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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Ephraim, 1

E´phraim (fruitfulness), the younger son of Joseph, but who received precedence over the elder in and from the blessing of Jacob (; ). That blessing was an adoptive act, whereby Ephraim and his brother Manasseh were counted as sons of Jacob in the place of their father; the object being to give to Joseph, through his sons, a double portion in the brilliant prospects of his house. Thus the descendants of Joseph formed two of the tribes of Israel, whereas every other of Jacob's sons counted but as one. There were thus, in fact, thirteen tribes of Israel; but the number twelve is usually preserved, either by excluding that of Levi (which had no territory), when Ephraim and Manasseh are separately named, or by counting these two together as the tribe of Joseph, when Levi is included in the account. The intentions of Jacob were fulfilled, and Ephraim and Manasseh were counted as tribes of Israel at the departure from Egypt, and as such shared in the territorial distribution of the Promised Land (; ; ).

At the departure from Egypt the population of the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh together amounted to 72,700 men capable of bearing arms, greatly exceeding that of any single tribe, except Judah, which had somewhat more. During the wandering their number increased to 95,200, which placed the two tribes much higher than even Judah. At the Exode, Ephraim singly had 40,500, and Manasseh only 32,200; but a great change took place in their relative numbers during the wandering. Ephraim lost 8000, and Manasseh gained 20,500; so that just before entering Canaan, Ephraim stood at 32,500, and Manasseh at 52,700.

One of the finest and most fruitful parts of Palestine, occupying the very center of the land, was assigned to this tribe. It extended from the borders of the Mediterranean on the west to the Jordan on the east: on the north it had the half-tribe of Manasseh, and on the south Benjamin and Dan (, sq.; 17:7, sq.). This fine country included most of what was afterwards called Samaria, as distinguished from Judea on the one hand, and from Galilee on the other. The tabernacle and the ark were deposited within its limits, at Shiloh; and the possession of the sacerdotal establishment, which was a central object of attraction to all the other tribes, must in no small degree have enhanced its importance, and increased its wealth and population. The domineering and haughty spirit of the Ephraimites is more than once indicated (; ; ) before the establishment of the regal government; but the particular enmity of Ephraim against the other great tribe of Judah, and the rivalry between them, do not come out distinctly until the establishment of the monarchy. In the election of Saul from the least considerable tribe in Israel, there was nothing to excite the jealousy of Ephraim; and, after his heroic qualities had conciliated respect, it rendered the new king true allegiance and support. But when the great tribe of Judah produced a king in the person of David, the pride and jealousy of Ephraim were thoroughly awakened, and it was doubtless chiefly through their means that Abner was enabled to uphold for a time the house of Saul; for there are manifest indications that by this time Ephraim influenced the views and feelings of all the other tribes. They were at length driven by the force of circumstances to acknowledge David upon conditions; and were probably not without hope that, as the king of the nation at large, he would establish his capital in their central portion of the land. But when he not only established his court at Jerusalem, but proceeded to remove the ark thither, making his native Judah the seat both of the theocratic and civil government, the Ephraimites became thoroughly alienated, and longed to establish their own ascendancy. The building of the temple at Jerusalem, and other measures of Solomon, strengthened this desire; and although the minute organization and vigor of his government prevented any overt acts of rebellion, the train was then laid, which, upon his death, rent the ten tribes from the house of David, and gave to them a king, a capital, and a religion suitable to the separate views and interests of the tribe. Thenceforth the rivalry of Ephraim and Judah was merged in that between the two kingdoms; although still the predominance of Ephraim in the kingdom of Israel was so conspicuous as to occasion the whole realm to be called by its name, especially when that rivalry is mentioned.

Ephraim, 2

Ephraim, a city in the wilderness of Judea, to which Jesus withdrew from the persecution which followed the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead (). It is placed by Eusebius eight Roman miles north of Jerusalem. This indication would seem to make it the same with the Ephrain which is mentioned in , along with Bethel and Jeshanah, as towns taken from Jeroboam by Abijah.

Ephraim, 3

Ephraim, a mountain or group of mountains in central Palestine, in the tribe of the same name, on or towards the borders of Benjamin (; ; ; ; ; ; ). From a comparison of these passages it may be collected that the name of 'Mount Ephraim' was applied to the whole of the ranges and groups of hills which occupy the central part of the southernmost border of this tribe, and which are prolonged southward into the tribe of Benjamin. In the time of Joshua these hills were densely covered with trees (), which is by no means the case at present.

Ephraim, 4

Ephraim, the forest of, in which Absalom lost his life (), was in the country east of the Jordan, not far from Mahanaim. How it came to bear the name of a tribe on the other side the river is not known.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Ephraim'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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