Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah 12: Vayichi (He Lived) B’resheit (Genesis) 47:28-50:26
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 2:1-12
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Peter 1:3-9; 2:11-17
Our focus today is on Ephraim and M’nasheh, the two sons who were half Egyptian and who will become two tribes identified in Revelation Chapter 7. M’nasheh was the firstborn son of Joseph and Osnat/Asenth (Genesis 41:50-52) “Two sons were born to Yosef before the year of famine came; Osnat or Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Fera priest of On bore them to him. Yosef called the firstborn M’nasheh (causing to forget), ‘Because G-d has caused me to forget all the troubles I suffered at the hands of my family. The second he called Efrayim (fruit), for G-d has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortune.’” The Rabbis found it difficult to accept that Joseph, who withstood the wiles of Potiphar’s wife and proclaimed his loyalty to the Lord in the palace of Pharaoh, would marry a non-Israelite woman. The question of Asenath’s origins has significant consequences for the standing within the Israelite tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, the two sons born to Asenath and Joseph.
There are two Rabbinic approaches to the issue of Asenath’s descent. One view presents her as an ethnic Egyptian who converted in order to be married to Joseph. She accepted the belief in the Lord before she was married and raised her children in accordance with the tenets of Judaism. The second approach argues that Asenath was not an Egyptian by descent, but was from the family of Jacob. God directed matters so that she would end up in Egypt, so that Joseph would find a suitable wife from among the members of his own family. Accordingly, Ephraim and Manasseh are worthy descendants, who continue the way of Jacob. The Torah does not go into detail about her marriage to Joseph so we can safely deduce that what is written about this union is sufficient for us to learn what we need to know from the narrative. It is interesting that Osnat is an Egyptian name meaning “belonging to G-d.” There’s “our sign!”
In Gen. 48:12, we read that Joseph is placed his sons in position to be blessed according to the tradition of blessing the older first. Efrayim was on Joseph’s right hand toward Israel’s left hand as the younger, and M’nasheh was on Joseph’s left hand toward Israel’s right hand. Nevertheless, Isra’el crossed over his hands and blessed the younger Efrayim first. He then makes the statement that Efrayim will be greater than M’nasheh and his (Efrayim’s) descendants will grow into many nations (Gen. 48:18). This statement has been the catalyst for much debate and speculation about who Ephraim and M’nasheh became and what they represent.
When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” He blessed them that day, saying: “In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.'” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. (48:13-14, 17-20).
It is not difficult to understand the care Joseph took to ensure that Jacob would bless the firstborn first. Three times his father had set the younger before the elder, and each time it had resulted in tragedy. He, the younger, had sought to supplant his elder brother Esau. He favored the younger sister Rachel over Leah. And he favored the youngest of his children, Joseph and Benjamin, over the elder Reuben, Shimon and Levi. The consequences were catastrophic: estrangement from Esau, tension between the two sisters, and hostility among his sons. Joseph himself bore the scars: thrown into a well by his brothers, who initially planned to kill him and eventually sold him into Egypt as a slave. Didn’t Jacob get it even now?
Or did he think that Ephraim – whom Joseph held in his right hand – was the elder? Did Jacob really know what he was doing? Did he not realize that he was risking extending the family feuds into the next generation? What reason could he have for reversing the cultural and natural order of dealing with family; favoring the younger of his grandchildren over the elder? He had never seen them and he had no previous experience with them. He knew nothing of these two boys. Why did Jacob seem to favor Ephraim over Manasseh?
For a clearer understanding of the two tribes that emanated from these two boys, we must fast-forward to the separation of the two kingdoms that resulted from Solomon’s idolatrous behavior (1 Kings 11:31) “Take ten pieces for yourself! For here is what Adonai the G-d of Israel says:” I am going to tear the kingdom out of Shlomo’s hand, and I will give ten tribes to you (Yarov’am). But he (Shlomo) will keep one tribe (Judah, consisting of Judah, Benyamin, and the Levites), for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel….I will take the kingdom away from his (David’s) son (Shlomo) and give ten tribes to you (Yarov’am). To his son (Shlomo) I will give one tribe, so that David my servant will always have a light burning before me in Jerusalem, the city I chose for myself as the place to put my name.” Let’s reflect a moment on the meaning of this last statement. Recall the blessing of Judah, which is the tribe (the southern Kingdom) left to Solomon. Jacob blessed Judah saying in Genesis 49:10… “the scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his legs, until he comes to whom obedience belongs.” We know the Messiah came from Judah representing the southern kingdom that remained in Jerusalem. We know the majority of this kingdom is biological Jews not necessarily Israelites (true believers). We know this because during the Tribulation, those of Judah who accept Yahshua will be martyred for their faith as they become “true believers” defined by Yahshua himself in Rom 2-3; and the seven-fold witness in Revelation. We also know there will be companions attached to Judah described in Ezekiel 37:15 “ The word of Adonai came to me: ‘You human being, take one stick and write on it, ‘For Y’hudah and those joined with him [among] the people of Israel.’” The second stick consists of Efrayim Israel. Next, take another stick and write on it, ‘For Yosef, the stick of Efrayim, and all the house of Israel who are joined with him.” The two sticks are defined as “I will take the stick of Yosef, which is the hand of Efrayim, together with the tribes of Israel who are joined with him, and put them together with the stick of Judah and make them a single stick, so that they become one in my hand. The sticks on which you write are to be in your hand as they watch. Then say to them that Adonai Elohim says,’ I will take the people of Israel (northern kingdom diaspora) from among the nations where they have gone and gather them from every side and bring them back to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them. They will no longer be two nations, and they will never again be divided into two kingdoms.”
We can understand from the above passage that Efrayim are the Gentiles combined with the 10 dispersed tribes that migrated to various countries from the northern kingdom. Make no mistake, these people dispersed to many nations; not just Britain or the United States. There is significant evidence tracing some of the tribes to the American Indians, a few in Japan, Hawaii, South America, and other places. Amongst western peoples especially Britain, Ireland, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. This does not mean that everyone in these nations is descended from Israel but rather there is evidence that there was some migration to these areas. This is where most descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes are to be found according to some researchers focused on this subject. So we may be clear on Ephraim and that this tribe originating from Joseph (a biological Israelite) and an Egyptian mother will become its own tribe as listed in Revelation 7 as the Tribe of Joseph.
The tribe of Manasseh was one of the Tribes of Israel. Together with the Tribe of Ephraim, M’nasheh also formed the House of Joseph. Note M’nasheh is listed as its own tribe in Revelation 7.Again, G-d in His sovereignty uses whomever He will in His plan and these “half-breed” tribes come into their own for the glory of G-d just as the original Tribes. There is no cause for elitism because we see Jew and Gentile serving G-d together as partakers of the covenants of Israel. However, we cannot assume for one minute that this translates as “everyone will be saved.” All who will be saved in the end choose somewhere in their lives to follow the calling of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and subsequently the instructions, statutes, and regulations of G-d’s Torah.
From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BC, the Tribe of M’nasheh was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed, and in times of crisis the people were led by ad hoc leaders known as Judges. With the growth of the threat from Philistine incursions, the Israelite tribes decided to form a strong centralized monarchy to meet the challenge, and the Tribe of M’nasheh joined the new kingdom with Saul as the first king. After the death of Saul, all the tribes other than Judah remained loyal to the House of Saul, but after the death of Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son and successor to the throne of Israel, the Tribe of M’nasheh joined the other northern Israelite tribes in making David, who was then the king of Judah, king of a re-united Kingdom of Israel. However, on the accession of Rehoboam, David’s grandson, in c. 930 BC the northern tribes split from the House of David to reform a Kingdom of Israel as the Northern Kingdom. M’nasheh was a member of the kingdom until the kingdom was conquered by Assyria in c. 723 BC and the population deported.
From that time, the Tribe of M’nasheh has been counted as one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, though some groups claim descent from the tribe.
The fundamental question may remain in your head as it did in Joseph’s as Israel crossed his hands and blessed the younger M’nasheh “Why father?” The answer is that this “going against the grain, the “norm” demonstrated G-d’s sovereignty. For we who have the entirety of G-d’s Torah in the Old testament and the B’rit Chadashah (Refreshed, renewed Covenant) Yahshua helps us to see G-d’s/Yahshua’s agenda and why it was necessary to bless the younger sons in the previously discussed cases. But even without the explanations provided us throughout G-d’s Torah, is enough for us to know that simply because G-d commands an action or takes an action, it is enough; dayenu.
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 2:1-12
This haftarah describes another biblical parallel, this time with our parashah. Just as Jacob (Israel gathered his sons to bless them on his deathbed, David is imparting final instructions to (Shlomo) Solomon as his successor. He begins with the most important admonitions of all; to “go forth in His ways (G-d’s), and keep his regulations, mitzvot, rulings and instructions in accordance with what is written in the Torah o Moshe; so that you will succeed in all you do and wherever you go.” (1 Ki. 2:2-3).David did not have the Song of the Lamb at the time but the instructions of G-d have not changed for those of us given G-d incarnate as Yahshua to elaborate and clarify the concepts of His Torah. The concept of accountability continues as David instructs Shlomo not to allow Shim’i to go unpunished (temporal) for cursing and throwing stones at him (2Sam. 16:5). Shim’i truly repented (2Sam 19:16), yet David instructed Shlomo not to allow Shim’i to go unpunished. This narrative provides another example of G-d’s consistency throughout His Torah. David suffered temporal punishment for his sins of adultery and murder, yet he was described as a man after G-d’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). Personally, I would rather suffer for my sins in this life than be deprived of eternal life with YHVH/Yahshua. The underlying lesson, avoid sin as much as possible in the first place!
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Kefa (1 Peter) 1:3-9; 2:11-17
The first passage reminds us of what we learned in this week’s parashah through the narration of Joseph’s life. That is we are destined to endure various trials and testings as a life-long litmus test of our love for and faith in YHVH/Yahshua. Peter tells us these testings may be likened to the refining of gold whereby the dross is continually brought to the top and skimmed off in the refining process. It is G-d’s purpose for us that we be found genuine in our desire to spend eternity with YHVH/Yahshua through our obedience and perseverance in rejoicing no matter our circumstances. The last verse in this first passage (1 Peter 1:9) proves once again that we are in the process of being saved and delivered: “And you are receiving what your trust is aiming at, namely, your deliverance.” Note these verbs are progressive and not written in the past tense. We have not arrived; we are not saved yet!
The second passage reminds us of something many of us would like to and often do ignore. We read in 1 Peter 2:11-17 “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents not to give into the desires of your old nature, which keep warring against you; but to live such good lives among the pagans that even though they now speak against you as evildoers, they will, as the result of seeing your good actions, give glory to G-d on the day of his coming. For the sake of the L-rd, submit yourselves to every human authority- whether to the emperor as being supreme or to the governors as being sent by him to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do what is good. For it is G-d’s will that your doing good should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Submit as people who are free, but not letting your freedom serve as an excuse for doing evil; rather, submit as G-d’s slaves. Be respectful to all- keep loving the brotherhood, fearing G-d and honoring the emperor.”
This passage is filled with evidence that we are not free to eat the forbidden foods, change the Shabbat, and celebrate pagan holidays as is taught as “freedom in Christ”. Evil is any action or speech not consistent with G-d’s Torah. Like Joseph, we are to submit to earthly authorities stopping short of disobedience to G-d’s Torah. Joseph never disobeyed G-d even as he lived in Egypt and submitted to the pharaoh of the time. G-d blessed him and his family for his obedience. This is a recurring theme throughout G-d’s Torah. It is mentioned several times in this one lesson that covers scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
The old nature spoken of in the beginning of this passage that we war against on a daily basis is the yetzer hara (the evil inclination). This is the spiritual war between the Esau and Jacob; Isaac and Ishmael; David and Goliath; the “hot” and “cold” fronts. I mention Goliath to whom I compare the majority of the world who subscribes to and encourages a non-Torah observant life. The remnant of true believers are the “Davids” who must learn to follow G-d’s Torah with courage, trust, and obedience as our amour (Ephes. 6:10-18).
Rabbi Tamah Davis