In this chapter and the next, Jacob is saying his dying blessings over his sons. Here, he blesses Joseph’s two sons as his own, showing special favor to his grandchildren through Joseph, giving them the status as tribes in the nation of Israel.
Joseph is careful to make sure the right sons are getting Jacob’s blessing. “And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him” (48:13). But, Jacob did the opposite of what Joseph wanted: “And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn)” (48:14). And before Joseph knows what’s going on, Israel has already pronounced his blessing on the two boys. Joseph objects on behalf of his oldest, Manasseh, but his father replies, “his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations” (48:19). Life in God’s kingdom is often upside down and backwards.
Jacob was younger than his brother, Esau, but God said that he would be the greater of the two brothers. Joseph was younger than 10 of his 11 siblings, but God gave him the vision that the rest of his family would bow to him. God delights to flip our expectations on their head. He loves to do what we would least expect according to this world’s wisdom, both to humble us and to show that he is the one who’s building his kingdom, not us.
This is most exemplified in Christ Jesus. He is the Son of God, all-sufficient in the Godhead, but gave up his riches and became a poor, homeless, wandering teacher for our sake. And when he taught, he would say things like, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25). To live, we die. To follow him, we go to Calvary.
What do you cling to in this world? Where do you go for wisdom? God says give up everything to gain everything. Die so you can live. That’s what Jesus did. How is he calling us to do the same?