“And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these? And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.” (Genesis 48:8-9)
“By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.” (Hebrews 11:21)
Seventeen years have passed since Jacob has come to live with his sons in the land of Egypt. One matter of business remains before he dies: the blessings to be pronounced upon his sons. Before Jacob will pronounce his prophetic blessings on the twelve brothers, Joseph, hearing that his father lies sick in bed, brings his own two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) to him that he might speak a blessing over them. In several ways, these two young men are illustrative of the Christian and his relationship to Christ.
First of all, they are born of two nations for they are both sons of Joseph (and Hebrew by him) and sons of Egypt by their mother, Asenath. Just as the Christian possesses two natures — the one fleshly, earthly; and the other spiritual, the nature we obtain when we become born again of God– these two sons of Joseph have within them that origin which speaks of this world (Egypt) and that which speaks of God (Israel). Yet they are recognized as Israelites completely, even so much that their names shall live on as the progenitors of two of the half-tribes of Israel. Much as the Christian looks toward a hope in Heaven, a place where he has never set foot, these two young men held their hope and identified their own future home as Canaan — a land upon which their own eyes had yet to fasten. Finally, Jacob, the father of Joseph, declares that these men are his own children; just as much as his own two eldest sons were. This speaks profoundly of God’s own adoption of the Christian as His own children (Eph. 1:5). As those born of Joseph become sons of his father, so are those born of Christ sons and daughters of His Father.
In the crossing of Jacob’s hands in blessing the sons of Joseph — the younger being blessed above the elder — we revisit a theme that has recurred again and again throughout Genesis. As Abel was favored by God over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, and Jacob over Esau, so is the younger Ephraim blessed above Manasseh. What a powerful reminder that God does not look upon things as man does, nor does He choose upon whom His favor shall fall based on the criteria that people do (1 Sam. 16:7). We are often reminded of this characteristic of the Lord in our own lives when He fails to bless those things in our lives that we feel He should. Those skills, talents, and “gifts” that we possess; those persons whom we feel are most appropriate to be used mightily of God are passed over in favor of those things which scarcely have drawn our attention at all. He crosses His own arms and places His hand of blessing on those things which we have placed so little value upon. “Not so, Father”, we tell Him, “for this is the firstborn.” This is the matter of most importance, Lord, this is the thing that ought to be blessed! “I know it, My son, I know it”, He calmly tells us, “But truly this other thing, this younger brother of that thing you are holding so dearly is greater than that.”