Genesis 48-50: Second Born


Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, adopting them as his own to round out the future tribes of Israel.  Here’s the funny thing that I wish to point out this morning, and it’s really simple and it’s not really even my observation.  I read it in a commentary when I was prepping for last week’s sermon.

Jacob blesses Ephraim with his right hand and Manasseh with his left.  This is very culturally relevant and we may have a hard time understanding the meaning.  The right hand was considered the source of the greater blessing and was normally used to bless the first-born son.  The first-born was the heir, the “better” son, the recipient of the greater blessing.  However, if you pay attention to the Bible readings we have done, and pay attention to the readings as we go forward, over and over again you will read about the younger son receiving the greater blessing, just as Jacob does here with Ephraim and Manasseh.

Recall if you will:

  1. God chooses Able or Cain
  2. Isaac was second to Ishmael
  3. Jacob receives the blessing over Esau
  4. Zerah and Perez in Genesis 38
  5. Moses, Gideon and David were all younger sons, yet God used them mightily

God chooses whom he blesses and how he will use us, regardless of our birth order or our social status.  God determines our paths, not our family names or our birth orders or our social connections.  In his commentary on Genesis 37-50 (pg 1159, Baker Books, 1998) J.M. Boice quotes F.B. Meyers as saying: “It is not an unmitigated blessing to be born into the world with a great name and estate and traditions; it is better to trust in one’s own right arm and in the blessing of the Almighty.  God is no respecter of persons, and he will lift the youngest into the front rank if only he sees the qualities which warrant it; whilst he will put back the foremost into the lower ranks if they are deficient in noble attributes.”

You might be tempted to say: wait a minute, Jacob was certainly not more morally attractive than Esau; Moses had speech problems; Gideon was timid and Ephraim had done nothing to set him above Manasseh.  You would be right.  But we must remember that God chooses to work in ways that sometimes seem counter-intuitive and even foolish.  1 Corinthians 1:27-29 reminds us of this.  In each of those circumstances, God’s name was made great because he used the weaker vessel.

My point is simply this: God does not take human standards or status or opinion into account when he calls and equips people for service to him.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 1-3

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