1 Samuel 1:1 – Elkanah, the Ephraimite

By Wayne Jackson

Samuel was one of the great judges and prophets of the Old Testament era (see Acts 13:20; 3:24). His father was Elkanah, a descendant of the tribe of Levi (1 Chronicles 6:26,33).

In view of this information, one may be surprised to note that in 1 Samuel 1:1, Elkanah is depicted as an “Ephraimite.” How could he be both a Levite and an Ephraimite, since these were two different tribes?

Some critics of the Bible claim that the biblical text is in conflict with reference to this matter. Actually, though, there are legitimate ways of effecting harmony between these texts.

One plausible explanation takes knowledge of the fact that some of the descendants of Kohath (a son of Levi and ancestor of Elkanah) lived in several of the cities assigned to the tribe of Ephraim (Joshua 21:5; 1 Chronicles 6:66; cf. 1 Samuel 2:11). Thus, while Elkanah’s lineage was Levitical, his residence was that of an Ephraimite. There is, therefore, no discrepancy.

Underline the term “Ephraimite” in 1 Samuel 1:1, and in your margin write: Geography, not genealogy. Then note the appropriate passages.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.