[b-hebrew] logograms--an ode to Hebrew

Heard, Christopher Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Fri Dec 24 22:57:13 EST 2004

On 12/24/04 7:29 PM, "Revdpickrel at wmconnect.com" <Revdpickrel at wmconnect.com>
> Targums tell of a story that all but ten Ephraimites returned to Egypt after
> a grumble with Moses in the wilderness.

Sorry to be blunt, Doug, but you have this all wrong. The story is not from
the Targums, but from various midrashim, and it does not concern Ephraimites
in the days of Moses, but many years earlier. Here is a relevant quotation
from the online version of the 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia:

--- quotation begins ---
The tribe of Ephraim miscalculated the time of the deliverance of the
children of Israel from Egypt, and left the country thirty years before the
appointed time. They were met by a hostile host of Philistines, who offered
them battle, in which the Ephraimites lost 300,000 men (according to Pesiḳ.,
180,000; according to Pirḳe R. El., 200,000). Their bones were strewn in
heaps along the roads. According to the "Sefer ha-Yashar" (see Shemot), this
event took place in the 180th year after the Israelites went to Egypt, when
30,000 infantry from the tribe of Ephraim left Egypt. The battle was waged
near Gath. Because they rebelled against the word of God in leaving Egypt
before the end of the captivity destined by God had arrived, all except ten
were slain. The Philistines lost in the battle 20,000 men. The ten men who
escaped from the battle returned to Egypt and related to their brethren what
had happened to them. Ephraim, who was still alive, mourned over them many
days. That the children of Israel might not see the bleached bones of the
slain of Ephraim and return to Egypt, God led them to Canaan by circuitous
ways (Ex. R. xx.). The slain Ephraimites were subsequently resuscitated by
Ezekiel (Sanh. 92b).
--- quotation ends ---

> This would have been during Ramesses
> 11's reign, c. 1299.  They were retained by force by Pharaoh's Ramesses 11 and
> Merenptah until his death.  It is inscribed upon Merenptah's tomb "Israel has
> no more seed,"  An obvious false claim.  There is your evidence that Israel
> was in Egypt, so much for pious fiction.  History put them in Egypt and the
> Bible gives us the Exodus.  If you believe this is just pious fiction why does
> anyone study it so hard?

Merneptah's boast, "Israel is laid waste, his seed is not" is indeed
probably an exaggeration, though it is not "obviously false." Nor is it
precisely carved "upon Merneptah's tomb," but upon a stele in his mortuary
temple. In any event, the Merneptah Stele does not place Israel in Egypt. It
places them in the north-central Palestinian highlands, as is clear from the
other peoples and places mentioned in the victory hymn.

R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Armstrong Fellow in Religion
Pepperdine University

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