Read Genesis 48
Manasseh and Ephraim
1 Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him. 2 When Jacob was told, “Your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel rallied his strength and sat up on the bed.
3 Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’
5 “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6 Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers. 7 As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem).
8 When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”
9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.
Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”
10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.
11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”
12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
on the earth.”
17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day and said,
“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”
So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
We have two more chapters of Genesis after today. Our study is coming to a close, which means we have to say goodbye to yet another patriarch, Jacob. Genesis 48 is the beginning of his final words and his final work.
Legacy is a word we don’t use often in our culture. Its definition reads: “anything handed down from the past.” Anything? Anything. For Jacob, he wants to hand down blessings and inheritance, not only to Joseph, but to Joseph’s sons as well. It may seem strange or peculiar that Jacob formally adopts Joseph’s sons as his own, but this is actually a very generous act.
What we would be wise to think peculiar is that Jacob intentionally passes ruling power and blessing to Joseph’s younger son, rather than the rightly due older son. This law of primogeniture (the firstborn’s right to inheritance) keeps getting violated. And by Jacob, nonetheless. He was intimately acquainted with the complications, implications, and blessings that result from this.
This is an important theme for us to acknowledge. This is the story of the gospel—our Older Brother, Jesus, laid down His rights and privileges to share His inheritance with us. Remember, ALL of Scripture points to Jesus. We are the younger sons and daughters who received blessing and inheritance when none of it was rightly ours. We didn’t deserve it, but we were given it.
Jacob finally (FINALLY!) understands this grace and faithfulness of God Almighty. With great clarity, he recounts the story of God and God’s faithfulness to Joseph and his sons. Though his physical vision was dim, his spiritual vision was the clearest it had ever been. He had stunning clarity. Age does that to a person.
It’s emotional to think about the men gathered around the bedside of their frail father. A father they’d seen miss it and blow it too many times to count. A father they’d also seen surrender to El Shaddai. These men, listening to the final words of their deeply flawed patriarch:
All of my life to this day
God has been faithful and true.
Even when I was not.
When we lay these frail bodies down, what God has done with our obedience will be all that matters. That is our legacy.
What do you learn about God in this chapter?
What is the story you will recount to your children and grandchildren? Will it be one of obedience and surrender to Christ? Why or why not?
What comfort do you take from the life of Jacob? What challenges you about his life?
Did You Know?
The blessing Jacob passes on to Ephraim (the younger brother) instead of Manasseh (the older brother) continues the reversal of the traditional blessing of the older son for the fourth consecutive generation. If you fast forward to the book of Judges, Ephraim’s tribe goes on to be the most superior amongst the ten northern tribes, which can be traced back to this blessing.