Children of Israel

From Academic Kids

The Children of Israel (Hebrew: בני ישראל Bnai Yisrael or Bnei Yisrael or Bnei Yisroel or Bene Israel;) (Arabic: بني إسرائيل) is a Biblical term for the Israelites. It is also an alternate way of referring to the people known as Hebrews, Jewish or Bnai Israel. It means Sons or Children of Israel in Hebrew. In the Torah they are the twelve sons of Jacob who was renamed Israel in Genesis. They are also known as the Twelve Tribes.

The phrase "Children of Israel" refers to the offspring of the Biblical patriarch Jacob, who was renamed "Israel" after he triumphed in a mysterious night-time struggle with an angel: "...Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel (Yisra'el). [Because] you have become great (sar [a lord]) before God and man. You have won." (Genesis 32:29) [1] ( Therefore, the name "Israel" denotes "one who has struggled with [the challenges of] God" and triumphed.

Jacob/Israel had twelve sons who became the progenitors of the biblical Twelve tribes of Israel. Subsequently when their descendants multiplied during the exile in ancient Egypt the Bible (Exodus) refers to them as the Children of Israel.

In the midrash, a rabbinic Jewish genre of Biblical interpretation, Jacob has the status of the greatest of the three patriarchs, since only he produced a righteous family. Abraham had both Isaac and Ishmael, but the latter was expelled from Abraham's tent due to the negative influence he was having on Isaac. Isaac in turn had Jacob and Esau, the latter being a hunter and sold his birthright to his brother. It is only Jacob/Israel who has sons who, after all their internal struggles, emerge as a united family all loyal "Sons of Israel".


Exodus and later

In the Book of Exodus the Israelites are constantly referred to as the Bnai Yisrael when God speaks to Moses etc.

This name is not to be confused with the modern State of Israel whose citizens are called Israelis some of whom are Muslims and some Christians. Only about 70 percent of modern-day Israel's citizens are actually Jews.

After the split of the Hebrew Kingdom, the Southern Kingdom came to be known as the Bnei Judah, while the Northern Kingdom came to be known as the Bnei Israel.


Based on the New Testament, Christianity claims that the Christians are the "new Israel" that took replaced the "Children of Israel" since the Jews rejected Jesus. This view is called Supersessionism. Many European settlers in the New World saw themselves as the heirs of those ancient tribes, hence one finds that they named their children and many towns they settled in with names connected to the figures in the Bible.

Other appearances

There is an ethnic-religious group in Afghanistan which refers to itself as the Bnai Israel, or House of Israel, or Bani Israel. This group is referred to in English as the Pashtuns. Some Pashtuns claim to be the patriarchal historical descendants of the "ten lost tribes" of the northern Kingdom of Israel which were taken into captivity by Assyria.

Jews in India are sometimes referred to as Benai Israel.


In the Qur'an, this subject has been recalled a number of times. There is a Surah (chapter) in the Qur'an with the title Bani Israel or House of Israel. This Surah takes its name from verse 4. This Surah was revealed in the last year before Hijrah. See Bani Israel (Quran sura). Besides right from the first chapter (Surah) the term has been mentioned many times.

See also


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