Does Bethlehem belong to Ephraim?

client_part_1483669287684_vzm-img_20170105_212046I have recently begun reading a small book titled Joseph is Alive by B. Michael Blaine.  Published in 1995, I am very surprised that I had not heard of it until Dorothy Wilson mentioned it on a recent visit.

As I read yesterday morning the author made a statement that shocked me and piqued my curiosity.  He said,

Bethlehem, a village in the hill country of Judah, was given to Ephraim, a northern tribe, for a possession. (pg.22)

I dropped my book and grabbed my Bible, but didn’t see anything obvious.  Thinking, “how did I miss that,” I continued reading as Blaine began to assemble a compelling case that indeed, Bethlehem, or part of it, belongs to Ephraim!!  Credit goes to Blaine for the following arguments which I will try to condense and at the end, I’ll share a few significant thoughts that came out of this.

Genesis 35:19 says,

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).

Later, in Ruth, we read that Elimelech and his sons were Ephratites.

The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.

According to Blaine (footnote on p.25),

‘The Hebrew name Ephrati ends with the iy gentilic which is usually translated “ite” as in Hittite.  The Hebrew Ephrati is correctly translated both as “Ephramite” (Judges 12:5; 1 Samuel 1:1; 1 Kings 11:26) and as “Ephratite” (Ruth 1:2) in English Bibles.’

Now, we learn a principle from Numbers 27:1-11.  A person could not inherit property that did not originally belong to his tribe.  Property had to remain in the family.

So, why did Ephraim have this property in Judah?  Blaine says,

This Bethlehem, in the heart of Judah, is called Ephrat, a direct reference to Ephraim, Rachel’s grandson, who had received the birthright as the spiritual leader of the clans, and who must have been given the town of Bethlehem as a possession even though it was located in the territory of Judah.  The book of Ruth informs us that Ephramites/Ephratites had a possession in Bethlehem.  This would not have been possible if Bethlehem had not been an inheritance of their tribe.  An Ephramite/Ephratite could not purchase or acquire a piece of property which belonged to another tribe.

Of course we are all familiar with Micah 5:2ff, a verse that is part of a larger Messianic prophecy,

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”

And indeed, we know from Ruth and the Gospels that Yeshua’s lineage comes directly from Bethlehem.  What is fascinating is that Boaz, father if Obed, the grandfather of David, descended from Judah through Peretz.  Thus, David and ultimately Yeshua, bring together in this lineage three significant threads:  Judah, Ephraim and gentile (Moabite).  This uniquely gives David (and Yeshua) the authority to be king over both houses and those grafted in!  It truly makes Yeshua a ‘son of Joseph’ (Ephraim’s father) and a ‘son of David.’  He can be Messiah ben Yosef and Messiah ben David!!!

Blaine, in wrapping up this little discussion, revealed another fascinating verse that I have missed.  1 Samuel 17:12 says,

Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men.

Blaine offers more information and a couple more arguments for why Bethlehem is an Ephramite inheritance, but you’ll have to track his book down.  Bottom-line, this was new information for me and a bit surprising while making total sense at the same time!

As the barking fox and I texted back and forth discussing this new piece of understanding, I made a statement and then realized the gravity of what I said.  It was one of those moments that make my head explode with fireworks…  I said,”Certainly, Bethlehem holds even more significance than I previously understood.  Might also explain why it is non-Jewish control right now.”

Al promptly responded, “A-HAAA!!!!!”

Our follow-on discussion pondered the importance of Ephraim coming home and possibly why Judah does not have control of Bethlehem or Judea and Samaria (the Shomron).

Is it possible, just possible, that because much of the current state of Israel was not part of the original tribal territory of Judah and Benjamin, that is why the Father has not allowed control?  Now,  I know that the land belongs to kol Israel and I am confident that the nation of Israel is doing what God called them to do in being in the Land.  Please understand, I am not questioning that, but am considering some of the underlying spiritual and Torah principles that may have a bearing on the allotment of the Land and the current travails over the Shomron and Bethlehem.  Might Judah, because they are trying to take care of land that ultimately isn’t theirs, be suffering challenges that would be resolved if Ephraim stood up and did what they should be doing?

Does this situation point toward the need for Ephraim to come home?

I don’t really know, but it certainly bears pondering.

About Pete Rambo

Details in 'About' page @ Basically, husband of one, father of four. Pastor x 11 years, former business and military background. Micro-farmer. Messianic believer in Yeshua haMashiach!
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24 Responses to Does Bethlehem belong to Ephraim?

  1. Mary Ellen says:

    This little treasure of a book is out of print…I bought a case of them at Sukkot 2014 from a woman who knows Blaine’s widow. She was selling them to be able to have $ to be able to print the sequel that Blaine had planned to publish before he died. Not sure if that ever came to pass. So glad you have read it & reported on it. I have been pondering this information since I bought my first copy in 2008. So happy you have been able to read it too! I have another very interesting article I will forward to you that I found in a pamphlet on our last trip to Israel autumn 2012. I ordered a second copy of your book as the first has become part of my lending library & is greatly appreciated by those who are reading it…others waiting in line for their turn! Will there be a second book! 😊
    Richest blessings,
    Mary Ellen

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mary Ellen says:

    I will ask the woman I I bought the books from as she is the one that had contact with her…I ‘ll get back to you as soon as I can!
    Shalom shalom,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. TOM CULP says:

    Wow Pete! Todah rabba!
    This does add another dimension to the importance of Ephraim walking along side our brothers in Judah. In my studies, I discovered another interesting aspect of Ephraim’s role in the restoration in Deut 37:17, which is masked in the English translations. in CJB it reads “…with them (his horns) he will gore the peoples, all of them, to the ends of the earth.” but in Hebrew, the text says “…the people (ammim) he shall push together with his horns.” Now certainly the use of ammim refers to Israel (otherwise goyim would be used). So could it be that Ephraim are the ones to gather Israel? Love your book!


  4. Sue in Aqaba says:

    Pondering with you!! What wonderful gems are being revealed to us!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dorothe says:

    I just always thought that Ephrat or Ephrata meant a similar or area with the same name… like in Germany there are a lot of villages called ‘Weiler’. But they are not the same just meaning that it is some houses…
    That way I thought it was just a name thing people had many sons with Ephraim as name as well but it would make sense that it was also given as heritage because of Rachel’s tomb, for guarding it and as heritage to her offspring..

    Interesting thoughts..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dorothe says:

    I mean what irritates me is Ephrat was called Ephrat before there was Ephraim- it was already called Ephrat, when Rachel died, so what’s the real connection? (See also Parasha Vajechi Rishon)


  7. 2010mikaela says:

    yep, it’s alright! 🙂


  8. Diane Gerlach says:

    So interesting since one means bread and the other means fruitful


  9. carlbromley says:

    Wow. Thank you. I just noticed this reading in 1Samuel 17.

    Its an out there thought and i dont know if theres anything in it; but the uncanny reality that Jesus earthly step dad wss named Joseph strikes me…the son of Joseph the Scripture records…interms of birth place as well as the step Father. Thsnk you!


  10. cesar says:

    “21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”
    I saw a map somewhere indicating Amorite possession over the Ephraimite portion around 2000-1500BC. Would you say it is this personal possession Jacob passed down where Bethlehem (Ephratite) is?


  11. Kevin says:

    Thanks a lot for this. Btw when the children of Bethlehem were killed in Matthew two, the prophecy quoted was Rachel heard weeping for her children. So the people of Bethelehem had to be predominantly descendents of Rachel(Ephrahim) rather than Judah (Leah)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mohanan Chellappan says:

    This piece of information is greatly helpful to me as I was preparing my sermon today (25/12/2018) for an evening meeting. I was trying to connect Ephrathah with Ephraim and I was unable to get maximum details but finally you stood with me. Although according to Micah 5:2 too little..Joshua, Samuel, David and then Jesus. May be some of us come from too little to be announced or seen but that little can surprise the masses. blessings

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Tony Hon Wai Li says:

    Excuse my English, but would this contradicted with 1 Chronicles 4:1-4?

    The descendants of Judah:

    Perez, Hezron, Karmi, Hur and Shobal.

    2 Reaiah son of Shobal was the father of Jahath, and Jahath the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the clans of the Zorathites.

    3 These were the sons[a] of Etam:

    Jezreel, Ishma and Idbash. Their sister was named Hazzelelponi. 4 Penuel was the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah.

    These were the descendants of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah and father[b] of Bethlehem.

    1 Chronicles 5:2

    2 and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph)—

    First born right indeed belong to Joseph, but the authority part of first born belong to Judah, affirming Jacob’s blessing to Judah’s authority (Genesis 49:8-12), where Jacob’s blessing to Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26) describes prosperity of firstborn (as double portion) – fruit bearing vine, blessings of heaven, of the deep, and of the breast/womb.

    This reminds me of 1 Samuel 1:1, reader would assume Samuel’s father, Elkanah, was a Ephraimite just by reading that verse, but if you read 1 Chronicles 6:25-26 then you found out Elkanah was from tribe of Levi, a descendant of Kohath.


  14. Marykutty says:

    As days I was searching about the Ephrath in 1samuel17:12 and today I found in micah5:2 prophecy and surprisingly found out God’s plan about us through jesus christ our saviour. Thank you this thought about Ephrath connecting with my jesus in this website.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Mary Donev says:

    Thanks for the article and all the comments! I stumbled across your website in answer to my Googled question, “Is Bethlehem in Ephraim?” I asked because I was reading Numbers 13 where Moses sent out the spies and only Joshua and Caleb gave a good report. It says Caleb was from the tribe of Judah and Hoshea (Joshua) was from the tribe of Ephraim. It struck me how the two representatives of the house of Judah and the house of Ephraim were the ONLY ones who trusted God’s promises and lived to enter the Promised Land after 40 years in the wilderness. As is pointed out in other comments, the two lines out of Leah and Rachel “coming together,” in effect, in the Messiah! I’m still thinking about this, but it blows me away how God includes the smallest details in His word to show everything is part of His great plan — even something as small as Judah and Ephraim, not any other tribes, just “happen” to be the ones to tell the people “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are able to overcome it.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete Rambo says:

      Blessings, Mary.

      Indeed, every detail fits together…. even in today’s Torah portion, Leah enters the Land first (with Judah) during the ‘time of Jacob.s Troubles,’ followed by Rachel with Joseph…


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