“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff” ( Hebrews 11:21 )
When Jacob’s time was near an end, he took aside Joseph’s sons to bless them. He had claimed Joseph’s first born sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own. As was the custom, when Joseph presented before Jacob, he placed Manesseh, his first born, toward his right hand and Ephraim towards his left. But Jacob in faith choose Ephraim, though he was younger, to inherit the blessing.
“Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm —may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth” ( Genesis 48:15-16 ).
At hearing this and seeing that Jacob had placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head, Joseph was displeased. Trying to correct it, Joseph told him to put his right hand on his firstborn. Jacob confirmed that Manesseh would also be a great people, but in faith, he pronounced his blessing on Ephraim.
Throughout Israel’s history, the tribe of Ephraim flourished. From the rule of the Judges onward, this tribe became synonymous with Israel as it was the largest of the ten northern tribes. This was prophesied by Jacob, showing divine inspiration by choosing the younger son over the older. Moses also blessed this tribe in a similar manner. “About Joseph he said: “May the LORD bless his land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield; with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers. In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth. Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim; such are the thousands of Manasseh” ( Deuteronomy 33:13-17 ).
Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son forfeited his birthright by sleeping with Bilhah, his father’s concubine ( Genesis 35:22 ). By Jacob adopting Joseph’s two sons as his own and giving them a portion, he basically gave Joseph the double portion belonging to the first born son, which would have been Reuben. After that, Judah, another son, became tribal leader in Reuben’s place ( Genesis 49:8-10 ). He also inherited a wonderful blessing that the Messiah would come through his line ( Genesis 49:10 ).
All of these things happened by faith and Jacob pronounced his blessing under the divine inspiration of God. He looked far into the future and worshiped the Lord in anticipation of bringing it all to pass, just as it had been spoken.