[Of (Belonging to) Judah].
A person belonging to the tribe of Judah. The name is not used in the Bible account prior to the fall of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. In Hezekiah’s time, Isaiah used an adjectival form of the word, translated “the language of the Jews.” (Isa 36:11, 13) Most often, the southern kingdom was called Judah, and the people were called sons of Judah or the tribe of the sons of Judah. The first Bible writer to use the name Jews in direct reference to the people was the writer of the books of Kings, doubtless Jeremiah, whose prophetic service began in 647 B.C.E. (See 2Ki 16:6; 25:25.) After the exile the name was applied to any Israelites returning (Ezr 4:12; 6:7; Ne 1:2; 5:17) and, finally, to all Hebrews throughout the world, to distinguish them from the Gentile nations. (Es 3:6; 9:20) Gentile men who accepted the Jewish faith and became circumcised proselytes also declared themselves Jews. (Es 8:17) However, in the Hebrew Scriptures the expression “alien resident” may refer to one who had adopted the religion of the Jews (Jer 22:3), and even in the Christian Greek Scriptures such are distinguished at times by the term “proselytes.” (Ac 2:10; 6:5; 13:43) The term “Jewess” is used at Acts 24:24.
When Jesus was a young child, the astrologers came, inquiring: “Where is the one born king of the Jews?” (Mt 2:1, 2) On Jesus’ torture stake Pilate put the title “Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.”—Joh 19:19.
Figurative Use. The apostle Paul, in arguing that the Jews were mistaken in their pride of fleshly descent and in relying on the works of the Law to find favor with God, said: “For he is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code. The praise of that one comes, not from men, but from God.” (Ro 2:28, 29) Here Paul, by a play on the meaning of the name Judah, shows that the real basis for praise from God is being a servant of God from the heart, by spirit. This argument parallels his reasoning in Romans chapter 4, that the true seed of Abraham are those with the faith of Abraham. He further points out that in the Christian congregation nationality is of no consequence, for “there is neither Jew nor Greek [Gentile].” (Ga 3:28) The resurrected Jesus Christ spoke to the congregation at Smyrna, comforting them with regard to the persecution they were receiving, to a great extent at the hands of the Jews, saying: “I know . . . the blasphemy by those who say they themselves are Jews, and yet they are not but are a synagogue of Satan.”—Re 2:9.