This chapter explains something I had not fully grasped. Why are Manasseh and Ephraim listed in the tribes of Israel?
After these things, one told Joseph, Your father is sick.
After what things? Joseph had promised not to bury his father in Egypt but to bury him with his fathers. Remember the cave Abraham bought as a bury place for Sarah in Genesis 23.
…the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.(Jacob speaking in Genesis 49:30-31)
Joseph went to see his father and took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, with him.
One told Jacob, your son Joseph comes to you.
Israel strengthened himself and sat upon the bed.
Jacob (to Joseph): God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me.
He said to me, Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you
a multitude of people and will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession. Now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born to you in the land of
Egypt before I came to you into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. And your issue, which you beget after them, shall be yours, and shall be called after the name of their brothers in their inheritance. As for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was yet but a little way from Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.
Jacob is making Joseph’s children his own, just as Reuben and Simeon are his own. He is adopting them.
- In Numbers 1, Moses takes a census of the men of fighting age in each tribe of Israel. Manasseh and Ephraim is counted among the tribes of Israel.
- Manasseh and Ephraim are given portions of the promised land along with the other sons of Israel. (Joshua 13-14) The children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. (Joshua 14:14)
- In Numbers 2, Moses arranges the camp by tribes. The tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim are listed.
- When the 144,000 are sealed in Revelation 7, twelve thousand from each of the tribes of Israel were sealed. The tribes of Manasseh and Joseph are listed among them.
Israel looked at Joseph’s sons.
Israel: Who are these?
Joseph (to his father): They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.
Israel: Bring them to me, and I will bless them.
Israel’s eyes were dim from age, so that he could not see. Joseph brought his sons near to Jacob. Jacob kissed Manasseh and Ephraim and embraced them.
Israel (to Joseph): I did not think I would see your face, and God has shown me your children also.
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 to Israel. 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.
Joseph positioned his boys so that Manasseh, the oldest, was at Israel’s (Jacob’s) right hand. Being at the right hand is a place of honor. The older son should have that placement and receive the greater blessing. But Israel purposely placed his right hand on the younger son, Ephraim.
And Israel blessed Joseph.
Israel: God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God which fed me all my life long to 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.
When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him. He held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.
Joseph (to his father): Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.
His father refused.
Israel: 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.
He blessed them that day.
Israel: In you shall Israel bless, saying, God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.
And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
Israel (to Joseph): I will die soon, but God shall be with you and bring you again to the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.
Joseph received a double portion from his father.