1Joseph was told that his father Jacob had become very sick. So Joseph went to see him and took along his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2When Joseph arrived, someone told Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to see you.” Jacob sat up in bed, but it took almost all his strength.
3 Jacob told Joseph:
God All-Powerful appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, where he gave me his blessing 4and promised, “I will give you a large family with many descendants that will grow into a nation. And I am giving you this land that will belong to you and your family forever.”
5Then Jacob went on to say:
Joseph, your two sons Ephraim and Manasseh were born in Egypt, but I accept them as my own, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6Any children you have later will be considered yours, but their inheritance will come from Ephraim and Manasseh. 7 Unfortunately, your mother Rachel died in Canaan after we had left northern Syria and before we reached Bethlehem. And I had to bury her along the way.
8-10Jacob was very old and almost blind. He did not recognize the two boys, and so he asked Joseph, “Who are these boys?”
Joseph answered, “They are my sons. God has given them to me here in Egypt.”
“Bring them to me,” Jacob said. “I want to give them my blessing.” Joseph brought the boys to him, and he hugged and kissed them.
11Jacob turned to Joseph and told him, “For many years I thought you were dead and that I would never see you again. But now God has even let me live to see your children.” 12Then Joseph made his sons move away from Jacob's knees, and Joseph bowed down in front of him with his face to the ground.
13After Joseph got up, he brought his two sons over to Jacob again. He led his younger son Ephraim to the left side of Jacob and his older son Manasseh to the right. 14But before Jacob gave them his blessing, he crossed his arms, putting his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Manasseh. 15Then he gave Joseph his blessing and said:
My grandfather Abraham and my father Isaac worshiped the Lord God. He has been with me all my life, 16and his angel has kept me safe. Now I pray that he will bless these boys and that my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac will live on because of them. I ask God to give them many children and many descendants as well.
17Joseph did not like it when he saw his father place his right hand on the head of the younger son. So he tried to move his father's right hand from Ephraim's head and place it on Manasseh. 18Joseph said, “Father, you have made a mistake. This is the older boy. Put your right hand on him.”
19But his father said, “Son, I know what I am doing. It's true that Manasseh's family will someday become a great nation. But Ephraim will be even greater than Manasseh, because his descendants will become many great nations.”
20 Jacob told him that in the future the people of Israel would ask God's blessings on one another by saying, “I pray for God to bless you as much as he blessed Ephraim and Manasseh.” Jacob put Ephraim's name first to show that he would be greater than Manasseh. 21After that, Jacob said, “Joseph, you can see that I won't live much longer. But God will be with you and will lead you back to the land he promised our family long ago. 22Meanwhile, I'm giving you the hillside I captured from the Amorites.”
As parents, we teach our children about “fair share” but somewhere along the line, they soon also learn the hard lesson that “sometimes life isn’t fair.” Solomon said, “Here is something else I have learned: The fastest runners and the greatest heroes don’t always win races and battles. Wisdom, intelligence, and skill don’t always make you healthy, rich, or popular. We each have our share of bad luck (Ecclesiastes 9:11).”
Joseph told Jacob that he was making a mistake giving the biggest blessing to the youngest child but Jacob said, “Son, I know what I am doing. It’s true that Manasseh’s family will someday become a great nation. But Ephraim will be even greater than Manasseh, because his descendants will become many great nations.”
The blessing doesn’t seem fair to begin with; we feel that Jacob should have divided his inheritance between his twelve sons but he divided it between his eleven other sons and Joseph’s two, treating Ephraim and Manasseh as if they were his sons, not Joseph’s. The reversal of the blessing in which the younger is put before the older is a recurring theme in Genesis. Think of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau.
Jesus said, “But many who are now first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).
It is God who decides – not us – how he will bless us and when. To compare ourselves to others is not wise. It is for us to humbly accept what God has given us – or not given us. And no one but God knows what the future holds.
Heavenly Father, you are both just and merciful, giving us always better than we deserve. We pray that you would help us to be humbly grateful for all that you have blessed us with. Thank you for the hope we have for a wonderful future together with you forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.