Genesis 48

I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn

Jeremiah 31:9

Genesis 48:1 Behold, thy father is sick

Some of the most tender times in a family are those just prior to the passing of a loved one.  You can almost feel Joseph’s anxiety for his children to receive a blessing at the hand of father Jacob.  Did Joseph comprehend that his Father would be the Father of many nations? Did he understand how central his Father’s name would be in identifying believers of the one true God?  God is referred to as the God of Israel or the God of Jacob!  What an honor to be so designated!  Did he know that the Savior would come from his family?

Genesis 48:5 thy two sons . . . are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine

Jacob is adopting his grandsons as sons.  To Joseph’s sons were the firstborn of Israel’s blessings to be given instead of to Reuben and Simeon.  As the chilren of Israel leave Egypt and inherit the land of Canaan, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh are given the same standing as the tribes of Reuben and Simeon.  The tribe of Levi inherited no land, but with Joseph’s inheritance divided into two parts, Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s, there are still 12 land inheriting tribes in Canaan.  Thus, Ephraim and Manasseh were given the same standing as the 10 other tribes as if they were sons and not grandsons.

Ephraim’s tribe will eventually be the dominant tribe.  After the days of Solomon, Ephraim’s tribe leads the 10 northern tribes until they are taken captive by the Assyrians.

Erasus Snow

Reuben was the firstborn among the twelve sons of Jacob; (Gen. 49:3) but we are told in Chronicles, the 5th chapter, that Reuben forfeited this birthright by his adultery, and that God took it from him and conferred it upon the sons of Joseph; (1 Chr. 5:1-2) and of the sons of Joseph he chose Ephraim as the chief; and while the Patriarch Jacob, as we read in the 48th chapter of Genesis, adopted into his own family two of the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, (Gen. 48:5) yet he placed Ephraim the younger foremost, and blessed him with the chief blessing, (Gen. 48:20; Jer. 31:9) saying, that Manasseh shall be great, but Ephraim shall be greater than he; he shall become a multitude (Gen. 48:19) in the midst of the earth. (Gen. 48:16) Another Scripture also says concerning scattered Israel, that Ephraim has mixed himself among the people; (Hosea 7:8) and speaking of the gathering of Israel in the latter-day dispensation, the Prophet Jeremiah has said that God would gather Israel and lead them as a shepherd does his flock, and says he, I am Father to Israel, but Ephraim is my firstborn. (Jer. 31:9-10) (Journal of Discourses, 23:181)

Genesis 48:14  Israel stretched out his right hand . . . guiding his hands wittingly

John Taylor

Of the two sons of Joseph—Ephraim and Manasseh, the Lord said, Manasseh shall be great, but Ephraim shall be greater than he; and he shall become a multitude in the earth. (Gen. 48:19) And when the patriarch was blessing Joseph's two sons, though he was blind, he was careful to cross his hands in blessing the boys. Joseph observing what his father was doing, informed him that he was putting his right hand on the head of the younger boy, but the old man replied, I know it, my son.  The Spirit of the Lord prompted him to do as he did—to confer the greater blessing upon Ephraim, the younger brother. (D&C 133:34) It was for this reason that God spake through the mouth of Jeremiah concerning the gathering of Israel: “I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jer. 31:9) That is according to his purposes. He acknowledged and reconfirmed this birthright upon Ephraim the younger of the two sons of Joseph, when he referred to the dispensation of the fullness of times and the ushering in of its great work—when the Lord should set his hand to gather His people,  and be a father to Israel, even to Ephraim His firstborn. (Jer. 31:9, Jer. 30:1-24, Jer. 31:1-40)  (Journal of Discourses 21: 371-372)

Genesis 48:15  God . . . fed me all my life long unto this day

“The word translated fed means ‘shepherded,’ and here for the first time we come upon the beautiful metaphor so characteristic of the Bible.  God’s protecting goodness had intimate watchfulness of a shepherd for his flock.  Isa. 40:11 proclaims, ‘He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.’ in Jer. 31:10 and Ezek. 34:12 there is the same promise. Still more personal is Ps. 23, ‘the Lord is my Shepherd.’” (The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. by G. A. Buttrick et al [New York, Abingdon Press, 1952] vol. 1, p. 816)

Genesis 48:16   let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth

The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh have grown into great multitudes first when settling in the land of Canaan in the days of Joshua.  The prophecy has also been fulfilled in the descendants of Lehi and Ishmael  in the Book of Mormon. The last fulfillment will be known when the lost tribes, of which Ephraim and Manasseh are a part, bring their scriptures to Zion in the presence of the Lamb (D&C 133:25-34)

Erastus Snow

Whoever has read the Book of Mormon carefully will have learned that the remnants of the house of Joseph dwelt upon the American continent; (Alma 46:23-24, 3 Ne. 10:17, 3 Ne. 15:12-13) and that Lehi learned by searching the records of his fathers that were written upon the plates of brass, that he was of the lineage of Manasseh. (1 Ne. 5:14-16, Alma 10:3) The Prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi, was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgement is given us in the first Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; (Alma 10:3) but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis, which says: “And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the land.”  Thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent, with a sprinkling from the house of Judah, from Mulek descended, who left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi, and founded the colony afterwards known as Zarahemla and found by Mosiah thus making a combination, an intermixture of Ephraim and Manasseh with the remnants of Judah. (Journal of Discourses 23, 184-185)

Genesis 48:19-20 his younger brother shall be greater than he . . . and he set Ephraim before Manasseh

Ephraim became the dominant tribe of the kingdom of Israel in the days after Solomon.  In essence, his tribe took the leadership role that would have otherwise belonged to Reuben.  We can assume that the descendants of Ephraim have remained the dominant leaders of the lost tribes, as Ephraim was chief when the Assyrians sacked the kingdom of Israel, circa 720 BC.  When the records of the lost ten tribes are returned, we will then know what role Ephraim played in that history (2 Ne. 29:13).  

Yet there was the blood of Ephraim in Jerusalem after the kingdom of Israel was sacked.  It ran through the veins of Ishmael and then the Nephites and Lamanites.  Though the restoration occurred in the Gentile nation of the United States, the blood of Ephraim ran through the veins of the early leadership of the Church and still runs through the veins of the leadership today.  The early Brethren used to speak of the blood of Ephraim as “believing blood.” Loren C Dunn said,  “Those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ are the blood of Israel, and characteristic of the house of Israel is the ability to believe. Some have referred to it as ‘believing blood.’” (Conference Report, April, 1981, p25.)

Erastus Snow

God is determined to work a work that shall be a marvelous work and a wonder, (Isa. 29:14). . . He has declared that in the last days Ephraim shall be his firstborn; them he would gather together, and upon them he would place his holy Priesthood, and them he would use as his servants and as his instruments to push the people together from the ends of the earth. For Moses, while blessing the tribe of Joseph before his death, says: “His horns are like the horns of unicorns: and with them shall he push the people together from the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh.” (Deut. 33:13-17) (Journal of Discourses 23: 298-299)

Erastus Snow

The Gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all people and nations and tongues before the end can come; (Matt. 24:14) and by the preaching of the word and the administering of the ordinances of the Gospel, is Israel sought out from among the nations among which they are scattered, especially the seed of Ephraim unto whom the first promises appertain, the promise of the keys of the Priesthood. (Gen. 48:1-20 Jer. 31:9 D&C 133:34) For it must be remembered that of all the seed of Abraham whom the Lord chose to bear the keys pertaining to this holy order of Priesthood, the seed of Ephraim, the son of Joseph, were the first and chief. While the tribe of Levi, unto which Moses and Aaron belonged, was especially charged with the administration of affairs of the lesser Priesthood under the law, yet Ephraim, the peculiar and chosen son of Joseph, was the one whom the Lord had named by his own mouth and through the Prophets, to inherit the keys of presidency of this High Priesthood (D&C 107:9) after the order of the Son of God. In this also we see the fulfillment of the covenants and promises of God; not that Joseph by birthright inherited this blessing, for Reuben was the firstborn among the twelve sons of Jacob; but we are told in Chronicles, the 5th chapter, that Reuben forfeited this birthright by his adultery, and that God took it from him and conferred it upon the sons of Joseph; (1 Chr. 5:1-2) and of the sons of Joseph he chose Ephraim as the chief. (Journal of Discourses, 23: 183-184)

Wilford Woodruff

All the blessings that old father Jacob pronounced upon Joseph and upon the sons of Ephraim, his son and grandsons have rested upon them until this day. Joseph Smith was through that lineage. In his youth he was inspired of God, and was administered to by angels. Under their guidance and counsel he laid the foundation of this work, and lived long enough to receive all the keys necessary for bearing off this dispensation. He lived long enough to have these individuals administer unto him—John the Baptist, Peter, James and John the Apostles, Elisha and Elijah, who held the keys of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers; and Moroni, who held the keys of the stick of Joseph in the hands of Ephraim to come forth in the latter day, administered in person to Joseph Smith, and gave him these records and instructed him in the things of God from time to time until he was qualified and prepared to lay the foundation of this work.  (Journal of Discourses, 15:9)

Brigham Young

It is Ephraim that I have been searching for all the days of my preaching, and that is the blood which ran in my veins when I embraced the Gospel. If there are any of the other tribes of Israel mixed with the Gentiles we are also searching for them. Though the Gentiles are cut off, do not suppose that we are not going to preach the Gospel among the Gentile nations, for they are mingled with the house of Israel, and when we send to the nations we do not seek for the Gentiles, because they are disobedient and rebellious.  We want the blood of Jacob, and that of his father Isaac and Abraham, which runs in the veins of the people. There is a particle of it here, and another there, blessing the nations as predicted.

Take a family of ten children, for instance, and you may find nine of them purely of the Gentile stock, and one son or one daughter in that family who is purely of the blood of Ephraim. It was in the veins of the father or mother, and was reproduced in the son or daughter, while all the rest of the family are Gentiles. You may think that is singular, but it is true. It is the house of Israel we are after, and we care not whether they come from the east, the west, the north, or the south; from China, Russia, England, California, North or South America, or some other locality; and it is the very lad on whom father Jacob laid his hands, that will save the house of Israel. The Book of Mormon came to Ephraim, for Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite, and the Book of Mormon was revealed to him, and while he lived he made it his business to search for those who believed the Gospel.  (Journal of Discourses 2:268-269)