The Story of Jesus and Israel Is Incomplete without Manasseh and Ephraim

Today’s Reading: Genesis 39-41

Earlier this week, I wrote about seeing the story of Jesus and Israel through the names of the 12 tribes. In any given story, the order and actual list of the 12 tribes changes. Each time, the order and meaning of the names, even more so the sentence spoken at each child’s birth, tells the story of Jesus and Israel in the context of the particular story being read in the Bible.

In the post above, I mentioned that the 12 tribes are really 13 since Levi was given to the service of the Lord and the tribe of Joseph was split into two. Therefore, we get an ever changing list and order of the 12 tribes throughout the Bible. It’s in Genesis 41 that we read about the birth of Joseph’s two sons who complete the list of 13 interchangeable tribes.

Joseph may be the most complete and explicit type of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. I think is important to consider when putting Joseph’s two sons among the 12 tribes of Israel.

Like Isaac and Jacob, Joseph had a Gentile wife. However, Joseph’s wife was from Egypt, which is a type of the world. This is in contrast to Isaac and Jacob’s wives who came from the country and kindred of Abraham. So, Joseph’s two sons were of the world and truly outsiders to Israel. But, later in Genesis Joseph’s two sons are adopted by Israel.

Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh, which is the same age that it is believed Jesus began his ministry. It was when Joseph was 30 that the seven plentiful years of Pharaoh’s dream began. Genesis 41:50 says, “Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph.” So, it was sometime during the seven years of plenty that Joseph’s sons were born.

Joseph’s firstborn was Manasseh. His name means to forget, to cause to forget, to be forgotten. When he was born, Joseph said, “For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” (Genesis 41:51)

Jesus was sent by God to Israel, to the place of God’s dwelling, to the place of God’s temple, to God’s house. When Jesus was there, his own did not believe him and killed him. But, in Luke 23:34, Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” At that moment, Jesus forgets all his hardship in his Father’s house.

Joseph’s second son was Ephraim. Ephraim means to bear fruit, to be fruitful. While the name is singular, typically when we see the “im” ending in English translations of Hebrew it connotes a plural noun. So, there may be a sense that Ephraim’s name means bearing many fruits or to be very fruitful. When he was born, Joseph said, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52)

Jesus was crucified in Israel. That was the land of his affliction. But, God made Jesus fruitful in that very same land. In John 12:24, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus, the seed, the grain of wheat, died and was planted in the earth in Israel. But, that seed rose out of the earth, was resurrected, and produced, not just fruit, but much fruit. Jesus bore many fruits in the land of his affliction.

The births of the sons of Jacob and the name changes of Abram and Jacob all take place in the context of a specific story. And, the full context of the births of Manasseh and Eprhaim is quite interesting.

As I mentioned above, they were born in the time of plenty. But, not long after their birth, the seven years of famine began. Genesis 41:54 says, “There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.” There was famine everywhere except Egypt. Why?

The answer is in Genesis 41:55, which says, “When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.'” Today, the world, Egypt, is suffering through a severe famine, a spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by Jesus. God says, “Go to Jesus. What Jesus says to you, do.” Jesus is the only one who can satisfy the spiritual hunger of the world.

Genesis 41:56-57 says, “So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.”

Jesus suffered and was afflicted when he came to the world, but he chose to forget the affliction that we caused him and he forgave us. Jesus is Manasseh. Having forgiven us, Jesus was that seed that died and was planted in the earth, only to spring up and bear much fruit. Jesus is Ephraim. Because of this, like Joseph, Jesus has bread stored up to satiate the whole world’s spiritual hunger. Jesus has opened the storehouses. All the earth simply needs to do is come to Jesus and they will be fed.

3 Replies to “The Story of Jesus and Israel Is Incomplete without Manasseh and Ephraim”

    1. Is it possible it could be both a picture of Jesus and a picture of Israel and the church?

      Since all scripture is a witness to Jesus (John 5:39 and other), I think we need let the Spirit show us Jesus in every story. That doesn’t preclude every other meaning though.

      Although, Scripture is first and foremost about Jesus. The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10).

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