Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

Search This Blog

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Comparative Religion


In order to understand our present we must first understand our past. This is a saying that is particularly true in today's world; and more, particularly, in the world of the ancient Israelites. The ancient people's who became the Israelites were a people in search of an identity. They were disjointed groups of Semitics attempting to find their place in the world.
In Lesson Nine the topics of the Hyksos and Habiru were introduced . I was immediately intrigued with the etymology of the word Habiru in relation to the ancient term of Hebrew. Did the word Hebrew evolve from Habiru? Were the Habiru/Hebrews separate groups of people or one and the same? Did one of these groups evolve into the Israelites? This essay is a brief attempt to answer these questions and restore some of the Israelites history.
First, let us look at who the Hyksos people were (as they were also introduced in Lesson Nine). The Hyksos were Semitics who came out of Syria and Arabia in 1700b.c.e. They then proceeded to invade Egypt. Josephus, an early Jewish historian, quoting Manetho (an even earlier Egyptian historian/priest) noted that they were “cruel and destructive invaders”. (1) One important reason the Hyksos were so successful at this invasion was due to their use of horses. (2) The Egyptians began to use horses in warfare following the Hyksos invasion. The Hyksos were eventually expelled from Egypt; not just one time but twice! It has been theorized that one of these expulsions could have been the Biblical Exodus. However, that conclusion would rely upon an as yet to be proven fact; that the Hyksos were the ancient Israelites.
Another group who also meets the criteria for being the precursor to the Israelites were the people known as the Habiru's. The Habiru's were not a nation and could not describe themselves as a tribe unless necessity called for it. The Habiru's were people who lived outside of society for one reason or another (debt, escaping slavery, military deserter and so on). They would come together in loosely organized “tribes” to follow a leader as need demanded; conquest, famine, etc. They were known to sell their services in exchange for food. They entered Egypt at a time of famine and, as their custom was, sold themselves to the Egyptians as slaves in order to procure food. It's a possibility that their descendents were not able to break the cycle of poverty and thus remained as slaves in Egypt for generations. During a time of plagues and chaos they escaped.
The earliest known reference to the Habiru are from Sumer and date from the Third Dynasty of Ur; about 2000b.c.e.. The Semitic people's were expanding at that time and, in this reference written in cuneiform, the Sumerian's judicial system was having difficulty defining their legal status. Other written documents, from the 20th through the 11th centuries, note that the Habiru were scattered throughout the Near East in every level of society. It should be noted that the name Habiru means “wanderer.” The name Hebrew, in its root meaning, means “to go across.” A Hebrew is one who went from place to place.
The El Armana tablets (discovered by an Egyptian woman in 1877) refer to invaders of Palestine as 'Apiru. Lest the reader become confused, 'Apiru bears a close relationship to the terms Habiru and Hebrew. Extensive research has led many scholars to the conclusion that the term Habiru was first
used to describe people who journey into settled areas and did not refer to a specific group but to a social caste. (3) A caste, it should be noted, that, at times, was viewed as low in worth. The term Habiru was often used as an insult. However, the word Habiru was a term that was transformed from a social designation into the ethnic word Hebrew. This would have occurred when the Habiru formed tribes and developed a unique identity. Hebrew eventually became a term used interchangeably with Israelite. Abraham is the first person in the Bible to be referred to as a Hebrew.
Evidence from archaeological discoveries (both cuneiform and heiroglyphic) seem to point to the conclusion that sociologically the Hebrews were the Habiru, although not all Habiru were Hebrews. (4) It could be postulated that those who became the groups called Hebrews may have shared a common heritage (Abraham) and followed a common leader (Moses).
There is much more information available concerning the Habirus, Hebrews and 'Apiru's if the reader should wish to further study this subject.
The finding of an ethnic identity and, eventually, a homeland was a central theme for the ancient Israelites; as it is for todays Israelites. To understand one's past in order to understand one's present is a continuing quest for modern day Hebrews. How this quest is interpreted can influence many the world over.



  1. Josephus, “Against Apion,” I, Sec. 14, p. 611.
  2. “Hyksos and Edom”, Chap. Six,”The Hyksos Horses”.
  3. “Old Testament Life and Literature (1968), Gerald A. Larue”.
  4. “The Habiru And The Hebrews: From A Social Class To An Ethnic Group,
    by Stuart A. West”.



  1. Josephus, “Against Apion”, I, Sec. 14, p. 611.
  2. “Hyksos and Edom, Chap. Six, The Hyksos Horses”.
  3. “Old Testament Life and Literature (1968), Gerald A. Larue”.
  4. “The Habiru And The Hebrews: From A Social Class To An Ethnic Group, by Stuart A. West”.
  5. www.W.G.Waddell.mht: Manetho: “The Aegyptiaca of Manetho: Manetho's History of Egypt,” translated by W.G. Waddell.
  6. www.translation.mht: Eusebius Chronicle (5).

The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.
The Universal Life Church offers handfasting ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and free minister training.

No comments: