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The tribe of Ephraim
The tribe of Ephraim took precedence over that of Manasseh by virtue of Jacob’s blessing (Genesis 41:52; 48:1). The descendants of Joseph formed two of the tribes of Israel, whereas each of the other sons of Jacob was the founder of only one tribe. Thus, there were in reality thirteen tribes; but the number twelve was preserved by excluding that of Levi when Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned separately (Num. 1:32-34; Josh. 17:14, 17; 1 Chr. 7:20).
Territory of the tribe of Ephraim. At the time of the first census in the wilderness this tribe numbered 40,500 (Num. 1:32,33); forty years later, when about to take possession of the Promised Land, it numbered only 32,500.
The boundaries of the portion of the land assigned to Ephraim are given in Josh. 16:1-10. It included most of what was afterwards called Samaria as distinguished from Judea and Galilee. It thus lay in the center of all traffic, from north to south, and from Jordan to the sea, and was about 55 miles long and 30 broad.
During the time of the judges and the first stage of the monarchy this tribe manifested a domineering and haughty and discontented spirit.
Among the causes which operated to bring about the disruption of Israel was Ephraim’s jealousy of the growing power of Judah. From the settlement of Canaan till the time of David and Solomon, Ephraim had held the place of honor among the tribes.
It occupied the central and fairest portions of the land, and had Shiloh and Shechem within its borders. But now when Jerusalem became the capital of the kingdom, and the center of power and worship for the whole nation of Israel, Ephraim declined in influence. The discontent came to a crisis by Rehoboam’s refusal to grant certain redresses that were demanded (1 Kings 12).