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The term established itself in one way or the other in many different languages as early as the dark age. The question: why is that?

I thought it to be somewhat of a misnomer. After all, Yaakov had 12 children that formed the 12 tribes of Israel. Why is it that we are (pretty much) globally known after the fourth son?

Disclaimer: I've read an explanation on chabad.org which dwelled on the linguistic aspect of it, what the root meant in Hebrew and the like. But it didn't really answer this question.

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    I always assumed the reason is because most of the Jewish nation lived in the kingdom of Judah, and because Judah was the more righteous kingdom between it and Israel. But I don't actually know that that's the reason. – Daniel Dec 16 '19 at 19:34
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    Also because we're mostly assumed to be from the tribe of Judah (except for those who are from Levi). – Daniel Dec 16 '19 at 19:36
  • @DonielF Not to my full heart's content. – Ilja Dec 16 '19 at 20:10
  • @Ilja I really don’t like the new canned responses for VTC as duplicate. Let me ask you this: Does that question fundamentally ask the same thing you’re asking, ignoring whatever answers that question may have? If yes, it’s better to put a bounty on that question than to ask the same thing again. (I see you don’t have enough rep for that right now, but I can put a bounty on for you if you’d like.) – DonielF Dec 16 '19 at 20:40
  • @DonielF : Although the title of both of our questions is (fundamentally) different, the first line of the other question asks the same. Insofar, yes. The answers don't make me feel satisfied, though. – Ilja Dec 16 '19 at 20:44
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The earliest reference to the term Jew (יהודי in Hebrew is found in Esther 2:5 where it has Mordechai

האִ֣ישׁ יְהוּדִ֔י הָיָ֖ה בְּשׁוּשַׁ֣ן הַבִּירָ֑ה וּשְׁמ֣וֹ מָרְדֳּכַ֗י בֶּ֣ן יָאִ֧יר בֶּן־שִׁמְעִ֛י בֶּן־קִ֖ישׁ אִ֥ישׁ יְמִינִֽי:

5 There was a Judean man in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish, a Benjamite,

Rashi explains:

a Judean man: because he was exiled with the exile of Judah; all those who were exiled with the kings of Judah were called יְהוּדִים [Judeans, Jews] among the nations, even if they were from another tribe.

Thus we see that all members of our religion, from that time on were called by the term that is currently translated as Jews because of the exile from the Kingdom of Judah.

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In the Hebrew Bible, the Jews are called B’nei Yisrael, Israelites. After the reign of Solomon, the unified twelve tribes split in two, the northern kingdom was called Israel, and the southern kingdom was called Judea, since this southern kingdom was mostly comprised of people from the tribe of Judah. These people were called Judeans. The name Judeans is shorted for Jews. In 722 BCE, the people of Israel were defeated by the Assyrians and were sent into exile, becoming the famous “Lost Ten Tribes,” Judea itself became exiled by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. But in 536 BCE, the exiles reestablished their country rebuilt its temple and thrived until the Roman destruction. And again, after 2000 years of exile, they reestablished the modern State of Israel.

In short, Jews are called Jews because it is short for the name Judeans.

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After the reign of David and Shlomo/Solomon, the Israelite kingdom split into two parts, as detailed in Melachim I Chapter 12 https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15896/jewish/Chapter-12.htm

The northern half contained most of the tribes, and was known as "Yisrael/Israel". The southern part remained loyal to David's line, and was dominated by the tribe of Yehuda.

The northern kingdom was destroyed and exiled by the Assyrian Empire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyrian_captivity, and for the most part was lost forever. Jews today are descended from the the inhabitants of the south, and are thus called "Yehudim", or derivatives thereof.

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  • So the scattered northlings of Israel are basically us? – Ilja Dec 16 '19 at 19:44
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    @Ilja Other way round - the scattered northlings are lost. We're from the south. Exiled to Babylon, returned 70 years later, exiled again by the Romans around 2000 years ago. – AKA Dec 16 '19 at 20:00
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    There are other cases, like in Melakhim, where "Yehudi" is a tribal affiliation, and in Ezra (e.g. 4:12) it may mean "Jew", or it may be referring to those Israelites then in Judea. But Mordechai is neither of the tribe of Judah nor residing in the land of Judea. – Micha Berger Dec 16 '19 at 20:18
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    @Ilja Correct - if any still exist! – AKA Dec 16 '19 at 22:04
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    @RayButterworth It is possible that the Assyrians settled in Germany and brought their captives with them. There is, for example, some evidence that the Romans entered China. Perhaps it is true. We would need more DNA samples though to form an official opinion. As for Queen Victoria, it is rumored that she courted a Jewish man. Some think that Prince Harry looks like Seth Rogan. Jokes aside, it is possible that this explains why they did the rite on the 8th day. I guess we shall never know for certain, but it is thought-provoking and it makes us think. Thank you for telling me about this. – Jonathan Dec 17 '19 at 22:28
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The targum yonasan be auziel says that part of yehudas blessing was that we would be called after him יְהוּדָה אַנְתְּ אוֹדֵיתָא עַל עוּבְדָא דְתָמָר בְּגִין כֵּן לָךְ יְהוֹדוּן אֲחָךְ וְיִתְקְרוּן יְהוּדָאִין עַל שְׁמָךְ יְדָךְ יִתְפַּרְעוּן לָךְ מִבַּעֲלֵי דְבָבָךְ לְמִפְתַק גִירִין לְהוֹן כַּד יְחַזְרוּן קְדַל קֳדָמָךְ וִיהוֹן מַקְדִימִין לְמִישְׁאַל בִּשְׁלָמָךְ בְּנַי אֲבוּךְ This is found in בראשית מט ח

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The gemara in Megilah 12 asks why is Mordechai called an Ish Yimeni (from shevet Binyamin), and an Ish Yehudi (from shevet Yehuda)? The gemara gives multiple answers, but Rav Yochanan answers that really Mordechai was from shevet Binyamin, but was called a Yehudi since he refused to bow down to Haman (his avodah zarah). The gemara explains that anyone who denies avodah zara is called a Yehudi.

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