The Bad Example of Ephraim
Psalm 78:9
The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.…

The incident here alluded to is not known. Evidently there was some well remembered occasion when Ephraim suffered an ignominious defeat in consequence of their apostasy from God. There is a Hebrew legend which records how, during the Egyptian captivity, the tribe of Ephraim, in the pride of their heart, endeavoured to forestall the appointed time of the Exodus, and. went out armed, only to be massacred by the men of Gath. It has, however, been observed that in the prophetical books (especially Hosea), the whole northern kingdom is mentioned under the term "Ephraim;" and, taking this view, the "psalmist may allude to a defeat of a peculiarly disgraceful character, which was regarded as a punishment of the ten tribes for their secession from the divinely appointed Davidic dynasty. Precisely of this nature is the defeat of the 800,000 men of Jeroboam by the 400,000 of Abijah, in 2 Chronicles 13." But we ought to look for some instance in which Ephraim made a show of taking part with the other tribes, and forsook them - perhaps through jealousy - in the moment of stress. The image is one of faithlessness. The thought that calls to mind the sin of Ephraim is given at the close of ver. 8, "A generation... whose spirit was not steadfast with God." We are to learn, not from their act, but from the spirit which found expression in their act. Illustrate from all known of this tribe.

I. A BAD EXAMPLE OF WAVERING. Compare Reuben, "unstable as water." This is the common failure of impulsive people, who take up things excitedly, but have no staying power. (See the "stony ground" hearers.) It implies grave weakness of character, which prevents success in life being won, or confidence being felt. We can never be sure of the wavering man, who may respond to the last impulse, and fail us at the most trying time. Constancy, steadfastness, are not recognized sufficiently as elements of character that may be, and should be, developed and educated in the young, who should be made to carry through what they begin.

II. A BAD EXAMPLE OF LACK OF PRINCIPLE. In the case before us, Ephraim evidently acted on mere feeling. Principles of loyalty, and brotherly service to their fellow tribes, would have enabled them to master "feeling" and "fear." They had no adequate "sense of the right;" they allowed themselves to be ruled by the "expedient," which constantly leads men to do mean and shameful things. He only is noble who can act on principle, and suffer for the right.

III. A BAD EXAMPLE OF SUSPICIOUSNESS. Illustrate by the difficulty Gideon had with the Ephraimites (Judges 8:1-4). Some always think they are being neglected, slighted. In this case, probably Gideon had not thought about these Ephraimites, so he could not have designed any evil. When discontented with ourselves, we readily suspect other people's treatment of us.

IV. A BAD EXAMPLE OF SELF-IMPORTANCE. Ephraim was always thinking what was due to itself as the leading tribe. The people who are over full of self are only too likely to fail their friends in the evil day. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

WEB: The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

Recreant Ephraim
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