Ephraim


Ephraim

Ephraim (Hebrew: אֶפְרַיִם/אֶפְרָיִם, Standard "Efráyim" Tiberian "ʾEp̄ráyim/ʾEp̄rāyim") was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph and Asenath, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Ephraim; however some Biblical scholars view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite confederation ["Peake's commentary on the Bible"] . The text of the Torah argues that the name of "Ephraim", which means "double fruitfulness", refers to Joseph's ability to produce children, specifically while in Egypt (termed by the Torah as "the land of his affliction") [Genesis 41:52] .

In the Biblical account, Joseph's other son is Manasseh, and Joseph himself is one of the two children of Rachel and Jacob, the other being Benjamin. Biblical scholars regard it as obvious, from their geographic overlap and their treatment in older passages, that originally Ephraim and Manasseh were considered one tribe - that of "Joseph" ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] ; according to several biblical scholars, Benjamin was also originally part of this single tribe, but the biblical account of Joseph as his father became lost ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] ["Peake's commentary on the Bible"] . A number of biblical scholars suspect that the distinction of the "Joseph tribes" (including Benjamin) is that they were the only Israelites which went to Egypt and returned, while the main Israelite tribes simply emerged as a subculture from the Canaanites and had remained in Canaan throughout ["Peake's commentary on the Bible"] [Israel Finkelstein, "The Bible Unearthed"] . According to this view, the story of Jacob's visit to Laban to obtain a wife originated as a metaphor for this migration, with the property and family which were gained from Laban representing the gains of the Joseph tribes by the time they returned from Egypt ["Peake's commentary on the Bible"] ; according to textual scholars, the Jahwist version of the Laban narrative only mentions the Joseph tribes, and Rachel, and doesn't mention the other tribal matriarchs whatsoever [ibid] [Richard Elliott Friedman, "Who Wrote the Bible?"] .

In the Torah, the eventual precedence of the tribe of Ephraim is argued to derive from Joseph tricking Jacob, blind and on his deathbed, into blessing Ephraim before Manasseh [Genesis 41:52] [Genesis 48:1] . The text describing this blessing features a hapax legomenon - the word שכל ("sh-k-l") - which classical rabbinical literature has interpreted in esoteric manners ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] ; some rabbinical sources connect the term with "sekel", meaning "mind"/"wisdom", and view it as indicating that Jacob was entirely aware of who he was actually blessing [ibid] ; other rabbinical sources connect the term with "shikkel", viewing it as signifying that Jacob was "despoiling" Manasseh in favour of Ephraim [ibid] ; yet other rabbinical sources argue that it refers to the power of Jacob to "instruct" and guide the holy spirit [ibid] . In classical rabbinical sources, Ephraim is described as being modest and not selfish ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] . These rabbinical sources allege that it was on account of modesty and selflessness, and a prophetic vision of Joshua, that Jacob gave Ephraim precedence over Manasseh, the elder of the two [ibid] ; in these sources Jacob is regarded as being sufficiently just that God upholds the blessing in his honour, and makes Ephraim the leading tribe [ibid] .

See also

*Manasseh
*Tribe of Manasseh
*Tribe of Ephraim

Citations

*eastons


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