The Blessings Of Jacob Over Ephraim And Manasseh.

Genesis 48:8-16

Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and said, “Who are these?” And Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place. ” And he said, “Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.”
Now the eyes of Israel (notice the name change) were dim with age, so  that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, “I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!”

Jacob Meets His Grandsons.

Jacob was getting old. Joseph received word that his father’s health was failing, so he went to see him and brought along his two young sons:  Manasseh and Ephraim. These two boys, who were born to hm during his time of his rejection in Egypt, have some amazing things to tell us about the Church today as well as the 21st century.

Manasseh was the elder son; Ephraim the younger.  Their Dad had brought them before their grandfather, Jacob, clinging to his knees, one on each side. You know how shy little toddlers are.  It’s the kind of sight that tugs at your heart strings.  Very cute.

No doubt they weren’t too sure about this old man.  You know how kids are when they meet strangers for the first time.  But their shyness was soon dispelled.  They came near to their grandfather and he pronounced his blessings over them.

Bear in mind, now, that these two boys are half-breed kids because their mother wasn’t Jewish.  This will figure in later as our story unfolds.

I’m sure you noticed in the opening scripture how the Holy Spirit, mid-sentence, switched from calling him “Jacob” to using his glorified name, “Israel.”  Remember, that was the name given to him when he wrestled with the Angel. Why?  We’re going to find out in the course of studying these two boys as related to the first-born blessing.

First-Born Blessing.

Genesis 48:12-16  “So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him.

“Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands KNOWINGLY,  for Manasseh was the firstborn.

And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name {Israel} be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

Why Did Jacob Cross His Arms?

Joseph had brought his sons to his father so he could bless them before he died.  Manasseh, being the older boy, he had placed on his father’s right hand side, Ephraim on his left.  As the elder, he naturally assumed his father would bestow the first-born blessing on him and a lesser blessing on the younger.  But Jacob, lead by the Holy Spirit, crossed his hands, placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, his left hand on Manasseh’s head.

Law Of The First-born Blessing. 

Anyone familiar with Jewish tradiation immediately understands that Jacob was giving the first-born blessing to the younger son.  You see, in their culture, they use the right hand to bestow the first-born blessing, indicateing power, position and prosperity.

Joseph was not happy with his father and tried to redirect his hands.  But Jacob refused.  The Bible says that he had crossed his hands “Knowingly.”  He understood very well that he was giving the first-born blessing to the younger boy.

In Deuteronomy 21:15-17 we find the law concerning this blessing:
15 “If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved,16 then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, thathe must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. 17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a DOUBLE PORTION of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.”

Though recorded long after Jacob lived, he would certainly have been familiar with this custom.

Ephraim And Manasseh Adopted As Sons.
Then Jacob says something very strange: “And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; AS REUBEN AND SIMEON, they shall be mine.”

Jacob is REPLACING REUBEN, his own first-born, with EPHRAIM and replacing his second born, SIMEON, with Joseph’s oldest son, MANASSEH,treating his grandsons as sons!  Why?

Because Reuben and Simeon had both disgraced themselves and lost their positions as first and second born.  It’s kind of a long story.  If you like, you can read all about their indiscretions in Genesis 34 & 35.

As I said, Jacob did this knowingly and said to Joseph, “I know, my son, I know. He (Manasseh) also shall become ‘a people, (leAm)’ and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations (haGoyim).”  So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ ” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.” Genesis 48:19-22.

Notice that, even in speaking of the two boys, Jacob mentions the name of the younger before that of the elder.  Very significant!  The Ephraim shall be greater than Manasseh! 😮

Joseph Became Two Tribes

As a result of what Jacob did, Joseph became two tribes.  He blessed these two boys and adopted them as his own sons.  In the process, Joseph was elevated to patriarch status.  That’s why you don’t hear the tribe of Joseph talked about very much but, instead, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.  He was given a DOUBLE PORTION of his father’s blessing above his brothers!

A Multitude of Nations.
Jacob told Joseph that Manasseh would become “A people,” but Ephraim would become “A multitude of nations.”  The word in Hebrew he used for “A people” was” leAm.”  The word he used for MULTITUDE OF NATIONS was “haGoyim.”  Goyim is Hebrew for “Gentiles.”  Ephraim’s descendants would become much larger than Israel.  

Who are these two boys? 🤔

Hmmm…..Let’s see:  They receive everything through THE CROSS (Jacob “crossed” his hands) and Ephraim would become a “multitude of (Gentle) nations.”

Do you know who is typified here?  IT’S THE CHURCH:  You and I!  That’s why the Holy Spirit had Jacob “CROSS” ✝️ his hands.

Where is the Church today?  ALL OVER THE WORLD; people from every tribe, every nation, and every tongue on earth!  Ephraim really has become a MULTITUDE OF NATIONS!  

This should put to rest the myth about British Israelism, a cult that arose near the end of the 19th century.  It’s crystal clear that “Ephraim” refers to the Church in all nations, not just believers in Great Britain.

Why the Name Change From Jacob To Israel?

Remember when reading the first few verses of Genesis 48 where, mid-stream, the Holy Spirit suddenly calls Jacob by his glorified name, “Israel?”  Why? Are we, the Church, also referred to as “spiritual Israel?”  YES!  He was showing us that the Church is adopted as sons and incorporated as part of his family, just as if we were born into it!

Look what it says in Romans 2:28-29. “For he is not a Jew who is  one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but HE IS A JEW WHO IS ONE INWARDLY; and circumcision is  that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

The blessing of the first born is a double portion!

Spiritual Israel. 

In Galatians 6:15-16 we also read, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. AND AS MANY AS WALK ACCORDING TO THIS RULE, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the ISRAEL OF GOD.”

You and I walk according to this rule because we are a “NEW CREATION” in Christ!  Who or what is the Israel of God?  “It is made up of saved Jewish people and saved Gentiles.  In fact, WE are called “the Church of the first-born.”

Like Ephraim and Joseph, we also have the blessing of the first-born, even though we are the younger brother, our elder brother being the Jewish people since they been around a lot longer.  WE ARE DOUBLY BLESSED!

Jacob may not have fully known what he was asking of the Angle of the Lord when he wrestled with him but because of his action, we are beneficiaries of the double portion blessing of the first born of God. As believers, we are all first born. He doesn’t have any grandchildren. All must be born again into His household to be part of His family.

Elisha And The First-born Blessing.

Did you realize that’s what Elisha was asking of Elijah?  Remember he wanted a DOUBLE PORTION of his spirit. He was asking for the first-born blessing.  It was very important in those days.

When Esau sold his birth right to Jacob, they later on they fought over it.  Obviously it had tremendous value which they fully understood it in those days.

We Are Adopted Into God’s Family.

Just as Jacob adopted his grandsons as his own sons, you and I, Church, have been adopted into the family of God.  Understand, however, we have not replaced Israel. They are still precious to God and remain in covenant with Him, though the unsaved Jews do not enjoy the full blessing.  If they did true, they would be born again.  New birth is, by far, the greater portion of the blessing of the first born, which you and I have!

Thanks to Jesus, you and I can be born into the family of God and enjoy the blessing of the first born. You can see it so clearly in the story of the blessings over these two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Below is the blessing Jacob prayed over Gad who must have been scratching his head upon hearing his father’s words 😳. But…..until you understand the event it portends, it’s more than a little strange.

One thought on “The Blessings Of Jacob Over Ephraim And Manasseh.

  1. I was doing my own Bible study on this and came across your blog. I don’t think the boys were toddlers. One can calculate their ages as being between about 19 and 25. Seventeen years have passed (see Gen 47:28) between the second year of the famine, when the boys were at least two years old, and the present day in the story, just before Jacob’s death.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s