The author of Hebrews fails to mention the blessing that Jacob bestowed on all the sons he bore through Leah, Rachel, and their two hand maids. He skips right to the two sons of Joseph who were half Egyptian.  Hebrews 11:21 says, “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” The future blessings bestowed by their father on the other eleven are recorded at the end of Genesis and were well known by the Jews of every generation. They each traced their lineage back to one of those tribes. But Joseph was the son he had received back from the dead! Like Jesus, Joseph was the “well beloved” son of his father. His two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh received Joseph’s blessing and had an equal share with the other 11 patriarchs. In Genesis 48:5, Jacob said that Joseph’s two sons would be his sons in the same way “Reuben and Simeon” are his sons.  Thus, we might say that Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh.

This is interesting because Joseph’s sons were not full descendants of Abraham. They were half Egyptian. In his commentary on this verse, Homer Kent suggests that this is the reason for only mentioning them and not the other sons. He writes, “No reason is given why these alone are considered. Perhaps it was partly because they had been born in Egypt to an Egyptian mother, and now Jacob’s action fully adopted them into the family.”[1] This pictures the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham that “through you, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”  We would see God adopting other Gentiles into his elect family again. Rahab, the harlot, was a Canaanite. Ruth was a Moabite. Yet both of these women were adopted as “children of God” and were even included in the line of the Messiah.

The “blessings” that Jacob bestowed upon all his sons, including Ephraim and Manasseh, concerned the future. It contained “good things” that would come to them in the future. The Greek word for blessing is “eulogeo” and literally translates as “good words.” We have taken it literally into the English language as “eulogy.” To us it means good things said about a person after they have died. In the case of Jacob and some others in the Bible, it’s used to promise good things in the future to those still living! The Gospel, euangelion, is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and resurrection from the dead. He is right now interceding for us in heaven while preparing our future home. The Gospel includes our adoption into the family of faith in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to “bless” all the nations on earth through him. In Christ, we too are adopted into God’s family. In essence God says, “as Reuben and Simeon are my heirs so too are you!”

[1] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1983), 233.