I 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.
2 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.