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Ee´fray-im; Heb., probably “fruitful place”; note Gen. 41:52 for a popular etymology

1 Joseph’s younger son born in Egypt to Asenath. Ephraim was blessed by Jacob (Gen 48:1-20) designedly ahead of his brother Manasseh, portending tribal Ephraim’s ascendancy. 2 An increasingly prominent Israelite tribe. Josh 16 and Josh 17:14-18 show Joseph, one tribe and territory, replaced by two: Ephraim and Manasseh. But, by the mid-eighth century BCE, Ephraim could become a designation for the whole Northern Kingdom; in Isaiah, it is allied with Syria in the “Syro-Ephraimite war” (Isa 7:1-17; 2Kgs 16:5-9), and throughout Hosea it is the disloyal covenant partner of God (Hos 5:3-14). Ephraim’s important role in Israelite history is indicated by a number of factors. Bethel, Shiloh, and Shechem, all ancient worship centers, were in Ephraim. Joshua was an Ephraimite (Num 13:8; Deut 34:9); he and Eleazar, who allotted the land (Num 34:17; Josh 14:1), were buried in Ephraimite towns (Josh 24:29; Josh 24:33). Samuel (1Sam 1:1) was an Ephraimite, as was Jeroboam (1Kgs 11:26), men who embodied the Northern attitude toward monarchy. The “judges” Tola, Abdon, and Deborah were all connected to Ephraim (Judg 4:5; Judg 10:1; Judg 12:15). 3 A town in 2Sam 13:23 where Absalom avenged Tamar upon Amnon. It was most likely located near Bethel in Ephraimite territory (John 11:54; 1Macc 11:34), but may have derived its name simply from being a “fruitful place.”

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.