Descendants of Ephraim in Canaan Before the Coming Out of Egypt
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Miriam Samuel, "Sheerah," published in the magazine "Sinai," 120.
20 The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eladah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead. The men of Gath who were born in that land killed them because they came down to take away their cattle. 22 Then Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him.
23 And when he went in to his wife, she conceived and bore a son; and he called his name Beriah, because tragedy had come upon his house. 24 Now his daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon and Uzzen Sheerah; 25 and Rephah was his son, as well as Resheph, and Telah his son, Tahan his son, 26 Laadan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, 27 Nun his son, and Joshua his son.
This may have happened while they were still in Egypt.
The Children of Ephraim in Egypt were the most aristocratic of all the Tribes.
Ephraim had an aristocratic nature. Ephraim was considered a "Palatiani" i.e. A Dweller of the Palace." (Midrash, Yalkut Shimeoni, 1;73).
Descendants of Ephraim were distinguished by their power, heroism, and courage.
"All the time the Israelites were in Egypt, [while the rest of them were suffering] the descendants of Ephraim were dwelling safely in comfort and surety. They were of the Seed of Royalty [through Joseph], and formidable warriors in wartime" (Midrash, Yalkut Shimeoni, 1076).
The authoress Miriam Samuel, discusses the possibility that some of the Hebrews had made an attempt at settling in the Land of Canaan before the Israelites came out of Egypt. She quotes from the Commentary of Yehudah Kiel in the 'Daat Mikra" Hebrew-language commentary to "Sefer Divrei Ha-Yamin" (Book of Chronicles). We discussed this in our work "Lost Israelite Identity. The Hebrew Ancestry of Celtic Races," by Yair Davidy, Israel, 1996. The relevant extracts are given below in a slightly adapted format:
p. 126 ff.
Joseph was the virtual ruler of Egypt. He apparently appointed other Israelites to positions of authority. Joseph had re-arranged the Egyptian system of land tenure and introduced various changes in administration. In Egypt over the course of generations the Israelites became a great and numerous nation. A later King of Egypt enslaved the Israelites but under the leadership of Moses they were to be delivered by God and wander in the wilderness for forty years. Afther they entered the Land of Canaan and conquered it. The Twelve Tribes apportioned the conquered land between them. Even while still in Egypt, before their enslavement and subsequent Exodus the Israelites (at least at the beginning) had continued to maintain an active interest in the Land of Canaan and may have utilised Egyptian power to strengthen their own. Some Biblical passages seem to strengthen the notion of a constant Israelite involvement in the Land: In the Biblical Book of Chronicles it speaks of the sons of Ephraim (son of Joseph) as having been active in the country of Canaan:
"And the sons of Ephraim.....Ezer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath slew, because they came to take away their cattle.
"And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him.............
"And his daughter was Sheerah who built Beth horon the nether, and the upper, and Uzzen sheerah." (1-Chr.7:20 23)
Similarly, The Book of Deuteronomy (ch.3) speaks of Jair (i.e.Yair) and of Gilead and his father Machir the son of Menasseh taking land east of the Jordan in a way that could be understood as referring to Yair, Gilead, and Machir, themselves as well as to their descendants later. Yehudah Kiel in his commentary on the Biblical Book of Chronicles speaks at length on the above subject. He says that the place Gath in the Land of Israel with which the sons of Ephraim were involved is (contrary to other opinions which identify it with Kiryat Gath in the south) in the centre of the Land towards the north. He affirms that the GATH here spoken of is, like Beth Horon and the cities built by Sheera daughter of Ephraim, in the territory which was later to be apportioned to the descendants of Ephraim. He deduces, in effect, that after coming out of Egypt the different Tribes were to receive lands which, at least in some cases, had formerly been associated with their tribal forefathers. His claim is supported by quotations from other exegetes who dealt with this matter before him .
The sources state that since Machir, Nobah, and Yair, were long since dead they could have received nothing in the time of Moses and Joshua but that which it says they were given was received by them long beforehand, within their own lifetime, and later re-possessed by their descendants. The lands spoken of here appear to be those of the Machir-dominated half tribe of Menasseh east of the Jordan River. According to Prophecy when the Lost Ten Tribes return in the future they will initially receive areas east of the Jordan to settle in.
"And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man...
"I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon * ; and place shall not be found for them" (Zechariah 10;7, 10).
The upshot of the above is that the Israelites in Egypt had been influential and had enjoyed positions of authority and that even while in Egypt some type of connection had been maintained for some time with the Land of Canaan.
"Jair the son of Menasseh took all the country of Argob unto the coasts of Geshuri and Maachathi; and called them after his own name, Bashan havoth jair, unto this day.
"And I gave Gilead unto Menasseh " (Deuteronomy 3:14-15).
"And the children of Machir the son of Menasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it.
"And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Menasseh ; and he dwelt therein.
"And Jair the son of Menasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called them Havoth Yair.
"And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name" (Numbers 34:39-42).
PRE-EXODUS ISRAELTES IN ISRAEL.
Yehudah Kiel quotes from the Commentary of the 17th century "Rabbi Yehudah HaHasid" (ca.1690):
"Israel received many possessions from their forefathers in the Land of Canaan. Even though they were in Egypt they were wont to send emissaries to Canaan to prepare fields and vine yards of their own. The descendants of Joseph apparently of Ephraim [Joseph's second son] built cities for themselves in Canaan in the area of their future inheritances. They caused their servants to settle in these cities and raise them tribute and tend their inheritances for them. Because of this situation the Egyptians became fearful lest the two bodies [i.e. Israel and their vassalages in Canaan] join together and war against them....Formerly due to Pharoah's esteem of Joseph by virtue of which Pharoah honoured them... the Israelites had received permission from Pharoah to so act [in tending their Canaanite possessions]. In the book of Chronicles..Sherah [daughter of Ephraim] established cities [in Canaan] and she lived at least 6 generations prior to [the Israelites conquering the land after coming out of Egypt under the leadership of] Joshua who conquered the land."
Likewise, another Rabbinical source (quoted by Kiel and ascribed to a Student of Saadia Gaon) and perhaps dating to ca.1100 c.e. says:
"Machir [son of Menasseh who was the brother of Ephraim, Menasseh and Ephraim being the two sons of Joseph] ..was the progenitor of Gilead. Later Yair confirmed possession of the lands of Gilead [east of the Jordan River]. After the generation of Joseph and his brothers died out, the surrounding nations increased in power and two of them, Geshur and Aram, seized the villages of Yair.... For this reason the later descendants of Machir [after coming out of Egypt] desired to settle in the Land of Gilead. Moses therefore granted them the land which had formerly been held by their forefather and Joshua [the successor of Moses] confirmed this grant".
"This point should be made quite clear, those matters spoken of in the Pentateuch concerning Machir, Nobah, and Yair [having held territory in the land], are speaking of a previous era. Machir, Nobah, and Yair were not alive at the time of the wandering in the wilderness [after coming out of Egypt] and so they received nothing in that period."