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.
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).
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.
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.