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Ephraim [Ē'phrăĭm]—doubly fruitful. The second son of Joseph by Asenath and founder of a tribal family (Gen. 41:52; Num. 1:10). Also the name of a town (2 Sam. 13:23), a city (John 11:54), a gate of Jerusalem (2 Kings 14:13), and a wood (2 Sam. 18:6).

The Man Who Represented Fruitful Pruning

In Jacob’s prophetic blessing of his sons the prominent feature of Joseph’s portion was that of fruitfulness, a prophecy receiving its fulfilment in the double tribe springing from Joseph, namely, Ephraim and Manasseh, like two branches out of the parent stem. Joseph himself was “a fruitful bough” because he had been so well pruned. The sharp knife of adversity led to the sweet fruit, and the fruitful bough ran over the wall. Ephraim and Manasseh were the heads of most fruitful tribes. The Book of Hosea, however, reveals how the blessings showered upon these tribes were ill requited.

Joseph named his second son Ephraim because as he said “God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Here Joseph, although a Hebrew, speaks as a Gentile. Ephraim was the fruitfulness of his father in the land of Egypt as a Gentile prince, and Jacob rightly calls his seed “the fulness of the Gentiles,” when he adopts him on his dying bed.

The representative man of the tribe of Ephraim is Joshua. No other like him arose afterwards in this tribe. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, founder of the kingdom of Ephraim, was the exact opposite to Joshua in faith and conduct.

The significance of Ephraim’s name must not be lost upon us. What Joseph said of him indicated that God had brought good out of evil, privilege out of pain, triumph out of tragedy. In spite of any affliction that may be ours, do we remain fruitful in every good work? To Joseph the birth of Ephraim came as luscious fruit after the severe pruning of ill-treatment, slavery and prison. See John 15:1-8.

Devotional content drawn from All the Men of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer. Used with permission.

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