The Ḫa-BI-Ru—Kin Or Foe Of Israel? Third Article -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 20:1 (Nov 1957)
Article: The Ḫa-BI-Ru—Kin Or Foe Of Israel? Third Article
Author: Meredith G. Kline


The Ḫa-BI-Ru—Kin Or Foe Of Israel?
Third Article

Meredith G. Kline

II. Ḫa-BI-ru—Hebrew Relations

A fascination with the possibilities of illuminating Hebrew origins has characterized studies of the ḫa-BI-ru. As observed at the outset, popular theory has it that the Hebrews were one offshoot of the ḫa-BI-ru. This theory may start with the supposition that the ḫa-BI-ru were a social class or an ethnic group. Although some form of either approach can be developed without the assumption that the terms ḫa-BI-ru and ʿIḇrî can be equated phonetically or at least semantically they are greatly strengthened if such equation can be established. It is necessary in this connection to survey the usage of ʿIḇrîm in the Old Testament and to face the question of the phonetic relation of ḫa-BI-ru and ʿIḇrî.

A. The Usage of ʿIḇrîm in the Old Testament.

Support for the view that the term ḫa-BI-ru denotes a larger whole from which the biblical Hebrews originated has been claimed in the usage of the term ʿIḇrîm in the Old Testament. There is no doubt that the gentilic ʿIḇrî is ordinarily used in the Old Testament as an ethnicon for Abraham and his descendants of the Isaac-Jacob line.178 In a

few passages, however, some have judged that ʿIḇrîm is used in a non-Israelite or even appellative sense and that in such texts an original, wider (i. e., ḫa-BI-ru) connotation emerges. These passages must be examined.

1. The ʿEḇed ʿIḇrî Legislation.

In the legislation of Exod. 21:2 and Deut. 15:12 and in the references to these laws in Jer. 34:9, 14 the term ʿIḇrî has been thought to denote not the ethnic character of the servant but a particular variety of servanthood. J. Lewy develops this theory on the basis of his interpretation of the term ḫa-BI-ru in the Nuzu contracts as an appellative meaning “foreign-s...

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