The Plan of God in the Book of Genesis—Part 34

Ephraim and Manasseh Blessed


VERSES 1-4  “And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
“And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.
“And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,
“And said unto me, Behold I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.”

Jacob was now about to die, and a messenger sent word to Joseph, who quickly came to the bedside of his aged father and brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, with him. On this solemn occasion Jacob had the Lord uppermost in his mind and heart, and related to Joseph the covenant he made with him at Luz, or Bethel. This was when Jacob fled from Esau and he was favored with that wonderful vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven with the Lord standing at the top of the ladder and angels ascending and descending upon it.—Gen. 28:10-13

This was a renewal of the covenant which God had made with Abraham, including the promise to bless all the families of the earth, although Jacob did not mention this feature of it to Joseph. Perhaps this was because Joseph’s tribe was not to be the one from which the Messiah, the promised ‘seed,’ would come.

In this reminiscing of Jacob’s wherein the Lord had given him a vision and renewed the Abrahamic covenant with him, the Genesis account of those events says that he journeyed on, “lifting up his feet.” (Gen. 29:1, Marginal Translation) The thought evidently is that of renewed hope and confidence; and this assurance was still his, even though now he was about ready to die. He could no longer ‘lift up his feet,’ but his heart was light and full of faith.

VERSES 5-14   “And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
“And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.
“And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.
“And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these?
“And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.
“Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them.
“And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.
“And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
“And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.
“And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.”

Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph and adopted them as his own sons and made them heads of tribes. Jacob indicates that in some way these two sons of Joseph were to take the places of his own sons Reuben and Simeon; although they are in the list of the spiritual tribes of Israel in Revelation 7, where Manasseh is substituted for Dan. Ephraim’s chief blessing as the adopted son of Jacob seems to have been in the fact that his tribe received the largest and choicest portion of the land when Canaan was divided under the leadership of Joshua.

Jacob’s blessing of his two grandsons reminds us in some ways of his own experience when receiving the parental blessing of Isaac, in that, as it turned out, the firstborn was given second place and his younger brother was put in the position of the firstborn. Joseph, realizing that his father’s eyesight was failing, took precautions to place the boys before him in the proper positions according to their ages. But Jacob deliberately ignored this in giving them his blessing.

VERSES 15-20  “And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,
“The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
“And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.
“And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
“And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
“And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.”

When Joseph saw that Jacob was blessing Ephraim as the firstborn instead of Manasseh he endeavored to interfere, supposing it to be wrong, (or, according to the Marginal Translation, an ‘evil.’) However, Jacob explained vigorously that he knew what he was doing. He explained that while Manasseh would become the head of a great tribe, or people, the tribe of Ephraim would become much more numerous, and that in their relationship to each other the two would be known as Ephraim and Manasseh.

There is no indication in the Scriptures just why this change was made, and apparently the only reason was that Jacob, by prophetic vision, knew that the tribe of Ephraim would become the larger of the two; and when Canaan would be divided among the tribes, his would receive a large and choice portion.

VERSES 21,22  “And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.
“Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.”

On his deathbed, nothing was more sure to Jacob than the fact that his people would be brought out of Egypt and into the Land of Promise. ‘Behold I die: but the Lord shall be with you,’ he said to Joseph, ‘and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.’ Although the covenant with Abraham emphasized God’s purpose to bless all the families of the earth through his ‘seed,’ the land which God promised in that covenant seemed often to be the major consideration in the minds of the Israelites, although Jacob did not forget the other feature of the covenant, as we shall see later in connection with his blessing upon Judah.

Jacob did not attempt to assign portions of Canaan to all of his sons, but he did indicate an extra portion which he wished Joseph to have; and when, many long years later, the tribe of Joseph was given its portion, Jacob’s bequest was honored. And not only so, but appropriately enough, Joseph’s bones were buried on this plot of ground. See Joshua 24:32 and John 4:5.

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