…Bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Gen 48:16
The two lads spoken of in this passage are Ephraim and Menashe, the sons of Joseph and his Egyptian wife, Asenath (Gen 41:50-52). The lads are also mentioned in the Shabbat Blessing when the father of the household pronounces the sacred words over his sons: “May God bless you as He did Ephraim and Menashe.” Why were Ephraim and Menashe exalted above all the other sons in the Bible, including the esteemed patriarchs of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? There seems to be something distinctive about Joseph’s sons, who merited special favor from both Joseph and God. What could it be?
The brothers were adopted as sons by Grandfather Jacob shortly before his death (Gen 48:5). Joseph’s double portion was then shared equally by Ephraim (second-born) and Menashe (first-born). Remarkably, the adoption and blessing of the grandsons occurred before the blessing of Jacob’s eleven sons. Menashe was the only tribe to receive land allotments on both sides of the Jordan River. Ephraim led the western flank of tribes that included Menashe and Benjamin. The three tribes became the dominant assemblage in Israel. Following the division of the kingdom after the death of Solomon, the Northern Kingdom was known as the House of Israel or the House of Ephraim.
Now to answer the perplexing question... Consider for a moment the numerous accounts of sibling rivalry mentioned in the Bible: Cain and Abel (Gen 4), Jacob and Esau (Gen 27), Joseph and his green-eyed brothers (Gen 37), the politically ambitious sons of King David (1 Kings 1), and the prodigal son and his jealous brother (Luke 15:11-31). Unlike the conflicts that ensued in all of these situations, there is no record of quarreling between Ephraim and Menashe. Their supposed peaceful relationship entitles the two lads to be lifted up as an example to brethren everywhere.
From Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen’s article, "Surpassing Our Potential,” we gain additional insight regarding the blessing of sons. It appears from the biblical account that the dying Jacob saw something unique in Joseph’s two sons that prompted him to bless them in such a manner. In addition to adopting them as sons, he also elevated them to the status of tribal heads, an honor previously conferred solely upon the sons of Jacob. This distinction moved the two brothers well beyond their potential, elevating them from grandsons of Jacob, to sons of Jacob, and finally to the status of patriarchs. This was quite a privilege for the two lads!
Divine blessings are the desire of every godly parent, both Jew and Gentile. May we all see our sons (and daughters) reach far beyond their spiritual and human potential to accomplish that which is only possible with God. As the mother of four sons, who had more than their fair share of sibling rivalry and squabbles as rambunctious little boys, I love the blessing of sons! I wish I had known then what I know now. All parents want to see their children esteem one another regardless of their age. The weekly blessing of sons is a powerful tool to attain the desired result of family harmony. Be sure to bless your sons this coming Shabbat, and expect our Lord to release their dynamic hidden potential in response to your nurturing prayers and His abundant grace. Yes, indeed, bless your sons in the names of Ephraim and Menashe!
*For additional information on the Shabbat Blessings, see my newly released book: By Divine Appointment – Celebrating the Feasts of the Lord and the Feasts of the People, available from noreenjacks.com.
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