(ehf' ruh tah) Place and personal name meaning, “fruitful.” Modern translations spell Ephrathah. 1. Town near which Jacob buried his wife Rachel (Genesis 35:16-19; usually translated in English as Ephrath).
Genesis 36:16 seems to indicate that Ephrath(ah) must have been near Bethel. This is supported by
1 Samuel 10:2;
Jeremiah 31:15 which place Rachel's tomb near Ramah on the border between the tribal territories of Ephraim and Benjamin.
Genesis 35:19, however, identifies Ephrath(ah) with Bethlehem. Compare
Genesis 48:7. It is part of Judah's tribal territory according to the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament, words omitted in current Hebrew manuscripts (Joshua 15:59 REB).
Micah 5:2 also appears to equate Bethlehem and Ephrath(ah) as the home of the coming Messiah. This, in turn, was based on Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:1) and Ephrath(ah) (1 Samuel 17:12) as the home of David's father Jesse and thus of David. In sending Messiah, God chose to start over at David's birthplace. Naomi's husband Elimelech was an Ephrathite from Bethlehem (Ruth 1:2). In
Ruth 4:11 Bethlehem and Ephrathah are apparently identified in poetic parallelism. It may be that Ephrathah was a clan name of a family in Bethlehem whose importance made the clan name a synonym for the city. The parallelism in
Psalms 132:6 seems to equate Ephrathah with “the field of Jaar” (NAS and most modern translations). This would be Kiriath-jearim, though two different resting points of the ark—Bethlehem and Kiriath-jearim—may be intended here. The identification with Kiriath-jearim could be supported by the genealogy in
1 Chronicles 2:1 which lists both personal and place names. Shobal, the founder of Kiriath-jearim, was the son of Ephrathah, Caleb's wife (1 Chronicles 2:19,1 Chronicles 2:50). In
1 Chronicles 4:4 Ephrathah's son Hur was the father of Bethlehem. Ephrathah may have been a clan name associated with several different geographical localities, the most famous of which was Bethlehem. The textual and geographical connections are not always easy to figure out. 2. Caeb's wife (1 Chronicles 2:50; spelled Ephrath in
1 Chronicles 2:19; compare
1 Chronicles 4:4).