The First Shall Be Last

I’m wrapping up Genesis in my Quiet time right now. One of the most courageous and godly characters in all the Bible is Joseph. His father (Jacob) was rather crafty and deceiving, but Joseph was so godly he is often pointed to as the most Christlike figure of the entire Bible.

In today’s reading, as Joseph’s father was about to breathe his last, Joseph brought his sons (Jacob’s grandsons) to be blessed by Jacob. I know this is already like “musical names,” but stay with me. Here’s what happened…

8 When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”

9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.
Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”

10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
upon the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day and said,
“In your [c] name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ ”
So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.

This would be even more shocking if it were the first time we ever witnessed this in scripture, but it’s not—not by a long shot. This act on the part of Jacob actually continued a long standing break with tradition with God’s people—the tradition of promoting the younger (second son) over the firstborn.

  1. Cain rejected and Able accepted
  2. Shem chosen above Japheth
  3. Isaac over Ishmael
  4. Esau was rejected in favor of Jacob
  5. Then, down the line a bit, the first king of Israel (Saul, winner of the ‘people’s choice’ award) was rejected over the second (God’s man, David).

For a clue into this bizarre reversing of tradition we can look at 1 Corinthians 15:45–49. Click here to read it. You’ll really need to in order to understand why God not only allowed this, but also planned it.

In a nut shell, The first represents all that we are in Adam, the first man; the second represents all that believers are in Christ Jesus, the second man.

Pretty cool, huh?