, if their eyes are opened to the fact that Jesus is the true Messiah.

In Israel there are plenty such people and they do not deserve having to endure this war that is unjust from all points of view. My sympathies are with all those souls currently suffering in the war, whether they are Jews or not. I pray for the innocent victims on all sides. That is the way the human Jesus would have looked at this situation.

Many of those innocent victims are Jewish, some are Muslim, and a few are Christian or Messianic Jews. You might enjoy learning the difference between Judeo-Christians and Messianic Jews. To do so, see the link in References & Notes.30

These innocents have no hatred of one another and just want to live together in peace. God is patient to all by giving them enough time to finally understand, but he won’t allow this evil world to go on forever. If they see the light, they will become spiritual Israelites too, and be resurrected upon Jesus’ return. And by the looks of current world events, many may live through the end times and never die, because the end of this age is so very close.

As Christians who stand on the promises of God, we should pray that all those quiet, gentle, modest people — who radiate love rather than hate — will accept the message and promises of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After all, it was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” (Matthew 5:5).

Because of the theme of this study, I offer the song “Standing on the Promises” performed by Alan Jackson and recorded at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee in 2006. Selected lyrics are below and a link to the music video is listed in References & Notes.31

Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing
I’m standing on the promises of God
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all
Standing on the promises of God
I’m standing on the promises of God

Copyright © 2024, Dr. Ray Hermann
OutlawBibleStudent.org

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References & Notes

  1. Mainstream news media: a term used to refer collectively to the various large mass news media that influence many people and reflect and shape prevailing current events and thought, in contrast with alternative or independent media. The term is often used for large news conglomerates who produce a homogenization of government and corporate viewpoints that create a directed bias of opinion, ideas, and truth.
  2. Bezants, Jack, “Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce share passionate kiss as the clock strikes midnight at a glitzy New Year party . . . .”, (The Daily Mail, 1 January 2024), https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/nfl/article-12916299/Taylor-Swift-Travis-Kelce-passionate-kiss-New-Year-party-Kansas-Cit.html
  3. Independent news sources: The Epoch Times (TheEpochTimes.com), Breitbart News (Breitbart.com), Brighteon Broadcast News (Brighteon.com), Redacted (Rumble.com/c/Redacted), The New American (rumble.com/c/TheNewAmerican), Info Wars, (Infowars.com), The Liberty Daily (Rumble.com/user/TheLibertyDaily), PJ Media (pjmedia.com/) and many more.
  4. Freeman, Tzyi, “What is a Jew? (Chabad, retrieved 30 December 2023), https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3854897/jewish/What-Is-a-Jew.htm
  5. Ibid.
  6. McGonigle, Ian V. & Herman, Lauren W., “Genetic citizenship: DNA testing and the Israeli Law of Return”, (Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 17 June 2015), pp. 469–478, (also available online at https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/29408321/5034383.pdf ).
  7. “Who is a Jew?” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 November 2023), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_is_a_Jew%3F
  8. Sharon, Jeremy, “Poll: Many Israelis see Jewish identity as being self-defined”, (The Jerusalem Post, 17 September 2014), https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Poll-Many-Israelis-see-Jewish-identity-as-being-self-defined-375551
  9. Duignan, Brian (revised by), “Jew: people”, (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 August 2018), https://www.britannica.com/topic/Jew-people
  10. Hermann, Ray, “What is Spiritual Israel? Must we support Israel at war?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 24 October 2023), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/what-is-spiritual-israel-must-we-support-israel-at-war/
  11. All scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989). Used by permission.
  12. United States founding fathers by church affiliations of record: 51 Christians – 2 Roman Catholic, and 49 Protestant (broken down to be 28 Church of England/Episcopalian, 2 Lutheran, 2 Dutch reformed, 7 Congregationalists, 8 Presbyterians, 2 Methodists).
    Streiff, Ken, “What were the religious beliefs of the authors of the US Constitution?” (Quora, 5 June 2015), https://www.quora.com/What-were-the-religious-beliefs-of-the-authors-of-the-US-Constitution
  13. “Israelites”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 December 2023), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israelites
  14. Ibid.
  15. Cate, Robert L., “Israelite” in Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, (Eds.) W. Mills and R. Bullard, (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), p. 420.
  16. Easton, M. G., Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature, (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1893), p. 318.
  17. Tesch, Noah, “Zionism”, (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 April 2015), https://www.britannica.com/topic/Zionism
  18. Roos, Dave, “What Is Zionism and Is It Fueling the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict?” (How Stuff Works, 17 May 2021), https://history.howstuffworks.com/world-history/zionism.htm
  19. “Israel or Palestine: Do you have to pick a side?” (The Ethics Centre, 27 October 2023), https://ethics.org.au/israel-or-palestine-do-you-have-to-pick-a-side/
  20. Tharoor, Ishaan, “How Israel helped create Hamas”, (The Washington Post, 30 July 2014), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/07/30/how-israel-helped-create-hamas/
  21. Shilhavy, Brian, “Does the Entire World Now View the U.S. as a Dying Empire?” (Health Impact News, 12 January 2024), https://healthimpactnews.com/2024/does-the-entire-world-now-view-the-u-s-as-a-dying-empire-new-brics-alliance-takes-on-the-global-food-cartel-by-eliminating-the-u-s-dollar/
  22. ZION (Zi’ on): Transliteration of the Hebrew and Greek words that originally referred to the fortified hill of pre-Israelite Jerusalem between the Kidron and Tyropean Valleys. Scholars disagree as to the root meaning of the term. Some authorities have suggested that the word was related to the Hebrew word that meant “dry place” or “parched ground.” Others relate the word to an Arabic term that is interpreted as “hillcrest” or “mountainous ridge.”
    Brand, Chad, et al., (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2003), p. 1711.
  23. Youngblood, Ronald, et al. (Eds.), Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995).
  24. Brand, Chad, et al., (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2003), pp. 1711-12.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies, (London: Martin Manser, 2009), “Zion, as a place”.
  27. Shepherd, C. E., in Lexham Bible Dictionary, (Ed.), John D. Barry, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
  28. Calahan, John, “Where is the fine line between natural and spiritual Israel?” (Never Thirsty, retrieved 14 October 2023), https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-qa/qa-archives/question/where-is-the-fine-line-between-natural-and-spiritual-israel/
  29. Walvoord John F. and Zuck, Roy B., (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 2, p. 600.
  30. Hermann, Ray, “Judeo-Christian vs. Messianic Jew”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 16 January 2021), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/judeo-christian-vs-messianic-jew/
  31. “Standing on the Promises”, Artist: Alan Jackson, recorded live at Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN, 2006; © 2024 ACR Records, (uploaded to YouTube 3 January 2024, no other information available). Used under ‘fair use copyright’ for teaching under Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976 — MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/PiUeQNToJjI
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