e'-fra-im, e'-fra-im ('ephrayim, "double fruit"):
1. The Patriarch:
The younger of the two sons of Joseph and Asenath, born in Egypt. He and his brother Manasseh were adopted by Jacob, and ranked as his own sons, each becoming the ancestor of a tribe in Israel. In blessing his grandchildren, despite their father's protest, Jacob preferred the younger, foreshadowing the future eminence of his descendants (Ge 41:50 ff; Ge 48:20 ff). In the Blessing of Jacob however, the two are included under the name of Joseph (Ge 49:22 f).
2. The Tribe:
At the first census on leaving Egypt, Ephraim's men of war numbered 40,500; and at the second census they are given as 32,500 (Nu 1:33; 26:37). See, however, article NUMBERS. The head of the tribe at the Exodus was Elishama, son of Ammihud (Nu 1:10). With the standard of the tribe of Ephraim on the West of the tabernacle in the desert march were Manasseh and Benjamin (Nu 2:18 ff). The Ephraimite among the spies was Hoshea (i.e. Joshua), the son of Nun (Nu 13:8). At the division of the land Ephraim was represented by prince Kemuel, son of Shiphtan (Nu 34:24). The future power of this tribe is again foreshadowed in the Blessing of Moses (De 33:17). When Moses died, a member of the tribe, Joshua, whose faith and courage had distinguished him among the spies, succeeded to the chief place in Israel. It was natural that the scene of national assemblies, and the center of the nation's worship, should be chosen within the land occupied by the children of Joseph, at Shechem and Shiloh respectively. The leadership of Ephraim was further emphasized by the rule of Samuel. From the beginning of life in Palestine they enjoyed a certain prestige, and were very sensitive on the point of honor (Jg 7:24; 8:1; 12:1 ff). Their acceptance of and loyalty to Saul, the first king chosen over Israel, may be explained by his belonging to a Rachel tribe, and by the close and tender relations existing between Joseph and Benjamin. But they were never reconciled to the passing of the scepter to Judah in the person of David (2Sa 2:8 f). That Israel would have submitted to the sovereignty of Absalom, any more than to that of David, is not to be believed; but his revolt furnished an opportunity to deal a shrewd blow at the power of the southern tribe (2Sa 15:13). Solomon's lack of wisdom and the crass folly of Rehoboam in the management of the northern tribes fanned the smoldering discontent into a fierce flame. This made easy the work of the rebel Jeroboam; and from the day of the disruption till the fall of the Northern Kingdom there was none to dispute the supremacy of Ephraim, the names Ephraim and Israel being synonymous. The most distinguished of Ephraim's sons were Joshua, Samuel and Jeroboam I.
3. The Territory:
The central part of Western Palestine fell to the children of Joseph; and, while the boundaries of the territory allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh respectively are given in Jos 16:1-10; 17:1 ff, it seems to have been held by them in common for some time (Jos 17:14). The Canaanites in certain cities of both divisions were not driven out. It was probably thought more profitable to enslave them (Jos 16:10; 17:13). The boundaries of Ephraim cannot be followed with accuracy, but roughly, they were as follows: The southern boundary, agreeing with the northern border of Benjamin, started from Bethel, and passed down westward by nether Beth-horon and Gezer toward the sea (Jos 16:3; in verse 5 it stops at upper Beth-horon); it turned northward to the southern bank of the brook Kanah (Wady Kanah) along which it ran eastward (Jos 17:10) to Michmethath (the plain of Mukhneh); thence it went northward along the western edge of the plain to Shechem. It then bent eastward and southward past Taanath-shiloh (Ta`ana), Janoah (Yankun) to Ataroth and Naarah (unidentified) and the Jordan (Jos 16:7). From Ataroth, which probably corresponds to Ataroth-addar (Jos 16:5), possibly identical with the modern et-Truneh, the southern border passed up to Bethel. Along the eastern front of the land thus defined there is a steep descent into the Jordan valley. It is torn by many gorges, and is rocky and unfruitful. The long slopes to the westward, however, furnish much of the finest land in Palestine. Well watered as it is, the valleys are beautiful in season with cornfields, vineyards, olives and other fruit trees. The uplands are accessible at many points from the maritime plain; but the great avenue of entrance to the country runs up Wady esh-Sha`ir to Nablus, whence, threading the pass between Gerizim and Ebal, it descends to the Jordan valley. In this favored region the people must have lived in the main a prosperous and happy life. How appropriate are the prophetic allusions to these conditions in the days of Ephraim's moral decay (Isa 28:1,4; Jer 31:18; Ho 9:13; 10:11, etc.)!