From Academic Kids

Ephrath or Ephratah is the Biblical name of the ancient city in the Judean Hills, south of Bethlehem, now called Efrat in the West Bank. It is the urban center of Gush Etzion. Its chief rabbi is Shlomo Riskin, a well-known American rabbi formerly of the Lincoln Square Synagogue (http://www.lss.org) in New York City. It is an ancient place: on the road between Ephrath and Bethel, Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis, xxxv:19).

Today the population numbers above 10,000, with many families originally from the United States and elsewhere in the Anglo world. For more information on modern Efrat see The Municipal Council (http://www.efrata.muni.il/efrat_english/default1.asp) and B'Emunah (http://www.bemuna.co.il/e_efrat.asp).

A short distance from Ephrath was the small town of Bethlehem, which has assumed greater importance as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth.

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem has always been accounted by Christians a fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah (5:2):

"But thou, Bethlehem 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." (King James Version).

As Beth-lehem-Judah (1 Samuel 17:12) is in the territory of Judah, so Beth-lehem Ephratah is in the territory of Ephrath. Ephrath is sometimes confused with Bethlehem itself: even the Jewish Encyclopedia (1908) lists Ephrath as "another name for Bethlehem (Genesis xxxv. 19, xlviii. 7; Ruth i. 2, iv. 11; Psalms cxxxii. 6; Micah v. 1)." The interested reader will want to pursue the citations, however. Assuredly the purely traditional "tomb of Rachel" as now venerated is in a suburb of Bethlehem.

Ephrath was already a settlement in the Bronze Age. Archeology by Rivka Gonen, summarized in 1979, revealed a cemetery consisting of a tumulus built over a platform structure and some 27 Bronze Age burial caves of the shaft-tomb type, many of which had been reused over long stetches of time. These tombs were reused in the Middle Bronze Age.

  • Ephrath was the wife of Caleb (son of Hezron) and mother of Hur (I Chronicles ii. 19 and 50; iv. 4).


Rivka Gonen, Excavations at Efrata: A Burial Ground from the Intermediate and Middle Bronze AgesIsrael Antiquities Authority Reports, 2001

The town of Ephrata, Pennsylvania was named after this town.
The town of Ephratah, New York was also named after this town.
The town of Ephratah, Melbourne was also named after this town.


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