Eber (עֵבֶר, Standard Hebrew ʿÉver, Tiberian Hebrew ʿĒḇer, Arabic: ھود) is a person from the Hebrew Bible. He was a great-grandson of Noah's son Shem and the father of Peleg and Joktan. He was the son of Salah and an ancestor of Abraham.

In Jewish tradition, Eber, the great-grandson of Shem, refused to help with the building of the Tower of Babel, so his language was not confused when it fell. He and his family alone retained the original human language, called lingua humana in Latin or Gortighern. After this, the language was called Hebrew, named after Eber. (There are different religious positions on this issue; see also Adamic language.)

The name "Eber" along with the name Hapiru are considered by Biblical scholars to be the roots of the word "Hebrew", with "eber" most often meaning "side" or "beyond", but also region beyond or across, opposite side, or passage.

[Genesis 10:21] Also to Shem, the father of all the Children of Eber, and the older brother of Japheth, children were born. (NASB)

In some translations of the New Testament, he is referred to once as Heber ([Luke 3:35] ...the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Salah...); however, he should not be confused with the Heber of the Old Testament (different Hebrew spelling חבר), grandson of Asher ([Genesis 46:17] The sons of Asher: Imnah and Ishvah and Ishvi and Beriah and their sister Serah. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel).

According to tradition, Eber died at the age of 464 when Jacob was 20. The Hebrew Calendar synchronises this date with 1817 BC.

Theories about Eber

There is a legend that the Avars were descendants of Eber through children of Abraham and his third (or second, as the Talmud identifies her with Hagar) wife Keturah.

Charles N. Pope suggests that Eber was the Babylonian king, Hammurabi who reigned over the Babylonian Empire from 1792 BC until his death in 1750 BC.

Eber (2303 BC) son of Shelah (2333 BC) and great-grandson of Shem (2468 BC) is also the founding patriarch of the descendancy of Joktan and his son Jobab.

Linguistic association of "Eber", "Heber" and "Hebrew"

In the King James Version (KJV) of the Old Testament, the name "Eber" is used, while in the KJV New Testament, "Heber" is used instead, each referring to the same person. And in both KJV books, the word "Hebrew" refers to the descendants of this person. The confusion between "Eber" and "Heber" lies in transcriptional misunderstandings through ongoing layers of Biblical translation, as well as the differentiated cultural origins of the Old and New Testaments.

The origin of the names for Eber and the Hebrews, as used in European Christian languages, derived from Aramaic עבר ʿĒḇer and עברי ʿIḇrāy, as spoken in the Roman province of Judaea and by those Jews who escaped the province's destruction. When Greek-writing Jewish scholars compiled the Septuagint, the adaptations chosen for these names (for whatever reason) were Εβερ Heber and Εβραιος Hebraios. These names were adapted through Latin and French before reaching English as "Heber" and "Hebrew", and these names were used in the KJV New Testament.

However, the KJV Old Testament was largely translated not from Greek and Latin sources, but from existing Hebrew texts accessible to scholars at the time, employing a uniquely Anglo-Saxon method of adapting Hebrew words and names. As such, in the Old Testament, "Eber" was used without the H, likely reflecting the common Hebrew dialects used among the Jews of Europe. However, the KJV translators chose to use the New Testament name "Hebrew" (instead of "Ibrite" or "Eberite") as the canonical term for the descendants of Eber in the Old Testament as well, likely to avoid confusing lay readers.

As the King James Version of the Bible became the primary Christian scripture of Great Britain, the association of "Eber" with "Hebrew" in the English-speaking religious world became a permanent phenomenon.

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