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In Ruth 1:2, Naomi, Elimelech, Machlon and Kilyon are referred to as אפרתים, or Efrathites. To me, the simplest understanding would be that they come from Efrat (see Genesis 35:19, 1 Samuel 17:12, Micah 5:2). What other possible explanations are there, and what might motivate them?

  • בראשית מח ז: ואני בבאי מפדן מתה עלי רחל בארץ כנען בדרך בעוד כברת ארץ לבא אפרתה ואקברה שם בדרך אפרת הוא בית לחם (Genesis 48:7 MT) – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Apr 25 '18 at 12:38
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim I'm not sure I understand what you are adding. I already quoted וַתָּמָת רָחֵל וַתִּקָּבֵר בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְרָתָה הִוא בֵּית לָחֶם. (Genesis 35:19). – רבות מחשבות Apr 25 '18 at 15:57
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There appear to be two possibilities to the meaning of this term. Let me explain. The term Ephrath, means 'fruitful'. The people living around Bethlehem (House of Bread) were called Ephrath, or Ephrathites. The area surrounding the city is/was known to be productive agriculturally. This term could have come from ... 1. A family or clan from Israel who first settled the area. 2. Ephrath was an acient name of the area (a Canaanite city) before it was named Bethlehem. When the term, Ephrath, is used in scripture, it is always associated with Bethlehem of Judea.

  • Can you please point me where אפרת means fruitful (פורה)? I agree that the base is פר but can't find any פ.ר.ה/פ.ר.ת changes on other words (that is not plural end like cow פרה-פרות or fruit פרי-פרות) – A. Meshu May 7 '18 at 21:36
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Mark 7:34 has the translation of Ephratah as :

And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.

If 'be opened' is the meaning of Ephphatha (Ephrata) then I would say it is a matter of the fruitfulness of the womb, as in its connection with Bethlehem and the bringing forth of the child Jesus, and the fruitfulness of the opening of the ear to rightly hear and understand the word of God.

Both the fruit of the womb and the fruitfulness of the open ear are brought together in Mark's record of the incident in 7:34.

The opening of flesh - the bringing forth of that which is spiritual and Divine - is what I understand in the word Ephrata.

  • Why is it justified to reconstruct the meaning of אפרתים using the root פתח? How did the ר sneak in and where did the ח get lost? There are some personal names based on פתח (yiphtaḥ, nephtoaḥ, naphtuḥim), but to go to אפרתים seems quite a leap doesn't it? – user2672 Apr 25 '18 at 12:48

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