“And the name of the second Joseph called Ephraim: for God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52).
“And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put your right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In you shall Israel bless, saying, God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:17-20).
“His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh” (Deuteronomy 33:17).
HIS BIRTH. We consider Ephraim first because of the order of the names upon the Breastplate and because of his priority of position, but in point of fact he was not the firstborn. Manasseh, his brother, was the elder of the two. To have a proper understanding, maybe it will be wise to deal with the two together before considering them individually.
While Joseph was in Egypt he was given a Gentile bride, Asenath, the daughter of Poti-pherah, priest of On, who bore him two sons. The first he named Manasseh meaning “forgetfulness”. “For God,” said he, “has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house.” The second son he called Ephraim, meaning “doubly fruitful”, saying at his birth, “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Just before the death of Jacob, Joseph brought these his two sons to his father that he might bless them. Whereupon Jacob sat upon his bed and wittingly crossing his hands, he placed the right hand upon the younger and the left hand upon the elder, giving the blessing of the firstborn to the younger. Joseph sought to correct his father but Jacob assured him that his action was deliberate and that the older should serve the younger. From then on we never read of Manasseh and Ephraim, but always Ephraim and Manasseh.
In his act of blessing Jacob also said: “And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto you in the land of Egypt before I came unto you into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine” (Genesis 48:5), and “The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them” (Genesis 48:16). In the first reference it is not only to be seen that Jacob adopted these two grandsons of his into his own family but that he gave to them an equality with the firstborn - “As Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine”. Reuben was the beginning of his strength. How often it is that we find the Lord crosses our purposes and brings our despised and rejected “Ephraims” to the very front rank of blessing - it may be that troublesome child in our Sunday School from whom we expect nothing but disappointment, it may be the unnoticed, almost despised, person in the Church, it might be some talent or gift in your own life upon which you have put no value. You may have prayed: “Lord, bless me in this thing,” and instead you have found Him to bless you in that other thing. Like Joseph, maybe you were disappointed at the time. But oh! How we have to thank Him for His Wisdom, because His Wisdom always proves to be greater than our requests. Thus these two men became two of the tribes of Israel, and were the double portion of Joseph who never found himself to become a tribe in name. It was in this way that they both found a place upon the Breastplate as tribes, although they were never named on the shoulder-stones as sons by birth.
HIS BLESSING. “And the name of the second he called Ephraim: For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Joseph little realized all that was pertaining to that name. As already stated it means “doubly fruitful”, and when Jacob set him above his brother and bestowed upon him the blessing of the firstborn he became the inheritor of the double portion of the firstborn. So far as is known Joseph had no other children apart from these two born to him in Egypt during the seven years of plenty. The increase of Joseph's posterity was, therefore, in these two sons and especially in Ephraim. The Book of Genesis closes by telling us that Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation. When the tribes of Israel were numbered Ephraim stood at 40,500 against Manasseh at 32,000. Moses conveys exactly the same thought to us in his blessing of Joseph when he said: “His (Joseph's) glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh,” meaning that the strength of the advance of Joseph and the establishment of his family was in his two sons, but particularly in Ephraim.
God had caused Joseph to become fruitful and prosperous in the land of his affliction. How true it often is! “For our light affliction which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). It did not appear so to Joseph. Follow that hazardous life of his. He might easily have said: “Why did my brothers hate me? It was not my fault that my father favored me. Why did they misunderstand my dreams? I never told them with any pride or conceit in my heart. When my father sent me to Shechem to my brothers, why did I not return home instead of pursuing them on to Dothan? Why did that caravan of traders come along just at that particular time so that I should be sold to them? Why was Potiphar's wife so cruel and deceitful to me? Why should I receive evil for doing good? Why the prison? Why did the butler forget to plead my cause? Why! Why!! Why!!!?” This is how we often reflect on life. This is how Joseph could have reflected, and possibly did. But take away any one of those experiences and the sequence of events has broken down, and Joseph could never have found his way to the second throne of Egypt, his name would never have been Zaphnath-paaneah, meaning, according to the Vulgate: “The savior of the age.” Yes, indeed, they meant it for evil but God meant if for good.
We must learn that the life submitted to the Lord is overruled by Him so that ALL things work TOGETHER for GOOD to them that love Him. “… tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5). We, who are the “Ephraims” of the Lord, live because our Joseph, the Lord Jesus Christ, came into the Egypt of this world and through the hate and the misunderstanding, the trials and the mockings, found His way via the Cross into the prison of the tomb and death; then the third day, being delivered from His imprisonment because death could not keep Him and corruption could not be His lot, He arose from the grave, ascended on high, and is now seated on the Throne of His eternal glory, and is ministering the Bread of Life to His people as well as presenting their cause before the Father.
There is also another, a prophetic, picture to be seen in this story of Joseph and his two sons and the reversed blessings of Jacob being bestowed upon them. Two great peoples have and do exist in this world; their records are to be found in the annals of God revealing their beginning and their end. They each hold a great prominence in the history of the World. The first is the seed of Abraham according to promise, or Israel. This nation is referred to as the son of God and is the firstborn. This the Lord declared to Pharaoh through Moses when He said: “And I say unto you, Let my son go, that he may serve Me; and if you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your son, even your firstborn” (Exodus 4:23). This people would be seen in Manasseh. The second great company is the Church of Christ which came into being long after and so would be represented by Ephraim. In the course of time Israel forgot their God. They crucified their Messiah and thus we see God, as it were, crossing His Hands so that, whilst both peoples are to enjoy the blessings of the Church - “the elder shall serve the younger” as the Lord had said. The Church is younger than Israel by some 2,000 years, and yet we are going to reign with Christ and, when we do, Israel will be the people over whom we shall reign.
THE LIGURE. This is the stone of the Breastplate upon which the name of Ephraim was written, but very little is known concerning it. Commentators differ a good deal in their suggestions although most of them would say that it was possibly the modern jacinth or yellow jargoon. Flinders Petrie identifies it with the yellow agate. The uncertainty of it causes one to refrain from seeking any spiritual application.
NOTE: The above notes came into my hands in 1949 in Chicago at the Tabernacle Baptist Church, while I was attending classes at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary towards an M.Div. degree. Dr. Slemming presented himself on a Wednesday evening in the fall of 1949 dressed in the garments of the High Priest. He HAD my attention. At the close of his lecture I purchased the book of the above title, and read it with considerable interest. Then I said to the Lord, “There's more to this than I read here, is there not?” “Yes,” he answered. “Ask me, and I will add to this.” 14 years later, in 1963, someone dropped into my hands Dr. Tim LaHaye's teaching on the 12 Temperaments. As I pondered this information, the thought occurred to me - What if I did a matching test, and put the 12 tribes alongside the 12 Temperaments, what would I find? To my surprise within 5 minutes I had a 12-fold match. By giving a simple test to find out a person's Temperament, immediately one would also have a relationship with one of the tribes.
Then in 1992 the Lord gave me a vision upon our return from our 3rd trip to Israel. In the vision I received a commission to take the 12 Embryonic Revival Principles from the 1948 Visitation in Northern Canada, and help bring them to maturity. “They shall be parameters of safety for My last Visitation prior to the return of My Son,” said the Lord. Again I felt led to do a matching test, by putting these 12 Embryonic revival principles beside the 12 Tribes and Temperaments. Again I found a match within moments. So to know one's Temperament and Tribe, is also to know a Revival Principle that one can identify with, and intercede that it would come to maturity.
Note that Joshua comes from the tribe of Ephraim. He was mentored by Moses for 40 years, and at the death of Moses became his successor. As a successful general he led Israel for 6 years to defeat the 7 nations of Canaan, each many times larger than Israel itself. He then wisely led in the dividing of this land among the 12 tribes, a feat that breaks precedence, for there is no record of bitterness, contention or warfare arising from this division. As long as Joshua and the elders lived in a time frame of 30 years - Israel served the Lord. This is perhaps the greatest historical acclamation to the tribe of Ephraim.
Ephraim and Manasseh, like Joseph, tend to share alike the strength of the “bullock.” Ephraim's Temperament is that of a Mark/John, a Phlegmatic/Choleric. Again, both Ephraim and Manasseh share Joseph's attitude towards the Lord in his “Bridal Love.” When Moses left the tent outside the camp because of Israel's sin - Joshua lingered in the presence of the Lord whom he loved. See Joshua 1:8. When Moses went to receive the 10 Commandments, Joshua accompanied him. Only twice as leader of Israel's armies did he miss in the 6 years of war: at Ai - and with the deception of the Gibeonites. No doubt the chagrin he experienced held him in the future always to seek the face of the Lord through Urim and Thummim before making a decision.
DISCLAIMER: It goes without saying that I do not necessarily subscribe to all the theological positions of the author above. I highly regard him, it is true, and in the majority of his views I share his conclusions. -- JAW.