Fathers in the Bible: Joseph, the Protective Father

While living in Egypt, Joseph took a wife and had two sons. 

His sons were Manasseh which means to forget and Ephraim, meaning fruitful.

The most we learn about Joseph as a father, is when he takes them to visit his own father Israel {Jacob}.

“The time drawing nigh that Israel must die… Joseph, hearing of his father’s sickness, goes to visit him, and takes his two sons with him… Jacob solemnly adopts his two sons, and takes them for his own… He blesses them… He explains and justifies the crossing of his hands in blessing them… He leaves a particular legacy to Joseph.”  {Matthew Henry Commentary}

“Some time later Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him.”  {Genesis 48:1}

Manasseh means causing to forget and Ephraim means fruitful.  Completely opposite names for these two men and the tribes they would become.

“Pious parents are desirous of a blessing, not only for themselves, but for their children. “O that they may live before God!” Joseph had been, above all his brethren, kind to his father, and therefore had reason to expect particular favour from him.” {Matthew Henry Commentary}

““Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. 6 Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers.”   {Genesis 48:5-6}

Israel claims his favorite sons two sons, born before he {Israel} arrived in Egypt as his own.

“And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.”   {Genesis 48:13-14}

Joseph thought his father made a mistake, but giving greater blessing and prominence to the older son over the younger.  However, his father made it clear he knew what he was doing.

Joseph was reunited with his brothers and forgave them

“Thus the aged dying patriarch teaches these young persons, now that they were of age (being about twenty-one years old), not to look upon Egypt as their home, nor to incorporate themselves with the Egyptians, but to take their lot with the people of God…Jacob will have Ephraim and Manasseh to believe that it is better to be low and in the church than high and out of it, to be called by the name of poor Jacob than to be called by the name of rich Joseph.”  {Matthew Henry Commentary}

When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”   {Genesis 48:17-18}

Pharoah brought Joseph from prison and put in charge of grain

The importance of this is repeated again. However, as a father notice how Joseph stands up for his sons and what he feels is right and just.

19 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.” 20 He blessed them that day.” {Genesis 48:19}”

“In blessing them, he crossed hands. Joseph placed them so as that Jacob’s right hand should be put on the head of Manasseh the elder, Gen. 48:12, 13. But Jacob would put it on the head of Ephraim the younger, Gen. 48:14. This displeased Joseph, who was willing to support the reputation of his first-born, and would therefore have removed his father’s hands, Gen. 48:17, 18. But Jacob gave him to understand that he know what he did, and that he did it not by mistake, nor in a humour, nor from a partial affection to one more than the other, but from a spirit of prophecy, and in compliance with the divine counsels. Manasseh should be great, but truly Ephraim should be greater. When the tribes were mustered in the wilderness, Ephraim was more numerous than Manasseh, and had the standard of that squadron “  {Matthew Henry Commentary}

Jacob took his entire family with him to reunite with his son Joseph

Israel offers a blessings.

“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”  So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.”   {Genesis 48:20}

Joseph proved he was a protective father in looking out for his oldest son.

“When he confers the blessing and name of Abraham and Isaac upon them he recommends the pattern and example of Abraham and Isaac to them, Gen. 48:15. He calls God the God before whom his fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, that is, in whom they believed, whom they observed and obeyed, and with whom they kept up communion in instituted ordinances, according to the condition of the covenant.”  {Matthew Henry Commentary}

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