The Disagreements of Ephraim and Manasseh by Rabbi Aryeh Katz as Summarized and Explained by Yair Davidiy
Rabbinical Sources on the Tribes as collated for Brit-Am by Rabbi David Feldman:
"The Disagreements of Ephraim and Manasseh" (Hebrew Language),
by Rabbi Aryeh Katz, in "Hemdat Ha-Arets," 6.
Impressions and summaries taken by Yair Daviidy.
Hebrew Original Text in .pdf form
8. Gideon Compared to Jephthah
After considering the Quarrels of Ephraim with Manasseh in the instances of Gideon and Jephthah, Katz continues to discuss possible reasons as to why Ephraim received the primacy in the first place.
Why too, in the times of Gideon and Jephthah was the First Right temporarily taken away from Ephram and given to Manasseh?
Are there explanations for the different reaction of Gideon and and Jephthah even though faced with similar challenges to their respective roles of leadership?
Gideon allayed the wrath of Ephraim:
Judges (NKJV) 8:
1 Now the men of Ephraim said to him, 'Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?' And they reprimanded him sharply.
2 So he said to them, 'What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the [a]gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than [b]the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?' Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.
Jephthah, on the other hand, answered Ephraim harshly and went ot war with them slaying 40,000 (Judges 12:6).
The Commentator, Yehudah Elitsur, opined that Gideon had been a student of the Prophets. His personal qualities were more refined than those of Jephthah.
Gideon had tried to avoid being made leader (Judges 6:15) whereas Jephthah had demanded it (Judges 11:9).
Jephthah later made a vow that the first thing that ca,me out of his house would be offered up as a sacrifice.
The daughter of Jephthah came out to greet him (Judges 11:30-40). What exactly happened to his daughter is not certain. She may have lived a life of permanent chastity. At all events the whole subject indicates a rashness of character on the part of Jephthah.
Midrash Tanchuma, "BeChukotai," 5, speaks of this.
Katz quotes from Rabbi Yaacov Medan who sees in the Biblical Historical accounts evidence of tension between the Israelites Tribes east of the Jordan and those west of it. Rabbi Medan finds this to be a recurring theme in the history of the Israelite Kings who frequently replaced each other after violent coups. He considers regional differences to have been a factor in the various revolutions and rivalries.
9. Ephraim and Manasseh
The two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, received names reflecting different aspects of the personality of their father.
Genesis (NKJV) 41:
50 And to Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn [j]Manasseh: 'For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house.' 52 And the name of the second he called Ephraim: 'For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.'
Rabbi Katz sees in Joseph two different facets: One he was in the Land of Israel before being sold to Egypt where Joseph would both serve as shepherd with his brothers, the sons of the handmaidens (Genesis 37:2), and also be found alongside his father, Jacob. Jacob was an indoors spiritual type.
Genesis (NKJV) 25:
27 but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.
The major Commentaries of Onkelos and Rashi both says that Joseph inherited this quality from Jacob and he too had a scholarly, spiritual, side to him. The Talmud and Midrashim also speak of it.
Later when Joseph became ruler of the Land of Egypt he revealed a more active, practical, materialistic aspect of himself.
Katz suggest that Ephraim inherited this more active aspect whereas Manasseh received more of the spiritual one.
As we said above, the Natziv says, Genesis 48:14, the opposite. He considers Ephraim to have been the more spiritual of the two brothers, and Manasseh the more materialistic one. His opinion cannot be rejected outright. The apparent contradiction needs to be resolved.
The main task of Joseph in the Biblical accounts and associated sources is on the materialistic side.
Ephraim was therefore given the Right of the Firstborn, even though technically Manasseh was born before him, because he was more capable of fulfilling the role of Joseph.
Katz finds in the Period of the Judges leaders from both Ephraim and Menasseh not properly fulfilling their roles.
The first King, Saul, was from the Tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin like Joseph was a son of Rachel. Benjamin is sometimes listed as part of the House of Joseph.
David was from the Tribe of Judah.
The Ten Tribes separated from Judah. Their first king was Jeroboam from the Tribe of Ephraim. There followed other kings, several from Ephraim, who all failed to resist the lures of idolatry. This culminated inthe reign of Ahab.
Then came Jehu from the Tribe of Manasseh who eliminated the lineage of Ahab and began to extirpate idolatry. Jehu however failed in his task and after four generations the reigns of rulership were removed from his house (2-Kings 1:30). There followed a succession of different kings who all met violent ends until we come to Hosea ben Elah who was the last king of the Ten Tribes of Israel int he Land of Israel.