Jacob lived a life. He had wrestled with his older brother Esau. He wrestled with God. He wrestled with his own sons. Now, as his life is coming to an end, he blesses Joseph, with whom he has been able to live in Egypt for seventeen years. The Torah says:
“And he (Jacob) blessed Joseph” (Gen. 48:15).
Yet, as we note in Genesis 48:14-16, Jacob did not bless Joseph, he blessed Joseph’s sons. Moreover, he blessed the younger, Ephraim, with his right hand and the older, Manasseh, with his left hand. Has Jacob not learned from the mistakes of the past?
Yes, he most certainly has learned. His father Isaac promised over his uncle Ishmael. Jacob himself was blessed over Esau; and now Joseph’s younger is blessed over the older!
Jacob blessed both boys, thereby blessing Joseph, and ultimately blesses the covenant mission of God’s people throughout the generations.
“And Jacob said: ‘Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them” (Gen. 48:9). The blessing was not for just one of them, but for both of them. Yet, Jacob has to set the younger before the older. Why? Their names: Ephraim before Manasseh.
Joseph named his sons during two seasons of his life: healing and prosperity.
Manasseh comes from a root meaning to forget. Forget what? The pain he has suffered by the hands of his brothers. He wants to forget; by this we note that he has not yet come to a place of forgiveness.
Ephraim is from a root meaning fruitful. Joseph had prospered in Egypt. He had a wife, children, and a position of great authority. This he wants to remember.
Jacob does not want to bless the forgetting over the fruitfulness, because it is when we recognize the blessing, the fruitfulness of our lives, that we walk in the healing that causes us to forgive and forget the pain, allowing us to echo Josephs words:
“And as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20; cf. Ro. 8:28-29).
Joseph then demonstrates this deep forgiveness:
“Now therefore do not fear; I will sustain you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spoke kindly unto them” (Gen. 50:21).
Joseph demonstrates the strength and forgetfulness of forgiveness by caring for and sustaining the very ones who inflicted harm upon him.
This is how Jacob blessed Joseph. He set the fruit of Joseph’s life under the right hand of strength, and the wounded desire to forget second. Jacob, the patriarch aids in his sons healing by showing Joseph the fruit that came from the pain.
Both Ephraim and Manasseh would become adopted sons of Jacob, and receive an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Paul sees in Jacob’s prophetic words regarding Ephraim “and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” (Gen. 50:19) the fullness of gospel fruit among the nations, as he writes:
“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Ro. 11:25).
“Hardness,” a healing callous, has come over Israel until the prophetic words of Jacob come to pass, when the fullness of the nations come to faith in Messiah. When blessed fruitfulness ripens on the vine of Yeshua/Jesus (Jn. 15:1-4).
Still, there is another clue that Paul is perhaps meditating on the blessing of adopted sons into the economy of God. What I’ve overlooked in years past is the reaction of the boys, Ephraim and Manasseh.
Ishmael, separated and put out by Abraham, is understandably distraught. Esau weeps and wails before Isaac. The sons of Jacob wrestle and jockey for the advantaged position in the house. Yet, Ephraim and Manasseh remain silent. These were not boys, they were men; and in silent humility they receive the prophetic divine blessing of the patriarch. One does not boast or react negatively toward the other.
What does Paul say to the Roman congregation, “do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Ro. 11:18). What is Paul saying? Be humble. Receive the blessing of adoption as sons into God’s house with humility, and be part of His unfolding blessing to Abraham (Rev. 7:9).
How can we do that? Set the blessing of God, even during our tribulations, first, under the right hand of His might (Isa. 41:10); and allow Him to work the forgetfulness of forgiveness into the richness of His blessing, as we see in the life of Joseph (Mic. 7:18-20). Is it easy? Absolutely not. Yet, we set our faith on the Lord, and walk out the grace that we have received through His Son, as the Holy Spirit does the work of pressing and molding us into the image of the Son of God (Ro. 8:28-29).
Sometimes the depth of forgiveness surfaces when we walk it out, when the wounds are still fresh or as they heal beneath a callous. Trust Him. He knows what He is doing.
Be well. Shalom.