Were the Israelites Never in Egypt?
A Peculiar Tradition about Ephraim
Novice readers have given a bad name to Chronicles’ genealogical lists of the tribes of Israel, which take up that book’s first nine chapters, as though the lists comprise merely random compilations of names. With proper deciphering tools, however, one discovers fascinating concepts and invaluable information there about the history of Israel, its tribes and settlements, throughout the biblical period. In the middle of the vast profusion of names are embedded short anecdotes that are otherwise unfamiliar to us, like that involving Jabez (yabetz) the Judahite, whose mother gave him his name “because I bore him in pain [be-’otzev]” (1 Chronicles 4:9). (Compare the curse in Genesis 3:16: “In pain [be-’etzev] will you bear children.”) Jabez prays to God to remove the menace summoned by his name — “‘Oh bless me… and make me not suffer pain from misfortune!’ And God granted what he asked for” (1 Chronicles 4:10). Some of the anecdotes are enigmatic, like one that tells about another Judahite family: “And Jokim, and the men of Cozeba and Joash, and Saraph, who married into Moab and Jashub leḥem, the records are ancient” (v. 22). Indeed, this verse is hopeless.
We’ll discuss now one anecdote that was placed into the genealogies of Ephraim son of Jacob. We’ll try to uncover its particular concept of history and compare it with the more common biblical view.
The sons of Ephraim: Shutehelah his son Bered his son Tahath his
son Eleadah his son Tahath his son Zabad his son Shuthelah also