17 Joseph saw his father putting his right hand on Ephraim’s head. And Joseph didn’t like it. So he took hold of his father’s hand to move it over to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father. Here’s my older son. Put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father wouldn’t do it. He said, “I know, my son. I know. He too will become a nation. He too will become great. But his younger brother will be greater than he is. His children after him will become a group of nations.” 20 On that day, Jacob gave them his blessing. He said, “The people of Israel will bless others in your name. They will say, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’ ” So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I’m about to die. But God will be with all of you. He’ll take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 But to you, Joseph, I am giving more land than your brothers. I’m giving you the land I took from the Amorites. I took it with my sword and bow.”
At the time when this story was told the first born son was always the chosen son, the one to inherit the position, fortune, favour and blessing. He was the one who would carry the responsibility of the family. He would maintain the family line. Then his first born son would follow in this same pattern.
This is a radical story. God is turning things upside down. Again. This theme of choosing one who is not first born has happened a number of times before this in the book of Genesis, and it continues through out the scriptures. God picks the unlikely candidates. So many of the big characters or Heros of the Old Testament; Joseph, Moses, David… They are not the first born, they are not the strongest or the wealthiest or the handsomest. They are not even the most willing – Moses wasn’t willing to be Gods spokes person at first, God had to convince him.
Funnily enough Joseph, who was not a first born son, in this story tries to help his aging father get it right by 1st putting the boys on the correct side for blessing, Jacob/Israel crosses his arms to bless the boys (giving the eldest sons blessing to the youngest). Joseph tries to correct him but he states that the blessing is to the youngest of these 2 sons. Joseph is displeased at the crossing of Jacobs arms vs 17. Isn’t it funny how we revert to the worlds ways, even when God has done incredible things in our lives that are opposed to or outside of these ways.
Why does God choose the unlikely candidates? Because He is not concerned with power, He is able to make kingdoms rise and fall. He is not concerned with wealth, He is the provider of all good things. He is not concerned with outward appearance, He looks upon the heart. He does not look at the eloquent, He is the one who makes the way. It is about the humble obedient heart. It is about people learning to trust and obey Him. It is about Him, the gracious, kind teacher, way maker, provider, who is faithful, able, good….
Father, thank you for choosing me to be your child and for giving me the opportunity to witness you to people. Help me to trust and obey you, humbling knowing my weakness And believing in your ability and goodness.
Written by Zoe Stewart