Categories: Joseph, Men in the Old Testament
- Ephraim is the second son of Joseph and Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
- After his birth, Joseph named him Ephraim, saying: “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Though unclear whether this is a reference to Canaan or Egypt, Joseph recognizes that God has turned his affliction into blessing. He is ready to move forward.
- The name, Ephraim, means “fruitfulness.”
- He and his older brother, Manasseh, are born before the famine.
- Sometime later, Joseph’s family migrates to Egypt because of the famine.
- When Joseph hears that Jacob is ill, he goes to see him, taking along his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
- Jacob and his family have been in Egypt for 17 years. Joseph’s sons, born before the famine, are in their late teens or early twenties.
- When they get there, Jacob sits up in bed. Initially, he blesses Joseph.
- Then Jacob makes it plain that he wants to formally adopt Joseph’s two children. He makes them equal with his first two sons.
- Jacob’s eyes are failing, but he sees the two young men. He asks about them.
- Joseph replies, “They are the sons God has given me here.”
- Jacob asks to bless them also.
- When Joseph puts his sons on Jacob’s knees, Jacob kisses and embraces them.
- He says, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.” This suggests there may not have been much interaction between Joseph and his family, even though they are in Egypt.
- Joseph might be their benefactor, but he does not spend time with them.
- Joseph takes his sons from his father’s lap and bows with his face to the ground, showing reverence and respect.
- Ephraim is on his right toward Jacob’s left hand and Manasseh is on his left toward Jacob’s right hand; he brings them close to him.
- But Jacob reaches out his right hand and puts it on Ephraim’s head, though he is the younger son, and crossing his arms, he puts his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh is the firstborn son.
- Joseph tries to correct him, exclaiming that “Manasseh is on your right.”
- Jacob says he knows that. He says that Manasseh will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”
- The pronouncement is completely consistent with what is already known about the issue of primogeniture. For whatever reason, the firstborn never gets the blessing.
- Like so many other times, Jacob very specifically gives the blessing to Ephraim, the younger son. And then he puts his left hand on Manasseh.
- Joseph finally accepts his father’s wishes and puts Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
- In adopting and blessing these boys Jacob essentially gives the birthright of his firstborn, Reuben, to Joseph. Through his sons, Joseph now has a “double portion.”
- Ancient rabbinical sources wanting to explain Jacob’s decision further describe Ephraim as being “modest and not selfish.”
- Ephraim has at least 3 sons: Shuthelah, Beker, and Tahan. I Chronicles 7 claims two additional sons – Ezer and Elead. After they are killed, he has another son, Beriah, who is the ancestor of Joshua.
- Ephraim is the ancestor of the Tribe of Ephraim.
- Ephraim might have been “modest and not selfish,” but his Tribe is described differently.
- In Moses’ final blessing to the tribes he states: “In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth.”
- Deuteronomic scholars describe the Tribe of Ephraim as being dominant, arrogant, envious, and filled with discontent.
- One tradition has the Tribe of Ephraim leaving Egypt early and upon arriving in Canaan, doing battle with the Philistines, who practically wipe them out.
- That becomes one of the reasons the Israelites take such a circuitous route out of Egypt.
- When the territory is allocated, the Tribe of Ephraim is at the center of Canaan. It encompasses much of Samaria.
- The fertile mountainous area provides protection and prosperity.
- Its regions of Shechem and Shiloh are the center of Israelite religious activity for the better part of 400 years.
- Though initially part of the Tribe of Benjamin, Bethel is part of Ephraim during the time of Judges. (It is reclaimed by Judah after the kingdom divides.)
- In the time of David when the Ark is officially established at Mount Zion (in Judah’s territory), Ephraim’s authority is diminished.
- This causes major discontent within the Tribe of Ephraim.
- When the tribes divide following the death of Solomon, Jeroboam, from the Tribe of Ephraim, is made king.
- Perhaps because of this, “Ephraim” oftentimes stands for the Northern Kingdom, much like “Judah” stands for the Southern Kingdom.
- After the division, “Ephraim” is accused of forsaking God, and its attempts to establish another altar are considered an act of apostasy.
- The Tribe of Ephraim is conquered by the Assyrians in 723 BCE.
- Its population is deported.
- It is one of the ten lost tribes of Israel.