“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.‘”-Genesis 48:19
So we are following on the heels of my last post dealing with the “cross-handed blessing” that Jacob bestowed on Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.
By the way, although maybe obvious, I forgot and wanted to mention that “cross-handed” in this context refers to Jacob bucking the traditions of the times by putting the younger son Ephraim over the older son Manasseh.
I find it interesting that we see this same pattern occur over and over again with Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his older brothers.
So last time, I talked about how Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh to be his own children resulting in them having equal standing with his other 12 sons.
I also talked about how in Israel’s future history there will be some shuffling of the tribes which seemed to confuse the hell out of some folks.
To put it simply, Joseph and Levi will be taken out and Ephraim and Manasseh will be put in. (In Revelations, this changes again but that’s another discussion.)
The number 12 does not change.
So let’s continue to examine Jacob’s blessing by taking a careful look at the latter half of verse 19 where he prophesies that Ephraim “will become a group of nations”.
Other translations will say “a multitude of nations” or “grow into many nations“.
Well, instead of messing around with the English, let’s take a look at the original Hebrew.
The original Hebrew is “melo ha goyim“.
Literally speaking, this means “the fullness of the Gentiles“.
So Ephraim will become the “the fullness of the Gentile nations.”
But what the heck does that mean?!
The only way to answer that question is to examine what happened to Ephraim in history.
The first thing you need to understand is that although there are 12 tribes of Israel (not including the set apart tribe of Levi), due to political instability the nation of Israel would eventually split into two groups.
These are sometimes called the “two houses” or “two families” of Israel.
What happened was that after King Solomon died, the nation split in a terrible civil war into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom (comprised of 10 tribes) and the Southern Kingdom (comprised of 2 tribes-Judah and Benjamin).
Both kingdoms still considered themselves Israelites but ONLY THE NORTHERN KINGDOM CONTINUED CALLING ITSELF “ISRAEL”.
The Southern Kingdom stopped calling itself “Israel” and simply called itself “Judah”.
In fact, historically speaking, to be a “Jew” or “Jewish” means you can trace your bloodline to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Now among the 10 tribes that made up the Northern kingdom, it is important for you to know that Ephraim became the dominant tribe.
In fact, the tribe of Ephraim became so powerful, that the Northern Kingdom underwent a name change from “Israel” to “Ephraim”.
When we read the post-Solomon writings of the Prophets, we’ll notice that they actually switch back and forth, sometimes calling the Northern 10-tribe kingdom “Ephraim” and other times calling it “Israel”.
What’s important for you to know is that when they call the Northern Kingdom “Israel”, the southern 2-tribe Kingdom of Judah is NOT included in the meaning (Judah is treated quite separately by God).
So we have two separate kingdoms.
The northern kingdom of Ephraim and the southern kingdom of Judah.
So what happened to Ephraim?
Due to God’s judgement for their idolatry and rebellion, Ephraim was conquered by Assyria in around 725 BC.
It was a long drawn out process.
The whole ordeal lasted about 10 years but when all was said and done, the Ephraim-Israelites were scattered all over the approximate 120 nations that comprised the humongous Assyrian Empire.
They assimilated and intermarried with all of the variety of Gentile races that made up the Assyrian Empire until the vast majority of these Ephraim-Israelites lost their identity and became Gentiles.
We now know this event to be the “Story of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel”.
Again don’t forget this occurred due to God’s judgement on Ephraim due to their rebellion.
Assimilation was NOT forced on them.
The Ephraim-Israelites sought it!
They wanted to become Gentiles.
They wanted to be free from the constraints and requirements imposed on them by the Law of Moses.
So God said, “As you wish!“
Then soon afterwards He had Assyria take them over.
And now no one knows who or where these original Hebrew people are.
You, yourself, who are reading this, could have Hebrew blood in you from one of the 10 lost tribes of Ephraim-Israel but have absolutely no way of knowing it.
But God knows.
And His Word says somehow in someway, he is going to reunite those lost Ephraim-Israelites with the other house of Israel, the Kingdom of Judah.
So this answers about one half of the question concerning the meaning of the verse “Ephraim will become the fullness of the Gentiles“.
I’ll attempt to answer the second half of this question in the next post.
To be continued.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth
which God formerly concealed
but has now revealed,
so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do.
It is that stoniness,
to a degree,
has come upon Isra’el,
until the fullness of the Gentiles;
and that it is in this way that all Isra’el will be saved.”