Updated: Mar 25, 2022
“12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons; and the man was an old man in the days of Saul, stricken in years among men.”
1 Samuel 17
“So here’s my question: could it be that David is descended from both Ephraim as well as Yehudah?”
If we accept the scripture from 1 Samuel as it is stated, it implies that Jesse, the father of David, was an Ephrathite who lived in or near Bethlehem, which was in the territory of Judah. This might raise questions as to the genealogy of Daivd, but that is not the focus of this writing. We point to the reference that Jesse - the father of David - was an Ephrathite because the root of this word is Ephrath, meaning “fruitful”, the same root as the name Ephraim. For me this indicates that David was connected to both Judah and Ephraim, the two houses who eventually became the rulers of the two kingdoms in Israel.
“1 And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of YHWH, saying: 'Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?' And YHWH said unto him: 'Go up.' And David said: 'Whither shall I go up?' And He said: 'Unto Hebron.'
4 And the men of Judah came, and they there anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying: 'The men of Jabesh-Gilead were they that buried Saul.' “
2 Samuel 2
David was born in the territory of Judah, but he asked the God of Israel if he should go up to any of the cities there because he didn’t know their loyalties, i.e., whether he would be favorably received or not. He was told to go up to Hebron, and there he was anointed king over Judah by the men of Judah.
“1 Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spoke, saying: 'Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh.
2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was thou that didst lead out and bring in Israel; and YHWH said to thee: Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be prince over Israel.'
3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a covenant with them in Hebron before YHWH; and they anointed David king over Israel.”
2 Samuel 5
David is now king over all Israel and is sitting in Hebron, his capital as king over Judah, but choses not to rule all Israel from this Judean city, instead he leads the now united nation in a campaign to take the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites! He didn’t enquire of YHWH before doing so, which seems to indicate that this was a personal decision.
“4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.
5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.
6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke unto David, saying: 'Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither'; thinking: 'David cannot come in hither.'
7 Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion; the same is the city of David.”
2 Samuel 5
Why not simply continue ruling from Hebron in Judah? I feel he undertook this task because of its difficulty, to demonstrate what the united nation could accomplish under his leadership and also to show respect to the house of Benjamin from which came Saul, Jonathan and Avner, all of whom David had eloquently eulogized, because the city of Jerusalem was located in the territory of Benjamin!
“11 And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families; and the border of their lot went out between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph.
21 Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Beth-hoglah, and Emek-keziz;
28 and Zela, Eleph, and the Jebusite--the same is Jerusalem, Gibeath, and Kiriath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.”
Benjamin was the bridge between the house of Judah and the house of Joseph, literally, as his territory lay between those of Judah and Ephraim. This is why when YHWH decided to take rulership over the whole nation from the house of David, He left one tribe under its leadership, Benjamin, because Jerusalem was there, and all the families were required to come to Jerusalem 3 times in the year. This was to maintain the sense of connection between the two kingdoms, and to eventually lead to a reunion. This would require a leader with a heart like David, one that exemplified a love for all Israel, one that understood that he is bone of bone, and flesh of flesh with the whole family of Jacob; a David who is a Judean/Ephrathite!
“19 say into them: Thus, saith my Lord YHWH: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them unto him together with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.
22 and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all;
24 And My servant David shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in Mine ordinances, and observe My statutes, and do them.”
David chose not to emphasize his Judean heritage, but rather to promote the common lineage of the whole House of Israel; he chose to take Jerusalem as a symbol of that unity, which is why I feel YHWH said, “Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to thy son; for David My servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.'” The God of Israel chose the symbol of the unity of His chosen people and this is what Jerusalem will always represent to Him.
Only a leader with a heart like David’s can truly unite the houses of Israel into a cohesive whole again:
“4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not whole with YHWH his God, as was the heart of David his father.”
1 Kings 11
Only a heart whole with the God of Israel can truly bring unity to the family of Jacob; the interests of YHWH must be at the forefront with a willingness to place truth and the needs of the whole before all else. Just as David chose Jerusalem over Hebron, so any aspiring messiah must make similar choices and yield to truth; the Whole House of Israel must be chosen over a Jewish state!
“Per the second understanding, "Ephrati" comes from Ephraim but it is made clear that that does not mean that everyone who is called "Ephrati" is a descendant of Ephraim, rather, it is part of the blessing of Yaakov to his grandson that in his honor, important people will be named after him. One of the examples brought in this part of the Midrash is King David himself.
Therefore, while there is some connection between the two words, that does not mean that every person that was called an Ephrati is a descendant of Ephraim. At best, they are, in some sense, spiritual descendants of Ephraim, honoring his memory by carrying a title similar to his name. “1