Monday, October 8, 2007

Beth-lehem Ephratah/Ephrath

In Genesis 48:7 we see that Rachel was buried on the road to Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem.

In the Hebrew of this verse, the first time the place is mentioned it is spelled אפרתה (Ephratah), and the second time, אפרת (Ephrath), although the KJV conforms them both to Ephrath.

In Ruth 4:11 Ephratah is again used as a place name in conjunction with Beth-lehem:
And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Beth-lehem (Ruth 4:11, KJV)
This verse uses the spelling אפרתה (well, it also has a leading Vet prefix for "in") but the KJV Translators decided to render it as Ephratah this time.

All of this shows that Ephratah and Ephrath are one and the same, and are at least a specific place. We can see that Ephratah and Beth-lehem were also people:
And Penuel the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah. These are the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratah, the father of Beth-lehem. (1 Chronicles 4:4, KJV)
And in 2 Chronicles 11, we find out that Rehoboam built up a city and named it Beth-lehem:
5 ¶ And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defence in Judah.
6 He built even Beth-lehem, and Etam, and Tekoa,
7 And Beth-zur, and Shoco, and Adullam,
8 And Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph,
9 And Adoraim, and Lachish, and Azekah,
10 And Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron, which are in Judah and in Benjamin fenced cities.
Thus Beth-lehem is a place and a city (possibly built upon that original place), and also a person. I would suggest that the redactor of the Torah knew the place on the road to Ephrath was called Bethlehem, and interjected this into the narrative as clarification, whereas the place wasn't actually established as Bethlehem until well after Rachel's time. Although it is also listed as part of the inheritance of Zebulun in Joshua 19...

This puts me in a neutral position on what Micah chapter 5 is referring to:
1 Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.
2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
Place, or person? I think it could be fairly understood as either. Out of Bethlehem shall come a ruler could mean that this ruler is a descendant of Bethlehem, or maybe that they are a product of Bethlehem's memorial in the city named thereafter, or it could just mean out of the city of Bethlehem which is considered a place of little significance by the thousands of people of Judah.

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