Ephraim pleads to return (Jer 31:18-31:20)

“Indeed I heard

Ephraim pleading.

‘You disciplined me!

I took the discipline

Like an untrained calf.

Bring me back!

Let me come back!

You are Yahweh!

My God!

After I had turned away

I repented.

After I was discovered,

I struck my thigh.

I was ashamed.

I was dismayed.

Because I bore

The disgrace of my youth.’

‘Is Ephraim my dear son?

Is he the child I delight in?

As often as I speak

Against him,

I still remember him.

Therefore I am deeply moved

For him.

I will surely have mercy

On him.’

Says Yahweh.”

Here Jeremiah has Ephraim, the son of Joseph, whose territory was just north of Benjamin plead with Yahweh to let him return to the Promised Land. Samaria and Bethel were in this territory that was the capitol of the northern Israelites. Ephraim admitted that he needed discipline, like a young calf. He wanted to come back home. He had repented and struck his thigh, a sign of penance. He was ashamed and dismayed because of his disgraceful youth. Yahweh, on the other hand, seemed very happy to have him come back. Ephraim was his dear delightful child. Yahweh still remembered him, despite his diatribes against him. Yahweh was deeply moved and would have mercy on him. The northern Israelites can return to Israel.

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The problem of the Ephraimites (Ps 78:9-78:11)

“The Ephraimites,

Armed with the bow,

Turned back on the day of battle.

They did not keep God’s covenant.

They refused to walk according to his law.

They forgot what he had done.

They forgot the miracles

That he had shown them.”

In a strange twist, Asaph, this psalmist, blames the failure of the Israelites on the Ephraimites, the descendents of Joseph. Within the biblical literature there does not appear to be mention of this specific incident. He seems to say that they would not fight. Interesting enough, this hints at the breakup between Judah and Israel, where the northern Israelites slowly became the Samaritans. Ephraim, the son of Joseph was one of the northern tribes that were not part of Judah. They did not keep God’s covenant. They refused to walk according to his laws. They seem to have forgotten all the miracles that God had done for them and the other Israelites.