Jacob, who was later named Israel by the Lord, had twelve sons. These sons each became the patriarch of large families, or tribes, and together all of these families are known as the “Children of Israel”. There is an interesting picture in the story of Jacob and his sons.
The eldest son was Reuben, who lost his inheritance because he slept with Bilhah, one of his father’s concubines. Because of this, and because Joseph (of many-colored coat fame) was the favorite son of Jacob, Joseph received the blessing of Jacob as the eldest son. Actually, not Joseph, but his sons Manasseh and Ephraim are counted among the twelve tribes of Israel. These two sons replaced Reuben and Joseph in the twelve. This way, Joseph received a double blessing from his father since his sons each received a blessing from their grandfather. In his old age, Israel, as he was then known, pronounced a greater blessing on Ephraim the younger son. Joseph corrected Israel, because the elder son was to receive the greater blessing, but Israel was emphatic. Ephraim would rule over Manasseh.
Here is the picture: Israel, the father, is a type of God the Father in this story. Reuben, who arrogantly sought to usurp his father by sleeping with his concubine, is a type of Satan. Reuben was disinherited. Joseph is a type of Jesus in this story.
In fact, there have been many studies showing how Joseph foreshadows Jesus. There are over thirty ways in which Joseph is a type of Jesus. Joseph was the favorite son. Jesus is God’s only Son. His brothers hated him. The Jews hated Jesus. The brothers were going to kill him until they were persuaded to sell him to some Ishmaelites. When in Egypt he was second in command three times, in Potiphar’s house, in prison and finally in all of Egypt as second only to Pharoah. Jesus is second only to God the Father. When Joseph’s brothers saw him the first time, they did not recognize him. The Jews did not recognize Jesus as Messiah the first time. The second time Joseph revealed his identity to his astounded brothers. When Jesus returns, the Jews will recognize Him and be astounded. Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).
Manasseh and Ephraim are types of Jews and Christians. The Jews are the “older son”, and yet they are subordinate (they are fewer in number and less in political power) to the Gentile Christians, the “younger son”. The name Manasseh sounds like “forgot” in Hebrew. Perhaps this shows how the Jews forgot the promise of the Lord (more times than one). The name Ephraim sounds like “twice fruitful” in Hebrew. The Gentile Christians have been very fruitful for the Lord. The tribe of Manasseh lived on both the east side and the west side of the Jordan River. The tribe of Ephraim only lived on the west side. The Jews live in both the Middle-East and in the West. Gentile Christians mostly live in the West (Europe and the Americas).
Jesus said, “The first will be last and the last will be first”. Ephraim was the last son, but was first blessed. The Gentile Christians were the last to receive the Word of the Lord, and yet we will take part in that wonderful First Resurrection. The Jews were the first to receive the Word, but will not receive their blessing until the coming Kingdom. Praise the Name of the Lord for including us in His Plan.