One of the first things we have to realize when it comes to the Torah, is who was it given to and who was it for? Ask most people and they will tell you that the Law or Torah was given to the Jewish people. Keeping the Sabbath, observing the seven Feast of YHWH, eating only those animals that were declared good for food, and keeping any of the Torah, is only for the Jews, most people will tell you. Let’s take a look and see how the Bible defines Jews and see exactly who the Torah was given to. First, we have to take a step back and define Hebrew. Hebrew means to transverse or crossover. Who was the first Hebrew or person to cross over?
“One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew” Genesis 14:13
The first person mentioned in the Bible as a “Hebrew” is Abram, who was renamed, Abraham. This makes sense considering that Abraham “crossed over” and left the comfort of his country, his home, and his family to follow YHWH into the wilderness.
“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12: 1-3
Abraham was Hebrew, and most likely he was the first Hebrew. This would make all the descendants of Abraham Hebrews as well. Isaac, Jacob, King David, and even Y’shua would have been Hebrew’s because they were all descendants of Abraham.
Now we need to define Israel biblically. Today, Israel is a country in the Middle East, with physical borders and a group of people that live inside of those boarders who call themselves Israelites and/or Jews. When we read about Israel in the Bible, is this the Israel that is being referred to?
9Then YHWH appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10YHWH said to him, “Your name is Jacob; you shall no longer be called Jacob, But Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel. Genesis 35:9-10
When we see Israel in the Bible, assuming it is referring to the country of Israel can cause some confusion. When the Bible refers to “the sons of Israel,” it is talking about Jacobs’s twelve sons and their descendants. Jacob or Israel’s twelve sons and their descendants were the first Israelites. Now we can safely say that all of Abraham’s descendants were Hebrew, and all of Jacob’s descendants were Israelites, but Abraham wasn’t an Israelite.
Now we can start to break down the 12 Tribes and see where each group originated. Jacob’s sons; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin made up the twelve tribes of Israel, and each tribe would have been named according to the name of each son. So all the descendants of Judah were known as Jews, Dan’s descendants would have been called Danites, and descendants of Levi were known as Levites. With this understanding, it becomes clear that only 1/12 of Israel was Jewish.
So far we know that Jews are descendants of Judah, and all Jews are Israelites and Hebrew, but not all Israelites are Jews. All this can be very confusing, so let’s recap what we know so far. Abraham was Hebrew, but not an Israelite or a Jew because neither existed yet. Isaac, Abraham’s son, was Hebrew, but not an Israelite or a Jew because neither existed yet. Jacob, who YHWH renamed Israel, was Isaac’s son. Jacob was Hebrew, but not a Jew because Jews originated with his son Judah. Judah, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, was Hebrew and an Israelite, but before his children, there was no such thing as a Jew. The descendants of the other eleven sons were not Jews but were named accordingly e.g. from Levi came the Levites, from Benjamin came the Benjamites and so on.
It’s critical to realize that while all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews. Only the descendants of Judah are Jews. There is a deception at work that has a majority of people believing that most if not all of the Old Testament was written for the Jews. Most people believe that YHWH led the Jews out of Egypt, and while that is true, there is much more to the story. He also led the other eleven tribes out of Egypt as well as foreigners who chose to “crossover” and worship YHWH.
According to the Bible, YHWH’s chosen people are the descendants of Israel who we now know are not just Jews, but all of the twelve tribes.
“Hear, O Israel! YHWH is your Elohim, YHWH is one! 5You shall love YHWH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5
For you are a holy people to YHWH your Elohim; YHWH your Elohim has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 7:6
So who is this verse talking about as a “chosen people”? These verses tell us that Israel, as in all 12 tribes are YHWH’s chosen people. Even if we are not natural born Israelites, we can still become one. According to the Bible, anyone who chooses to believe in and follow the commands of YHWH can be “grafted in.” This has been happening since the Exodus when foreigners came out of Egypt along with Israel.
Your Blockquote Text HereThere shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you. Exodus 12:49
The natives would have been descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons, and the strangers would have been everyone who wasn’t one of Jacob’s twelve sons, but they were ALL a part of Israel. Even though they were not born Israelites, they were grafted in and therefore under the same law. Romans 11 talks in depth about being grafted in, but to sum it up we could say that if you believe in Y’shua and follow the commands of YHWH, you are Grafted In and have become a part of His “chosen people.” We hope this study has cleared up some common misconceptions. The Jews alone are not YHWH’s chosen people, and it was not only the Jews who were brought out of Egypt. Also, the thought that the Torah was given ONLY to the Jews is not accurate. Israel (not the country) is YHWH’s chosen people; Israel (both natural born and Gentiles who were “grafted in”) were lead out of Egypt; and YHWH’s commandments, statutes and judgments were given to all of Israel.
“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which YHWH, the Elohim of your fathers, is giving you. 2You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor takeaway from it that you may keep the commandments of YHWH your Elohim which I command you. Deuteronomy 4: 1-2
At the end of King Solomon’s reign, 10 of the 12 tribes split off and became the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin made up the Southern Kingdom. The people of the Northern Kingdom were scattered among the nations. Because the tribe of Judah was the dominant tribe they all became known as Jews. Today, because of bad translations of the Bible and the lack of or desire to study the word and test everything, most people falsely assume that the Torah does not apply to them because it was ONLY for the Jews! As we have hopefully shown, this is a grievous error and the Torah, Feast Days, and Sabbath are not just for the Jews, but for anyone who wishes to be in covenant with YHWH.