It's a deathbed scene; the end of Jacob's life is drawing near and there are things he wants to set in order. While the law of the firstborn requires the oldest son to receive a double portion, Jacob chooses to honor the younger grandson, Ephraim. We'll learn why, and how that is relevant to our own lives in this study from Genesis.
The book of Genesis is rich with theology including creation, the fall of man, and justification by grace through faith. Genesis, the book of beginnings, provides foundational truths from which we can learn who God is and how He operates in the lives of His people.
In this study of Genesis, Pastor Skip Heitzig presents an in-depth examination and fresh perspective of familiar stories like the creation, Adam & Eve, Noah and the Flood, the call of Abraham, and Sodom and Gomorrah. This series offers solid information to equip believers with truth in today's battle against the lies of evolution, the basic goodness of man, and a "fairy tale" approach to the Bible.
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Publications Referenced: Talmud
Figures Referenced: Josephus
Cross References: Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 25:23; Genesis 35:18; Genesis 47:9; Genesis 48:4; Leviticus 25:23; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 90:10; Proverbs 31; Isaiah 41:10; Jeremiah 31:8-9; Zechariah 14; John 4; Galatians 2:9; Colossians 1:15; Revelation 4; Revelation 7:8
Topic: Ephraim and Manasseh
Keywords: Ephraim, Manasseh, Joseph, Jacob, firstborn, blessing
My mind today went back to an episode when I was in college and I hadn't seen my parents for several months. And I don't know if you remember this or not, when you were that age and you hadn't seen your parents for months or a year or so, when you see them again and I remember when I saw them during this little hiatus, this break that I had in college, a thought as I looked at them came across my mind and I thought boy, are they looking old! And they were. They were old. I mean, they were like in their mid-50s. Maybe early 60s. But for my perspective at that time in my life, they were old. Imagine what it was like for Joseph not having seen his father, Jacob, for 17 years. As he glanced upon his father he must have thought boy he's old. And he was! The Bible tells us he was old. He was 147 years old. He's an old guy and in chapter 48, we find that he's sick. He's going to die. He'll go on his deathbed. And chapter 48 and 49 forms the deathbed scene of Jacob at age 147.
Someone once said that there are seven ages or decades of man. They all have one word to sum them up and they all rhyme. The first is spills. That's when you're a baby and you grab something and you spill it, juice, water, cereal, soup--spills. The second age or decade of man are drills. That's when you go to school and you're tested. One test, one drill, after another. As you get prepared in knowledge to live your life. The third stage is thrills. You are growing up. You're becoming a teenager. You're going off to college. You're becoming independent. Life is thrilling and you just want to have fun. Then you reach stage four. That's the stage of bills. You have to pay for it. So life takes on a whole different meaning as you now are responsible for the choices you make economically. The fifth stage is ills. You reach a point where the body doesn't respond like it used to, doesn't come back like it used to, isn't at resilient as it once was. It slows down, the aches and the pains, and the diseases become more prevalent, more noticeable. The sixth stage is the age of pills. To manage and to maintain and to just move forward takes help: medication. Finally, the seventh decade is the age of wills. You make your last will and last testament. Jacob is in his final stage. His last will and testament will be given in chapter 49, as his family is gathered around. They're in Egypt. 147 years old.
Now last week we saw that when he met Pharaoh, he said you know I'm really not that old--few and hard have been the days of my pilgrimage. I'm only 147. Well his dad, Isaac, lived to be 180. His grandpa, Abraham, lived to be age 175. His great-grandpa, Terah, lived to be 205. So I guess in comparison to great-grandpa, he was only 147--young. Now we're faced with something that you have noticed since the beginning of Genesis and that is there's a shift in longevity. If you think of the relative age of this era, 147, then a little bit older, 205, etcetera. But if you compare that with the age before the flood, what we call antediluvian population, before the flood, they lived to be a lot older than that, right? Adam: 930 years of age. Methuselah, the oldest: 969 years of age. So reaching back to the antediluvian, before the flood, they lived much longer. Now we're still at an age that we don't see today, 205, 147. By the time we get to Moses onward, it sort of averages out to be like what it is today. What we know is the average lifespan. So much so that by the time of David, David will say look, God has given us about 70 years. So right now, at this stage of Genesis, post-flood, post-diluvian, we're at that shoulder where it's still a long time but not as long as those who lived before the flood.
What is happening? What happened at and after the flood to cause this shift? I just thought it'd be appropriate to maybe think about that. It is believed, one of the many theories, that after the flood, there were many factors that were now introduced on earth that were different from the time before the flood. The radioactivity on the earth was much greater now than it was at the time of the flood. The great deep had been broken up. Cataclysmic changes took place on the surface of the earth. The radioactivity was higher. Number two, the ultraviolet radiation was much more since the canopy that once surrounded the earth, giving it a lush kind of an environment, was taken away. That can wreak havoc on cellular structure. The water sources became polluted for a number of reasons, so many animals upon the earth, pollution from being downstream from mining upstream in the mountain regions. Also, there's been a major shift in climatic conditions with the hydrological cycle. All of those factors, this theory goes, and many believe this, had an effect on the genetic structure of man. In your chromosomes, you have what's called telomeres, that's the little end piece of the chromosome. It is believed that the flood, after the flood, all of those factors damaged the telomeres. They became shortened than they once were. Now the telomeres are that part of the chromosome that will prevent cellular degeneration, allowing the cells when they regenerate, the cells to live longer themselves. So, at the time of the flood, you only had eight people who were saved after the flood, so your sort of had a genetic bottlenecking. And then as people began to populate the earth, the population that came from those eight were not genetically predisposed to longer telomeres, but shorter ones.
So we're now at that shoulder between the super longevity of almost 1,000 years, 900 some odd years, to a shorter lifespan, more like what we know. But he's 147. He's still talking so that's pretty good. Now so far in Genesis and we're at the end so I'm sort of doing a few summations before we end it in a couple weeks, we have seen that Genesis deals with two things primarily. Four great people and four great events. The four great events come first. The formation of the universe, that's the creation of heaven and earth, the Fall of man, the flood, the great judgment that took place upon the earth, it was universal, by the way, as we discussed, and then the fallout from the sin of man over the earth. Those are the four great or notable events. But then we have, beginning in chapter 11, the bulk of Genesis, the greater part of it, are the four great people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and now, Joseph, who is given a full one-quarter of the entire book of Genesis. One-quarter of this literary real estate is devoted to Joseph.
We're dealing with the patriarchs. Those are the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the twelve tribes. After that there will be no more patriarchs. This is the patriarchal age. Now if you go down to verse 28 of the previous chapter, it says Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. And so the length of Jacob's life was 147. As we noted last week, Joseph was 17 years of age--a teenager--almost an adult by contemporary terms, an adult in that day and age, 17 years old when he was kidnapped by his brothers and sold as a slave to the Midianites and then he went down to Egypt. So Joseph grew up nurtured by his father for 17 years. Now Joseph gets to reciprocate that and take care of his dad for 17 years. It is a blessing, though it's difficult, to take care of parents in their latter years. I do thank God for the time I was able to spend, especially with my mom, before she passed away. And to be able to reciprocate just a little bit the kind of care that she lavished upon us as kids.
Well now chapter 48 after a lengthy introduction: "Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, "Indeed your father is sick"; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh," he's mentioned first because he's firstborn, "and Ephraim. And Jacob was told, "Look, your son Joseph is coming to you"; and Israel strengthened himself and sat up on the bed." Now notice in that one verse, he's given both of his names: Jacob, that's his birth name, Jacob, one who grabs the heel, the heel-catcher, the deceiver, the manipulator, but then the second name, the one God gave him, Israel, the one who fights victoriously and valiantly with God. Joseph is told dad is sick. He thinks I gotta go see him. When he's coming to see him, Jacob is told your son is here. That gives him enough strength to prop himself up, lean on his staff, the Bible will tell us in another place, and address his son Joseph. It really is encouraging when you visit someone who's hospitalized or you visit someone who's in an old folk's home. Just a short visit can encourage them and strengthen them. How thankful I am for the hundreds or over a thousand of you that decide to go out on our Turn Us Loose weekend projects where you go out into the community and you bless people. What an enormous encouragement and testimony that is. As it was here when Jacob is able to see Joseph on his deathbed.
"Then Jacob said to Joseph:" verse 3, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz," now what is Luz, do you remember? Beth'el. Remember he changed it to Beth'el? It was called Luz but because he saw that vision or that vision of God in his dream of the angels on the ladder descending and ascending. He woke up the next day and went man, God is in this place and I didn't know it. But now I do. I'm calling it the house of God--Bethel. That's the place. That's what he's referring to: "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me." Finally, Jacob is focusing on the blessings of God not the bummers of life. For so long we've listened to his moaning and complaining to Laban and to his sons, etcetera, right? We saw that. Now finally God's in his life. God's in the picture and the blessing in his life is attributed to God. So he finally learns the lesson after 147 years. There's hope for us. There's hope! Only God can teach an old dog new tricks. And God can teach an old dog new tricks. After all that has been cemented into the character of Jacob, his negativism and manipulation, here he is attributing the blessings to God.
So he strengthened himself and sat up on his bed. Now the bed he's on will prove to be his deathbed. Verse 4: And he said to me, he said, look God appeared to me, this is what God told me. He's saying this to Joseph. "Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.'" He's saying Joe? God appeared to me. Joe knew the story but he's recounting it again. He's trying to get that into his system. And he gave me a promise. Now you'll notice there's three parts to this promise. Number one, the promise of a people that is his own family. And boy did he have a large family. It went from just himself to getting married, having a few wives, and then having twelve sons, some daughters. And eventually 70 people will migrate from the land of Beersheba down to Egypt. 70! His family has grown. That's part of the promise. I'm gonna bless you, buddy--your family. Now 70 are in his family. The second part of the promise isn't just a people, but it's a population. It's an entire nation. I'll bless your descendants and make you a great nation, like He told Abraham. And that promise came to pass. 70 people will eventually become 2,100,000 by conservative estimates by the time of the Exodus in Exodus chapter 1, etcetera.
They'll grow immensely in the land of Goshen. The third part of the promise is for a place. So a people, a population, and a place--the land. Notice it says and I will give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession. There is a huge debate that has been going on for several thousand years and because it is not only historic but prophetic, it is being asked right now tonight even in Washington, DC, as well as in the Middle East. The question goes like this: Whose land is that land of Israel or Palestine? Who really should occupy it? Who does it belong to? Well we could go to recent history and say well, you know, in 1948 it was a United Nations ruling that created the modern state of Israel, allowing Jews to reoccupy it and move from all over the world into that land, the land of Israel. And thus it was called Israel--not Palestine, as Golda Meir firmly put down as one of the first prime ministers. It's the land of Israel. But go back a little further. Who was in charge of it before Israel got it? Well the Palestinians will say the Palestinians but keep going back. Before the modern Palestinians occupied it, the Ottoman Empire occupied it--the Turks. So we'd say it belongs to the Turks. Give it to Turkey. No, but keep going back. Before the Ottoman Turks, the Mamlukes from Egypt controlled it. And the Seljuks. And before the Mamlukes and the Seljuks, the Crusaders occupied that territory. But keep going back. Before the Crusaders, there were different Arab tribes, warring tribes, and before those tribes were the Romans and before the Romans were the Greeks and before the Greeks the Jews again and before the Jews, the Babylonians. And before the Babylonians, the Jews again. And before the Jews again, the Assyrians. And you keep going all the way back and we have to say actually, it belongs to the Canaanites.
But now we have a bigger problem because there are no more Canaanites in existence. In trying to solve the dilemma whose land it is, do we say well whoever fought for it and wins the fight, it's their land or whoever has the most money or most fire power or most need or most population? How do we solve the difficulty? We solve the difficulty biblically. Let me give you a few facts. Fact number one: the land belongs to God. It's God's land. We rightly call it the Holy Land because in Leviticus 25 the Lord said, and I quote, Leviticus 25 around verse 23, the land shall not be sold permanently for it is Mine, saith the Lord. You are just sojourners. You are just travelers. So that's the first fact. It belongs to God. Fact number two: it was promised to Abraham and to his descendants as we have seen in chapter 12. I will bless you and make you a great nation. To you and your descendants will I give this land. Fact number three: the land was a gift. An unconditional gift in perpetuity. For in chapter 17, the Lord said I am giving this land, Abraham, to you and your descendants as--get this--as an everlasting possession. Forever--it belongs to you. Abraham and your descendants. But Abraham had more than one descendant. He just didn't have Isaac; he had Ishmael. So that brings up the next fact: God promised the land to Isaac and his descendants, not Ishmael and his descendants.
Now if you just remember back a few chapters, chapter 17, I know that was a long time ago. When the Lord was suggesting that God was gonna bless Abraham with another son besides Ishmael, once Ishmael was born, God says you're gonna have another boy. And I'm gonna bless him and I'm gonna give him the land and Abraham didn't like the suggestion. He said oh, oh that Ishmael might live before You. Just fulfill Your promise through Ishmael. I know it was with Hagar and it was this weird mistake thing with this Egyptian handmaid, but just do it with it. Let it happen with Ishmael. God said no, but your wife Sarah will have a son and you will call his name Isaac and to him I will give the land as an everlasting possession. So God narrows it. He says it's Mine; I'm giving it to Abraham and his descendants. Now I'm giving it, not to Ishmael, but to Isaac and his descendants. Next fact: the land was given not just to Isaac and his descendants, but it was given to Jacob and his descendants--not Esau. Esau wasn't given this land. God said I'll bless him with other lands. But look at verse 4 once again. This is what God told me. He said: "and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession." Now not everyone agrees with the biblical mandate. It's not the British mandate. It's not the United Nations mandate. The biblical mandate is for Israel to occupy that land.
And some of the nations around Israel have been trying to get Israel out ever since she got in. She got in in 1948. The very next day a war was declared and Israel was attacked by neighboring nations. They didn't have an army. They weren't even a nation. They were just a bunch of farmers that got into the land. They were attacked. And ever since Israel has been in that land, the Muslim nations, 300 million neighbors, have wanted her out because they think a Jewish state in a Muslim part of the world is an anathema. It's a curse. It shouldn't be. We have to expunge the Middle East of any Jewish presence. And so the problem persists. And nations like Iraq were trying desperately to kick Israel out of the land, Saddam Hussein said. You say well he's not an issue anymore. Well he has a neighbor called Iran that has threatened to annihilate Israel because it's God's will to annihilate the little Satan, that's Israel, and then also the great Satan, that's you and I--America. And so now there's this whole worldwide wonderment and bewilderment: is Iran building up nuclear weapons to destroy Israel? Oh no! This has been going on now for thousands of years. And at this point, especially for us who believe the Bible and know the track record of God and His power, we'd much rather believe the promise of God than we do the nuclear capabilities of a neighbor of Israel.
Now the Bible does say, God even promised in the last book, or one of the last books in the Old Testament, Zechariah chapter 14, that all the nations of the world will come against Jerusalem, come against Israel but that God would predict Israel even when all the nations gather around her. Given just that information, do you think it's possible to see the nations of the earth in our lifetime go against Israel? Oh, you betcha. I bring this up just so you know the kind of days we're living in are not that far removed from back then. That same promise and that lineage and continuation of fulfillment, we're seeing it dynamically happen around us. Every now and then somebody will say man, I wish I was living in Bible times. Get a clue! You are living in Bible times. This is as exciting as it gets. Man, I only made it through four verses so... "And now," verse five, "your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh," notice how he changes the order. Hmm. Keep that in mind. Manasseh was born first; Ephraim was born second. It says he brought in Manasseh and Ephraim. We're coming to one of the most important truths in the Bible. Or at least one of the most important verses. But he says, "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." What? "As Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine."
I'm sure Joseph didn't expect to hear that Grandpa was adopting his two kids. He brings them to get blessed. He brings them in his presence before Jacob dies and he goes oh, by the way, I am promoting your two sons, my two grandsons, I'm elevating them to the status of patriarch. Just like I have Levi and Judah and Simeon and all the other, the twelve tribes, I'm giving them that kind of status so they become mine. This is one of the most important verses in the Bible. It answers the whole tribe question. How many tribes are there? People say there's twelve tribes. Well actually, there's thirteen tribes. I'm gonna thoroughly confuse you. No I won't. I'm gonna take away the confusion. We talk about the twelve tribes, a dozen; it's really a baker's dozen. There's thirteen. But because Levi will become the tribe that hosts the priesthood, they will not get any land allotment whatsoever, just certain cities in all the other tribes. For God said I will be your inheritance. I will be your portion. You don't have to worry about land. You'll just be taken care of. You officiate in the priesthood. That puts the land allotment back to twelve tribes. But because there are thirteen tribes, now Jacob takes the two sons of Joseph and elevates them to the same allotment status as his own children.
Now there's thirteen. Because of that, you have, in the Bible, 20 listings of the tribes of Israel and they're all slightly different. And they can be. So if you were to say Ephraim, Manasseh may be included with that because it's a reference to Joseph, he's one of the sons of Joseph. They might be hidden or couched in there. When the nations go to war, Levi will be exempt so you won't see him listed. In fact, the tribe of Joseph is never listed at all as the tribe of Joseph. It's the tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh as separate tribes. So Joseph gets two shares. Joseph is never mentioned as a tribe except one place: Revelation chapter 7. The only time it's mentioned as the tribe of Joseph. Now we'll find out why when we get to the book of Revelation... you're thinking, I'll be dead by then. This is Genesis, man; I'll be dead by then. If you were to look at the tribes in Genesis compared to the tribes in Revelation, the tribes in Revelation mentions Joseph. Two are not mentioned in the tribal allotment in Revelation 7. Now what am I referring to? Revelation chapter 7 there's 144,000 members sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel. 12,000 from this tribe, that tribe, etcetera. 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph. Two are left out. The tribe of Dan--left out. Why Dan? I believe because Dan was the tribe that hosted the first false worship or idol worship in the nation. There were two calves that were set up. And one was set at Samaria at Bethel and the other was set at Dan and Dan was the tribe that served to first divide the nation with idolatry.
Ephraim is also not mentioned but the tribe of Joseph is mentioned. Ephraim also led them into idolatry. That's that central tribe where the other calf was. But I don't want to go into too much detail because it could serve to just add layers of confusion. So that's why, that's just a snippet, and when we get to Revelation chapter 7 we can tie the knot on this. Verse 6: "Your offspring whom you beget," I'll move quicker, "after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)." Now if you go to Israel today, they will point to Rachel's tomb just to the north of modern day Bethlehem. It's an old shrine. It has a little copula on top of it, so it is an old place. It has been noted by the Jews for centuries. It is considered, in Judaism today, to be the third holiest site in all of Judaism. I buried her there. Now that was Joseph's and Benjamin's mother; the wife that he loved.
"Then Israel saw Joseph's sons, and said, "Who are these?" Now, now, you're thinking wait a minute, who are these? You just talked about Ephraim and Manasseh and your sons and there's the sons just kinda waiting around and he goes who are these? Ok. He's a 147 years old. Give him a little bit of a break. His eyesight's dim. I'm sure cataracts have formed. He's just not the guy he used to be. Short memory span. "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 were dim with age," there's our answer, "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!" So Joseph brought them from beside his knees," they were probably just kinda playing around, standing around by next to him, "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. And 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."
You can see what Joseph is doing. His dad can't see. He's gonna position his sons so all that Jacob has to do is reach out his hands and grab the hand, in the right hand of Jacob would be the firstborn--Manasseh. In the left hand of Jacob would be Ephraim. All you have to do is stretch out. But what Jacob does, knowingly, is do this: crosses his hands over like that and puts his hands on the head, so that his right hand is on the second born, Ephraim, and his left hand is on the firstborn, Manasseh. He guides his hand knowingly. The right hand is significant. The right hand is the hand of strength and the hand of authority. I'm sorry if you're left-handed, but most people are right-handed. Only 10% of the population is left-handed. I know they're very brilliant people that are left-handed. And my wife's left-handed--very, very brilliant, compassionate, wonderful people. but 90% of the population is right-handed. That's why the Bible talks about the right hand of fellowship. That's why the Bible talks about God will guide me with His righteous right hand. Remember when Benjamin was being born and Rachel was having trouble in labor and she died because of it? Before she died she said name this boy Ben-Oni, son of my sorrow. Jacob, dad, said no way. I'm calling him Benjamin. Benjamin means son of my right hand. He's gonna be my strength, authority. I lost Joseph. He's the guy.
So he puts the right hand on supposedly, should've been, the firstborn but now it's the second born, Ephraim. Why? What is he doing? And why does this upset Joseph? And why does Joseph position these boys so that the eldest gets the right hand and the second born gets the left hand? We mentioned it before. I want you to understand it. it's called the law of primogeniture. Forget that word. Law of the firstborn, how's that? Law of the firstborn. So what it means is the firstborn has certain benefits that no other kid gets. The firstborn son gets the authority passed down as head of the family, the patriarchal nature of the family, the authority of the family, and twice the land allotment. A double portion. The firstborn gets a double portion.
Later on, when the prophet Elisha finds Elijah and says give me a double portion, what he's saying is let me succeed you in your ministry as prophet. The law of primogeniture is that the firstborn gets the blessing. The second born gets a blessing but not like the firstborn. But he's knowingly doing this. He's crossing his hands. Why is he crossing his hands? Because this is all an act of faith as you're about to see as we come to a close tonight in this chapter. There's a second law that supersedes the law of the firstborn or primogeniture--the law of preeminence. God has the sovereign right to choose whatever order or person for whatever reason whenever He wants and uses them. That's His sovereign right as God. And you notice something; He does it a lot in the Bible. It wasn't Cain; it was Abel who's the one that's blessed. It wasn't Ishmael; it was Isaac, the one that was chosen and blessed. It wasn't Esau; it was Jacob. It wasn't Reuben, the firstborn; it's Joseph that gets the blessing of that robe signifying him as prominent even then. It won't be Moses; I mean it will be Moses and not Aaron, his older brother, who gets that blessing being the deliverer of Israel. God does this a lot. The law of preeminence supersedes the law of primogeniture--firstborn.
I'm bringing this up because there's a group that will knock on your door and pass out literature and seek to confuse you because you may not know this. actually, they should know this and if they do, they're hiding it. but it's called the Jehovah Witnesses. And if you engage in a conversation with them, before long, you might start with John or whatever you want to start with, but they'll quickly pace you and move you along to where they want you and they'll take you to Colossians. Because there you are, in the middle of your day, not expecting somebody to come with literature and you say well, you know, the Bible says Jesus is God--which it does--over and over and over again. They'll say no it doesn't. And they'll quote Colossians chapter 1. He's the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. But then it says right after that, He created all things whether visible, invisible, on heaven or earth. He created all things. And so because it says that, they have to translate it a little differently. And in the New World Translation of the Jehovah Witnesses, it's the only translation that does this, by the way, says concerning Jesus, He's the firstborn over all creation. He created all other things and by Him all other things consist. A deliberate insertion of a word that isn't there in any Greek manuscript at all of any authority.
So what they try to say is well, see this is what it says and if Jesus is born and He's firstborn, He can't be God. And then they'll say God made Jesus, He was born as just a man, and then God used Jesus to create everything else. And you're going what... what do I... what do I say? Easy. You take them to Genesis where it says Manasseh is the firstborn because he was. But then do this: turn them to Jeremiah chapter 31. Let's turn there just for a moment. Oh, we'll finish the chapter. C'mon, what do you say? Jeremiah 31. Quickly, Jeremiah chapter 31. Just keep turning right till you see Jeremiah. It's got a lot of chapters so you'll hit it. Jeremiah 31, 30 and 31, speaking about the future blessings of Israel as a nation, verse 8 chapter 31 of Jeremiah: The remnant of Israel, "Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; a great throng shall return there. They shall come with weeping and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn." Wait a minute--and ask them this--wait a minute! How can you have two firstborns? There's only one kid who was born first. They weren't twins. Manasseh was clearly born first chronologically. Why does call him My firstborn to Ephraim? Simple. Law of preeminence. What He's saying is I'm elevating him to be the heir, the idea of a firstborn means the heir, he's gonna be the heir. He's gonna inherit. I'm gonna give him the double portion. I'm gonna give him the blessing. Ephraim is My firstborn. I'm gonna bless Ephraim more so than Manasseh even. Ephraim is My firstborn in terms of position.
So Jesus Christ, back in Colossians chapter 1, He is the firstborn over all creation: prototokos in Greek. He is the highest in order. He is of the highest rank. He is the heir of all creation because He created everything. He is therefore the firstborn--the highest in rank, highest in order, and deserves the preeminence. And you just keep reading down. That's how you solve it. And then just, just have fun. They won't know what to do with it. Ok, back to chapter 48. Let's finish the chapter--call it a night. "And he blessed Joseph, and said:" Now he's got his hands crossed. Right hand on the youngest; left hand on the oldest. He did a crossover. "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day, the Angel [capital A, referencing the Angel of the Lord] who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; let my name 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." Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. And Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head." Dad, you're all mixed up. Man, you're backwards. You're an old guy. Let me help you out a little bit.
"But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, 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." Do you suppose that Jacob, this old 147-year-old codger, was thinking back in his mind to when he was a child? And the promise that God gave to his mother and father? For when he was in the womb with Esau, the other twin, and his mom was having a tough time in pregnancy and they took it before the Lord, the Lord said to her two nations are in your womb, but the older will serve the younger. It was God's promise to Jacob that Jacob would have, not Esau, the law of preeminence. And he's probably thinking back to that. I don't know why God does this. He is sovereign to do it. He not only did it with all the people I mentioned, but think of David. He was gonna be the king of Israel. Remember Samuel was gonna go find a king in Jesse's house? And so here's Samuel, the prophet, goes to Jesse's house in Bethlehem and all the boys are lined up and the firstborn, named Eliab, the Bible says was good-looking. Tall. Handsome. He looked like a king. He was a movie star. And Samuel said in his heart surely this is the Lord's anointed. Immediately God spoke to him and said don't look at the height of his stature or his outward appearance, for I have rejected him.
For God does not see as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart. All of the boys went through the list until finally he said, is this all the kids you got? Well we got one more little shepherd boy hanging out outside but he's not... don't worry about him. Go, go fetch him--go bring him in here. We won't be done till he comes. He was the one that God had chosen. It happens all the way through Scripture. Ok. He says I know and then he says he will become a multitude of nations. History bears this out. Real briefly, history will bear this out. Ephraim will become more notable and have more land and more people than Manasseh. They'll become a bigger tribe. A more populous tribe right in the center of the nation. Verse 20: "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." Now he seems to say that that's gonna be a thing a lot of people are gonna say in the future. A blessing that many people in Israel will say to other people and that is by... may God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh. Interesting, to this very day, Jewish fathers will say this to their kids on Friday evenings. The eve of Shabbat. The eve of the Sabbath. It's a beautiful celebration in Jewish homes. It is begun as the two candles are lit by the ema, the mother, as she welcomes in the Sabbath with her prayers. The hardworking day is over, the week is over; it's a time to rest as family. She brings in the Sabbath.
Then the father reads Proverbs 31 to his wife, blessing her in the name of the Lord as the virtuous woman. Then he says to his children, may God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh. Beautiful celebration. Family celebration. "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." There seems to be a play on words. You see the words one portion? In Hebrew, portion is חלק... shechem... one portion. חלק or Shechem becomes a city in Israel. You remember the Shechemites from our previous studies in Genesis. Now in the New Testament, Jesus goes and visits a woman who's a Samaritan woman at the well of Samaria. And it says He went to this area of Shechem to the city of Sychar, the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. That's the portion. That's the shechem. That's the portion that he gave to Joseph. Moreover I have given you shechem above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow."
I'm looking at the time and I'm debating. We have a few moments so we can go ahead and move on and we won't get through it all, but we can read just a few and, I think, leave at a strategic place tonight. This is the deathbed. This is the final words. Your first words were pretty much the same as everybody else's first words, right? La... that was about it. It might be a variation of that but it was just insensible noises. Those were your first words but a person's final words are very significant. I've been at several deathbeds of people. And when I get that opportunity, and to me it is an opportunity, it's a holy moment; I listen for the final words. I remember the final communications of my mother and I hold them as sacred and hallow. These are the final words of Jacob to his boys. It's interesting, it says Jacob called his sons and said gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days: "Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father."
Here's what is rather interesting to me. He's 147 years of age. He couldn't see or recognize the two sons of Joseph, but he can remember the birth order of his sons perfectly. So he's still lucid. Of course, you know, he has known that for a long time. That's not new knowledge. It's cemented in his brain. It's a permanent fixture. And he probably rehearsed for a long time what he might say to them on his deathbed. But he goes through them in perfect birth order. Now it's interesting that some people, sociologists, believe that birth order is a huge and important issue sociologically that determines the outcome of a person's life. That the order of their birth will shape their personality and so shape it for the rest of their lives. For instance, the firstborn, sociologists typically tell us, are a little more aggressive. They become natural leaders. They're more precise, more organized, typically, more exact, can drive people crazy as they give attention to details. Reuben, who was the firstborn, didn't know of any of those theories and he didn't really fit any of those theories, so...
It says in verse 3: "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power." I'm sure by this time he was sighing, thinking yeah, maybe blushing a little bit. This is pretty cool! Maybe at first, when all the kids were getting together, he thought oh no, what is dad gonna say. But so far it's going pretty good. The excellence of my strength. Yeah! I am. Here that boys? Ha-ha! That's me. It all goes downhill immediately. "Unstable as water, you shall not excel," bummer to hear that as the last words of your dad. "Because you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it--"then he turns to other boys and says, "He went up to my couch." What is he talking about? He's talking about an incident 40 years before this. 40 years and his sin finds him out--again. 40 years have gone by. 40 years ago, when Rachel, the wife of Jacob, died, it was Reuben the firstborn, instead of comforting his dad, took Bilhah, his wife's concubine, and had sexual relations with her. You're unstable as water. You're untrustworthy. You will not excel. And he didn't excel. As his tribe goes on, it's this tribe, the tribe of Reuben that joins Korah in a rebellion against Moses. We'll get to in several books--a few years from now.
Verse 5: "Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council; let not my honor be united to their assembly; for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." These guys were two peas in a pod. They had a bad temper. They were the two boys who, when the family was up in Shechem, when they first crossed over the River Jordan and came from Padan Aram, and they were up in Shechem, and one of the Shechemites violated their sister, they reacted violently. They killed everybody. They killed all the guys in town. And dad had to say what's up with you guys? You killed, like, the town! And so they're mentioned. And their anger is cursed. They become small tribes, pretty insignificant tribes, in terms of influence. Except Levi bounces back. Levi bounces back and it's important that you know Levi bounced back. After the golden calf incident, remember when Moses went up to the mountain and they worshiped the golden calf and Moses came back? There's that rebellion going on. Moses said to the people of Israel, whoever is on the Lord's side, come over to me. The first to respond was Levi. The Levites came. Levi is the tribe, again, that hosts and houses the priesthood throughout their generations.
We'll go to Judah and then we'll finish up and close for the night. "Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;" Now Judah means praise. This is a play on words. If I were to literally translate it, praise? You are he who your brothers shall praise. Judah was a creep. Judah was the guy when Joseph came to spy on his brothers and they wanted to kill him, Judah said don't kill him--we can make money off of him. Sell him to the Midianites. And they did for 20 pieces of silver. Later on he redeems himself in that when the brothers go to Joseph, you remember, to get bread and the second time when they bring Benjamin and they stop the brothers on their way back home and they discover the silver goblet is in Benjamin's sack, and Joseph's orders are whoever's sack that is in, grab that guy and put him in prison. Judah steps up and says you know what? It's gonna break my dad's heart. You will not take Benjamin. You will take me and I will take the punishment in his place. Now there's the prophecy. "You are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's children shall bow down before you."
Jesus Christ will come from the tribe of Judah. All of the world, all Israel, will one day bow down before their Messiah, Jesus Christ. That's a prophecy I see it concerning Christ. "Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." Judah is a lion's whelp. The symbol for Judah will become, even in the wilderness wanderings, the symbol of the lion. The lion is the beast of majesty, the king of the forest, king of the jungle. Jesus will be called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He, indeed, came from this tribe. Now here's the scene. It's in Revelation chapter 4. John, who writes, says and behold, I saw in the right hand of Him who sat upon the throne, a scroll sealed with seven seals. And then it was asked who is worthy to take the scroll and unloose the seals? And no one in heaven, earth, or under the earth was worthy to take the scroll and unloose the seals. And so John said, and so I wept much or I wept convulsively because no one was found worthy to take the scroll, the title deed to the earth, to buy it back. And then I heard a voice saying do not weep, for behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to take the scroll and unloose the seals. John said and I looked, he was looking for the lion, because he said look, behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. John looks and says, and I looked and I saw a Lamb as though it had been slain. It's a picture of Jesus Christ.
The most exciting part is the next part, the scepter, verse 10, shall not depart from Judah. Scepter--you know what a scepter is. It's the symbol of authority for a king or somebody in royalty or for a tribe. It's the tribal scepter; the tribal identity. And the right to rule independently as a tribe. "The scepter [or the right to rule] will not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes;" Shiloh is a word that means the one to whom it belongs. So listen to the prophecy. The right of tribal identity and the ability to execute authority will not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet until the One to whom it belongs comes. For hundreds of years, up until a certain point in history, the rabbis saw this as a prophecy concerning the Messiah. Shiloh was their Messiah. They wrote about that. If you look historically at the tribe of Judah, they always maintain the right of tribal identity and authority and law, even when they were in Babylonian captivity, Judah had their own judges and the right to adjudicate in their own cases. They had sovereignty. They were allowed that by the Babylonians. However, Josephus tells us, the Jewish historian, in the first quarter of the first century when Rome took over the world, they took from Jerusalem, from the temple, from the tribe of Judah, the right to execute capital punishment. So in cases of blasphemy, they couldn't execute.
It was the first time historically that the right to rule and have identity and authority as a tribe was taken away from them by a foreign superpower. On the day that happened, according to the Babylonian Talmud, the Sanhedrin, the seventy ruling elders of the Jews, the Sanhedrin put on sackcloth and ashes and marched through the streets of Jerusalem and listen to what they said: The scepter has departed from Judah, but Shiloh has not come. The scepter has departed from Judah, but Shiloh has not come. They were bewailing the fact, they thought, that God has broken His promise. We're not given our authority. We're not given our identity. We can't adjudicate in these cases. We don't have the autonomy. The Messiah isn't here. Because the prophecy said that the scepter won't depart until Shiloh comes--hadn't come. What they didn't know is that there was a young boy who was a Son of a carpenter at that very time up in Nazareth who was about to lay down his tools and go toward the Jordan River where John the Baptist would say: Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Shiloh had come. He was getting ready to announce Himself to the nation in a three-year public ministry and then eventually to the entire nation of Jerusalem at exactly the date predicted by Daniel. We'll get to that when we get to Daniel chapter 9.