Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.
There have been some interesting discoveries in archeology recently. The ossuary of James the Just is a curiosity; the so-called “tomb of Jesus” is a farce. Most recently though, has been a discovery that actually informs and helps to fill out the picture of what the first century Jewish context might have looked like. The Hazon Gabriel (Revelation of Gabriel) tablet isn’t garnering as much attention as the previous two discoveries mentioned, but in my view it’s a more important find.
First I want to take a brief look at prophetic language in the Bible itself, particularly references to Ephraim. A professor of mine once suggested that the apparent special affinity of Yahweh to Ephraim in the Old Testament is simply because the tribe of Ephraim lies at the heart of Israel geographically. So speaking of Ephraim is a sort of poetic short hand for referring to Israel as a whole. Sure. Sounded plausible at the time, and I didn’t have any better explanation, so I accepted that. It sort of makes sense of passages like Jeremiah 31:20, though it doesn’t necessarily make sense of the fact that Judah and Ephraim are often mentioned side by side. It also doesn’t explain why Ephraim would seem to be singled out as opposed to the rest of Israel in passages such as Jeremiah 31:9:
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Poetic language? Perhaps. But when we begin to look at the literature of the period, we find that those of Jesus’ time did not read references to Ephraim as simple prophetic short hand. As messianic expectations intensified under first Greek then Roman occupation, the name Ephraim came to be closely associated with Messiah.
In the Hazon Gabriel, Ephraim is even portrayed as ranking above David. We see phrases like “My servant David, ask of Ephraim [that he] place the sign; (this) I ask of you.” The current issue of Biblical Archeology Review does a good job of highlighting messianic references to Ephraim in the literature, and brings them to an interesting conclusion. The reference to Ephraim here in a messianic context ties in with post Second Temple Jewish sources that scholars had always attributed to Christian influence. For who is Ephraim of the Old Testament?
In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph . . .
That’s right. Ephraim is the son of Joseph and a type of Christ. He is Joseph’s younger son, specifically. However, Jacob blessed Ephraim before his older brother Manasseh (Genesis 48:14-20), echoing the blessing of Jacob before Esau.
Because of the messianic references to Ephraim throughout the Old Testament, many Jewish scholars began to look for and refer to the Messiah as the “Son of Joseph.” The BAR article theorizes that the Messiah the Son of Joseph historically becomes associated with a suffering servant Messiah, whereas the Son of David is the conquerer.
Until recently, many modern scholars had dismissed “son of Joseph” references as Christian corruptions of or influences on Jewish texts. But artifacts like the Hazon Gabriel are making them think again.
Another interesting feature of the Hazon Gabriel is the reference to “three days.”
77. Who am I? I am Gabriel …….. [ ]
78. You will rescue them………….. for two [ ] …[ ]
79. from before of you the three si[g]ns three .. [ ]
80. In three days, live, I Gabriel com[mand] yo[u]
It’s the first known pre-Christian and extra-biblical reference to a resurrection on the third day. Biblically, third day resurrection has its roots in Hosea 6:1-2.
Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.