Ephraim part 1
by John Thomas Lowe
Joseph and His Brothers
Ephraim is the second son of Joseph and Asenath. The name Ephraim, then, means "fruitfulness." Asenath was an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as a wife and the daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On. Ephraim was born in Egypt before the arrival of the children of Israel from Canaan.
Children: Sheerah, Shuthelah, Elead, Beker, Tahan, Ezer
Parents: Joseph, Asenath
The Book of Genesis related the name "Ephraim" to a Hebrew word for "being fruitful," referring to Joseph's ability to produce children, specifically while in Egypt (termed by the Torah as the land of his affliction).
In the biblical account, Joseph's other son is Manasseh, and Joseph himself is one of the two children of Rachel and Jacob, the other being Benjamin. Biblical scholars regard it as evidence, from their geographic overlap and their treatment in older passages, that Ephraim and Manasseh were initially considered one tribe – that of Joseph. According to several biblical scholars, Benjamin was initially part of the suggested Ephraim-Manasseh single "Joseph" tribe, but the biblical account of Joseph as his Father became lost. Many biblical scholars suspect that the distinction of the Joseph tribes (including Benjamin) is that they were the only Israelites who went to Egypt and returned. In contrast, the main Israelite tribes emerged as a subculture from the Canaanites and had remained in Canaan throughout. According to this view, the story of Jacob's visit to Laban to obtain a wife originated as a metaphor for this migration, with the property and family which were gained from Laban representing the gains of the Joseph tribes by the time they returned from Egypt; according to textual scholars, the *Jahwist version of the Laban narrative only mentions the Joseph tribes, and Rachel, and does not mention the other tribal matriarchs at all. In the Torah, the eventual superiority of the Tribe of Ephraim is argued to derive from Jacob, blind and on his deathbed, blessing Ephraim before Manasseh. The text describing this blessing features a *hapax legomenon – the word which classical rabbinical literature has interpreted in obscure manners; some rabbinical sources connect the term with sekel, meaning mind/wisdom, and view it as indicating that Jacob was entirely aware of who he was blessing; other rabbinical sources connect the term with shikkel, viewing it as signifying that Jacob was despoiling (robbing) Manasseh in favor of Ephraim; yet other rabbinical sources argue that it refers to the power of Jacob to instruct and guide the holy spirit. In classical rabbinical sources, Ephraim is described as modest and not selfish. These rabbinical sources allege that it was on account of modesty and selflessness and a prophetic vision of Joshua that Jacob gave Ephraim superiority over Manasseh, the elder of the two; in these sources, Jacob is regarded as being sufficiently just that God upholds the blessing in his honor, and makes Ephraim the leading tribe.
*hapax legomenon is a transcription of Greek meaning "being said once."
*The Jahwist is so named because of its characteristic use of the term Yahweh
The Bible records that from Joshua to the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel, the Tribe of Ephraim was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed, and in times of crisis, the people were led by ad hoc leaders known as Judges (see the Book of Judges).
With the growth of the threat from Philistine incursions, the Israelite tribes decided to form a solid centralized monarchy to meet the challenge. The Tribe of Ephraim joined the new kingdom with Saul as the first king. The widely accepted date for Saul's reign is approximately 1025–1005 BCE. Some scholars dispute this date range and place Saul later, perhaps as late as "the second half of the tenth century B.C.E."
After the death of Ishbosheth, Saul's son and successor to the throne of Israel, the Tribe of Ephraim joined the other northern Israelite tribes in making David, who was then the king of Judah, the king of a reunited Kingdom of Israel. The sequence preserved in the Bible, in which David follows Saul as king of Israel, may not be historically accurate. According to archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, there is doubt about whether the biblical ordering for the reigns of the early monarchs is reliable.
However, on the accession of Rehoboam, David's grandson, in c. 930 BCE, the northern tribes split from the House of David to form the northern Kingdom of Israel. The northern kingdom's first king was an Ephraimite, Jeroboam, who likely ruled in 931–909 BCE.
The accents of the tribes were distinctive enough even at the time of the confederacy so that when the Israelites of Gilead, under the leadership of Jephthah, fought the Tribe of Ephraim, their pronunciation of shibboleth as sibboleth was considered sufficient evidence to single out individuals from Ephraim, so that they could be subjected to immediate death by the Israelites of Gilead.
Ephraim was a member of the Northern Kingdom until Assyria conquered the kingdom in c. 723 BCE, and the population was deported. From that time, the Tribe of Ephraim has been counted as one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Ephraim is often seen as the tribe that embodies the entire Northern Kingdom, and the royal house resides in the tribe's territory (just as Judah is the tribe that embodies the Kingdom of Judah and provides its royal family).
In the biblical account, following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite Joshua, the land was allocated among the twelve tribes. According to a well-known conservative biblical scholar, this occurred slightly after 1200 BC.
As recorded in the Book of Joshua, the territory allocated to the Tribe of Ephraim was at the center of Canaan, west of the Jordan, south of the territory of Manasseh, and north of the Tribe of Benjamin. The region later named Samaria (distinguished from Judea or Galilee) consisted mainly of Ephraim's territory. The area was mountainous, giving it protection, and highly fertile, giving prosperity.
The territory of Ephraim contained the early centers of Israelite religion; Shechem and Shiloh. Joshua 16:1-4 outlines the borders of the lands allocated to the "children of Joseph," i.e., Ephraim and Manasseh combined, and Joshua 16:5-8 defines the borders of the land allocated to the Tribe of Ephraim in more detail. These factors made Ephraim the most dominant of the tribes in the Kingdom of Israel and led to Ephraim becoming a synonym for the entire kingdom.
Joshua allocated Bethel to the Tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:11-28). However, even by the time of the prophetess Deborah, Bethel is described as being in the land of the Tribe of Ephraim (Judges 4:5). Ephron is believed to be the Ophrah also allocated to the Tribe of Benjamin by Joshua (Joshua 18:20-28).
Some twenty years after the breakup of the United Monarchy, Abijah, the second king of the Kingdom of Judah, defeated Jeroboam of Israel and took back the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron, with their surrounding villages (Chronicles 13:17-19).
The riverine gulch, naḥal Ḳanah (Joshua 17:9), divided Ephraim's territory to the south and Manasseh's territory to the north. The modern Israeli town of Karnei Shomron is built near this gulch, which runs in an easterly-westerly direction.
The border of Ephraim extended from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west and incorporated within it the cities of Bethel (now Beitin), Atarot, Beth-Ḥoron, and the Nether (now Bayt Ur), extending as far as Gezer (now Abu Shûsheh, formerly known as Tell el Jezer) and the Mediterranean Sea. Gezer was said to have been inhabited by Canaanites long after Joshua killed or expelled the other Canaanites. According to French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Garneau, who identified the site in 1871 and later carried out excavations there, Gezer marked the extreme western point of the territory of Ephraim and was "situated at the actual intersection of the boundaries of Ephraim, Dan, and Judah." This view, however, does not seem to be supported by the Scriptures themselves, which place the extent of Ephraim's border at sea.
Spanish-Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela wrote that the southernmost bounds of the territory of Ephraim extended in a south-westerly direction as far as the town of Ibelin or Jabney.
According to the Torah, the Tribe Ephraim consisted of descendants of Ephraim, a son of Joseph, from whom it took its name; however, some critical Biblical scholars view this also as *postdiction, an *eponymous metaphor providing an *etiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite confederation. In the Biblical account, Joseph is one of the two children of Rachel and Jacob, a brother to Benjamin, and a Father to both Ephraim, and his first son, Manasseh. However, Manasseh was the eldest, but Jacob foresaw that Ephraim's descendants would be greater than his brother's. Though the biblical descriptions of the geographic boundary of the House of Joseph are relatively consistent, the descriptions of the boundaries between Manasseh and Ephraim are not, and each is portrayed as having *exclaves within the territory of the other.
*postdiction - An assertion or deduction about something in the past; the act of making such an assertion or deduction.
*eponymous - relating to or being the person or thing for whom something is named.
*Etiology - a branch of knowledge concerned with causes.
*exclaves - a portion of the territory of one state surrounded by territory of another or others.