2 Samuel 18:6—Was the land of Ephraim west or east of Jordan?

Problem: According to Joshua (17:15–18), the Ephraimites settled on the west side of Jordan. But in 2 Samuel 18:6 it speaks of the “woods of Ephraim” as being on the east side of Jordan.

Solution: Some believe this battle (2 Sam. 18) took place on the west side of Jordan in the territory of Ephraim. However, this is unlikely for several reasons. Both armies were on the east side before the battle, and there is no mention of their crossing Jordan. The army returned back to the west side after the battle (19:3). David had to cross the Jordan to get back home in Jerusalem (v. 15) on the west side.

Other scholars believe that the “woods” of Ephraim were not within their territory, but on the east side of Jordan. They think the forest may have received its name from the earlier slaughter of Ephraimites in that area (cf. Jud. 12:1–6), even though it did not belong to the tribe of Ephraim. It is not unheard of for a section of one province to bear the name of another. After all, Michigan City is just across the border in the state of Indiana!

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.