What is the significance of Mount Ephraim in the Bible?
Mount Ephraim is not a single mountain, but rather an entire mountainous region in Central Israel. While the King James Version and a few others call this region "Mount Ephraim," most translations use the phrase "the hill country of Ephraim" or "Ephraimite hill country." Even in the KJV, it is obvious that Mount Ephraim is actually a mountainous region and not a specific solitary mountain. In 2 Chronicles 13:4 the KJV states that "Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim" (2 Chronicles 13:4). So Mount Zemaraim is a specific mountain within the mountainous region of Ephraim.
The hill country of Ephraim in the heart of Israel stretches from Bethel in the south to the plain of Jezreel in the north and is intersected by well-watered fertile valleys. It later became known as the mountains of Samaria (Jeremiah 31:5, 6; Amos 3:9) and included the cities of Shechem and Shiloh. The reason it received the name of Ephraim is because it is the land that was allotted to the tribe of Ephraim when Israel took possession of the Promised Land.
Being in the very heart of Israel, it is easy to see why this region became a place of leadership for the nation of Israel. After conquering the Promised Land, "the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there" (Joshua 18:1). God's presence and sanctioned worship resided in this central mountainous district.
Important leaders were buried in the hill country of Ephraim, including the bones of Joseph (Joshua 24:32), Eleazar, high priest and son of Aaron (Joshua 24:33), and Joshua, Moses' successor (Joshua 24:29–30; Judges 2:9). Mount Ephraim is the place where Israel amassed and assembled its army under both Ehud (Judges 3:27) and Gideon (Judges 7:24). Deborah ruled the nation from there (Judges 4:5). It is the place from whence Tola rose to save Israel (Judges 10:1). And Samuel's father hailed from this hill country (1 Samuel 1:1). Many of Israel's godly leaders either traced their roots to the hill country of Ephraim or chose this region as the best place from which to guide the nation. It makes sense that godly leaders would choose this region because it is where God's presence symbolically resided and they knew they could only succeed by following God's guidance.
The hill country of Ephraim also became a place of refuge. When some Israelites feared the Philistines, they hid in this mountainous region, only choosing to emerge from the hillsides when they saw the Philistines fleeing from Saul and Jonathan during battle (1 Samuel 14:22). Many years later when good king Jehoshaphat called the people back into right relationship with God, he traveled this region capturing the people's hearts. "Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers" (2 Chronicles 19:4). Mount Ephraim was a region where people not only met with God historically in the tent of meeting, but one where they learned to return to God spiritually after times of doubt and apostasy. Isaiah declared, "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6–7). The Israelites' experience in the hill country of Ephraim shows how God pardons those who return to Him.
God is our refuge (Psalm 46:1). God eagerly awaits our return to Him (Luke 15:7). He is our sovereign leader (Jeremiah 31:9). And He dwells in our midst (James 4:5; Ephesians 3:17). All of these truths were displayed in the region of Mount Ephraim long ago and remain true in the world today.
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