Joseph receives news of his father’s impending death and promptly visits him, accompanied by his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob is overjoyed at their arrival and decides to bestow his blessing upon them as if they were his own sons, rather than his grandsons. Joseph positions Manasseh, the elder son, to receive the first blessing, and Ephraim, the younger, to receive the second blessing. However, intentionally defying the expected order, Jacob blesses Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
In addition to the blessings, Jacob assures Joseph that God will ultimately lead him back to Canaan, reaffirming the fulfillment of God’s promise.
19. But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.”
Jacob’s promise to Joseph, that God would bring him back to Canaan, is ultimately fulfilled when Joseph’s bones are laid to rest there, as stated in Exodus 13:19.
Once again, the pattern of the younger being blessed before the older emerges. Among the chosen line of Abraham, there is a consistent theme of the chief blessing being bestowed upon the younger child. Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Benjamin, Joseph, and Ephraim were all favored despite having older siblings. This goes against the cultural norms of the Near East during the 2nd century BC, making it a remarkable deviation. It highlights the unconventional nature of God’s ways, where the first shall be last and the last shall be first.