views updated Jun 08 2018


EPHRAIM (Heb. אֶפְרָיִם), younger son of *Joseph, born to him in Egypt by his wife *Asenath daughter of Poti-Phera (Gen. 41:50–52); the eponymous ancestor of one of the two tribes descended from Joseph. Before his death, Jacob adopted both Ephraim and his older brother *Manasseh as his sons on a par with Reuben and Simeon, thereby ensuring that each would become the ancestor of an entire Israelite tribe, rather than of half a tribe (48:5, 16). He made Ephraim the recipient of a greater blessing than his older brother (48:13–20), thus giving greater prominence and importance to the tribe of Ephraim. The story is an etiological explanation of the prominence of the Ephraimites in historical times. In contrast to the pentateuchal tradition, i Chr. 7:20–29 maintains that Ephraim and his family remained in Canaan and says nothing about Ephraim's birth in Egypt.

The Name

From about 745 b.c.e. onward, the name Ephraim also served as a popular alternative to Israel to designate the people of

the shrunken northern kingdom or their descendants (Isa. 7:5, 8; Jer. 31:17, 20; Hos. 5:3, 5, et al.). The origin of the name Ephraim is not clear. According to Genesis 41:52, Joseph, in so naming his son, made a wordplay based on the root פרי ("to be fruitful"). Most scholars consider this to be the correct derivation, and hold that the name means "fertile land," with the addition of an old locative suffix – aim (-ayim). However, some view the name as a derivative of the post-biblical אֲפָר ("a place of pasture"). In both theories the name is geographical, the tribe having been called after the region it occupied, "the land of Ephraim," "the country of Ephraim" (Obad. 19), or "the hill country (Heb. har) of Ephraim." Least likely is the suggested connection with Akkadian eperu, "dust," "region," cognate with Heb. ʿapar, that would have resulted in spelling Ephraim with initial ayin.

The Land of Ephraim

This area comprises the hill country of central Palestine. In this region there is no watershed plateau as in Judah, but a complex of ridges, spurs, and valleys surrounding the central valley, el-Makhnah, which is apparently to be identified with Michmethath (Josh. 16:6; 17:7). Shechem stands at the northwest extremity of this valley. On the east, two long spurs descend to the Jordan plain: Qarn as-Sarṭabah (rh 2:4) and Rās al-Kharrubueh. Wādi esh-shaʿīr, which falls into the Alexander River, continues northwest from the central plain of Shechem. To the northeast is the plain of Sychar (al-ʿAskar), which is formed by Wādi Beidān falling into Wādi Fāri, which in turn flows into the Jordan. The Shalem Plain, linked to the Jordan Valley by Wādi Ifjīm, extends to the east. The plain of Michmethath stretches southward until it reaches the Lebonah Ridge (Khān Lubbān), which hems it in on the south. The hill country of Ephraim is one of the most fertile areas in Palestine and at present is planted with such fruit trees as vine, olive, pomegranate, carob, etc. Prior to Israelite settlement, it was wooded (Josh. 17:18), and during the monarchy, beasts of prey still roamed there (ii Kings 2:24). The coastal strip parallel to the hill country of Ephraim is extremely narrow; it is unsuitable for anchorage and ships found shelter in the river estuaries (Alexander, Ḥaderah; see Sharon in *Israel, Land of: Geographical Survey). It is widely accepted that the lists of tribal territories in Joshua 13–19 reflect the situation before the period of the monarchy. It is difficult, however, to determine the exact limits of the territory of Ephraim, since it is only indicated as part of the wider unit, the house of Joseph (which included Manasseh), and the biblical data are variously interpreted by scholars (see Yeivin, bibliography).

The Tribe

From the genealogical lists of the tribe of Ephraim (Num. 26:35ff.; i Chron. 7:20ff.), it is known that its families intermingled with other tribes, especially *Asher, *Benjamin, and *Judah. The central position of the Ephraimites' area of settlement and their militant spirit led them to encroach upon Manasseh, whose power declined with the passage of time. After the migration of the *Danites (Judg. 18) to the north, and the defeat of the *Benjaminites (Judg. 19), the Ephraimites spread both south and southwest, coming into conflict and mingling with Judah in areas severed from the Jebusites of *Jerusalem (see *Jebus) during the period of the Judges. This explains why, in various biblical lists, certain families, places, and areas are sometimes attributed to Judah, Benjamin, or Dan, and sometimes to Ephraim. According to the Bible, the conquest of Canaan was led by *Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim. In the ensuing period of the Judges, the accounts of the disputes with *Gideon (Judg. 8) and *Jephthah (Judg. 12) illustrate the pride of the Ephraimites, who claimed seniority among the tribes and precedence over the fraternal tribe of Manasseh (cf. Gen. 48:13–20). This was doubtless due not only to the political independence that they achieved in the period of the Judges, but also to the location of the religious center of *Shiloh in their territory. The military and political importance of the Ephraimites is reflected in some ancient biblical poems, such as the Song of Deborah (Judg. 5:14). Jacob's blessing (Gen. 49) praises Joseph for his prowess and his hegemony over the other tribes, but contains no reference to Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh, perhaps because it dates from a time when Joseph still counted as only one tribe in the league of Israelite tribes. In the blessing of Moses, however, the sons of Joseph are referred to as "the myriads of Ephraim," and "the thousands of Manasseh" (Deut. 33:17), which probably reflects the later date, on the whole, of the pronouncements on the tribes in Deuteronomy 33, as compared with those in Genesis 49. The self-aggrandizement of the Ephraimites over the other tribes and their tendency to isolation, inherent in such self-aggrandizement, ultimately proved fatal to themselves and to the entire nation, since it brought about the end of the united kingdom of David and Solomon and the diminution of the state's prestige. The man held responsible in the Bible for the breakup was an Ephraimite – *Jeroboam son of Nebat, from Zeredah in the land of Ephraim (i Kings 11:26).

[Encyclopaedia Hebraica]

In the Aggadah

The preference shown by Jacob toward Ephraim, in placing his right hand on his head instead of on Manasseh's and in twice mentioning Ephraim before Manasseh (Gen. 48:14–20), was interpreted by the rabbis as an all-inclusive nullification of Manasseh's prerogatives as the firstborn. Thus Ephraim was granted precedence to Manasseh in the distribution of the Holy Land (Josh. 16:5); in the order of the banners during the wandering and camping in the desert (Num. 2:18, 20); and in the consecration of the Tabernacle (Num. 7:48, 54). Likewise, the descendants of Ephraim ruled before those of Manasseh, i.e., Joshua before Gideon, Jeroboam before Jehu (Gen. R. 97:5; Num. R. 14:4). Jacob instructed Ephraim for 17 years, yet when he came with Joseph, together with his brother Manasseh, to receive Jacob's blessings, Jacob did not recognize him, for upon seeing Jeroboam and Ahab as issuing from Ephraim, the prophetic spirit left him. Only after Joseph's prayer did it return, whereupon seeing that Joshua too would descend from Ephraim, he blessed him, giving him precedence over Manasseh (Tanḥ., Va-Yeḥi 6). R. Aḥa in the name of R. Levi explains Jeremiah 31:19 to mean that Jacob blessed Ephraim thus: "You shall be the head of the tribes and the head of the academies; and the best and most prominent of my children shall be called after thy name" (Lev. R. 2:3). Moreover, one of the two future Messiahs will originate from Ephraim; he will prepare the way for the Messiah, son of David, and defeat Gog and Magog and the kingdom of Edom; according to some sources he will be killed in battle (Targ. Yer. Ex. 40:11; Suk. 52a). Ephraim's standard was black and bore the emblem of a bullock in accordance with Deuteronomy 33:17 (Num. R. 2:7). The tribe of Ephraim camped to the west, whence came snow, hail, cold, and heat, since Ephraim had the strength to withstand them, as stated in Psalms 80:3 (Num. R. 2:10). The archangel Raphael was appointed to assist at God's throne to heal the breach wrought by Ephraim's descendant, Jeroboam the idol worshiper (ibid.). According to the Midrash, the tribe of Ephraim erred in their calculation of the termination of the Egyptian bondage and left the country 30 years before the date ordained for redemption. On their way to Canaan the Philistines waged war against them, killing 300,000 of their number. Their bones were heaped up along the road. In order that the children of Israel would not see these bleached bones and consequently take fright and return to Egypt, God did not lead them on the straight road from Egypt to the Land of Israel, but led them by a circuitous route. According to the Palestinian Targum (Ezek. 37) and the Talmud (Sanh. 92b) it was these bones which were resuscitated by Ezekiel (in the "Vision of the Dry Bones," cf. Ezek.).


Abel, Geog, 1 (1933), 359; 2 (1938), 56, 81; S. Yeivin, in: em, 1 (1950), 505–12 (incl. bibl.); Aharoni, Land, 236–37; Ginzberg, Legends, index. add. bibliography: S. Japhet, i & ii Chronicles (1993), 178–87; S. Ahituv, Joshua (1995), 275–80.


views updated May 08 2018


The younger son and younger tribe of Joseph. Situated in the fertile hill-country between Benjamin and the other Joseph tribe, Manasseh, the tribe of Ephraim (Heb. 'epraim, from root meaning fruitful) was, in the early history of Israel, one of the most numerous and powerful tribes, important for its religious sanctuaries and prime mover in establishing the Northern Kingdom; yet, despite early superiority, Ephraim's leadership of the north was clearly supplanted by Manasseh as early as the 9th century. This article treats in order Ephraim's occupation of the land and its historical role.

Occupation of the land. The Elohist tradition, obviously interested in Ephraim, records how Jacob mistakenly blessed the younger brother in precedence over his older brother Manasseh (Gn 48:520). The brothers were the eponymous ancestors of the two Joseph tribes, their double character making up for the tribe of Levi, which received no territory, and thus preserving the classical number 12. The census numbers given for Ephraim and Manasseh in Nm 26:34, 37, as contrasted with those given in Nm 1:33, 35, and the account of Joshua's allotment of territory to Ephraim in a literary context that accords primacy to Manasseh (Jos 16:4; 17:1), reflect Ephraim's later, secondary status, hardly in agreement with its early hegemony (see Phythian-Adams, 231232). At the Israelite conquest of Canaan, Ephraim gained possession of the strategically located section of north-central hill country bounded by Manasseh on the north, Benjamin and Dan on the south, and extending from the Jordan to the sea (Jos 16:19). Strength of numbers led the powerful and warlike Ephraim (Jos 17:1418) to encroach northward against Manasseh and southeastward to the Canaanite city of Gezer, whose inhabitants they subjected to forced labor and eventually absorbed into the tribe (Jos 16:10; Jgs 1:2226, 29). The territory is one of the most fruitful in Palestine, as is reflected in its name and in the blessings of Jacob's Oracles (Gn 49:2226) and Moses' Oracles (Dt 33:1317).

Historical role. Its access to major zones of movement, superior position in the hill country, and military prowess cast Ephraim in the warrior's role in Israelite history. In the period of occupation Ephraimites fought under Aod against the Moabites (Jgs 3:27), under deborah and Barak against the Canaanite coalition (Jgs 5:14), and under gideon against the Madianites (Jgs 7:24). This last episode nearly ended in internal strife because of the insult offered to the martial pride of some Ephraimites (Jgs 8:13). A similar incident involving the Judge Jephthah during the Ammonite war erupted into open conflict that resulted in severe Ephraimite losses (Jgs 12:16). Ephraim also contributed the Judge Abdon to Israelite history (Jgs 12:13). The presence of the ark at the central shrines of bethel and Shiloh further enhanced Ephraimite prestige during this period, as did the renown of Samuel, last of the Judges and reluctant inaugurator of the monarchy (Jos 18:1; Jgs 20:27; 1 Sm 1:1; 4:3). In the political friction after Saul's death (c. 1000 b.c.), the Ephraimites remained faithful to his son Is-Baal until his assassination, whereupon they offered their allegiance to David at Hebron (2 Sm 2:9; 5:1; 1 Chr 12:30).

The secessionist movement of the northern tribes after Solomon's death (c. 922 b.c.) took root in Ephraim, the Prophet Ahijeh instigating Jeroboam I (both Ephraimites) to make the irrevocable break with Judah (1 Kgs 11:2640). The sheer size and strategic location of Ephraim and Manasseh made them the nucleus of the Northern Kingdom, whose first capital was shechem (1 Kgs 12:25). Despite their alliance, there seems to have been a bitter rivalry between the two (Is 9:2021), which probably was rooted in the disputes that arose in occupying the land (Jos 17:1418; see Phythian-Adams, 229230), and was perhaps reflected in the swift succession of kings and internal instability of the Northern Kingdom. While the subsequent history of the divided monarchy depicts Manasse in the predominant role in the North until its downfall in 721 b.c., early Ephraimite influence was so profound as to make its name synonymous with the Northern Kingdom, Israel, a fact amply attested in prophetic literature (Is 7:2, 5, 8, 17; 9:8; Jer 31:9, 20; Ez 37:16, 19; Hos passim ).

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 674675. w. j. phythianadams, "The Boundary of Ephraim and Manasseh," Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly (1929) 228241. e. robertson, "The Period of the Judges: A Mystery Period in the History of Israel," The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 30 (1946) 91114. k. d. schunck, "Ophra, Ephron, and Ephraim," Vetus Testamentum 11 (1961) 188200.

[r. barrett]


views updated Jun 08 2018


EPHRAIM , family mainly active in Berlin. Its first member to settle there was Heine (Ḥayyim) ephraim (1665–1748), born in Altona, who rose to be court jeweler and head of the Berlin Jewish community (1726–32). His son was Veitel Heine *Ephraim, most of whose great-grandsons embraced

Christianity and changed their names to Ebers; some of their descendants were ennobled. Veitel Heine's grandson, david (1762–1834), married a daughter of Daniel *Itzig; following a financial scandal he fled to Vienna, embraced Catholicism, and changed his family name to Schmidt. zacharias (1736–1779), son of Veitel Heine, showed marked business ability. His grandson zacharias fraenkel (1781–1842) was an influential banker. As representative of the Berlin community, he demanded conscription of the Jews in 1812.

Veitel Heine's youngest son benjamin (1742–1811) was a businessman and government confidential agent. After varying success in questionable business transactions, he reorganized the family lace factory in Potsdam, opening a school for his girl workers, which was highly commended. In 1779 he took on in his factory unemployed Jewish girls and women from the recently annexed Polish territory. He successfully averted the expulsion orders of Frederick William ii by stressing the usefulness of his 700 to 1,500 workers to the state. In Berlin, Benjamin maintained a leading salon, was the first Jew to own an art collection, and had access to ruling circles, having loaned the king large sums before his accession. In 1787 he was sent on a secret mission to Brussels to assure the anti-Austrian rebels of Prussian support. In 1790 the king entrusted him with the mission of contacting the French government to arrange a treaty, with a government post promised as his reward. His expenditure of large sums of his own fortune in Paris aroused suspicions against him in Berlin; at the same time Prussia changed her diplomatic course. Discredited and impoverished, Benjamin demanded recognition and reimbursement. An advocate of close French-Prussian ties, he was entrusted with minor diplomatic roles in negotiations with France. His pro-French attitude led to his arrest in 1806; he was later released by the victorious French. He died in relative poverty.


H. Rachel et al., Berliner Grosskaufleute, 2 (1938), index; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 1 (1953), 145–68; J. Jacobson, Die Judenbuergerbuecher der Stadt Berlin 18091851 (1962), index; Kuehn, in: Deutsche Rundschau, 166 (1916), 171–91; L. Geiger, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin, 1 (1871), 140–4; S. Stern, The Court Jew (1950), index; J. Meisl (ed.), Protokollbuch der juedischen Gemeinde Berlin (17231854) (Heb. and Ger., 1962), 473; M. Stern, in: Juedische Familien-Forschung, 1 (1925), 6–10, 31–32, 82–86; B.V. Ephraim, Ueber meine Verhaftung (1907); Gelber, in: mgwj, 71 (1927), 62–66; Jacobson, in: zgjd, 1 (1929), 152–62.

[Henry Wasserman]


views updated May 29 2018

Ephraim. Younger son of Joseph. According to the midrash, the tribe of Ephraim left slavery in Egypt early, and many were killed by the Philistines. In order to avoid their bones, God led the Israelites a circuitous route to the Promised Land. It was these bones which came to life in Ezekiel's vision of the valley of the dry bones (ch. 37) (B.Sanh 92b).