And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. (Genesis 48:13-14)
Traditionally, the right hand (Hebrew is yamin] is seen as symbolizing power and authority and, thus it is the preferred hand for the performance of a task or a commandment. We see this concept where the Messiah is concerned.
The LORD said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)
So for Jacob to place his right hand on Ephraim’s head would have immediately sent a clear message of his intentions — he intended to appoint Ephraim as the one who would succeed Joseph as the recipient of the patriarch’s blessing. In other words, Ephraim, not Manasseh, was designated as the anointed leader of the family.
The Bible tells us that Joseph was displeased by this, perhaps thinking that Jacob, whose eyes were dim, had made a mistake. But the Scripture tells us that he maneuvered or “guided his hand wittingly” to place the hand of authority on Ephraim. The point is, Jacob knew exactly what he was doing.
So then the question is, “Why did he bless the second born in this manner and not the first born? The name of the oldest, Manasseh, meant “to forget.” Upon his birth, Joseph had said, “God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51). From Jacob’s point of view (and from prophecy’s point of view), Manasseh represented forgetting where you came from and all that goes along with it. Ephraim, on the other hand, presented an entirely different message. His name means “fruitful” and in the plural sense of the word; in fact, it denotes an abundance of fruit.
Considering the promise that had been made to Jacob, it only made sense that the one who bore the banner of fruitfulness be the one to receive the blessing of the first born. But also consider that the hand of God was at work as well and inspired Jacob to do what he did. Thus we learn that, from God’s point of view, it is not necessarily the first born of the flesh who receives the blessing but the one who is born of the spirit. By that I mean the one who man puts his seed in isn’t necessarily the one who is considered God’s “first born” — it wasn’t Cain but Abel. It wasn’t Ishmael, but Isaac. It wasn’t Esau but Jacob.
It is the one who receives God’s Seed — His Word — that is the beneficiary of God’s promises. Those who receive His Seed produce good fruit and are thus identified as His people. And it is those who produce good fruit that bring glory unto the Father. As Messiah said:
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8)
May we all be as Ephraim — abundantly fruitful.
Blessings and Shalom,