Journey Through The Scriptures

The Twelve Tribes of Israel, Part II

Lesson 6: Blessed Sons of Joseph

(Scripture to Read: Genesis 49:22–26; Deuteronomy 33:13–17; Judges 1:22–25, 35)

As the patriarch Jacob was dying, he blessed Manasseh and Ephraim, the two sons of Joseph born to him during his years in Egypt. These two groups were given full status as tribes, and they soon replaced Joseph in the listings of the twelve tribes. The Levites were often omitted from the list of the tribes because they did not have an inheritance of land, and Simeon was omitted from at least one list because this tribe was absorbed by Judah. Manasseh was a war-like and strong tribe from whom both Gideon and Jephthah, judges and warriors in Israel, were descended.

Both tribes were greatly blessed – but because Jacob blessed the younger Ephraim over the firstborn Manasseh, the Ephraimites became dominant in Israel – so much so, in fact, that in later times the name Ephraim became synonymous with Israel herself. Moses’ song of blessing asked God to bless the sons of Joseph materially and militarily. The Ephraimites became very successful, but their prosperity apparently led to spiritual apathy, and the prophet Hosea spoke of the judgment that would befall Ephraim (Hosea 9:13).

Study Questions

  1. What was significant about Jacob preferring Ephraim over Manasseh?
  2. How could the tribe of Ephraim become synonymous with Israel?
  3. Why did Hosea warn that God would bring such stern judgment on Ephraim? (Hint: Read Hosea 9:14 - 18)

Something to Think About

We have been learning that each of the tribes of Israel had its own strengths and weaknesses, just as we do today. We all have areas where we are strong and capable of honoring God. We need to cultivate these areas, while keeping alert to our areas of weakness so that they do not become a stumbling block to us in our desire to follow God and enjoy His blessings.