While looking up info for a different question, I saw that on the pasuk in Bereshit 43:32, Targum Yonatan translates the word "Ha'Ivrim" as "Yehudaee" - יְהוּדָאֵי, while Onkelos translates it as "Ivraee" - עִבְרָאֵי.

Is Targum Yonatan inferring that at some point only Yaakov and his descendants were considered "Ivrim", which I take to mean descendants of Ever, and not all of Ever's descendants (Bnei Keturah, Lavan, Yishmael, Esav, etc)? Or is there another explanation for the difference in translation?

  • See Parshegen (Rabbi Posen), Shemot, page 25. Jan 18, 2021 at 2:25
  • Perhaps it’s worth considering 1) the common targum in each era. About 3 centuries separated them. And 2) Yonatan ben Uziel was giving his targum according to the inner teachings and meanings he had received from the Prophets. Onkelos was not. His targum was more grammatical translation. Oct 12, 2022 at 0:39
  • There may be more to the question, but I don't know why we should be bothered that the two translations are different. They are different everywhere, in thousands of places. I'm sure every one of them is worth questioning, but why this one? To me it's a little like opening Chiddushei Rashba and Ramban on Yevamos to page 6, and asking why they don't use the exact same wording. Worth questioning, but maybe you need more.
    – MichoelR
    Oct 12, 2022 at 1:51

1 Answer 1


The term HaIvrim does not mean the descendants of Ever but refers to the meaning assigned to Avraham. That is he was on one side (עבר אחד) while the rest of the world was on the other side.

As an example, this is explained by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Which makes the oldest and most venerable name for Jews also significant and meaningful. The name Hebrew, as in “Abraham the Hebrew” is a loose transliteration of the Hebrew word, IVRI.

And the fugitive came and he told Abram the Hebrew… (Genesis 14:13)

IVRI means someone who has crossed over, usually a body of water.

And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the river, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan… (Joshua 24:3)

Abraham’s first act of obedience to God involved leaving his birthplace and crossing the Euphrates River.

Joseph in Egypt was referred to as a Hebrew.

Now it happened, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, that she called to the people of her house, and she spoke to them, saying, “Look! He brought us a Hebrew man to mock us. (Genesis 39:13-14)

Joseph had also crossed a river, the Nile on his way to Egypt.

Guess who else crossed water and is also called a Hebrew? That’s right, Jonah.

And they [the sailors] said to him, “Tell us now, because of whom has this evil befallen us? What is your work and whence do you come? What is your land, and from what people are you?”

And Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven, Who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:8-9)

  • 2
    This doesn't sit well with me. On one hand, the specific pasuk I'm referring to shows that the Egyptians didn't want to sit with the Ivrim because they were disgusted with how the Ivrim ate. What are the odds that all of Egypt knows how a teeny tiny minority of less than 70 people eat? Secondly, Yosef says about himself that he was stolen away from the Land of the Ivrim. What land did the Ivrim, according to your meaning, have? One plot near Sh'chem and one in Chevron. That's not exactly a "Land" as in country.
    – Harel13
    Dec 25, 2019 at 7:11
  • On the other hand, having checked all the times that the root "Ivri" appears in the Tanach together with Targum Yonatan, it appears the Targum is inconsistent: The first five times the word appears in Bereshit, it's translated as "Ivraee", including in the famous "Avraham Ha'Ivri", until we get to here where it's become "Yehudaee" all the way to Shmot 10:3 where "Elokei Ha'Ivrim" becomes "Elaka D'Yisrael", then in Shmot and Dvarim "Eved Ivri" becomes "Avda D'Bar Yisrael". Then it goes back to "Yehudaee" throughout Shmuel, then back to Yisrael/Bar Yisrael in Yirmiyahu and then Yehudaa in Yonah.
    – Harel13
    Dec 25, 2019 at 7:17
  • I guess it makes more sense to me that we're seeing here some sort of transition in the meaning of "Ivri", at least according to the Targum.
    – Harel13
    Dec 25, 2019 at 7:19
  • @Harel13 In regard to what land did the ‘Ivrim’ possess, this really touches on why Avram, the Prince of the descendants of Shem, was told told to leave from the land where he was born ultimately to cross the river. He was returning to land that was apportioned to the descendants of Shem. That was because others were taking possession of that inheritance. And those who were attempting to take the land were the Kaftorim AKA the Pelishtim, the remnant of the Minoan civilization after the eruption of Thrace destroyed their empire. Jan 24, 2020 at 1:28
  • Even if Ivrim is limited to the descendants of Avraham, it still includes a large number of nations beyond just Yakov and his sons. The descendants of Yishmael, and the Bnei Keturah (especially Midian) are Ivrim that aren't "Jews." Oct 19, 2021 at 3:45

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