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Differences between Jews and Israelites

It is common to confuse Jews with Israelites today as almost all Jews live in Israel. And although all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews. To explain the reason for this, it is important to specify the difference between being a Jew and an Israelite. Although both sets of groups fall under the group of Hebrews, there are some significant differences between the two. Hebrews, Israelites and Jews all belong to the nation that was chosen by God in the Old Testament.

Legend has it that Jacob, who was the son of Isaac and was also the promised son of Abraham had his name changed to Israel when he wrestled with a Holy man (sent by God). In simple words, the nation that grew from the descendants of the followers of Abraham and Isaac (and then Jacob aka Israel) later got to be known as Israel, and its people Israelites. Later when the nation divided, the people of the northern part kept the name Israelites whereas their Southern counterparts now became known as Judahs.

To clarify the difference between the two, let’s first take a look at the history of the two groups. The group of people who migrated and settled in what is now known as Palestinian hinterland sometime around the fourteenth century are normally referred to as Hebrews. After the death of King Solomon, there was a division in the commonwealth of Israel. This gave rise to a Northern kingdom that was comprised of ten main tribes which became Israel. Shechem was its first capital which was later replaced by Samaria which became the new permanent capital. Then there was the Southern Kingdom which consisted of the Judah, Benjamin as well as some other tribes which became known as the nation of Judah. Its capital remained in Jerusalem. Judah however was later captured by Babylon.

Although there are many conflicts and confusions regarding the facts, what is most commonly considered is the legend that there were two Hebrew kingdoms to start with. One of them, Israel, was the larger and more prosperous one and was north relative to the other, Judah. Judah was the southern kingdom and although gained power in the future, was smaller and less wealthy than Israel. The people of Judah were known as Judahs and that of Israel, Israelites. In the bible, there is reference to a united monarchy comprised of two kingdoms, together known as Israel sometime around the tenth century BC.

During the Babylonian Exile, power remained with the Judah kings as well as the Judah religious leaders. Judahism began to expand in Judah in the 7th Century BC and during the Babylonian Exile, became the national religion of the citizens. After being exiled to Babylon, and when they returned, these people became known as Jews. It is their descendants who are the Jews living today. The Bible however, called all these people Israelites; the native Judahites as well as the refugees from the northern kingdom of Israel.

The fact that the Bible uses a collective term to refer to both of these accounts for the fact that there is widespread confusion today between Judahs/Jews and Israelites. The two words are used interchangeably and although it is true that there is not much difference between the two today, history shows how the two groups evolved and were often up as each other’s rivals.

Summary of differences expressed in points

  1. Initially one nation-Israel-its people collectively known as Israelites or Hebrews; later divided into two nations, Israel and Judah, with the people then known as Israelites and Judahs respectively (Judahs are the same as Jews)
  2. Israel divided after the death of King Solomon; the northern part kept the name Israel, the Southern tribes became the nation of Judah
  3. Of the two, Israel (northern part) was larger and more prosperous
  4. During the Babylonian Exile, power remained with the Judah Kings and religious leaders despite the larger population and prosperity of Israel
  5. In the 7th Century (during the Babylonian Exile), Judahism expanded and became the national religion of the nation
  6. This was the time that the Judahs started being referred to as Jews (as known today)

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  1. Your site says: “…almost all Jews live in Israel.” What??? The current estimate is that the most Jews live in the United States. Israel may soon surpass that, but your statement is ridiculously off base. I thought I’d found a fun new website, but whoever is writing this stuff isn’t even checking Wikipedia. Besides, “Israelite” is an ancient term, and not used to describe anyone today. Today’s residents of Israel are “Israelis,” not “Israelites.” And Jews are Jews, everywhere. Who are you, Allana? Sorry, don’t mean to insult you, but you’re not well informed…

    • What’s your point here?
      And if you have what to say,
      Pls vamoose from this website,
      Never you distract or distort anybody.

      And mind you, this person is basing his teachings from biblically point of view.
      And if you doubt, just study the 2nd chronicles chapter 1,2,……36. Study about king Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, ASa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, study it to the last king Cyprus. Pls Bro Bernard you may be correct but biblically, this teacher is also accurate. Thanks

      • I must fully disagree with the writer of this article. Unless you know our Hebrew language, you’ll not understand that Jew is NOT a people but a western word and a conglomerate of Karzaks and Ashkenazi tribal people. You WILL NOT find the word Jew in our Sacred TaNaCH, but only in polluted, bastardized, and abominable translations into English and other foreign languages. The people of the Southern Kingdom were called Yehudim (plural form for Yehudah or as written in one text, YaHaWaH.

    • Wikipedia, really homeslice? You are going to put the word of a website, that is CONTINUALLY proven to be ,not only WRONG in many instances, but also written and REWRITTEN by some of whom use conjecture rather than FACT, OVER that of those whom STUDY the Bible, and therefore translate It’s meaning. Son do us a favor and step AWAY from your god, the computer, and pick up a BOOK every once in a while, for you have made an ASS of yourself. In MY humble opinion! Peace and axle grease and God bless you!

    • You must be from the middle east or something to be ungrateful that someone took the time to explain something. You are probably correct in your statement but if you think that you know more then write the whole story for us to know better.
      I’m from Costa Rica. So I have very little knowledge about the middle east including israel.

    • Yes I wanted a refresh on my memory from the 1980s where one of our client was an Israeli and since I was a child my immigrant dad went on to explain there was a difference from a Jewish. A few of our clients were escapee from madman Hitler.
      It seemed an Israeli and Israelites are interchanged, I was not under that assumption. Jewish being a religion though the upbringing is differnent. I’m going to need to check out a history book or text. I have an incurable thirst for knowledge.

    • My goodness! You have so much to learn. Your first error is relying on an unreasonable source for your education and information. Second, you don’t know our Hebrew language. You WILL NOT find the word Jew in the TaNaCH, what Christianity wrongfully calls the Old Testament. We DO NOT have a testament, we have a covenant with our Creator YHWH, the Elohim of Yisra’El.

    • The word tells us that God made the covenant with all the people in the wilderness that were Israelites, and the went into the promise land, then after they went into captivity into Babylon, when released the two tribes Judah and Benjamin went back to the land of Israel, history tells us that the ten tribes went into Great Britain, and then later went over the caucus mountains the Caucasians, which later came to the america’s, when they sailed to the new land they compared it as the exit of Egypt and called it the new Jerusalem, America was given to the people from God, many other groups had tried to sail here but were destroyed at sea by storms or landed in other places, but if you tell most christians that all Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites aren’t Jews get pretty upset and just think your mislead

    • Israelis is not only limited to Jews living in Israel, the term also apply to Arabs, Muslims and Christian citizens of Israel. Israelites refer to the ancient people of Israel.

  2. The people of Judah are known as jews,not judahs. The Israelites went ‘up'(north in bible speak) to ‘posess the wilderness’ (what you all know as Europe today). Judah are jews, Israelites are Europeans today. plain and simple

    • Absolutely right. It’s sad that most don’t understand or get that.

    • However that is not to say that European – Israelite Jews are to be considered non-Jews. Please articulate yourself properly

    • Europeans were never Hebrews. Isreal was settled in canaan which was between southern Asia and northerneast Africa and was inhabited by africans.. Ancient Hebrews were black because if they were white their skin wasnt made for places like Egypt and Canaan. And back in those days they were called Tribes. Europeans just adopted judaism but they’re not the Hebrews that God led out of Egypt.

      • I totally agree. The true Israelites were and are black. If you look at the ones occupying Israel now they don’t look alike. They may possess the same image that tells them they are Israel ( curls in hair, black clothing, etc. ) but their skin tone isn’t the same. For some are pale while others aren’t but they claim the identity and land of something that doesn’t belong to them at all.

        • I think we should consider that Abraham came from the middle East, from Mesopotamia or Ur in particular. The people their are not black, they are yellowish as we would observe the inhabitants of Iran and Iraq today. Ancient Israel are not black people, Egyptians were not also black people. Try to look for images of Egyptians today, and they are more like Arabs. When you say Africans does not ultimately mean black people. The southern part of Africa do show black people but in the Northern part, there are people with white and yellowish complexion.

      • That’s nonsense, is that the same if I say blacks aren’t designed for Iceland because of their skin color? nonsense.

    • Under King David and his son Solomon the 12 tribes were United into one kingdom#Isreal
      The Capital of Is real was Jerusalem in Judah in the southern
      kingdom where the temple was and where the king of Is real lived
      After the death of king Solomon the nation split into ten tribes in northern Isreal with Samaria as it’s Capital and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south with Jerusalem as it’s Capital.
      So all Israelis didnt decend from the tribe of Judah hence the name Jew derived from
      But they belong to the Hebrew race
      and their nationality is Israelis

    • You are so lost and misinformed. It will be most beneficial for you to read my other comments.

    • They went up over the caucus mountains, that’s how we get Caucasians, then later they came to America these were the Pilgrims

  3. The Ashkenazi people you all call jewish were not chosen by God for anything other than tay sachs disease and chasing ambulances.
    They are Gentiles,and the balfour declaration was nothing more than the sale of ancient holy land to a group of people who have no history there whatsoever. The ‘whoredom of Ephraim’ that was prophecised in the bible.

    • Easy there Mark. There is no need for such insults. According to the Jewish belief, ALL Jews were chosen by God, and while it is true some did not care as much for Israel, and opted to form a Jewish country in other places, it is still our sacred homeland, regardless.

      • It’s easy to see the truth—- the word Jew isn’t even biblical. Look back in history. The letter J wasn’t in use until the 17th century.
        Mark isn’t insulting anyone— he’s quoting scripture! READ THE BOOK!!!!

        The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:5

        Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Is 5:3

        • “My people are destroyed”……

          And I believe this scripture ( but feel free to read the whole chapter), will be of some help. Remember the Northern Kingdom was given the name Israel due to the blessing given to Joseph’s two boys (BY JACOB), whose mother was the daughter of the Priest of On (CANAANITES) which would make those who came from Germany who? I’m just saying family.
          Yes that northern kingdom turn their backs to God due to those priest. The people went to whoring. But one thing I found is you can’t curse what God has already Bless.
          And then the book of 1 Peter somewhere in the second Chapter, you will find Peter reminding them, YOU ARE A ….

        • Wrong…read 2 Kings chapters 16—25

      • How can Jews say they are God’s chosen people ( or whatever ) but not believe in Jesus? JC said ( if I remember the wording correct ) “no one cometh to the Father but by me”, and Jews deny Christ… I have come to believe Jews are not very good people. Things I’ve learned are disturbing. .

    • Mark, you are right on target. Ashkenazi is a decendant of the family of Japheth. Yisra’El, we are of the family of Shem.

  4. U do not bring up the fact that the 10 tribes in northern Israel were attacked, conquered and dispersed ‘to the lands of Medes and Persians’ by
    Assyria around 733 to 740 BC..


    • None of the people you mentioned fit that description. Canadians and South Americans? Please try to explain that one and black America’s definitely don’t fit it either.

      Black Americans (like most blacks on North and South America, the Caribbean, and many European) where enslaved by their own people and soild to other nations where they were eventually given freedom and the same rights as all others. Blacks in the US had to endure racism for a longer period of time then most but have ultimately gained equality in every way except from within their own minds and culture.

      A black man in America starting at go in the same place a white man in America is starting can do the same things and achieve just as much as any other man.

      Asians in America are a perfect example, coming here after their home land was at war with the US (Vietnam) they were as hated by whites in the 70s, 80s, and up into the 90s as anyone. I can tell you story after story of family’s that had nothing and had to live and work in the high crime areas and high drug areas but still found away to not make excuses or blame the white man and now where are there??? In the top 2 groups of income earners.

      You keep buying that shit they are selling you and you will stay where you are. But Obama and a ton of other successful blacks will tell you otherwise.

      • Wake up Mark. You stated “but have ultimately gained equality in every way.” Do you not listen to or read the news? Black people are the only people who fits the description of Deuteronomy chapter 28. They cannot go back to their own land, Palestine which has been occupied by Europeans since the Balfour declaration signed by Europeans in 1948, following World War II.

    • Ain’t no blacks being held anywhere in this world against their will,,,,,,,, maybe some in Africa where slavery still exists today.

  6. Guys, first of all, I want to say
    that I am an Israeli Jewish, okay,
    So first of all being Jewish changed a very long time ago from someone who is from the Judah kingdom, to someone who was not or joined the Jewish religion.
    As Bernard Schmenk said, Israelites is an old, and almost unused term, we call nowadays, people say “Israeli” which isn’t necessarily have to be Jewish; the are Israeli arabs, christians, Druze, and more.

    • I’m sorry I ment Someone who was born or joined the Jewish religion.
      Stupid autocorrect.

      • Thank you sir!…..I was so confused with the comments and write up, that it fooled what i already know to be true, exactly what you said. Judah is a religion of people called the Jews, who might or might not live in present day Israel; However, Jew, Arabs, Druze or any tribe for that matter owning a Israeli passport and or Born in the nation of Israel are collectively called Israeli.

        Thanks again.

    • Tubal. Someone joining the Catholic Church does not make him/her an Italian any more than a gentile joining the Jewish religion. The Almighty YHWH did NOT give us Yisra’El any religion. He gave us the TaNaCH. We don’t need any stinking man-made religion of any sort. ToRaH has always been our guide our guide since Moshe gave it to our fathers, Yitzchak and Ya’akov.

  7. I’m new to all this stuff, but when you speak of God, what sort of God are you talking about, how come this God has that person over there as chosen, and this person I be here as turds upon the planet, from what I interpret from all these writings that I’m reading, I think that everything is upside down and bullshit myself, I think all the stuff that I am hearing here today of everybody’s supposedly opinions is based on that opinion only and based on that, is only and idiosyncrasy (as similar to a nursery rhyme, of for example “hi diddle diddle”) and a figure of everybody’s imagination, of what they would like to think, or to suit all of their individual lifestyles.

  8. Just a grammatical correction to the first paragraph: “… all Israelites are not Jews.” should read “… not all Israelites are Jews.” The former would mean that none of the Israelites are Jews!

    Nevertheless, thanks for a most enlightening article.

  9. It’s very simple and true the Jewish race is the choose race God choose that race for the birth of Jesus God in the form of man God could of choose any other race but he didn’t

    • If God created man in his own image, then why would he have to choose anything. And better yet , why create different races? Why would God give himself another opportunity to make another mistake? eg: creating angels

  10. Blind leading the blind. Go back to the Sports Page, guys!

  11. You have shown difference between new and Israelites,but what about Hebrew.

  12. Please tell me about difference between Israelites and hebrews

  13. Israelites was a name of a group and Hebrew was the language they was using.

    • Well Danny, since you’re so smart,(and I didn’t say intelligent), tell me. What do Spanish people speak, and what are they called? How about English people? Sometimes Spanish people are referred to as Spaniards. Hence, we are called both Hebrews and Yisra’El (or Israelites as westerners like to call us). And our primary language is Hebrew. However, most of us speak, read, and write several foreign languages.

  14. The Jews in Israel are Israelis they are the fake Jews. The Israelites are scattered across the four corners of the earth they were taken in the Atlantic slave trade by ship. A lot of us don’t know we’re the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. The lost sheep is what they call us. But the Most High will gather us and put us in our land. When the true Israelite get in their land it won’t be any war but the fake Jews are in the land it’s all kind of war. We serve our 400 yrs now Babylon shall see judgement.

    • What you said is correct Nikki.
      However, the holy Scriptures does not say that Yisra’El would be in captivity for 400 years, but rather after 400 years we will return to Zion. It could be as long as 490 years or more. But stay hopeful, and keep the laws of YaHaWaH, our YAH. Shalom aleichem.

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