The last story in the Book of Bereshiet, or Genesis, concerns the end of the lives of Jacob, and later Joseph, and his blessing of his sons. Perhaps one of the more intriguing, and I will suggest, prophetic, questions in the Torah comes in Gen. 48:8. And I’ll argue that his question is not only as vitally important now as it was then, but it might well serve as a summary of much of the history of mankind.
By the time that Yakov, or Jacob, adopts the two sons of his oldest son by his wife Rachel as his own, and then blesses them upon his deathbed, he has lived in the land of Egypt, and known the young men, for 17 years. And yet, when he “beheld Joseph’s sons,” he said, “Whose are these?” Because the next verse says that Israel’s “eyes were dim for age,” some will claim that he simply was unable to recognize his grandsons. And yet that simple explanation falls short of the complete truth, for a number of reasons. Among them is the Scripture’s use of the name Israel in this context, which often implies a larger truth than can be seen with physical eyes alone. The subsequent detailed description of his having wittingly exchanged both his hands and the ‘blessing of the firstborn’, by putting the younger of the two sons, Ephraim, in first position, is telling as well.
It is the future history of the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh which shows that Jacob, speaking as Israel, saw far more clearly than what met the eye. Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the promised land following the death of Moses, was of the tribe of Ephraim. Following the split of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, the kings of Israel, beginning with Jeroboam, were also of the house of Ephraim. And yet Israel, this time meaning the ten northern tribes, turned repeatedly to idolatry, and the worship of the false, pagan gods. For this, exactly as prophesied, they were sent into exile, and even given the equivalent of a ‘certificate of divorce’ by YHVH. Even today, they remain “scattered among the heathen,” throughout the world.
Unlike the other patriarchs, Scripture tells us very little about the character of the two sons of Joseph. They were born of an Egyptian (Mitzraite) mother, and raised in a pagan culture, but by a father who clearly knew and worshipped the One Elohim of his fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We also know the meaning of their names, which therefore is key to understanding their prophetic destinies. Manasseh, the eldest, was given the name associated with the Hebrew word meaning ‘forget’, “for Elohim has made me forget all my toil, and ALL MY FATHER’S HOUSE.” (Gen. 41:51) It was the name of the second, Ephraim, which implies “fruitful,” because, “Elohim has made my fruitful in the LAND of my AFFLICTION.” (v52)
Given that understanding, perhaps it becomes more clear why Jacob placed the importance of bearing fruit ahead of the concept of forgetting “all my Father’s house!” Indeed, the seed of Joseph DID utterly forget the statutes, judgments, and commandments of all his Father’s house, and suffer the curses of exile as a direct consequence. But the prophets tell us that Ephraim (and indeed, by prophetic implication, ALL of those who have been scattered, but who choose to “return to Me,” or make t’shuvah) will eventually be regathered as the prophet Jeremiah, (chapter 3) among multiple witnesses, makes clear.
So what DID Israel see as he “beheld Joseph’s sons,” that caused him to ask the insightful question, “Whose are these?” Could he have been referring to the idols that would eventually replace the God of Israel in the hearts of his childrens’ childrens’ childrens’ children? Or — more directly — could he have been asking the question which resonates so perfectly today:
“Whose are THESE!!?” Whose people are these? Do they belong to YHVH, the Creator, the Author of His Word, and Eternal King? Or to the only alternative…false gods, paganism, the prince of this world?
Can we tell by their fruit?
Every year, as the Xmas season approaches, many lament the “commercialization” of a “holy-day” which NEVER really had anything to do with the True King of Kings, Messiah, and Son of Yah. Priests and pastors almost all know the truth, but refuse to admit it to their misled flocks: the ‘Mass’ was fabricated out of whole cloth to mix pagan sun-god traditions of Mithraism and rationalize the pagan celebration of a winter solstice ‘birth’ instead of His. Depression, suicide, failed expectations, and the inevitable letdown of December 26th tell only part of the story. The irony of the current “tradition” is lost on them: there never WAS a true “christ” in “christ-mass”. Scriptures like Jeremiah chapter 10, Deuteronomy chapters 7, 12, 13, and many others tell us why. Yahuah does not tolerate any other gods “before His face,” and hates such “abomination.” Since we understand that, “to whom much is given, much is expected,” it should be increasingly obvious why we should examine our own houses, and ask, “Whose are these?” If we find idols which He says offend Him, they don’t belong there.
But, arguably even more importantly, the question must be asked about ourselves. I will suggest that Israel was asking the question about ALL of his sons – and that includes each of us! Many of us, whether we know it or not, are potential descendents of the “lost tribes of Israel,” collectively of the House of Ephraim. And whether we are or not, or even if we are of Judah, or simply want to be “grafted in” to the coming Kingdom of Israel, as YHVH regathers His people — the lesson remains the same:
Whose are WE?
The choice, and the implications, have never been more important.