|Ephraim (1) |
("doubly fruitful".) Joseph's second son by Asenath, named so, "for," said Joseph, "God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." Born during the seven plenteous years; the "doubly fruitful" may refer to both the fruitfulness vouchsafed to Joseph and the plenty of the season. As regards Ephraim himself, he was doubly blessed:
(1) in being made, as well as Manasseh, a patriarchal head of a tribe, like Jacob's immediate sons (Genesis 48:5); as Judah received the primary birthright (Reuben losing it by incest, Simeon and Levi by cruelty), and became the royal tribe from whence king David and the Divine Son of David sprang, so Ephraim received a secondary birthright and became ancestor of the royal tribe among the ten tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:3-10; Genesis 49:22-26).
(2) Ephraim the younger was preferred to Manasseh the elder, just as Jacob himself was preferred before the elder Esau. Jacob wittingly guided his hands so as to lay his right on Ephraim and his left on Manasseh, notwithstanding Joseph's remonstrance; saying, "Manasseh shall be great, but his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations." Jacob called to mind God's promise at Luz, "I will make thee fruitful," a Hebrew word related to Ephraim and to Ephrath, the scene of the death of his darling wife, Ephraim's grandmother (Genesis 35:11; Genesis 35:16; Genesis 48:4; Genesis 48:7; Genesis 48:13-19). Ephraim was about 21 when Jacob blessed him, for he was born before the seven years' famine, and Jacob came to Egypt toward its closing years, and lived 17 years afterward (Genesis 47:28).
Before Joseph's death Ephraim's family had reached the third generation (Genesis 50:23). The last notice we have of him is his mourning for his sons killed in the foray by the men of Gath, and naming his new-born son (See BERIAH from the calamity, unconscious that that son would be the progenitor of the most remarkable of all his descendants, Joshua (1 Chronicles 7:20-23). Psalm 78:9 is referred in Smith's Bible Dictionary to this time; but the phrase is rather figurative for spiritual apostasy; "the children of Ephraim ... carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle." Ephraim's numbers in the wilderness of Sinai census were 40,500, Manasseh's 32,200. But at the eve of entering Canaan Ephraim had decreased to 32,500, while Manasseh had increased to 52,700; and at the conquest Ephraim was fewest in numbers after Simeon (22,200).
Still in Moses' blessing Ephraim stands pre-eminent over Manasseh; and he and Manasseh are compared to the two horns of the reem (not unicorn but the gigantic wild ox, now extinct, or urus); "with them he (Joseph) shall push the people together to the ends of the earth, and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim and they are the thousands of Manasseh." Moreover Joseph's land is "blessed of the Lord for the precious things of heaven ... the dew ... the deep beneath ... the precious fruits brought forth by the sun and ... put forth by the moon ... the chief things of the ancient mountains and ... of the lasting hills ... of the earth and its fullness, and the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush": a glorious issue to the afflictions "of him that was separated from his brethren" (Deuteronomy 33:17). "His glory (is like) the firstling of his bullock," rather "the firstling of his (Joseph's) bullock (i.e. Ephraim made by Jacob in privileges the firstborn of Joseph's offspring; the singular 'bullock' being used collectively for all Joseph's offspring, and expressing their strength) is his glory."
Whereas Jacob dwelt on Joseph's trials, and prophetically the severe wars of his descendants, in which God would strengthen them as He had strengthened Joseph, Moses looks onward to their final triumph and peaceful enjoyment of all precious things in their land. The tribe Ephraim's territory. - The two great tribes of Judah and Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) took their inheritance first. The boundaries of Ephraim are traced from W. to E. in Joshua 16:1-10. Ataroth Adar and upper Bethheron lay on the center of the southern border of Ephraim. The border on the N. side went out westward, i.e. seaward, to Michmethah, which was in front (W. or N.W.) of Shechem (Nablus), the latter being in Ephraim. From Michmethah the border went round to the E. at the back of mount Ebal, then S.E. toward Janohah (Yanun). It passed Taanath Shiloh (probably Salim).
From Janohah it touched Ataroth on the wady Fasail; then passing Naarath or Naaran (1 Chronicles 7:28) on the E. of Bethel, called Neara by Josephus, abounding in water, and so likely to be near Ras el Ain (five miles N. of Jericho), which pours a full stream into the wady Nawayimeh. From Naarath Ephraim's boundary reached Jericho, and struck into the line that forms the S. baseline of the tribe, running to the Jordan. From En Tappuah (Ain Abuz, five miles and a half S. of Shechem) Ephraim's boundary ran S.W. into the brook Kanah, which still retains its ancient name; thence the boundary ran out to the sea. The boundary between Ephraim and his brother Manasseh is not exactly defined; compare Joshua 17:14-18. Generally, Ephraim lay to the S., Manasseh to the N. But Manasseh, instead of crossing the country from E. to W. as it is often represented, occupied only half that space, and lay along the sea to the W., bounded on the E. by mount Carmel.
The territory of the twofold "house of Joseph" was 55 miles from E. to W. by 70 from N to S. The northern half of central Palestine was "mount Ephraim," hills of limestone material, intersected by wide plains with streams of running water, and therefore, clothed with vegetation. Travelers attest the increasing beauty of the country in going N. from Jerusalem. The "precious things of the earth," "flowers," "olive valleys," and "vines" are assigned to Ephraim (Isaiah 28:1-4; Hosea 10:1). He is compared to a "heifer," whereas Dan, Judah, and Benjamin among their comparatively barren rocks are compared to lions and wolves. Ephraim lay near the highways from Egypt and Philistia to Galilee and from Jordan to the sea. Ephraim did not extend to the sea, but had separate cities assigned to it in Manasseh on the coast. In it were Shechem, Jacob's original settlement, "his parcel of ground" and well; Ebal and Gerizim, the mounts of cursing and blessing; and Shiloh, the seat of the sanctuary until the time of Eli.
Here too was the great Joshua's tomb, as also his patrimony. Jealous sensitiveness as to any exploit achieved without Ephraim's sharing in it betrayed at once their tribal self importance and their recognized high standing among the tribes. So toward Gideon, Jephthah and David (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1; 2 Samuel 19:41-43). In one instance they nobly interposed to clothe, feed, and restore in freedom their captive brethren of Judah (2 Chronicles 28:9-15). Psalm 78 was designed to soothe their tribal soreness at the transference of the religious capital from Shiloh to Jerusalem (Psalm 78:60-70). They attached themselves to David after Ishbosheth's fall; 20,800 warriors of them "coming with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel." Among his state officers there was more than one Ephraimite (1 Chronicles 27:10-14); and after Absalom's rebellion they were probably foremost among the men of Israel in expressing jealousy of Judah in respect to the latter's greater share in promoting David's return.
From the time of the severance of the ten tribes from Judah, brought about by Rehoboam's infatuation and Jeroboam's ("ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph") rousing Ephraim's innate self-elation, Ephraim became the representative and main portion of the northern kingdom; for the surrounding pagan, the luxurious Phoenicians, the marauding Midianites, the Syrians and Assyrians from the N., and the Egyptians from the S., left to Israel little which was permanently, exclusively, and distinctively its own, beyond the secure territory of Ephraim with its hilly fastnesses. The plain of Esdraelon, to the N. beyond Ephraim, was the natural battlefield for Egyptian forces advancing along the seacoast plain from the S. and Syrians and Assyrians from the N. to operate in; but Ephraim could only be reached through precipitous ascents and narrow passes, where invaders could be easily repelled.
But her continually increasing moral degeneracy and religious apostasy rendered all her natural advantages unavailing. No temporary revival, as in Judah's case, relieves the gloomy picture, until the cup of her iniquity was full; and God, though His amazing love long forbore to judge her, at last swept her away permanently from her home and her abused privileges and opportunities. (Hosea 5; Hosea 6; Hosea 7; Hosea 9; Hosea 10; Hosea 11:1-8; Hosea 12; Hosea 13; Ezekiel 23; 2 Kings 17).