GREAT TRAGEDY will ‘usher’ in GREATER BLESSINGS: "The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eladah his son, Tahath his son, Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead. The men of Gath who were born in that land killed them because they came down to take away their cattle. Then Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. And when he went in to his wife, she conceived and bore a son; and he called his name Beriah, because tragedy had come upon his house." (1 Chron. 7:20-23)
The writer of Chronicles has opened the initial chapters of the first book by presenting the twelve tribes of Israel as the goal of divine election. Now in chapter seven, the extent and order of the covenant nation is described in detail, and the prominent figures of all the tribes are covered, except the two tribes of Dan and Zebulun. The lists described here involve not only people but also tribal territories, which may have been included with the hope that the community of those returned from exile would eventually grow to include all the tribes and their territories.
However, tucked in these lists is a nugget of historical record that is not available anywhere else in the Bible! This incident seems to have happened a little before the Egyptian persecution of the Israelites under the reign of the new Pharaoh mentioned in Exodus 1:8. The family of Jacob (the Israelites) had settled in the land of Goshen, which was not too far from the city of Gath, where the Philistines were living. In those days it was not unusual for people to trespass into their neighbor’s land, and steal their livestock. The Hebrew people had retained their pastoral character in Egypt, and it is not surprising that they would have made a raid on the neighboring tribe of the Philistines for the purpose of plundering their flocks.
Among the Hebrew people who raided the Philistines were the sons of Ephraim (who was an old man now). It appears that "the men of Gath" killed the Hebrew shepherds, including the sons of Ephraim “because they came down to take away their cattle” (7:21). This was a great tragedy for Ephraim who spent many days mourning his great loss, and had to be comforted by his brothers just like the patriarch Job (see Job 2:11). This must have been a custom of the East, exemplified even after the death of Lazarus (John 11:19). What Ephraim must not have realized was that this great tragedy in his life would usher for him greater blessings in the future!
The grief of the patriarch Ephraim was inconsolable, and in order to compensate the loss of all his nine sons (his first four sons are mentioned in Num. 26:35–37 with variant spellings), he had another son in his old age that he named ‘Beriah’ (means “in evil” in Hebrew language) given the fact that “tragedy had come upon his house” (7:23). However, soon he also had a daughter named ‘Sheerah’ (7:24), who is the only woman in the Bible said to have built (or rebuilt) three cities - a unique distinction! Not only that, as we continue to read the names of the descendants of Ephraim, we come across the verse reading "Nun his son, and Joshua his son" (7:27). This is the same Joshua, who had the great distinction of succeeding Moses as the undisputed leader of the Israelites, and had led the people of Israel into The Promised Land!
It is therefore remarkable that after the tragic loss of all his sons, Ephraim had the double blessing of a wonderful daughter who distinguished herself by building cities, and a great grandson who became a great leader of Israel having the distinct and unique honor of leading his people to occupy the land that God had promised to their forefather Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). In the similar manner, we can also be assured that there will be greater blessings for us even through the tragedies that God allows in our lives!