Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for 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 also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations. (Genesis 48:17-19)
Clearly, Jacob was well aware that Manasseh was Joseph’s firstborn but throughout Scripture we can see that the younger is preferred — Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David and Jacob himself. I also find it interesting that he repeated the phrase, “I know,” implying that there are other things he knows. That brings us to the main point for today. While blessing Ephraim, Jacob declared that his descendants would become a “multitude of nations” which in Hebrew is milo ha’goyim. Most everyone knows that the Hebrew word goyim refers to the nations or the gentiles. The less familiar word, milo, comes from a root that means “fill to abundance.” It is also the word that means “fullness” or “completion.”
Jacob’s prophecy upon Ephraim prophesied that his seed would become the “fullness of the gentiles.” Where have we heard that phrase before? While addressing the issue of those who are ethnically Israel being joined to those who are grafted into the family of faith, Paul said:
“For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.’” (Romans 11:25-27)
Even if Paul was writing in Greek or Latin, he would have been thinking in Hebrew and using Hebrew concepts to make his point. Thus his use of the phrase, “fullness of the Gentiles,” alludes to Jacob’s statement concerning Joseph’s son, Ephraim (whose name means “fruitful”). What’s the point? Again we see that those who are joined to God’s people through the Messiah have an important role to play as it relates to the end times. This is especially true when it comes to the restoration of those who are regarded as circumcision and those who are not. Remember, we are to provoke our Jewish brethren to jealousy (Romans 11:14) but that is possible only when we are producing good fruit; in other words, fulfilling the prophecy pronounced upon Ephraim. Let us then make certain that we abound in good fruit so that our Father in Heaven may be glorified.
Blessings and Shalom,