Ephraim first appears in the Bible as the name of the younger son of Joseph, born to him in Egypt of his wife Asenath (Gen. 41.52; 46.20). In Genesis 48 the dying patriarch Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, crossing his hands and giving the birthright to Ephraim. This continues the well‐known biblical pattern of the lesser inheriting before the elder (Abel, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc.). In the case of Ephraim this probably reflects the eventual domination of the tribe of Manasseh by the tribe of Ephraim, both of which claimed descent from the respective sons of Joseph (see Tribes of Israel). The tribe of Ephraim came to inhabit the central hill country of Canaan north of Jerusalem, the so‐called hill country of Ephraim (Judg. 7.24; 17.8; etc.; Map 3:X4), from which the tribe probably received its name. The ancient cities of Bethel, Shechem, and Shiloh are all to be found in its territory. Its importance is highlighted by the use of the name of Ephraim as an alternate literary designation for the whole northern kingdom of Israel by the mid‐eighth century BCE. This pivotal position is underlined by the names of some of the tribe's leading personages: Joshua, Deborah, Samuel, and Jeroboam I (1 Kings 11.26), the founder of the secessionist northern kingdom. A town by the name of Ephraim is mentioned in 2 Samuel 13.23 (Map 4:X5); it may be the same as the Ephraim to which Jesus went after raising Lazarus (John 11.54).
Carl S. Ehrlich