The United States and Britain have held the most power during the past two centuries, and so many have wondered who these people are in Bible prophecy.
To see the connection between the ancient Israelites and the peoples of northwest Europe, from which came the settlers who founded the United States, see our article “12 Tribes of Israel Today: Who Are They?” That article cites biblical and historical records that make it possible for us to positively identify many of the people of Western Europe as the descendants of the ancient Israelites. Now we’ll more specifically consider the United States and Britain in prophecy.
Jacob’s blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim
Prior to Jacob’s death, his son Joseph brought his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim to Jacob so he could bless them (Genesis 48:1-6). In an unusual but perceptive move, Jacob placed his right hand on the younger boy, Ephraim, and his left hand on the older boy, Manasseh (verse 14). Normally, his right hand, representing a greater blessing, would have gone on the older child.
In blessing them and in explaining to Joseph that he knew what he was doing, Jacob said, “‘I know, my son, I know. He [Manasseh] 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.’ 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” (verses 19-20).
Looking at modern history, we note that Britain became a great commonwealth of nations with an empire that stretched around the globe, while the United States became a great individual nation.
Joseph is a “fruitful bough”
An additional explanation by Jacob of what would happen “in the last days” to the various peoples and nations each of his sons represented is also revealing (Genesis 49:1). Speaking of Joseph, Jacob said, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him.
“But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers” (verses 22-26).
Fulfilled promises to the United States and Britain in prophecy
Joseph, representing his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, was destined to receive the greatest blessing among all the brothers. As for sheer size of territory controlled, the British Commonwealth has clearly been the group of nations best matching the prophecies related to Ephraim.
Describing the British Empire, listverse.com states: “At [its] greatest extent, the British empire was known as the largest empire in history, as it covered more than 13,000,000 square miles, which is approximately a quarter of the Earth’s total land area, and controlled more than 500 million people—again a quarter of the world’s population. As a result, the legacy it imprinted on these conquered lands is tremendous in terms of political reform, cultural exchanges and way of life. The English language, which it spread, is the second most-widely spoken language in the world today, and many [linguists] agree that English is the de facto standard language of the world. The British empire is definitely one of the most influential empires ever to have existed in human history.”
As for Manasseh, the United States best fits the biblical description of being a “great” nation (Genesis 48:19) due to its economy and military strength (“his bow remained in strength,” Genesis 49:24). The United States “represents 4.5% of global population but nearly 30% of its total GDP” (policymic.com). As a result, its citizens enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. Regarding military spending, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute documents that in 2010 the United States spent roughly six times more on its military than the next closest nation, China.
While much additional documentation could be accumulated, these brief yet significant points identify Britain as Ephraim and the United States as Manasseh. It is important to recognize that God had not only promises but warnings for the United States and Britain in prophecy.
To learn more about God’s promises to Abraham, be sure to read the articles in this section on the “America in Prophecy.”