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EPHRAIM (ē'frâ-ĭm, Heb. ’e:prayim, double fruit). The younger of two sons of Joseph and his Egyptian wife Asenath (Gen.41.50-Gen.41.52). The aged Jacob, when he blessed his grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim, adopted them as his own sons. Despite Joseph’s protest, Jacob gave the preferential blessing (signified by the right hand) to Ephraim (Gen.48.1-Gen.48.22). When Jacob blessed his own sons, he did not mention Ephraim and Manasseh, but he did give a special blessing to their father, Joseph (Gen.49.22-Gen.49.26).

Ephraim was the progenitor of the tribe called by his name, as was also Manasseh. This brought the number of the Hebrew tribes to thirteen, but the original number twelve (derived from the twelve sons of Jacob, of whom Joseph was one) continued to be referred to. The separation of the tribe of Levi from the others for the tabernacle service, and its failure to receive a separate territory in which to live, helped to perpetuate the concept of “The Twelve Tribes of Israel.”

Ephraim together with Manasseh and Benjamin camped on the west side of the tabernacle in the wilderness (Num.2.18-Num.2.24). Joshua (Hoshea) the son of Nun, one of the spies and Moses’ successor, was an Ephraimite (Num.13.8). Ephraim and Manasseh were mentioned as making up the Joseph group in Moses’ blessing (Deut.33.13-Deut.33.17).

Ephraim’s inheritance is described in Josh.16.5-Josh.16.10. The territory was bounded on the south by the northern borders of Benjamin and Dan. Bethel was just across the line in Benjamin, the two Beth Horons were just in Ephraim, as was Gezer toward the sea. The western boundary seems ideally to have been the Mediterranean. On the north, the brook Kanah separated Ephraim from the half of Manasseh, as did the towns of Shechem (in Manasseh) and Taanath Shiloh. Then the line seems to have turned abruptly southward, through Ataroth, passing near Jericho and thence to the Jordan. References to the towns for Ephraimites within Manasseh (Josh.16.9; Josh.17.9) suggest that the rivalry between these two tribes had resulted in some boundary changes.

Ephraim is also the name of a city north of Jerusalem (2Sam.13.23; John.11.54), identified with modern Et-Taiyibeh, a few miles NE of Bethel. The forest of Ephraim (2Sam.18.6) was probably located in Transjordan near Mahanaim.——JBG

EPHRAIM ē’ frĭ əm (אֶפְרָ֑יִם, LXX Εφραιμ; meaning doubly fruitful), the younger of two sons born to Joseph in Egypt. The name of the older son was Manasseh. The mother of these sons of Joseph was Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On (Gen 41:50-52).

Ephraim was born during the seven years of plenty so that his boyhood years overlapped with the last seventeen years of Jacob who had migrated to Egypt during the years of plenty. In this way Ephraim had opportunity to learn of the patriarchal promises and blessings directly from Jacob.

After Jacob exacted an oath from Joseph that he would bury him in Canaan (47:27-31), Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph as his own. Jacob’s favorite wife had been Rachel whose son Joseph had been favored above all other sons until he was sold as a slave to Potiphar in Egypt. By adopting Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons there were three tribal representatives of Rachel—Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. Joseph, who had been considered dead by Jacob, now had a double representation.

Ephraim was chosen by Jacob for the greater blessing even though he was not the first-born son of Joseph. Overruling Joseph’s objections Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim and alloted to him a greater blessing and prosperity than he did to Manasseh.

Ephraim, with Manasseh and Joseph, had imparted to him verbally the essence of the revelation God had made to the patriarchs, especially to Jacob. To Jacob there had been confirmed by divine revelation the promise that his descendants would be multiplied and that they would inherit the land of Canaan. Jacob gave the blessing in the name of the God before whom Abraham and Isaac walked, and the God who had shepherded Jacob throughout his whole lifetime. Although Jacob was about to die in Egypt, he expressed before Ephraim the firm belief that future generations would realize and experience the fulfillment of the promises to possess the land of Canaan.

In subsequent history the tribe of Ephraim had a very prominent position. In Israel’s encampment around the Tabernacle, Ephraim was the leader of the western camp supported by the tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin (Num 2:18-24). Among the twelve spies sent into Canaan Joshua represented the tribe of Ephraim (Num 13:8), and later was appointed as the successor of Moses (Deut 31:7). Joshua and Eleazar the high priest had the responsibility to divide the land of Canaan among the tribes of Israel.

The Ephraimites received an allotment of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea with the tribes of Benjamin and Dan to the S and one half of the tribe of Manasseh to the N (Josh 16:5-9). The southern boundary extended from the Jordan and Jericho westward approximately ten m. N of Jerusalem, but included Upper and Lower Beth-horons as it continued to the sea. On the N Ephraim was bounded by the brook Kanah, the cities of Shechem and Taanath-shiloh where the boundary turned southward to Ataroth and passed near Jericho on to the Jordan.

The Ephraimites were involved in civil strife in the days of Gideon (Judg 8:1-3), and in the period of Jephthah’s leadership (12:1-6). During the Davidic and Solomonic era the tribe of Judah with its leading city Jerusalem emerged as the leading tribe, but at Solomon’s death a secession was led by Jeroboam I of the tribe of Ephraim who became the first king of the northern kingdom. During the two centuries that this kingdom existed it was frequently identified as Ephraim, reflecting the fact that this was the most powerful tribe in opposition to Judah. In the books of Chronicles, Isaiah, Hosea and other prophets, the name Ephraim is commonly used for the northern kingdom.

Ephraim is to be reunited with Judah in the Messianic kingdom. The schism introduced by Jeroboam I is to be healed when the ruler of the Davidic family will rule over both Judah and Ephraim according to the prophet Ezekiel in his message concerning the final kingdom (ch. 37).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

e’-fra-im, e’-fra-im (’ephrayim, "double fruit"):

1. The Patriarch:

The younger of the two sons of Joseph and Asenath, born in Egypt. He and his brother Manasseh were adopted by Jacob, and ranked as his own sons, each becoming the ancestor of a tribe in Israel. In blessing his grandchildren, despite their father’s protest, Jacob preferred the younger, foreshadowing the future eminence of his descendants (Ge 41:50 ff; 48:20 ff). In the Blessing of Jacob however, the two are included under the name of Joseph (Ge 49:22 f).

2. The Tribe:

3. The Territory:

The central part of Western Palestine fell to the children of Joseph; and, while the boundaries of the territory allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh respectively are given in Jos 16; 17:1 ff, it seems to have been held by them in common for some time (17:14). The Canaanites in certain cities of both divisions were not driven out. It was probably thought more profitable to enslave them (16:10; 17:13). The boundaries of Ephraim cannot be followed with accuracy, but roughly, they were as follows: The southern boundary, agreeing with the northern border of Benjamin, started from Bethel, and passed down westward by nether Beth-horon and Gezer toward the sea (16:3; in verse 5 it stops at upper Beth-horon); it turned northward to the southern bank of the brook Kanah (Wady Kanah) along which it ran eastward (17:10) to Michmethath (the plain of Mukhneh); thence it went northward along the western edge of the plain to Shechem. It then bent eastward and southward past Taanath-shiloh (Ta`ana), Janoah (Yankun) to Ataroth and Naarah (unidentified) and the Jordan (16:7). From Ataroth, which probably corresponds to Ataroth-addar (16:5), possibly identical with the modern et-Truneh, the southern border passed up to Bethel. Along the eastern front of the land thus defined there is a steep descent into the Jordan valley. It is torn by many gorges, and is rocky and unfruitful. The long slopes to the westward, however, furnish much of the finest land in Palestine. Well watered as it is, the valleys are beautiful in season with cornfields, vineyards, olives and other fruit trees. The uplands are accessible at many points from the maritime plain; but the great avenue of entrance to the country runs up Wady esh-Sha`ir to Nablus, whence, threading the pass between Gerizim and Ebal, it descends to the Jordan valley. In this favored region the people must have lived in the main a prosperous and happy life. How appropriate are the prophetic allusions to these conditions in the days of Ephraim’s moral decay (Isa 28:1,4; Jer 31:18; Ho 9:13; 10:11, etc.)!

(1) A position apparently of some importance, since the position of Baal-hazor (probably = Tell `Asur) where Abraham’s sheep- farm was located, is determined by relation to it (2Sa 13:23). That it lay North of Jerusalem seems to be indicated in 2Sa 13:34. It may be identical with the Ephraim of Eusebius, Onomasticon, 20 Roman miles North of Jerusalem, and therefore to be sought somewhere in the neighborhood of Sinjil and el- Lubban. Connected with this may have been the name Aphaerema, a district in Samaria mentioned in 1 Macc 11:34; Ant, XIII, iv, 9.

(2) The town near the wilderness to which Jesus retired after the raising of Lazarus (Joh 11:54). This probably corresponds to Ephrem of Eusebius, Onomasticon (s .v. "Afra") 5 Roman miles East of Bethel. This may be the place named along with Bethel by Josephus (BJ, IV, ix, 9). It probably answers to eT-Taiyebeh, a large village about 4 miles North of Beitin. The antiquity of the site is attested by the cisterns and rock tombs. It stands on a high hill with a wide outlook including the plains of Jericho and the Dead Sea.

See Ephron.