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Hebrews was a civilization that originated among a Semitic people in the ancient Near East. The term Hebrew was not originally an ethnic designation. The Hebrews were a class of people who worked as hired servants in Ancient Egypt at about the time of Ramses II. They had probably been in Egypt for several hundred years before the kings of Egypt decided to enslave them. They may well have been descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel, which owed their origin to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Hebrews' escape from Egypt is recounted in the Torah in the book called Exodus in English, or Shemot in Hebrew.

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  • "Hebrews." Britannica Student Library. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010.