Jews vs Israelites: Difference and Comparison

Religions all around the world have a rich history. Judaism is the oldest religion of the Jewish people (Israelites). They trust in one god, and Jews all around the globe follow Judaism, and they have descended from Hebrews and Israelites.

The Israelites were members of the northern twelve tribes of Israel.

Key Takeaways

  1. Jews are members of the Jewish religion or ethnicity, while Israelites are descendants of the ancient people of Israel.
  2. Israelites originally consisted of twelve tribes, whereas the Jewish people primarily descended from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
  3. Jews have a shared religious identity, while Israelites have a common geographical and cultural heritage.

Jews vs Israelites

Jews are a religious and ethnic group that originated from the Israelites, an ancient group of people who lived in the land of Israel, but not all Israelites are considered Jews due to differences in religious and cultural practices.

Jews vs Israelites

A Jew, in an extensive sense, is any person worldwide who exists in a group that comprises heirs of the historic Jewish people.


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They are the heirs of the old testament. Jews emerged as a cultural and devoted circle in the Middle East in the second millennium BCE.

They originated from the Levant, which is even familiar as the Land of Israel. Yĕhūdhī is the Hebrew name for Jew.

To confirm the existence of Jews, Israel Stele, an inscription found by Flinders Petrie, authenticates that Jews existed in the region of Canaan during the late bronze age. 

The word Israelite exists in the Hebrew Bible with the twelve tribes of Israel.

They are the direct heirs to the sons of Jacob (later called Israel), and they are accumulatively known as Israel. They have faith in the worship of Yahweh (the national god of Israel). Following 930 BCE, two autonomous Hebrew states got founded.

The northern ten tribes constituted the dynasty of Israel and were familiar as Israelites. The southern kingdom was Judah. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonJewsIsraelites
ConnotationYes, they have.No, they did not have.
ReligionYes, they believe in Judaism.They believed in one God, Yahweh.
DescendantHeirs to Hebrews and Israelites.Heirs to sons of Jacob.
TribeJudah Tribe.From the 12 tribes of Israel.
InterlinkAll Jews could be Israelites.All Israelites could not be Jews.

What is a Jew?

A Jew is someone who shares the same values as Judaism. Historically, a jew was initially an affiliate of the tribe of Judah. It was the rival kingdom to Israel of the north.

Jews were initially familiar with the word of Hebrews, from their presence in the Holy Land to the ending of the Babylonian Exile. 

Hebrew Bible states that the ancestors of Jews track down to theological patriarchs like Abraham, Issac (his son), Jacob (Issac’s son), and the theological matriarchs like Leah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Sarah.

They all resided in Canaan. The twelve tribes that existed are said to be the heirs and the twelve sons of Jacob. 

The Pharoah invited Jacob and his family to relocate to Historic Egypt to stay with Jacob’s son (Joseph).

The heirs of Jacob were enslaved in Egypt till Moses led the Exodus. Under Joshua (Moses’s successor), the followers captured Canaan, and the United Monarchy got formed.

Under the rule of King Soloman, the United Monarchy declined, and it got divided into two different divisions of Israel and Judah.

The southern kingdom of Judah became familiar with terms such as the tribe of Judah, partly as the tribe of Levi, and the tribe of Benjamin.  

Present-day Jews assert that they are the descendants of those ten tribes. Legend says that they got forced to go an exile when they got captured by the Neo-Assyrian empire.

The religion of Judaism and Jews are strongly interlinked, and the religious interpretation of the early Jews exists written in the Hebrew Bible. The traditions and beliefs of the first Abrahamic religions are followed by most Jews worldwide. 


What is an Israelite? 

The term Israelites applied to the people who were the direct heirs to the patriarch Jacob. On the other hand, the word Hebrew refers to the Israelites whose immediate ancestors resided in the land of Canaan.

Israelites were the people who stayed in the northern domain of Israel. 

According to the archaeological surveys, the Israelites were a branch of the native Canaanite people.

The powerful belief in monotheism set the Israelite group apart from the rest of the Canaanite people. In the religion of Judaism, Israelites refer to people who follow the holy orders of Levites and Kohanim. 

In ceremonial usage, an Israelite is a Jew who is not an heir to Aaron (cohen, first high priest). They are not even the heirs of early devoted functionaries (Levite).

During the Iron Age, many tribes of Israel unified and formed the domain of Israel and Judah.

During the first temple period, all the power resided with the tribe of Judah, and after the kingdom got destroyed, the Israelites returned after four centuries. Following that, the Hasmonean domain got set up. 

Several archaeologists suggest that Israelites emerged from raiding groups. According to their suggestion, Israelites were nomadic groups who wanted to see how their fortunes lasted in the highlands.

Most ancient Egyptian texts may have been written in the context of later Israelites. There are a few suggestions that the Israelites were a blend of the Indigenous people of Canaan.

The point which truly changed and defined them was their devotion to Yahweh. The origin of the god of later Israelites (Yahweh) is still uncertain. 


Main Differences Between Jews and Israelites

  1. Jews have a connotation. Israelites did not have that.
  2. Jews came from the Israelites and Hebrews. Israelites are heirs to the patriarch Jacob.
  3. Jews obey the principles of Judaism. Later Israelites followed one God (Yahweh).
  4. Jews descended from people living in the southern part after the united monarch separated. Israelites lived in the northern domain after separation.
  5. Jews came from the Judah tribe. Israelites came from the twelve tribes of Israel. 
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