Still making our way through the genealogy of Israel. Today we come to the tribe of Ephraim. They will open their rolls to us for a quick peek.
I’m going to admit right off to some confusion in this section. And what makes it different from the confusion with all the other genealogy sections is time. Sentence order confounds our reading today. I’m sure those who were the original target audience probably had no trouble with this but I certainly do. Call me dumb, obtuse, or dogmatic if it helps. I’ll take any advice I can get on unraveling Ephraim’s string of descendants.
I LOVE how clear our author starts off when giving Ephraim’s line, EXCEPT for the use of the plural “sons”. Shuthelah’s line proceeds quite nicely. I even noticed that he had repeat names rather quickly. I would have assumed Ephraim only had one son if not for that pesky plural in the beginning. But we come upon two names that seem to relate back to that plural, or I think they do.
Ezer and Elead appear to be two more sons of Ephraim. These seem to be Ephraim’s own sons and not grandchildren or great grandchildren. I’m curious how they fell to the men of Gath when they lived in the land of Goshen in Egypt. Did the men of Gath come down to raid Ephraim’s livestock or did Ephraim’s sons die in a raid on the men of Gath’s livestock? Philistine isn’t that far from Egypt. In fact God took the children of Israel on a longer journey to the Promised Land because He wanted to keep them out of the land of the Philistines.
I Googled how many sons Ephraim had and came upon a website that tried to explain this story by agreeing with a school of thought that had the tribe of Ephraim leaving Egypt 30 years before the exodus. Problem is, Ephraim didn’t live to a mere 30 years before the exodus. Our text has this event happening to Ephraim’s sons. “And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him. And Ephraim went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son. And he called his name Beriah, because disadter had befallen his house” (verses 22-23). This was a personal event that happened to Ephraim, not to his tribe after him.
I want to skip forward a little bit and touch on a name thrown in. I don’t know where this ‘branch’ comes from. That name is Rephah. We are not told whose son the first Rephah is. At first I wondered if he could be the son of Ephraim’s daughter who is mentioned but the word “his son” precludes that. This son of someone leads all the way to Joshua. I like seeing that tie-in to the Promised Land inhabitants. We even get to see the territory they occupied. Did you ever notice that the territories of Rachel’s sons abut one another and are in the heart of Israel?
Let’s back up to Ephraim’s daughter. She is the first woman I have seen in the bible that is credited with more than being a mother to children. She “built both Lowerand Upper Beth-horon, and Uzzen-sheerah” (verse 24). I wonder how she accomplished this in a male dominated society. Did Ephraim insist the men around listen to her ideas? Did she design the town or put her back into the labor of actually constructing them? Whatever it was she did, it was noteworthy. She probably paved the way for the woman of virtue in Proverbs 31:10-31. Maybe the verse was modeled after her. That description leaves me LACKING! I do not believe I could ever live up to it. I admit that I do have talents of my own (God given of course) but she puts me to shame. Her stamina to always be about some productive work alone leaves me in the dust. I enjoy some ‘down-time’ where I can just sit and read or watch television. Maybe she was so productive because she didn’t have those opportunities. I find that I need something to keep my mind busy, even if my body isn’t. I wonder if she ever felt like telling everyone to find someone else for a change. Did she ever get overwhelmed with the tasks she faced daily? Did she ever feel crushed beneath the weight of her family’s expectations? Or did they make her stand all that much taller, bolstered by the praises they heaped on her?
As I was thinking about the woman of virtue I realized that she didn’t get to that pinnacle alone. She had children who trusted her and praised her for her efforts in their lives. She had a husband who encouraged her and supported the ideas she brought forth. He didn’t put her down for her failures on the way to that lofty place. He built her back up when she fell just as she did for him. That whole family climbed to that place of honor for her together. They didn’t begrudge her the place in the spotlight. In fact they shone it on her as she humbly worked her normal routine. She would probably feel guilty or ashamed to know how much emphasis is put on living up to her standard. I don’t think she would find fault in her ‘sisters’ who didn’t measure up. She would probably come alongside them and encourage them instead. “You don’t have to be me. I am NOT your measuring rod. All you have to be is the best ‘you’ that you can be; the ‘you’ that God made you to be. HE is your measuring rod, your divining rod, and your foundation. Let Him build in you the woman HE created you to be.”
Father God, I have NO IDEA how You brought me here right now but thank You! The only person I have to be is the person YOU created me to be. And I have a LIFETIME with You to achieve it. I only fail when I refuse to try. I only succeed when I trust You and Your process. No matter how long it takes, or what we have to go through, I WILL be the woman You made me to be. And I will support others that You bring to me as they walk the path You created specifically for them.