The Abrahamic Covenant: Part 4

John Plunkett
December 06, 2014

Last time, in Part 3, we started looking at the dual covenant promises of “Race” and “Grace.”  We will be talking a little more about them today.

We also looked at how Jacob’s name was changed to "Israel."

And finally, we looked at Jacob’s death-bed prophecies as recorded in Genesis 49, especially those referring to Judah.  In this regard, we talked about "the Sceptre" and about "Shiloh" two terms that jump out at us in those prophecies about Judah.

Today, I would like to go back to Genesis 49 and put the spotlight on Judah again; but also on three others of Jacob’s sons and their descendants.  I want to say just a few words about Simeon, some more about Levi and how the tribe of Levi was set apart for very special duties and finally, about how the main birthright blessings came through what we might call "the Race tribes" of Joseph.

Before we get into this, though, I would like to ask a question which came to me as I was reviewing the first three parts of this sermon series to myself.  That question is this: Is the subject of the Abrahamic Covenant important?  More specifically: Is it important for New Testament Christians to be studying at this time? 

In our previous sermon series we were looking at the Sacred Calendar and Sabbath Food, subjects which, in many respects, we can look at as "Christian living" type teachings which might have the effect of modifying our lifestyle.  But the Abrahamic Covenant study is more historical, prophetic and spiritual.  But again, is it important for New Testament Christians to be studying it at this time for the people of God's church?  

I believe that it is very much so!  Herbert Armstrong used to say that the whole story flow of the Bible, both Old Testament and New, was built around the covenant between one man, Abraham, and His God.  But also, our salvation and our very relationship with Jesus Christ and God the Father are rooted in this very same covenant.  We will be seeing this more and more as we go through this study.  So again, yes, I believe that this study is very important for all of us.

In Part 3, we were going through Jacob’s Genesis 49 death-bed prophecies concerning his sons and their descendants; and we specifically homed in on Judah and his descendants.  Let's go back there:

Genesis 49:10: 
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be

Last time we identified Shiloh as being Jesus Christ and we discussed the sceptre aspect of the Tribe of Judah. 

So now comes the question: What about the "lawgiver" aspect of the tribe of Judah that is mentioned here?

When I first looked into it, I have to admit that I was not sure what to make of this "lawgiver" designation.  Why?  Because God gave the responsibility and the authority to disseminate His laws to the tribe of Levi, not to the tribe of Judah.

But, I looked into it and after some study, I found that it might possibly have multiple meanings.  I would like to take a look at three of them:

The first possible meaning is this: 

Could it perhaps mean that Judah’s royal descendants, the future monarchs of Israel, would be responsible for disseminating the civil laws, rather than the spiritual law of God which came under the Levites' authority.

Here in Canada, we have a monarch, Queen Elizabeth II who we believe descended from Judah.  She actually signs off on virtually all of the laws in the commonwealth countries.  Now, whether or not she actually sits there, day after day, physically signing all these laws, I don’t know.  But she does have that ultimate responsibility although she does not have the authority to say whether those laws are right or wrong, because those decisions are made by the elected parliaments of the various countries.

The second possible meaning is this: 

Could this lawgiver prophecy for the tribe of Judah point to the future coming of the original Lawgiver the Shiloh that is mentioned in that same verse – the I AM Lawgiver of Mount Sinai when He returns to earth in order re-establish His eternal holy laws.  Is that a possibility?

Jesus’ human genealogies show us that there was an unbroken line of Jews who possessed these "lawgiver genes" that ran all the way from Jacob’s son Judah to Mary and, of course, to her Son Jesus.  Look at what Jesus said to His disciples:

Luke 22:
29:  And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me;
30:  That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Basically, what Jesus said there in that statement was that, in the World Tomorrow, He is going to join Judah’s kingly responsibilities and Levi’s priestly responsibilities together in one, by making kings and priests of His disciples. 

We know that this is to be extended to us as well.  We can read about that in Revelation 1:6 and 5:10, that we are going to be kings and priests. 

He is going to share with His disciples and with us His royalty and His judgment responsibilities which will be based, of course, on His future re-establishment of His holy laws, both in Israel and throughout the whole world.

The third possible meaning is this:

Could this Genesis 49 lawgiver designation perhaps have looked forward to the time when Judah’s monarchs would have the priestly tribe of Levi (who are responsible for the dissemination of God’s Law) attached to them? 

The tribe of Levi did become firmly attached to the tribe of Judah during what we call the United Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon; but also after the separation of the tribes at the time of Jeroboam and Rehoboam. 

Within our discussion of this third possibility then, let’s go back to Genesis 49 again, and let’s read a few significant verses of Jacob’s prophesy for Levi:

Genesis 49:5a: 
Simeon and Levi are brethren...

Yes.  Simeon and Levi were brothers who were both born of Jacob’s first, less favoured wife, Leah.

But Levi and his brother Simeon had a problem.  They shared a serious character flaw:

5b:  ... Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
6:  O my soul, come not you into their secret; unto their assembly, my honour, be not you united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.

Hebrew scholars insist that the KJV rendition of this phrase, "digged down a wall" is a terribly bad mistranslation of the Hebrew phase "aqar showr" and that it should read, "hamstrung an ox" as it appears in most newer translations. 

I looked up hamstringing which is when somebody cuts the leg muscles of an animal, or a human being.  Apparently it is both crippling and very, very painful.   So it is given as another example of the cruel natures of Levi and Simeon.

7:  Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

Their fierce, angry, wrathful natures were also exhibited by these two sons of Jacob in their excessive vengeance on Shechem and his countrymen for Shechem’s violation of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34).

Because of their cruel natures, God through Jacob, commanded here that the other tribes should not be united with the assemblies of Simeon and Levi and decreed division and scattering for them both. 

Perhaps this might serve as a dual prophecy, which might possibly be referring to some of the tribes of spiritual Israel today, where we see so much scattering.

In Joshua 19, we see how Simeon was actually punished by God and how that punishment came down upon his descendants because they did not receive a full inheritance of their own.  When all the other tribes were given slices of the territory in the Promised Land, all that Simeon received was a mere share of Judah’s huge territory. 

By the looks of it, he received the mere dregs of the Promised Land; perhaps the leftovers that others wouldn’t want.  If you look at Bible maps, you will see that Simeon's shared territory was in the very south of the Promised Land over against the Dead Sea.  Even today, that is a very arid area compared with the rest of the relatively verdant Promised Land.  You can see on the satellite photographs of Google Earth or Google Maps that, even now, the main part of the Promised Land is quite verdant and green; but if you look at the area around the Dead Sea, it is very dry and arid.  That’s the area Simeon was given. 

I don’t know many more details of what happened to the tribe of Simeon as there is not a lot in the scriptures about them.  But we do know from the few recorded censuses of Israel that, instead of being fruitful and multiplying as per the Abrahamic Covenant promises, their population actually dwindled by two thirds.  (Compare Numbers 1:23 with Numbers 26:14).

We can't be sure exactly what happened to the Simeonites during the initial split between Judah and Israel at the time of Jeroboam and Rehoboam.  We do know that Levi ended up with the southern House of Judah; but we are not really sure exactly which side Simeon sided with at that time, although there is one scripture that indicates that, at some point, they had sided with the northern House of Israel but in this event, many defected to the House of Judah (II Chronicles 15:1-9).  This would mean that they would been divided them from their brother Levi in fulfillment of Jacob's prophecy of Genesis 49:7.

So let's talk about Levi now.  Even before that split at the time of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, God caused Levi’s descendants to be somewhat divided.  Remember that Jacob prophesied that they would be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel. 

Levi was divided, in some respects, from his cruel brother Simeon and from all the other tribes.  The Levites were to be scattered throughout the Promised Land in order to serve all the tribes with their priestly duties.  Their home base was at the temple in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was in the tribal territory of Judah.  Thus the tribe of Levi was tied to the Judaic king, thus partially fulfilling the lawgiver prophecy of Genesis 49:10.

I would like to go into this a little because it is important to the Abrahamic Covenant promises, and God commanded th
e tribes of Levi and Simeon to be treated in different ways than the other tribes and especially with regards to their inheritance

There are numerous scriptures that detail the facts that the tribe of Levi would be treated differently than the other tribes; that they would not be given a section of territory like the other tribes.  I would just like to go through a few of those scriptures:

Numbers 1:
45:  So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel...
47:  But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them...
49:  Only you shall not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel:

Numbers 2:33:
But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses.

God did command Levi to be numbered later on in separate future censuses (See Numbers 3:15, 39; 4:46; 26;57; I Chronicles 23:3, 24-27). 

They were set apart for special work:

Numbers 4:
50:  But you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.
53:  But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.

That mention of ‘wrath’ in verse 53 jumped out at me in relation to Levi. Perhaps the LORD mentioned the word right here because of the Levites' separation from the rest of Israel and their unique and complex work assignments that He assigned to them perhaps at least partially as a result of their forefather Levi’s cruel, angry and wrathful nature.

The LORD warns them here that the adherence to these complex Levitical rules, both by the Levites and by the rest of Israel as well, would stave off His wrath.  But violation of them would bring down His wrath upon Israel, as happened, for example, in the cases of Nadab, Abihu and King Saul. 

When we read through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and we read the myriad, complex, detailed instructions, we have to remember that the Levites didn’t have computers back then to keep all their actions on track in accordance with the LORD's commands.  Yes, they had all of these things written down; but can you imagine how complex it was?  How did they keep it all straight in their minds?  "When do we need this type of sacrifice?  When should we apply that kind of offering?"  They had to know all of that.  It was important that they were applied in the proper way; because if they didn’t, they would bring down the wrath of God. 

Being chosen for special priestly duties may seem to us like a great honour and a great blessing.  Yes, it was; but physically, it had its down side:

Numbers 18:23: 
But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance.

As this was many generations after Levi's his shared cruelty with Simeon, we might wonder if the LORD was perhaps being unfair to Levi's and Simeon's descendants in this ruling.  After all, it wasn't them who actually did these cruel  things.  It wasn't them who had the cruel streak.  Or was it?  There are scripturally recorded cases of various cruel actions by various Levites.  Just one example is that of Moses, who was a Levite.  Among other cruelties, he murdered an Egyptian and later, his own wife found it necessary to call him "a bloody husband" (Exodus 2:11-12; 4:25-26).

 So, again was the LORD unfair to Levi’s descendants in this?  No!  The LORD was and still is longsuffering, merciful, and forgiving.  But He also wants His people to emulate Him in these ways; and He wants us to be longsuffering, merciful and forgiving.  We are not to be short-fused, merciless or cruel, as Levi was and as his descendents inherently were:

Numbers 14:18: 
The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

That is apparently what happened here.  The Levites' forefather, Levi, was guilty of iniquity; and by visiting his iniquity on his descendants, the LORD apparently was taking action to purge cruelty out of that family. 

Still, please think about this.  Think about how you would feel.  At that time, property inheritance was very important to all Israelites, including the Levites.  They were all aware of the Abrahamic Covenant and its "Race" promises that had come down to the children of Israel.  And they were also very much aware that the receiving of those promised inheritances had been deferred due to their slavery in Egypt as well as being due to their wilderness wanderings (which were a result of their own repeated rebellions). 

Even though we usually and rightly think of the Levites as having a very specially honoured and blessed place among the tribes, still, receiving no inheritance was a great punishment to them.  This was the bearing of their iniquity for their forefather’s sins of cruelty.  This was how the LORD chose to visit the iniquity of Levi upon his children of future generations.

But again, the LORD is merciful.  He didn't leave them totally "out in the cold."  Here is another mention in the book of Numbers of the LORD's unique treatment of the tribe of Levi  regarding His withholding of their land inheritance:

Numbers 35:2: 
Command the children of Israel that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and you shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.

Suburbs and cities were to be put aside across the Promised Land for the Levites to dwell in; but the Levites were not permitted to own their own section of real estate themselves.  In a similar way as God's judgment on Simeon, Levi's cruel brother, the places where the Levites dwelt were to be shares of the land of others; not their own. 

Joshua 14:3: 
For Moses had given the inheritance of two tribes and an half tribe on the other side Jordan: but unto the Levites he gave none inheritance among them.

That verse puts the capstone on our discussion about the possible interpretations of Jacob's prophetic mention the lawgiver aspect of Judah. 


We have spotlighted Judah, Simeon and Levi today.  Now let’s shine the spotlight on Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph, and his special connection to the Abrahamic Covenant. 

In the ‘Race’ part of the Abrahamic Covenant, all the tribes of Israel were to be blessed; but most specifically, the children and descendants of Joseph were to be especially blessed.  Going back to Jacob's death-bed prophecy:

Genesis 49:22: 
Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:

What does that remind you of?  

From Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph inherited the position as the bough or trunk of the Old Testament Israelite tree or vine.  We will discuss that much more in a future sermon in the series.  But perhaps this is also prophetic of Jesus the true Vine of New Testament Israel.  New Testament Israel, of course, is His church (Galatians 6:16), and the members of His Church are to be fruitful branches according to Jesus' teaching in John 15. 

This is just a speculation of mine, but this makes me wonder if through all the centuries, there was some possibility of any of Joseph’s blood perhaps being mixed into Jesus’ human lineage through Mary.  That is just a speculative possibility because of some of the connections we see between Joseph and Jesus.  But, of course, Jesus' main human lineage and blood line is through Judah.

The next verse is still referring to Joseph; but Jacob changes the symbolism.  In verse 22 he was comparing Joseph to a fruitful bough; but in verse 23, he is comparing him to a warrior under attack.

23:  The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24a:  But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob…. 

The Hebrew word for "mighty God" here is "Abiyr" and is not very frequently used.  It refers to God's supreme strength some of which He imbued into Joseph.

Joseph suffered many attacks, trials and setbacks in his young life, as we know, before God brought him into his success.  If you think about it, this was similar to what happened to his descendants centuries later.  They too did eventually come into their success; but only after many attacks, setbacks and trials. 

24b: ... the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)

The words "from thence" do not refer to Joseph; but to Jacob and also perhaps to the mighty God of Jacob.  He is saying that the primary human lineage of the ultimate Shepherd, Stone and Rock, which is Jesus, on his mother's side, came through Jacob and his son Judah not through Joseph.  Of course, on His Father's side, it came directly from God.

Just to make it clear: even though this is part of the prophecy for Joseph, please don’t misunderstand what is being said here.  He was not saying that the Shepherd and Stone of Israel comes through Joseph.

There is something else that is grammatically interesting here as well.  Right from the beginning of the death-bed prophecy chapter, including verse 24, in talking about Joseph and his other sons, Jacob uses the third person singular: "he" and "him."

But now, in verse 25, suddenly and for some reason that I'm really not sure of, four times he uses the second person singular: "you" and "your" evidently still referring to Joseph:

25:  Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
26a:  The blessings of your father
{i.e. me Jacob} have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills...

There are also six mentions of "blessings" here, evidently referring to the Abrahamic Covenant blessings plus even more that were lavished on Jacob and were going to be lavished even more on Joseph and his sons.

Another interesting point in verse 26 is the inclusion of the word "prevailed" which is perhaps referring to Jacob’s wrestling match with Elohim at the time that Jacob’s name was changed to "Israel" (Genesis 32:28).  Remember that "Israel" means "God prevails."

Again, I am not sure why Jacob made the change in grammatical style from "him" and "his" to "you" and "your."  But whatever the case, after this, Jacob goes right back again to the third person singular.  Still referring to the Abrahamic Covenant "Race" blessings:

26b:  ... they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

This "him" is obviously referring to Joseph.  He was the one who was separated from his brothers.  His brothers tried to permanently separate him from themselves during the time of his youth.  They were jealous of Joseph to the point that some of them actually wanted to kill him; but others notably Reuben and Judah stopped that from happening. 

It is interesting when we compare what we have just read about Levi with what we read here about Joseph, how God turned things around and He ultimately separated not Joseph who his brothers tried to separate from themselves but He separated cruel Levi.  Perhaps Levi was one of the brothers that wanted to kill Joseph.

As we have seen, Levi’s descendants had their physical inheritance blessings taken away and replaced by scattering across the land, separation from their tribal brothers and lives of complex work, whereas Joseph was given a double blessing, a double inheritance and very much more, as we will see more of as we go along. 

So we see this idea of separation that comes in here.  This time of Jacob’s death and his death-bed prophecy was also a time of separation in some respects.  Obviously, it was a separation of Jacob from the land of the living' but it was also something of a dividing of the ways between the recipients of the "Race" blessings on the one hand and the "carriers" of the "Grace" blessings on the other.  Through Joseph’s line was to come the very best of the physical "Race" blessings while through Judah’s line was to come the spiritual "Grace" blessings.  This was, in some respects, a dividing of the ways a separation that started there.

I want to talk about this a little more now because this gets really interesting when we read about the primary "Race" blessings the best of them being passed directly from Jacob to Ephraim and Manasseh. 

Let’s go back in time then to chapter 48 and read about this special meeting between Jacob who is elderly and dying, his favourite son and his two grandsons"

Genesis 48:1: 
And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, "Behold, your father is sick": and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

The order in which the lads' names are mentioned here is significant.  Manasseh was the firstborn and Ephraim was the second-born. 

2:  And one told Jacob, and said, "Behold, your son Joseph comes unto you": and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.
3:  And Jacob said unto Joseph, "God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,
4:  And said unto me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful, and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people; and will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession'...

This is a repetition of parts of the Abrahamic Covenant blessing promises when they were given by the LORD to Jacob at Luz actually on two occasions: the first recorded in Genesis 28 and the second in Genesis 35.

5a:  And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh... 

These are Jacob's words now not the LORD'sPlease notice the new order.  Jacob says, "Ephraim and Manasseh"!  The second-born first and the firstborn second!

5b: … which were born unto you in the land of Egypt before I came unto you into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
6:  And your issue, which you beget after them, shall be yours, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.

I find this somewhat humorous.  God, through Jacob, is making two sons and two tribes out of Joseph’s one, thus giving Joseph an extra blessing.  From this the twelve sons and tribes of Israel become thirteen.  

But there is something else of interest here too: the aspect of ownership.  Twice here Jacob claims Ephraim and Manasseh as his own.  He says to Joseph, paraphrasing verse 6, "You're welcome to own any other children that you might sire in the future, Joseph; but Ephraim and Manasseh are mine (present tense) and shall be mine in the future.  

He says that they are his just as Reuben and Simeon were his.  Why would he specifically mention Reuben and Simeon in this regard?  Probably because those two were Jacob’s actual first and second born sons through Leah.  However, because of certain sins that they committed, Jacob downgraded their position in the "pecking order" as far as the inheritance was concerned (Genesis 49:3-7).  

It is true that in one way, Ephraim and Manasseh’s father, Joseph, was Jacob’s firstborn by his favourite wife, Rachel.  But nevertheless, Joseph was actually only the seventh son and thus, was way down in the traditional pecking order.  Nevertheless, by this act, Jacob took Joseph’s sons, adopted them as his own raised them right to the top of the inheritance ladder. 

We could call Israel, "Jacob the unpredictable" because, even in his dying days, he pulled even more tricks and surprises out of his hat.

8:  And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, "Who are these?"

Surely Jacob knew who the two lads were.  He had only just mentioned them by name back in verse 5.  I wonder if possibly in this kind of ceremony in which an inheritance was being passed on, whether that question was traditionally asked.

But remember, this is "Mr. Tricky Jacob"! Maybe he was asking this question just to make sure, perhaps thinking back to the tricks he had pulled many years previously on his own blind, dying father, Isaac.  That is another possibility.

9a:  And Joseph said unto his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place"… 

"This place" was Egypt.  Joseph’s wife was Asenath, the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh.  She was an Egyptian.  But she was not only an Egyptian; she was the daughter of an Egyptian priest apparently of some sun-worshipping religion (Genesis 41:45, 50; 46:20).  This means that Ephraim and Manasseh were half Gentile!  People get upset about inter-racial marriages within the church; but this inter-racial marriage was apparently one of those that was approved by the LORD.

9b: ... And he (Jacob) said, "Bring them, I pray you, unto me, and I will bless them."

So now, the Abrahamic Covenant "Race" blessings are about to be passed directly from Jacob to Ephraim and Manasseh.

10a:  Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see...

Again, this is interesting and somewhat amusing.  When we think back to Jacob as a young man taking advantage of his dying father’s blindness, this is something like history repeating itself only in reverse, as we shall see!

Jacob was the ultimate trickster.  Even here, in his last days as a human being, just as back in his youth, he was still the crafty one still wanting to get his own way!

But was it really his own way?  Or was he actually wanting or being used to put into effect God’s own way God’s perfect will.  I believe that he was.

10b: … And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them.
11:  And Israel said unto Joseph, "I had not thought to see your face: and, lo, God has shown me also your seed."

There is that word again – the one that we discussed a couple of months ago – "seed."  This is the plural "seed" that came through Joseph; not the singular "seed" of Judah’s lineage.  The singular "seed" of Judah’s lineage resulted in the human Jesus.  But here in verse 11, this is the plural "seed" of the most favourite son of Jacob.  (See Galatians 3:16). 

12:  And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.

Another interesting point here.  Heirs standing between their father’s knees or feet seems to have been common in the ritual passing on of inheritances.  We read something similar in Jacob’s prophecy regarding Judah:

Genesis 49:10: 
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet.

Back to Genesis 48:

13:  And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.
14:  And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

In the passing of an inheritance to twin brothers, the first and main blessing was traditionally passed on to the firstborn by laying the father’s right hand on the firstborn’s head in this case, Manasseh’s. 

But here Jacob, evidently guided by the LORD, purposely crossed his hands and laid his right hand on the head of the second-born son, Ephraim. 

While he was performing this important act, Jacob pronounced his blessing also on Joseph.  But please notice that, on the surface at least, his blessing on Joseph appears to have been a somewhat meagre one.  It comes across almost as having been a secondary afterthought.  Jacob's main accent was on Ephraim and Manasseh rather than on Joseph.  Look at the way it reads:

15:  And he blessed Joseph, and said, "God {Elohim}, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God {Elohim} which fed me all my life long unto this day,
16a:  The Angel
{Malak} which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; 

In verse 15, Jacob briefly "blessed Joseph"; but then in verse 16, he says, “Bless the lads,” pushing the priority accent back onto Ephraim and Manasseh.

16b:  ... and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac"... 

Isaac’s name was on them literally, as they were later called "the sons of Isaac." Later still, they came to be known as "Isaac’s sons." And eventually they became to be known as "Saxons."  ("Isaacson" is quite a common name here in Canada.  We had a long-time church member named Mrs. Isaacson who used to live in Courtenay here on Vancouver Island).

16c: … and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

Earlier while discussing Genesis 49:22, we talked about Joseph's family growing like branches of a fruitful vine or tree.

But wait!  Joseph evidently thought this crossing of Jacob’s hands was the  mistake of a senile old man.  So he tried to correct it:

17:  And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. 
18:  And Joseph said unto his father, "Not so, my father: for this
{Manasseh} is the firstborn; put your right hand upon his head."
19:  And his father refused, and said, "I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed
shall become a multitude of nations."

Can you imagine the tussle that was going on – another wrestling match in some respects?  Jacob had struggled with his brother on his way into the world, he wrestled with his Creator in mid-life, and he wrestled with his son on his way out of the world!  Can you imagine the tension that was going on here – a weak old man and his strong young son tussling with each other?

20:  And he blessed them that day, saying, "In you shall Israel bless, saying, 'God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh'": and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

So the descendants of the younger brother, Ephraim, would become a multitude of nations and would be before – and even greater than – those of his older brother Manasseh. 

This is interesting because back in those days there were very strict lines of ascendancy.  I believe there may have even been legalities about such things.  But we see here that the primary blessings were given to the second-born rather than to the firstborn. 

This was not the first time that this happened. Looking back in time:

So this episode with Ephraim and Manasseh was not the first time God caused the line of ascendancy to be changed for His own perfect will to be accomplished.  He knew what was going to come out of this; so He lined it all up how He wanted it to be.

21:  And Israel said unto Joseph, "Behold, I die: but God {Elohim} shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers."

This prophecy may have multiple fulfillments.  The first one, obviously, was when Joseph’s bones were taken into the Promised Land by Joshua.  Maybe another fulfillment was the short time that the British ruled Palestine early in the 20th Century.  But the primary fulfillment of it would be in the future, after Jesus’ return, when the resurrected Joseph and his descendants will return there.

22:  Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.

Again, Joseph and his descendants receive two shares of Jacob’s inheritance, including two tribal territories, rather than the one each which nine of Joseph brothers received. 

If we look at Joseph’s name, we will see that this double blessing may have been prophetically embedded right into it. If you look up the name "Joseph" (Strong’s 3130) you'll see that its Hebrew form is "Yowceph" which is the future tense of the root verb "Yacaph" (Strong’s 3254) which means "YHVH will add."  Even more, this verb is a superlative of blessings.  It can mean join, increase, exceed, further, continue, do again, and do more.  Please keep these renditions in mind as we go back to Genesis 30 and read about what happened when Joseph was named:

Genesis 30:
22:  And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
23:  And she conceived, and bore a son; and said, "God has taken away my reproach":
24:  And she called his name Joseph
{Yowceph}; and said, "The LORD shall add {yacaph} to me another son."

There is a mention of the addition of "another son."  In the past, I thought that this might refer to Joseph as being the other son in addition to those that her sister Leah had already borne.  

Or, I thought, it might have referred to Benjamin who was Rachel’s other son her second-born, perhaps in the sense of "Because I have been able to have one son, I know then that I can also have another one." 

Or, could it also refer to God giving this additional son, and this additional blessing, by turning the single inheritance of Joseph into a double one through Jacob’s death-bed adoption of Joseph’s twin sons.

Next time in Part 5, we will look at the Abrahamic Covenant blessings as they begin to be poured out even more.  We will also look at the fact that there are two sides two signatories, if you will of the Covenant; that God faithfully fulfils His part in the Covenant; in fact, to a great extent, has already done so.  But the we, as participants of the Abrahamic Covenant blessings, have a part to play too.  So are we doing our part?  Are we doing our part both in the "Race" (physical) part and, more especially, in the "Grace" (spiritual) part? 

If time allows, I would like to start answering the question: "Just how was the Abrahamic Covenant transferred to spiritual Israel?