1. Son of Joseph. The name is connected with the root ("to be fruitful": Gen. xli. 52). He was the younger of the two sons born to Joseph before the famine, Manasseh being the elder (Gen. xli. 51). Nevertheless, Jacob, while blessing both, confers on Ephraim the rights of the firstborn, to be unto him "as Reuben and Simeon" (Gen. xlvii. 1-20), Joseph unsuccessfully attempting to prevent the preference of the younger. This episode puts the historical fact that Ephraim and Manasseh (and Benjamin) originally constituted one tribe (see Gen. xlix. 22-26; Deut. xxxiii. 13-17) in the form of a personal experience in the family of the patriarch. From Joseph, Manasseh was first to separate: hence he is the elder; but Ephraim, increasing in importance and number, outstrips the brother clan. That the birthright of Reuben is given to Joseph's sons, as is stated in I Chron. v. 1, indicates the gradual disintegration of the tribe of Reuben, and the rise to prominence of the Joseph division. The successive development of these conditions is also reflected in the circumstance that in the enumerations of the tribes Manasseh sometimes precedes Ephraim (Num. xxvi. 34); sometimes the order is reversed (Num. i. 32).
Holzinger ("Genesis," p. 199) and Guthe ("Geschichte des Volkes Israel," 1899, pp. 2 et seq.) declare Ephraim to have been a later personification (compare Gunkel, "Genesis," p. 427). For arguments against this theory see Koenig, "Einleitung in das Alte Testament," pp. 183-185. While blessing, Jacob crosses () his hands in order to place his right hand upon the head of Ephraim. Thisverb, which occurs only in this passage, has given rise to curious rabbinical interpretations. Connecting it with "sekel" (mind, wisdom), Targum Onḳelos construes it as indicating that Jacob acted with full knowledge (see also Rashi and Ibn Ezra to the verse). According to R. Judah, really reads "shikkel," and signifies that Jacob despoiled Manasseh in favor of Ephraim (Pesiḳ. R. 3 [ed. Friedmann, p. 12a, note 85]). R. Nehemiah claims that the expression denotes the power of Jacob to "instruct" and guide the holy spirit (ib.). It is of interest to note that the words of Jacob's blessing (Gen. xlviii. 16) constitute one of the "pesuḳe de raḥame," verses petitioning protection which, according to the saying of Abaye (Ber. 5a), were added to the Shema' recited on retiring.
The tribe; named after its eponym, Ephraim, the second son of Joseph (Gen. xli. 50 et seq.). Of its earlier history, an obscure gloss (I Chron. vii. 21, 22) preserves only a vague reminiscence of a cattle-raid in which the tribe was ingloriously beaten by the aboriginal people of Gath. At the time of the Exodus Ephraim appears to have been numerically one of the smaller tribes (40,500 warriors, while Judah is credited with 74,600, Zebulun with 57,400, Manasseh with 32,200, and Benjamin with 35,400: Num. i. 32-37). But Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, descendants of Rachel, marched together, Ephraim in the lead, and camped west of the Tabernacle (Num. ii. 18). The chief of Ephraim, who made the offerings for his brothers, was Elishama, son of Ammihud (Num. i. 10, vii. 48-53). Among the spies sent into Canaan was Hoshea of Ephraim, whose name was changed to "Joshua" (Num. xiii. 9, [R. V. 17]), and his succession to the leadership after Moses proves that by the invasion Ephraim had risen to dominant influence, though the figures of the census, which credit it with only 32,500 warriors against Manasseh's 52,700 and Benjamin's 45,600, show a loss (Num. xxvi. 34 et seq.).
At the apportioning of the land, Ephraim was represented among the commissioners by Kemuel, the son of Shiphtan, as well as by Joshua (Num. xxxiv. 24). From Joshua xvii. 14-18, xviii. 5, it is plain that at the conquest and settlement of the land Ephraim and Manasseh (and Benjamin: compare Ps. lxxx. 2; II Sam. xix. 20; Num. ii. 18 et seq.) were considered one tribe—that of Joseph. Indeed, in the old tribal poem, the so-called Blessing of Jacob (Gen. xlix. 22 et seq.; compare Deut. xxxiii. 13 et seq.; Judges i. 22), by modern critics ascribed to the early part of the period of the Judges, Joseph is named in place of Manasseh and Ephraim. In consequence of the necessity of acquiring more territory to provide for its growing numbers, this Joseph group forced its way northward through hostile territory (Josh. xvii. 14 et seq.). This movement resulted in the isolation of Manasseh and Ephraim (Josh. xxi. 5) though the lines of demarcation between their separate possessions were by no means consistently or continuously drawn, each having settlements in the district of the other (Josh. xvi. 9; xvii. 8, 9). The southern boundaries of the portion of Joseph, which constituted also the southern frontier of Ephraim, are these: Starting from the Jordan, near Jericho and its springs on the east, and following the desert of Beth-aven, which rises from Jericho to the hill of Beth-el, the line passed from Beth-el to Luz; thence toward the boundary of the Archites ('Ain 'Arik) to Ataroth, descending westward toward the frontier of the Japhletites to the border of the nether Beth-horon and to Gezer (Tell Jezer), terminating at the sea (Josh. xvi. 1-3).Ephraim's Portion.
In Josh. xvi. 5 et seq., however, the statement is made that Ephraim's border eastward ran from Ataroth-addar to Beth-horon the upper, bending westward at Michmethath on the north, and then, turning eastward to Taanathshiloh (the modern Ta'na), passed along it to the east of Janoah (modern Yanun), descending again to Ataroth and to Naarah (modern Khirbat Tamiyyah), finally reaching Jericho and ending at the Jordan. From Tappuah the line proceeded westward to the brook Kanah (probably the Nahr al-Faleḳ) and to the sea (the Mediterranean: Vulgate, incorrectly, "the Dead Sea"). These data are confusing and not always consistent; they prove that for many centuries the delimitations were uncertain and the traditions concerning them conflicting (see Holzinger, "Joshua," pp. 66, 67).
The district occupied by Ephraim was mountainous but very fertile (Hosea ix. 13; Gen. xlix. 22; Deut. xxxiii. 13-16; Isa. xxviii. 1). Its geographical position, midway between Dan, Benjamin, and Manasseh beyond the Jordan, contributed materially to making its possessor, Ephraim, the dominant factor in the political development of the northern tribes. The mountains afforded protection; the Jordan and the sea were within easy reach; and the natural roads of communication between the north and the south passed through it. Within its borders were the old centers of the religio-political life, Shechem, Aruma, and Shiloh, the seat of the Sanctuary.
The character imputed to Ephraim reflects the rugged configuration of its home district (Gen. xlix. 23, 24). Ephraim is equipped with "the horns of the wild ox" (Deut. xxxiii. 17).Ephraim's Martial Character.
The deeds of the tribe reported in the Book of Judges bear out this characterization. It had a share in the expedition against Hazor and King Jabin (Judges iv. 2; Josh. xix. 36). Deborah is represented as residing in its borders (Judges iv. 5; see for modern critical views Budde, "Das Buch der Richter"). In the Song of Deborah the tribe is commended as among the first to respond to the summons to arms (Judges v. 14). Ephraim, jealous of its rivals for the leadership, has a dispute with Gideon about being neglected at the outset of his campaign against the Midianites (Judges vii. 24, viii. 1); but its displeasure is abated by a happily turned compliment about "the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim being better than the vintage of Abiezer" (Judges viii. 2). Under Jephthah the men of Ephraim again resented a slight of this kind (xii. 1), but with dire consequences to themselves. The Gileadites, having an old grudge against them (Judges xii. 4), smote them, and the venture cost the tribe 42,000 men (ib. 6).
The episode is of linguistic interest, as in connection therewith the peculiar dialectic difference of theEphraimitic speech is recorded in the "s" pronunciation of the word "Shibboleth" (ib.). Abdon of Pirathon, an Ephraimite, is mentioned as one of the later judges (xii. 15), while, thanks to Abimelech, Ephraim and its capital Shechem enjoy, if only for a short time, the distinction of being the first in Israel to be under a king (ix. 6). Samuel sustained close connections with Ephraim (I Sam. i. 1, vii. 15-17). In his selection of Saul as king, the jealousies of the tribe were well considered, the new monarch being a Benjamite and therefore an ally of Ephraim. Hence, at the death of Saul, Ephraim remained loyal to his son Ishbosheth, and accepted David's (Judah's) rule only after Abner's and Ishbosheth's assassination (II Sam. ii. 9, v.); but under Solomon's successor it found the coveted opportunity, with the support of the Ephraimite prophet Ahijah, to secede and set up its own independent kingdom under Jeroboam (I Kings xi. 26, 29), with Shechem as the capital (I Kings xii. 1).Secession of Ephraim.
Thenceforth the history of Ephraim is merged in that of the Northern Kingdom, in which it remained the dominant factor, so that, especially in figurative speech, its name came to be used for the state of the Ten Tribes (Isa. vii. 2-5, 8; Hosea v. 3, 5, 9; vi. 4, and elsewhere). In II Chron. xv. 8-11 the secession of Ephraim is denounced as a forsaking of the God of its fathers and of His laws. II Chron. xxx. 1, 10, 18 describes the irreligion of Ephraim in mocking the emissaries of Hezekiah, come to invite them to keep the Passover in Jerusalem, and concludes the account by reporting the destruction of all the idolatrous appointments by the pious celebrants, "even in Ephraim [and Manasseh]." Josiah is credited with despatching an embassy on a similar errand (II Chron. xxxiv. 6, 9).
Ephraim's rejection is spoken of in the Psalms (lxxviii. [A. V. lxxvii.] 67), though in lx. 7 Ephraim is hailed "as the defense of [God's] head" (compare cviii. 8). Ephraimites constituted an element in the formation of the new people, the Samaritans (Ezra iv. 4: "'Am ha-areẓ" ; Ecclus. [Sirach] ii. 26: "That foolish people that dwell in Shechem").
Though for seventeen years Jacob instructed Ephraim, yet when the latter came with his father Joseph and his brother Manasseh to be blessed Jacob did not recognize him, because on seeing Jeroboam and Ahab, Ephraim's descendants, the prophetic spirit left him. Joseph then addressed a fervent prayer to God, and the spirit of prophecy returned. Jacob then saw another of the descendants of Ephraim, Joshua benNun, and thereupon gave the precedence to Ephraim over his elder brother Manasseh by placing his right hand upon his head and by mentioning his name first (Tan. to Wayeḥi). Ephraim was thus favored with the birthright because he was modest and not selfish (Gen. R. vi.; Pesiḳ. R. 3). God, who executes the wishes of the just, confirmed Jacob's blessings, and Ephraim took precedence over Manasseh in the order of the Judges (Joshua of Ephraim coming before Gideon of Manasseh), in the order of the standards (Ephraim's preceding that of Manasseh), in the offering of the princely sacrifices (Num. vii.), and in the order of Kings (Jeroboam and Ahab coming before Jehu: Num. R. xiv.). In imparting the blessing Jacob said to Ephraim: "Ephraim, the heads of the tribes, the chiefs of the yeshibot, and the best and most prominent of my children shall be called after thy name" (Lev. R. ii.); Joshua, Deborah, Barak, Samuel, Messiah ben Joseph, and Messiah ben David were Ephraimites (Pesiḳ. R. 37 [ed. Friedmann, p. 164a]). The tribe of Ephraim miscalculated the time of the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt, and left the country thirty years before the appointed time. They were met by a hostile host of Philistines, who offered them battle, in which the Ephraimites lost 300,000 men (according to Pesiḳ., 180,000; according to Pirḳe R. El., 200,000). Their bones were strewn in heaps along the roads. According to the "Sefer ha-Yashar" (see Shemot), this event took place in the 180th year after the Israelites went to Egypt, when 30,000 infantry from the tribe of Ephraim left Egypt. The battle was waged near Gath. Because they rebelled against the word of God in leaving Egypt before the end of the captivity destined by God had arrived, all except ten were slain. The Philistines lost in the battle 20,000 men. The ten men who escaped from the battle returned to Egypt and related to their brethren what had happened to them. Ephraim, who was still alive, mourned over them many days. That the children of Israel might not see the bleached bones of the slain of Ephraim and return to Egypt, God led them to Canaan by circuitous ways (Ex. R. xx.). The slain Ephraimites were subsequently resuscitated by Ezekiel (Sanh. 92b). Ephraim's banner was painted black, and bore the picture of a bullock (Num. R. ii.); Moses alluded to it when he said of Joseph: "The firstling of his bullock, majesty is his" (Deut. xxxiii. 17, R. V.). In the camp Ephraim occupied the west side; from the west come the severest winds, and also heat and cold; to these Ephraim's strength is compared (Num. R. ii.). As God created the four cardinal points and placed against them the standards of four of the tribes, so He surrounded His throne with four angels, the angel to the west being Raphael ("the Healer"), who was to heal the breach wrought by Ephraim's descendant, King Jeroboam (Ex. R. vii.). See Messiah.