Mount Ephraim and Benjamin
37. Lot of Ephraim
Ephraim is the proper name of Joseph's second son (Gen 41:52; 46:20), who receives the blessing of the firstborn instead of Manasseh (Genesis 48); thus he received a share of Jacob's inheritance and is reckoned among the tribal eponymous heroes. The tribal territory named after him is situated in the S part of the central W Jordanian massif (the har ieprayim: Josh 17:15; 19:50; 20:7; etc.); its borders are described in Josh 16:5-10. In connection with Ephraim's N neighbor, Manasseh, the Bible speaks of "the land of Ephraim and Manasseh" (Deut 34:2 and 2 Chr 30:10). In numerous passages in the prophetic writings, "Ephraim" designates the N kingdom of Israel, since Ephraim actually encompassed the real territorial center of this geopolitical region (cf. esp. Isa 7:2, 5, 8, 9, 17; 9:8, 20; 11:13, etc.; see also Jer 31:9, 18, 20; Ezek 37:16, 19).
The region designated by the name Ephraim was considerably larger than the territory originally inhabited by the tribe of Ephraim (cf. 1 Kgs 4:8; Josh 17:15). The "mountain of Ephraim" was made up of the W Jordanian mountainous country stretching approximately from Bethel in the S to the plain of Jezreel in the N; in the NW, Mt. Carmel and, in the NE, Gilboa are probably to be reckoned to the territory as well. The town of Shechem, situated in a valley between Mt. Ebal to the N and Mt. Gerizim to the S, is probably to be seen as the real center of the region. The har tsalmon mentioned as being in the vicinity of Shechem in Judg 9:48 is not identifiable today. The mountain ga'ash is located in the SW part of the Ephraimite massif, near Joshua's home at Timnath-Serah (Josh 19:50; 24:30). Although certainty in the matter is impossible, the mountain tsemarayim (2 Chr 13:4), like the site of the same name (Josh 18:22), was presumably located in the SE part of Ephraim.
From the border of Benjamin in the S until around Shechem the Ephraimite massif is higher than the N section and can only be traversed with difficulty on the E-W axis. Its highest landmark, Baal-Hazor (modern Tell 'Atsur or Jebel el-'Atsur), about 8 km NE of Bethel (mentioned in 2 Sam 13:23), reaches a height of 1011 m. This S part of the Ephraimite massif was the settlement area of the tribe of Ephraim. It is a fertile region, largely composed of cenomanite, an erosion-resistant hard variety of limestone. The main line of communication through the region is the road which traverses the sometimes difficult terrain running N-S along the watershed.
The N part of the Ephraimite massif consists mainly of the rather softer limestone known as senonite, and is not as fertile as the S part. Numerous valleys offered suitable paths of communication for local traffic and thus encouraged the development of urban centers. In addition to Shechem, mention should be made of Tirzah (tell el-Far'a), at the E reach of the Wadi el-Far'a, Dothan in the NW and to the S in an especially favorable location on a hilltop in the midst of a kettle-shaped valley, the city of Samaria.
Ephraim is regarded as the heartland of Israel. It was here, in a fashion entirely independent of developments in Judah to the S that the history of what was later to develop into the entire people of Israel began. Bethel and Shechem appear as the main loci of the Jacob traditions (Gen 28:10-22; 33:17-20; 34; 35), but some of the narratives connected with Abraham (Gen 12:16; 13:3) also lead through Ephraimite territory. The sanctuary at Shechem was the scene of important symbolic events of great significance to the development of the supratribal "Israel." Joshua's tribal assembly in Shechem (Joshua 24) and the ceremony of curse and blessing on the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim (Deuteronomy 27; cf. also Josh 8:30-35) are among the more solid traditions of the central Palestinian tribal league which was also known as the "house of Joseph" (Judg 1:23) and included both Ephraim and Manasseh (Deut 33:17). In the tribal blessings in Gen 49:22-26 and Deut 33:13-17, Joseph receives both a place of honor and a favorable comment.
Siegfried Herrmann, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ad v. "Ephraim" (extract)
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 50)
"The lot of Ephraim." The expression is derived from the Greek version of Josh. 13-19: the Biblical account according to which Joshua distributed the land among the Israelite tribes by casting lots.
Map Section 5 Place Sources