Law of first mention kicked in this morning. Something I was taught early on as a Christian. Take note of the first mention of things in the Bible, as it might be instructive. And, to my recollection, I don’t think I’ve every really taken note of the first mention of the term Hebrew.
They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way. Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.
(Genesis 14:12-13 ESV)
Don’t think I’ve ever noticed that the term Hebrew is used even before there was a nation of Israel. Next time it’s used in Genesis, it’s used to refer to Joseph the Hebrew (Gen. 39:14), one of the sons of Jacob, a founding pillar of Israel, the Hebrew nation. I think I’ve always assumed that Hebrew was always just another word for Israelite. But here Abram is being called a Hebrew before there was even a lineage defined as being of Israel.
That’s what caught my attention this morning. Don’t know why. (Though I kinda do . . . encounters of the divine kind are prone to happen when the Spirit of revelation is illuminating Scripture and leading us into all truth).
So what’s the deal?
I pull up my handy dandy online lexicon and I find out that the word Hebrew comes from Eber, who was an ancestor of Abram (Gen. 11:14-16). But more importantly, I look up its literal meaning and I’m thinking, maybe I’m a Hebrew too!
Literally, Eber means “the region beyond.” Thus, a Hebrew, literally, is “one from beyond.”
Abram was known as the one from beyond. Sure, Abram was living in Canaan, but he wasn’t from these parts. He lived nextdoor to Mamre the Amorite, but he was different than his neighbor. Talked different, walked different, worshiped different. He was Abram, the one from beyond.
And I’m thinking, me too! In the world, but not of the world. I’m also one from beyond.
Once beyond hope, “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
Beyond justification. My transgressions against a holy God far greater than anything I could do to make them right or atone for. The wages of sin having bankrupted me. My nature so corrupted, that even if past sins were paid for, I had nothing in me to live forward in holiness and righteousness.
Even, at one time, beyond any desire, in and of myself, to be with God, to cross over the divide of alienation and enter, if even it were possible, the land of reconciliation. Content in my blind rebellion to be an enemy of God.
But while we were yet sinners, seemingly beyond rescue, God showed His love for us. Christ having died for us (Rom. 5:8).
Despite being too weak, beyond strength in our own desires, merit, or effort to cross over from death to life, “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).
Though beyond peace with God because we were at war with God, yet God does the work to reconcile us to Himself by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10).
And by faith in the finished work of the cross, and the risen life of Christ, we crossed over. Were transferred from “the domain of darkness” to “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Thus becoming one from beyond.
Once lost, now found. Once far away, now with boldness drawing near. Once a sinner, now a saint. Living in a foreign land as a promised people.
A Hebrew, in a sense.
One from beyond.
By His grace. For His glory.