A Traditional Family Man (Genesis 48)


The patriarchy. It’s the popular societal paradigm of yesteryear. We are entering a new era, and you can tell from all the bold and boisterous cries against the patriarchy. These days, men don’t rule the world. Tradition does not rule the world. Women and minorities and nontraditional people everywhere are asserting their right to do what they want. They don’t listen to the patriarchs anymore. They make their own rules and forge their own paths.

Compare these brave times to some of the earliest of Earth’s history, especially as portrayed in Genesis 48. Things were different, obviously. A clear example of the importance of the patriarchs, Joseph brings his two sons to his father Jacob, to be blessed before he dies. This was not a goodbye, this was ceremony. After reliving what God has done for him in his long life, Jacob has his two grandsons approach him.

Traditionally, Jacob was to use his right hand to bless the oldest, Manasseh, because just as the right hand is the dominant one, Manasseh was to be the dominant brother. He was to be richer, with more descendants and prosperity. Ephraim, as the youngest, was blessed with Jacob’s left hand, the lesser of the two. But at the last minute, the 147-year old patriarch eschewed tradition, placing his right hand on the younger son and his left hand on the oldest. And before anyone could say it was an accident because he was losing his sight, the Bible describes Jacob crossing his arms to make the switch, showing that it was deliberate (verse 14). Joseph was understandably confused, but Jacob calmly explained his decision – the younger brother would indeed become the more dominant, the more numerous, the more powerful of the two. With that, the boys are blessed and Jacob prepares to die. He has just a few more blessings to give, however.

The Treasures Within:

Bucking Tradition?

Even though Joseph took Jacob to task for the decision to bless Ephraim ahead of his older brother Manasseh, it was God who made this decision. Jacob could have predicted that an evil twin would take over but in the end only God could make it so. This affront to culture and tradition is on Him. And this isn’t the first time God has thought higher than the expectations of man.

Look at Jacob, the one who received the birthright blessing in his family. He was the younger brother. And Jacob’s son Judah, who went on to receive the birthright blessing and whose offspring became the most prominent tribe in Israel? He was the fourth-born. This is no big deal to us now, in the twenty-first century. Times have changed. But God hasn’t. The same God who was unbound to tradition then is unbound to tradition now. He is above tradition and culture and popular opinion. This doesn’t fit the common perception of Christianity as being full of angry conservatives, holding tightly to what they used to know. But thankfully we have the Bible to give us a clearer picture. Our God, His plans, and His laws are far above society and its flawed attempts at status quo. This means He can be trusted.

God’s Message To Us:

“My family is different.” They say we can’t choose our family and we can’t. Not our biological family anyway. Just like we are born into our race, our country, and our socioeconomic class, we are born into our family. And for the most part, we are expected to pledge allegiance to what we haven’t even chosen. God offers us an alternative. He lays Himself, His values and His character before us and asks us to choose Him. If we take a close look, we can see that His family is the best one. This Patriarch is not one to fear or overthrow. Just as He protected and prospered Jacob’s family line throughout all of Genesis, He will protect and prosper us. But we can’t take these family ties lightly. Just as blood is thicker than water, faith comes before country and culture and tradition.

There Are Always Questions:

  1. In verse 5, while preparing to bless Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob declares them to be his children, called by his name (verse 16). We can see this fulfilled later on in the Bible – wherever the tribes of Israel are listed, we read not Joseph’s name but Ephraim’s name and Manasseh’s name. Truly, Manasseh and Ephraim were called children of Israel and not children of Joseph. Why is this? This couldn’t have been done just to shake things up. What significance does this have?

What do you think? What’s your answer to this question? What stood out in this chapter of the Bible when you read it, and why do you think God put it there?

One thought on “A Traditional Family Man (Genesis 48)

  1. I love how God ignores our human traditions and only recognizes things that really matter.

    Eprahim and Manessah are listed as belonging to Jacob because Joseph does receive one of the birthright blessings. He receives a double portion in Israel. Jacob, himself, clearly states, in his blessing, that Ephrahim and Manessah will be considered as his.


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