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Rumination #12: Why did Jacob adopt Ephraim and Manasseh?

Somehow lost in all of the lists of the tribes, is the tribe of Joseph. While bestowing an honor on Joseph and his sons, it seems that Jacob erased the memory of Joseph from the history of the tribes of Israel. Are there twelve tribes of Israel, or thirteen?

Jacob intended to give a double portion to his beloved Joseph, and by adopting his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, he accomplished this. Oddly, Jacob places the blessing of the first born not upon Manasseh, who was born first; but upon Ephraim the youngest.

The result of adding the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh is that descendants of Joseph inherited double when the land apportionment is given later in the Torah. By replacing Joseph with Ephraim and Manasseh, twelve land apportionments were still made. Why not thirteen? Levi did not receive land.

Throughout Scripture, the twelve tribes are listed differently dependent upon the emphasis. What is most curious is what occurs in Revelation 7:4-8. The tribe of Dan is missing, but so is Ephraim. Instead, of Ephraim, Joseph is listed. Revelation 7:4-8 lists the tribes:

Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin.

The only other place "the Tribe of Joseph" is mentioned outside of Revelation 7:8 is in Numbers 13:11, where the twelve spies are chosen. Instead of Ephraim being called the tribe of Joseph, here it is Manasseh:

"from the tribe of Joseph (that is) from the tribe of Manasseh... " 
"l'maseh Yosef l'maseh M'nasheh... "

While not ascribing to a "Two House" interpretation, it still seems quite interesting that Ephraim, who received the first born blessing, represents Joseph in Revelation. Ephraim is used throughout the Prophets as a euphemism for all the northern tribes, particularly when speaking of their idolatry. It is then especially gratifying to read of Ephraim's redemption:

As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: "For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions." Then take another stick and write on it, "For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions." Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand. And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, "Will you not show us what you mean by these?" say to them, "Thus says HaShem G-d: 'Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.''' And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. Then say to them, "Thus says HaShem G-d: 'Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their G-d. David My servant shall be King over them, and they shall all have one Shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them.'''
Ezekiel 37:16-24

Parashat Vayechi - 'And he lived' (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

The name of this week's Scripture portion comes from the first word of Genesis 47:28.

Vayechi Ya'akov b'erets Mitzrayim sh'va esre shana vayehi y'mei-Ya'akov sh'nei chayav sheva shanim v'arbaim umat shana.

And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years.

The fact that this week's portion begins with "And he lived" is to be compared with Jacob's message to Esau back in Genesis 32:4:

And he commanded them, saying, "Speak thus to my lord Esau, 'Thus your servant Jacob says: "I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now.'"
Genesis 32:4

The phrase, "I have dwelt with Laban" is a translation of the Hebrew phrase im Lavan garti. The word garti comes from the same root as ger, which is the sojourner mentioned so often as the righteous stranger among the tribes of Israel. Jacob sojourned in the land of Laban. This points to the fact that Jacob remained a man attached to the Land of Promise even while working for Laban. The sages remark that the word garti has the numeric value of 613, pointing to the fact that Jacob was faithful to the G-d of Abraham and his father Isaac.

So how does garti [sojourned with] compare to vayechi [and he lived]?  Whereas garti points to the concept of obedience, in the midst of other influences, vayechi points to true living even in a land not our own. Wherever Israel goes, it is to sojourn, and even in foreign lands Israel truly has life! It is this life, which this week's parasha is all about, beloved.

The Torah scroll does not contain a break where this week's portion begins. Rashi and other sages saw this as an indication that this last portion of Scripture from the book of Genesis is in fact "closed" - and speaks of a time yet future. Truly, this portion is prophetic for a time yet to come. It is this time to come, that is best described as Am Yisra'el Chai! [The People of Israel Live!]

As the Presence and blessings of HaShem followed Jacob and his sons into Egypt, Jacob lived. Israel is always the evidence of life. How fitting that chai [life] is tied to the Holy One, blessed be He. Chai HaShem! [HaShem lives!]

HaShem lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the G-d of my salvation be exalted.
Psalms 18:46 (verse 47 in Hebrew)

Throughout this week's parasha we will study how Jacob prophetically speaks over his sons. We will see how he adopts Joseph's two sons as his own, taking Joseph's place. We will see how the prophecies over these sons point in large part to a time yet future and the ushering in of the Messianic age.

As you study this week, remember the word vayechi [and he lived]. Remember how it points to Am Yisra'el Chai! [The People of Israel Live!]. G-d keeps His promises. He has kept His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The world has repeatedly sought to destroy G-d's people. Christians themselves have historically found themselves at enmity with the offspring of Jacob. And yet, Am Yisra'el Chai!

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Yeshua and for the word of G-d, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Messiah for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:4

Haftarat Vayechi  - 'And he lived' (1Kings 2:1-12)

This week's haftarah portion from the Prophets is related to the weekly Torah portion because of the "passing of the baton" picture. As Jacob blesses his sons, so too King David blesses his son Solomon in this week's haftarah. But like this week's Torah portion, it is not about "dying" - it is about "living." It begins this way:

Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: "I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man."
1Kings 2:1-2

That "be strong" phrase [v'chazak'at] reminds me of Joshua 1:9, where HaShem spoke to Joshua after the death of Moses our Teacher:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong [chazak] and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for HaShem your G-d is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

To "be strong" is not to rely on one's own ability. It is to rely on G-d to "be strong." The key to that is to remember that we have been commanded to act. In acting obediently, or working righteousness out, we will find the way made for us. To "be strong," is to know that G-d works through obedient servants. In our portion from the Prophets, David tells Solomon how to be strong and prove himself a man. The passages continues:

And keep the charge of HaShem your G-d: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Torah of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that HaShem may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,' He said, 'you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'
1Kings 2:3-4

Let's list the way to "be strong" found in this passage:

Funny how this has been lost in translation. Beloved, this is precisely the message that Paul had for us all in his letter to the Romans. What part of this is so hard to understand, so difficult to accept? Let me be blunt: Anyone who does not see that obedience to G-d's commandments given in His Word is the way of life, has had their eyes blinded by antinomian theology. What part of "statutes, commandments, judgments, testimonies" do some not understand? Is it only some of what G-d spoke through Moses? Or all of what He spoke through Moses and the rest of Scripture that we learn righteousness from?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of G-d, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
2Timothy 3:16

No beloved, it is all of what G-d spoke through His faithful servant Moses. Here is how Paul describes the life of the believer:

For Messiah is the goal of the Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the Torah, "The man who does those things shall live by them."
Romans 10:4-5

Yes, the man who does these things, will live by them. In Romans 10, Paul quotes extensively from Deuteronomy 30, where Moses charges the Children of Israel with the "way of life." Deuteronomy 30 outlines the way to live. True life is not merely existence; it is the life of obedience to G-d's commands. On the way to the translator, the message got changed. Instead of Romans 10:5, speaking positively of the commandments of G-d, the translators have almost unanimously made them appear bad. As if to say, "If you want to keep the law, good luck, because if you try then that is all you will have - instead of life, you will have futility." What utter nonsense. Many theologians explain away the clear and unmistakable statement of Yeshua in Luke:

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him [Yeshua], saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Torah? What is your reading of it?" So he answered and said, "'You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
Luke 10:25-28

Yes, the words of the Torah contain life because they are HaShem's words of life to us. Instead of this being some sick trick (i.e. tell people to try to live obediently, and then when they can't be sinless, G-d does the bait-and-switch), this is not a futile thing. To live obediently by the Torah of HaShem is not a bait-and-switch act by the Almighty. He means it. There is life there - and not futility.

And he [Moses] said to them: "Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe - all the words of this Torah. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.
Deuteronomy 32:46-47

This is what Paul speaks of later in Romans 10:8 where he quotes from Deuteronomy 30:

But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach).
Romans 10:8

For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love HaShem your G-d, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and HaShem your G-d will bless you in the land which you go to possess."
Deuteronomy 10:11-16

By this we know that we love the children of G-d, when we love G-d and keep His commandments. For this is the love of G-d, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
1John 5:2

It isn't hard to see. Romans 10 has so often been twisted by the antinomian bent of translators - that unless one reads the context of Deuteronomy, one is left with the opposite of what Paul intended to say. He is saying the same thing as Moses in charging the Children of Israel before his passing. He is saying the same thing as G-d said to Joshua in charging him to lead Israel. He is saying the same thing that David was saying to Solomon before he passed on. The message is the same beloved. It is simply this: HaShem's words are words of life. In them we find life, and it is HaShem's life. Obedience to His commands reveals Messiah, and Messiah's righteousness.

So if you really want to live, obey the One Who created you. Keep His Word. Obey His Torah. Be strong. Chazak!

As is traditional, in completing a book of the Torah, we close Genesis and its haftarah readings from the Prophets with,

Chazak! Chazak! V'nitchazeik!
[Be Strong! Be Strong! And May We Be Strengthened!]

Prayer Focus for Vayechi  -  'Ahavat Olam' [Eternal Love]

Ma'ariv [Evening Prayers], include the Ahavat Olam prayer. HaShem's Word is our life.
With an eternal love You have loved
the House of Israel, Your nation.
Torah and commandments, decrees and ordinances
have You taught us.
Therefore HaShem our G-d, upon our retiring and arising,
we will discuss Your decrees and we will rejoice
with all the words of Your Torah
and with Your commandments for all eternity.
For they are our life and the length of our days
and about them we will meditate day and night.
May You not remove Your love from us forever.
Blessed are You, HaShem, Who loves His nation Israel.

-- ArtScroll Siddur p.259

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Rick Spurlock
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