Ephraim was the second son of Joseph, so together with his brother older Manasseh could be considered to be the house or dynasty of Joseph. He was born in Egypt in about 1700 B.C. according to the Biblical Timeline or a little later, but before his uncles arrived from Canaan to stay (Genesis 48 v 5). His mother was Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, priest of the sun god, whom Pharoah gave to Joseph as his wife according to Genesis 41 – 50-52. This means that the tribe of Ephraim was not one of those to be blamed for selling Joseph, but also means that they were not pure blooded Israelites. His Uncle Judah is cited by Matthew as an ancestor of Jesus ( Matthew 1 v 3 and Luke 3 v 33)
The name means double fruitfulness, perhaps because he was a second child of this particular pair. In Genesis 48 v 14-21 the Bible records that though Ephraim was the second son of Jacob set him as being above his brother Manasseh, despite the intervention of his father, Joseph. His descendants include Joshua, one of the conquerors of Canaan, according to I Chronicles 7 v 20-27. When the Israelites first arrived back in Canaan they were just a loose confederacy of tribal groups, but later they decided to elect a king – Saul being the first. After Saul’s death, all the tribes except Judah remained loyal to Saul’s memory. And his son Ishbosheth, but when the latter also died Ephraim’s tribe joined with the others to accept David, then king of Judah, as their leader too.
Despite being all closely related it seems that the various tribes had distinct accents so when Jephthah and his men fought the Ephraimites they identified them by their pronunciation of the word ‘shibboleth’.
I King 11 v 26 records Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, as being the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel. In about 723 B.C.E., the whole of the population of northern Israel was deported to Assyria and from that time onwards Ephraim is considered to be one of the lost tribes.
At the time Ephraim lived the neighbors of the Israelites, the Phoenicians, worshipped Baal, Moloch and Arestate. It was the Bronze Age in much of the world, and Assyria was becoming the largest world power. In Babylon, Samsu-ditana reigned as the last king of First Babylonian Dynasty, whereas Egypt was much more established. Greek city-states were beginning to emerge, and a new Minoan palace is built. The Tang Shang emperors ruled in China.
Meanwhile, the very last of the mammoths was being hunted to extinction; people had discovered such crafts as baking leavened bread and making beer and even how to make rubber balls. By 1600 BC in Babylon one of the oldest surviving astronomical documents had been created. It records the appearance of Venus, known as Nindaranna) in the night sky.
Also at about this time, according to Irish legend, Érimón, a Milesian from Spain, conquered Ireland and became one of its first high kings. It is after one of his wive’s, Tea, that the famous hill of Tara got its name.
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