October 17, 2021
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. As I called them, so they went from them; they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images."
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. As I called them, so they went from them; they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images. I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” Hosea 11:1-4
It is important to note that the name “Ephriam” is used in the Bible in three senses. First, Ephriam was one of Joseph’s boys (along with his brother Manasseh) fathered with his Egyptian (not Jewish) bride. (A foreshadowing of spiritual intimacy) Still, Jacob blessed them as if they were his own sons.
“And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” Genesis 48:5
Secondly, “Ephriam” is associated with the land of Ephriam, a territory given to the tribe of Ephriam by the Lord when Israel crossed the Jordan 40 years after having left Egypt. We must also remember that the only two faithful reports about the Promised Land (from the 12 tribal spies) came from Caleb (the tribe of Judah) and Joshua (the tribe of Ephriam). (Joshua 16-17)
Thirdly, “Ephriam” is synonymous with apostasy and idolatry (spiritual adultery). After the death of King Solomon, his son, Rehoboam, acted foolishly, and an Ephraimite named Jeroboam arose persuaded 10 of the 12 Israelite tribes to follow him. To keep the people from uniting in worship (in Jerusalem) with their Israelite brothers of the tribes of Judah & Benjamin, Jeroboam set up two golden calves for the people to worship in Dan & Bethel. Henceforth, in Old Testament Scripture, the Jewish people are a divided kingdom known as “Israel” (aka Northern Kingdom/Ephriam) and “Judah”(Southern Kingdom), collectively. (1 Kings 12)
Hopefully, understanding “Ephriam” in its proper Biblical context (and specifically God’s continuing love for them in Hosea 11) helps you understand this often passed-over passage in the Christmas story “Wise men” narrative.
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’” Matthew 2:13-15
Of the tribe of Judah, Jesus’ Egyptian “exodus” signaled a firm faithfulness (conquering death and sin) that Caleb’s heroism only partly showed. Yet, He gracefully redeems the idolatrous route Joshua’s tribe (Ephraim/Israel) eventually pursued.