Now we come to a most vital distinction, and a bit of Bible truth known to but a very few. Very few, indeed, have ever noticed that the promises to Abraham were twofold. But the Bible itself makes sharp distinction between these two phases of the promises.
The spiritual promises—the promises of the “one seed,” Christ, and of salvation through Him—the Bible calls the scepter. But the material and national promises relating to many nations, national wealth, prosperity and power, and possession of the Holy Land, the Bible calls the birthright.
Race, Not Grace
Let us understand the meaning of the terms:
“Birthright: native right or privilege”—Standard Dictionary; “any right acquired by birth”—Webster’s. A birthright is something which is one’s right, by birth. It has nothing to do with grace, which is unmerited pardon and a free gift which is not one’s right. It has to do with race, not grace. Birthright possessions are customarily passed down from father to eldest son.
“Scepter: kingly office; royal power; badge of command or sovereignty”—Standard Dictionary. The promised kingly line culminates in Christ, and involves grace to all.
We have seen how both sets of promises, right of birth and gift of grace, were unconditionally made by God to Abraham. Both the birthright and the scepter were repromised by the Eternal to Isaac and to Jacob. But the fact that should open your eyes, as a joyous truth newly discovered, is that from that point these two sets of promises became separated! The scepter promises of the kingly line culminating in Christ, and of grace through Him, were handed on to Judah, son of Jacob and father of all Jews. But the astonishing truth is that the birthright promises were never given to the Jews!
Let that be repeated! Realize this! The birthright promises were never given to the Jews!
Turn to these passages—read them in your own Bible!
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah …” (Genesis 49:10).
“[B]ut the birthright was Joseph’s” (1 Chronicles 5:2).
Of course it is well understood that the scepter went to Judah and was handed down through the Jews. King David was of the tribe of Judah. All succeeding kings of David’s dynasty were of the house of David, tribe of Judah. Jesus Christ was born of the house of David and the tribe of Judah.
Another eye-opening truth completely unrealized by most people today is the fact that only a part of the “children of Israel” were Jews.
Read that little understood fact again!
The full explanation and proof of this must be reserved for Chapter 6. Only those of the three tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi were Jews. While all Jews are Israelites, most Israelites are not Jews!
So understand! The birthright promise did not pass on to the Jews! But the scepter—the promise of Christ and of grace—was passed on to the Jews! “Salvation,” Jesus said, “is of the Jews”! (John 4:22). “The gospel of Christ,” wrote Paul, “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jewfirst, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The promises of grace were handed down through Judah!
But the promises which the Bible terms the “birthright” have not been understood at all. Few have ever noticed that God made any promises to Abraham other than the scepter. Few know what is in the Bible!
Birthright Never Given to the Jews
Fewer still have understood that these great national material promises were never given to the Jews! The astonishing and vital fact that many have overlooked is “the birthright is Joseph’s.” And, as we shall see later, neither Joseph nor his descendants were Jews! Astounding as it may be, it’s true!
This knowledge about the birthright is the pivot of this entire truth which will prove the key to the understanding of all prophecy! It’s of supreme importance that you get this clearly in mind!
“Birthright,” as defined above, includes only that which comes by right of birth. No one can receive eternal life as a right, from natural birth. If it were our right, inherited by birth, it would not be by grace. Salvation comes by grace—God’s gift, by undeserved pardon—unmerited favor. We can receive only material possessions as a right by birth. And when that right is passed down through generations to ever-multiplying descendants, it finally devolves into a national inheritance. It confers only material possessions, power, or position. It does not bestow spiritual blessings. It is a matter of race, not grace!
There is another distinction between a birthright and grace we ought to understand. A birthright, as before stated, is normally passed on from father to eldest son. There are no conditions which the recipient is required to meet. The son does nothing to qualify for it. He receives it as his right for no other reason than that he happened to be born his father’s son. He has a right to it without earning it or qualifying to be worthy of it. He could, however, disqualify himself to keep, or even to receive it.
But the gift of immortality received by grace does have qualifying conditions! It is not your right, nor mine, to receive the gift of eternal life—to be actually born as God’s son—literally a member of the God Family! Think what conditions would result if it were! A rebellious, defiant, hostile, God-hating criminal or atheist could shake his fist at God and say: “Look, God! I hate you. I defy you! I refuse to obey you! But I demand your gift of eternal life! It’s my right! I want to be born into your divine Family—to receive all the vast power of a son of God, so I can use that power to oppose you! I want to make your Family a house divided against itself. I will cause friction, hostility, hatred, unhappiness among all your children! I demand that power, as your gift, as my right, so that I may abuse that power—use it for evil!”
Grace Requires Conditions
Most professing “Christians”—and many teachings of what is called “traditional Christianity”—say there are no conditions, nothing that we must do to receive God’s glorious grace. They deny that God requires obedience to His law! They twist the truth around by saying that would be earning one’s salvation! They do demand it of God, while they still rebel against His law and refuse to keep it!
Think where that would lead! Understand this! Eternal life is, indeed, God’s free gift. You can’t earn it! But it is not your right! You cannot demand it of God as your right, while you defy God, rebel against His government, refuse to let Him rule your life His way!
Therefore God has imposed conditions! Those conditions do not earn you a thing! But God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). He does not pay it—but the passage speaks of the Holy Spirit which “God hath given to them that obeyHim.” It is still a free gift!
A rich man might have seven men standing before him, and say: “I will give, as my free gift, $1,000 to any or all of you who will step forward and receive it.” Their stepping forward does not earn it. It is merely the condition required to receive the free gift.
The word “grace” means unmerited, undeserved pardon! God pardons those who repent! And “repent” means to turn from rebellion, hostility, disobedience. “Repent” means to turn to obedience to God’s law. The fact that God chooses not to give this wonderful gift—the gift of immortality, which carries with it divine power—to those who would misuse it for harm and evil; the fact that He chooses to give it only to those who will rightly use it—does not mean it comes by works instead of grace. If there were no conditions, then everyone could demand it—and it would be received as a right by birth, instead of by grace!
The very fact of grace makes necessary God’s required qualifications. But it still is an undeserved gift! Obedience does not earn anything—that is only what we owe to God. A birthright requires no qualification. It is a right by birth.
What the Birthright Conferred
Just what special material inheritance was passed on by
the birthright few have understood. Yet it conferred the
richest, most valuable material inheritance ever passed
from father to son—the most colossal wealth and power ever amassed by man or empire! The magnitude of this birthright is staggering!
It includes all the first phase of God’s tremendous promises to Abraham. This legacy guaranteed on the authority of God Almighty, unconditionally, multitudinous population, untold wealth and material resources, national greatness and world power!
Not only had God promised that a world-dominant nation and a company, or commonwealth, of nations whose peoples descended from Abraham would be as populous as the grains of sand of the seashore—as the stars in multitude; not only did He promise they should possess the gate (Fenton translation: gates) of enemy nations, which alone signifies world dominance and power; but the birthright finally included vast material wealth and unlimited national resources. That was made plain in the blessing given to Jacob, as we shall soon see.
The Birthright Denied to Ishmael
Except in cases of divine intervention, which occurred three times, the inheritance of the birthright fell automatically to the eldest son in each generation.
Isaac was chosen by the Eternal to inherit both the scepter and birthright. Abraham had other sons. Ishmael was the eldest. But God chose Isaac, and “Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac” (Genesis 25:5). Isaac, however, was Abraham’s firstborn lawful son. Ishmael was the son of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid.
Abraham loved Ishmael and desired for him to have the birthright. “And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Genesis 17:18).
Sarah his wife was barren. “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I … will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly … and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac …” (verses 19-21).
Regarding the future nation to spring from Ishmael, the angel of the Eternal had said to Hagar: “[H]e will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell to the east [correct translation] of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12).
Two clues are given here: 1) Ishmael’s descendants were to become a great nation but the birthright nations were to be greater; and 2) they were to dwell to the east of their brethren—that is, of Isaac’s descendants who had the birthright. The children of Ishmael have become the Arabs of today. The nation and company of nations who hold the birthright must, therefore, be larger, wealthier, more powerful, and must be found geographically west of the Arab nations.
Abraham was the human type of God the Father, and Isaac of Christ. There are many parallels. Space prohibits expounding them here, except to note that if we are Christ’s we are Abraham’s children (Galatians 3:29), and Abraham is the “father of the faithful” (see Galatians 3:7); that Abraham was called on to be willing to sacrifice his only (legitimate) son (Genesis 22:2) even as God gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, for the sins of the world; that Isaac’s wife Rebekah is a type of the Church, and she had to fall in love with him and accept him as her husband before she saw him with her eyes; and that Isaac was born by promise, and by a miracle from God, even as Jesus was miraculously born of the virgin Mary.
Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn, and therefore the legal inheritor of the birthright. But Esau undervalued it and sold it to Jacob.
Esau Sells the Birthright
God had chosen Jacob to possess these promises before the twins were born. But Jacob, influenced by his mother instead of waiting on the Eternal, resorted to deception and took it from Esau.
The Eternal had said to Rebekah, regarding Esau and Jacob, that they were the beginning of two nations—“two manner of people … the one people shall be stronger than the other people,” said God, “and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).
Their descendants, then, were to become two different types of people. The story of Jacob’s premature and deceptive acquisition of the birthright continues, in Genesis 25:27-34.
“And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. And Jacob sod pottage [boiled porridge—Fenton’s translation]: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.”
“Edom” means, literally, “red soup,” and is so translated in the Fenton version. It will prove another “key” to Bible understanding for the reader to carefully fasten in his memory the fact that “Edom” refers to Esau. Many prophecies pertaining to the present and future employ the name Edom. They cannot be understood unless it is realized that they refer to the descendants of Esau, primarily the Turkish nation today.
“And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” Later, Jacob subtly took from Esau his blessing. The story of this deception is found in Genesis 27.
It was at a time when Isaac was old, his eyesight dimmed with age. Nearing the end of his life, he called Esau and requested that he go to the field and hunt for venison, prepare it and bring it to him. He would then bestow the blessing confirming the birthright.
But Rebekah overheard, and sent Jacob quickly for two kids of the goats. These she prepared in the same tempting way that Isaac loved his venison. Then she took some of Esau’s clothes and put them on Jacob. Now Esau was very hairy, while Jacob was smooth, so Rebekah carefully placed the skins of the two kids upon Jacob’s hands, arms, and smooth part of his neck.
In this disguise, with his imitation venison, Jacob went in to receive his father’s blessing. “And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn …” (Genesis 27:19).
Isaac was surprised he had found the venison so quickly and became suspicious. Jacob lied again, asserting the Eternal had brought the venison to him. Isaac detected the voice was that of Jacob.
“And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him” (verses 21-23).
What the Birthright Included
Now notice carefully what that blessing included!
“And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the [Eternal] hath blessed: Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine [Fenton’s translation: increase and possession]: Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (verses 26-29).
Note it! Materialistic promises, national in nature, every one! Not one of them pertaining to salvation. None having to do with life after death. Nothing spiritual here! All pertaining purely to this present fleshly life! National prosperity—rainfall, plenty of corn and wine, the fatness of the earth, or, as the margin reads, the fat places of the earth—increase and possession. “Nations shall bow down to thee!” “Let people serve thee.”
When Esau returned and found how Jacob had supplanted him, he was very bitter. He pleaded for a blessing, too. But Isaac could not retract the blessing given to Jacob. So he passed on to Esau the following prophecy:
“Behold, thy dwelling shall be [correct translation: away from] the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. And Esau hated Jacob …” (verses 39-41).
In verse 39, quoted above, the Hebrew preposition min should be translated “from” or “away from,” not “of.” Actually, the prophesied lot of Esau was more of a curse than a blessing. The Revised Standard Version translates it: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high.” Moffatt renders it: “Far from rich soil on earth shall you live, far from the dew of heaven on high.” Actually, the Hebrew words convey the dual meaning, and both have happened to Esau’s descendants.
Prophecy for Turkey
The sparse records of history, with other proofs, show that many of the descendants of Esau became known as Turks. Therefore we must remember that prophecies pertaining to the latter days referring to Edom, or Esau, refer generally to the Turkish nation.
In Isaac’s dying prophecy, he foretold that Esau’s descendants would come to a time when they should have dominion, and then break the yoke of the Israelites from off their necks. That has happened. The children of Israel, through sin, were driven out of the Promised Land that belonged with the birthright. The Turks came to power and dominion and for many centuries possessed that land. Those descendants, the Turkish people, occupied Palestine 400 years before Britain took it in 1917. Esau’s descendants always have lusted for that land, central promise of the birthright! The Turks have truly lived by the sword!
The Lesson for Us
But let’s return to our story. Before Jacob was born, God had spoken to his mother and revealed to her that Jacob should receive the birthright. Instead, however, of waiting for the Eternal to bring this about in His own way, she schemed with Jacob to take it by lying and deception.
There is a lesson here for us today. As Isaac is, in a sense, a type of Christ, so Rebekah is, in a sense, a type of the Church, in which still dwells weakness and carnality.
Sometimes we become too much in a hurry. We ask the Almighty for things He has promised in His Word. Then we try to dictate to Him just how and when it shall be accomplished! We need to learn to “wait upon the Lord.” He always does things in His way, and in His own time. And He distinctly tells us that His ways are not our ways! Once we commit a thing to the Almighty, let us have not only the trust, but the respect, for the One so great, that we will leave the matter in His hands.
Had Jacob trusted the Eternal instead of taking this into his own hands in a wrong way, the birthright would have come to him more honorably. Under the circumstances, Jacob, which name means “supplanter,” had far more difficulty securing God’s blessing upon the precious possession than his predecessors.
But after years of trial and test—after finally wrestling all night with the angel (Genesis 32:24-29)—after confessing his name as “supplanter”—God bestowed His blessing upon Jacob, took away his reproachful name, and gave him a new, untainted name, Israel—which means “prevailer,” or “overcomer with God.”
And thus we see that through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promises were handed down to one man at a time. There was no branching out toward national growth until the days of Jacob. For three generations it had been a “one-man nation.” But Jacob had 12 sons, and through them the future great nation and company of nations were started on their way.
Reuben Lost the Birthright
The next legal inheritor of the birthright was Reuben, firstborn son of Israel, by his first wife, Leah. But Reuben, like Esau, lost it. And Joseph, 11th-born of Jacob, but firstborn of Rachel, his second and truly loved wife, received it.
The birthright belonged, legally, to Reuben, not Joseph. It is related in 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 how it fell to Joseph: “Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright [or, rsv, “so that he [Reuben] is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright”]. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthrightwasJoseph’s).”
So at this point the two divisions of the Abrahamic promises—the birthright, involving material and national promises, and the scepter, including the kingly and spiritual promises—were separated.
It is of first importance to keep in mind that the birthright, including the Promised Land now called Palestine, the assurance of multitudinous population, material and national prosperity, dominance over other nations, was now giventoJosephand his sons.
Mark that well! This birthright was not to be inherited by all the tribes of Israel! It was not given to the Jews! Only a part of the Israelites—the descendants of Joseph—was to inherit these tremendous national promises!
These material promises for this life, then, belonged to an altogether different tribe among the children of Israel than the scepter promise of the kingly line culminating in Jesus Christ, which spiritual promise belonged in the tribe of Judah!
These national promises of the multitudinous seed then became the possession of an altogether different tribe than the promise of the one seed, Christ, who sprang from Judah! This fact of the two sets of promises, stressed in the preceding chapter, ought to be plain and clear to every reader by now.
Fix it permanently in mind. It is one of the vital keys to Bible understanding!
At the time of Jacob’s death, he and his sons were living in Egypt. We assume, of course, that you are familiar with the story of how Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egypt; of how he there became food administrator and prime minister, next under the king and in actual rule of the nation; of the seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine, in which food had been stored only in Egypt under Joseph’s supervision; of the visit of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt in quest of food, and how Joseph induced them to bring their father and brother Benjamin down to Egypt; and finally, of the dramatic revelation of Joseph’s identity to his brethren, amid weeping and rejoicing.
And how prophetic that was! As we shall see, Joseph, in his descendants, shall soon once again have his true identity revealed to his brothers—and to the world. And how hidden from the world is that identity now!
Birthright to Joseph’s Sons
And now the time came to pass on the birthright to another generation. Let us re-create the dramatic scene.
It occurred in Egypt, after Joseph had succeeded in having his father brought there, as well as all his brothers. Joseph, remember, was prime minister of the nation.
It was reported to Joseph that Jacob, his father, was ill. He took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, sons of an Egyptian mother, and hastened to the dying patriarch’s bedside.
“[A]nd Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (Genesis 48:2-4).
Notice carefully these promises!
The birthright is about to be passed on to another generation. Notice that nothing whatsoever is said about all the families of the Earth being blessed in his seed—the one seed. Nothing is said about kings. Nothing is said about spiritual blessings whatever. These promises are those of the birthright. These promises are of multiple seed—a multitude of people—and possession of the Promised Land. Now let us continue.
“And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine” (verse 5).
Thus did Jacob adopt Joseph’s two sons, making them, legally, his own sons. This, no doubt, was done because they were half-blooded Egyptians. Israel made them his own adopted sons, so the birthright could be passed on to them. Notice, too, that in the first verse of this 48th chapter of Genesis, Manasseh’s name is mentioned first, because Manasseh was the elder. But old Jacob now mentioned the name of Ephraim first. Here we see supernatural guidance!
Jacob said to Joseph: “… Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see” (verses 9-10).
The birthright, remember, belongs legally to the firstborn, unless altered by divine intervention. The inheritor of the birthright, in receiving the blessing conferred upon him, should have had Jacob’s right hand resting upon his head. That is why “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 unto him” (verse 13).
Name Israel Given to Joseph’s Sons
But once again the Eternal intervened in conferring this momentous birthright! Jacob, though blind so he could not see the lads before him, crossed his hands, “And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my namebe named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (verses 14-16).
Let who grow into this promised multitude? Let whose descendants become that numerous seed, which shall number into billions? Not Judah, the father of the Jews—note it!—but EphraimandManasseh! Why have the eyes and understanding of church leaders and Bible students been blinded to this plain fact of Scripture?
Notice, Israel did not confer this blessing on just one, but on both—“Bless the lads,” he said. This blessing went upon them jointly. “Let my name be named on them” was part of this blessing. His name was Israel. Hence, it was the descendants of these lads, not the descendants of Judah, or the Jews, who were named Israel. How clear it is that the name Israel was to be indelibly stamped on Ephraim and Manasseh!
A shocking fact—and yet plainly proved, right before your eyes! And remember, this scripture needs no “interpretation” or “special meaning” or “hidden symbolism” for you to understand! Here is the plain, simple statement that Jacob’s name, which was changed to Israel, would become the very possession and property—the label on the peoples of Ephraim and Manasseh!
Who, then, according to your Bible, is the real Israel (racially and nationally) of today?
Ephraim and Manasseh!
Ephraim and Manasseh together received the right to the name Israel. It was to become the national name of their descendants. And their descendants were never Jews! Fix this fact firmly in your mind!
Thus it is that many of the prophecies about “Israel”
or “Jacob” do not refer to Jews or to any of the nations that are today the descendants of the other tribes of Israel. Mark that well! Few, indeed, are the clergymen, theologians, or professed Bible scholars who know that today. Many refuse to know it!
Together the descendants of these two lads, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to grow into the promised multitude—the nation and company of nations. These national blessings are poured upon them jointly. These are the collective blessings which the lads together received—but not the other tribes!
Jacob Crosses Hands
But at this juncture, Joseph noticed that Jacob’s right hand was not resting upon the head of the firstborn. He endeavored to remove it.
“Not so, my father,” said Joseph, “for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he [Manasseh] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude [or, company] of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:18-20). Here the promises are no longer collective, possessed jointly. Jacob now was prophesying as to the blessings of each, individually.
As we have seen from the preceding chapter, the numerous seed was to become “a nation, and a company of nations.” Now we see that the “nation” to become truly great is to spring from the seed of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. The “company of nations” is to grow out of Ephraim. Notice that, before dividing the promises, this prophetic blessing indicated plainly that the descendants of these lads should remain together, and together grow into a great multitude, then become separated, Manasseh becoming a great nation, and Ephraim a still greater company of nations.
Here, then, is yet another detail of the future national characteristics of these people. We must not look for the fulfillment among the sons of Judah. Nor among descendants of any other of the 12 tribes.
The promise of a future great nation and a company of nations, together great for multitude, rich in national material prosperity, possessing the “gates” of the Earth’s other nations, applies solely to these lads and the two tribes which sprang from them.
We might add here, too, that the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh never became such in the times of Bible history. Some might suppose the house of Judah was the nation, and the 10 tribes, the company of nations. But none of these promises went to Judah. Nor were they to be fulfilled in any of the other tribes, save Joseph’s double portion, the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh!
It was Ephraim who was to become the company, or multitude, of nations, and Manasseh who was to become the great single nation. And these promises never were fulfilled in them, in times of Bible history. If these promises ever have been fulfilled, we must look for their fulfillment between the close of Bible history and the present!
Prophecy for Today
While still in the spirit of prophecy, Jacob called his 12 sons together to tell them what their posterity should become “in the last days.“
Here are prophecies which should assist us in identifying the tribes of Israel today—for surely these are the last days! We shall here take space to consider only the destiny of Judah and of Joseph. Joseph’s descendants were actually divided into two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, and usually are called by those tribal names instead of the name “Joseph.” The fact that these tribes are here spoken of as “Joseph” plainly indicates that the prophecy applies jointly to Ephraim and Manasseh.
“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. … Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver [margin, ruler’s staff] from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:1, 8-10). The Hebrew word here translated Shiloh means the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, or the one “seed” of Abraham. (See Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible.)
Promised to Joseph
Regarding Joseph, the combined Ephraim-Manasseh tribes, at this present day, Israel prophesied: “Joseph is a fruitful bough [here is pictured the birthright promise of multitudes in fulfillment], even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches [margin, daughters] run over the wall” (verse 22).
In other words, in the last days we are to find the children of Joseph a numerous people, a great nation and a company of nations, whose daughters, or children, shall “run over the wall”—that is, run over, or past, the nation’s boundary—in other words, be a colonizing people! Further, in the prophecy for Joseph for these “last days”: “[T]he Almighty … shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from [margin: is prince among] his brethren” (verses 25-26).
We shall see that these descendants of Joseph, possessing these birthright promises—to become numerous, to colonize, thus spreading to the “north and the south, and east and the west,” until they encircled the globe, to possess the “gates” of enemy nations—never returned to Jerusalem from Assyria, where they were driven with the 10 tribes after 721 b.c., and were never again mixed with Jews from that time! Here are promises and prophecies which never have been fulfilled by the Jews, by the Church, by the American Indian, or any other fanciful counterparts of modern Israel. But they are fulfilled today if the Word of God is to stand!