Where’s Jesus? The blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 48)

As Jacob is dying, a remarkable thing happens, he blesses Joseph’s children and considers them his own.  As we will see next week, Jacob continues this blessing to his own children and then he dies.  So,  in his days on the earth, as he stood at death’s doorstep, Jacob passed on the blessing of God to others. These are sweet words,

“Your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine” (Genesis 48:5a).

This is a remarkable statement for at least two reasons:

  1. Joseph’s children are given a sort of primacy that they don’t deserve in comparison with the other natural born sons of Jacob.
  2. They are not full Israelites, at least not genetically.  If you recall, they are 1/2 Egyptian and 1/2 Hebrew (Genesis 41:45), yet they are considered full members of the family and inheritors of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now these truths parallel the experience of the Christian, for like Jacob, Jesus was staring death in the face as he partook of the Last Supper and then hung on the cross.  Like Jacob, he too passed on the blessings of God, he prayed for his disciples that last evening (John 17:6-26), essentially blessing them.  He prayed for forgiveness for his enemies as well (Luke 23:34).  But even more than that he welcomes us into his family calling us brothers when in fact we were born in another land, a land stained by sin, to a mother intent on violence and idolatry (John 15:15, Mark 3:33-34).  Yet Jesus makes us children of the Lord God, and opens up the promises of God to us.  Blessed be his name. 
Like the second point above, what is wonderful about the gospel is that genetics don’t get in the way, 1/2 Jew, all Jew, no Jew makes any difference, anyone can be considered a child of Abraham as Jacob illustrates here and as Paul makes plain in Galatians 3:28-29,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

The final aspect of the story that deserves attention is the actual act of blessing.  In the Genesis story, 

“Israel (Jacob) 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” (Gen 48:14).

Such is the case within the body of Christ, while all are welcomed into the body and all are made heirs of the promise, God alone determines our spheres of influence and the specific gifts we will be given.  Concerning the spiritual gifts, our present day version of the Abrahamic blessing, 1Corinthians 12:11 tells us God determines the gifts and the position we receive and it is not based upon any natural order that we can discern.

Let us rejoice that Christ is found again in the story of the blessing of two sons, their full incorporation into the promised line and the blessings they receive at the hand of a discerning father, for the story parallels the story of every Christian and the life of the church.  To God be the glory.

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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