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.”
Yesterday, we covered Jacob crossing his arms to bless Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. It is important to remember that this represented the birthright being passed to Joseph (verse 15). The birthright blessings, which included primarily physical blessings of national greatness, were being divided between Joseph’s two sons. The blessings would then be fulfilled through the descendants of these two boys.
Essentially, the singular birthright blessing was being divided between two brothers. Thus, two peoples carrying these blessings would arise from these boys. They would be blessed by “one portion” above the descendants of the other 11 tribes (verse 22).
Jacob, by crossing his arms and blessing Manasseh with his left hand, gave him the lesser blessing. Ephraim, being blessed with the right hand, received the greater blessing.
Here’s what we learn about the individual blessings given to these brothers:
- Manasseh: “He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great” (verse 19). Manasseh was to become one nation that would be great.
- Ephraim: “But truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations” (verse 19). Ephraim was not to be a great single nation, but would become a people that would form multiple nations.
Both of these future peoples would have similar characteristics because they both represented Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26), but would be distinguished in one primary way: Manasseh would consolidate into one nation that would be extremely powerful. Ephraim would be spread among a multitude of nations that would have a combined strength that would be even greater than Manasseh.
These promises were not totally fulfilled during the time of ancient Israel. Ephraim and Manasseh were merely individual tribes among the 12 tribes. Genesis 49:1 provides us a key clue to the fulfillment of these blessings—they would be fulfilled in the “last days.” In other words, times that were relatively close to the end of the age.
Looking at the characteristics provided in this scripture and other places in Genesis, and comparing them with the historical record and the migrations of peoples, it is clear that these blessings to Joseph were fulfilled in those of American and British descent. The United States is the one, great single nation of Manasseh. The British peoples, spread throughout the world through an empire and later a commonwealth, represent Ephraim.
To learn more details about the fulfillment of these blessings promised over 3,500 years ago, read our article “Who Are the United States and Britain in Prophecy?”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Jacob Prophesies to His Sons.”