When we read of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, one would have naturally expected the line of priesthood to continue down to Joseph (being the favorite of his father and for all that he went through) and down to Ephraim -- and down that pedigree.

Surprisingly, the reading of the Scripture clearly shows that our Lord God would not move in that direction, when Psalm 78:67 says,

Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim.

I am still pondering over why the priesthood was shifted to the tribe of Levi. Why was the tabernacle of Joseph rejected?

  • I came to see Japheth and Joseph as 'not of this world' so they could not hold land. Japheth was under the tent of Shem; Joseph was 'overseer' in the land of Ham/Cham (Egypt). I don't see it as Joseph being 'rejected' - more like 'not a viable option'. The Levites were not the 'children of Levi' - but a result of the firstborn children of Egypt/Ham being killed. Num. 3:13, et al.
    – tblue
    Nov 17, 2018 at 4:12
  • This is a thoughtful comment, tblue. But I also observed that the 12 of them all had no land as of the time Joseph reigned in Egypt. Still wondering why all the blessings Jacob bestowed on Joseph could not afford him the privilege of divine selection. Nov 17, 2018 at 19:46
  • 1
    It was not a matter of Joseph vs Levi. The Bible verse in question states that Judah, not Levi, was favoured: "Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; but he chose the tribe of Judah" !! Jan 11, 2020 at 12:07

7 Answers 7


The birthright privileges in Jacob's family would have involved three aspects: (a) becoming a family leader (and later, king) and progenitor of Christ, (b) priesthood, (c) a double portion of land inheritance. See Deut 21:15-17, Gen 21:9-13, Judg 11:1, 2. Reuben, as the first-born, would have normally inherited all this but was disqualified (Gen 49:4) because of his incestuous sin. Therefore, the birthright was split between three other brothers.

Judah became family leader and progenitor of Christ. King David and his heirs were from Judah.

Levi inherited the priesthood (not Judah). Ex 40:15. The high priest had to be from the tribe of Levi.

Joseph inherited the double portion of land and had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were named half-tribes but their land was as large as any other tribe.

Lastly, Psalm 78:67 reads, "he rejected the tent of Joseph..." In Hebrew idiom, "tent" or "tabernacle" simply means home or dwelling place. Thus the Psalm simply says that God chose the land of Judah for the site of the temple, as opposed to the land of Joseph/Ephraim.


I would like to add something beautiful I realised a short while ago.

Simeon and Levi, were cursed.(it will turn beautiful later on, just be patient) Their sister, Dinah, was raped by Sichem, the son of Hemor, the lord of that land(genesis 34). Hemor wanted to make amends, and let his son marry her.(that's how things were done then).
The sons of Jacob agreed, on the condition that all the men of his city would be circumcised. Hemor agreed to that. when they were all circumcised and weak from the bloodloss, Simeon and Levi came in and murdered all the men in that city.

Jacob cursed them for that, and later on his deathbed when he blesses all his sons(genesis 49). Simeon and Levi are cursed by Jacob, they will be scattered among the other tribes.

Now we go a few centuries later, and at Sinai all tribes, but the tribe of Levi, bow for the golden calf. For this they get the blessing that they will be the priests of Israel.

How are these related? The curse came true. They never got their own plot of land, but where scattered in priest cities, throughout all of Israel. I think this is a beautiful story which shows that even a curse can turn into a blessing, you won't be punished for the deeds of someone long ago, your destiny in this sense is your own.

About Simeon: his tribe was merged with the tribe of Judah, I don't really know why exactly.

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Because Joseph was Egyptian. He was the vizier of Egypt, after all. The only reason that Ephraim and Manasseh exist, is because of the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh gave Joseph his wife, because Pharaoh saw that Joseph was like one of his own, an Egyptian.

Moses actually explains this in Exodus 21:1-6, after the 10 Commandments are given. Read those verses. When a Master gives his slave a wife, that wife and the children will belong to the Master, not the slave. Since the Master is the one who gave the wife to the slave. Joseph was always under the authority of Pharaoh, even though he was vizier. Joseph had to ask permission to the Egyptian state in Genesis 50 in order to go bury Jacob, proving that Joseph never had full authority. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh would never be able to leave Egypt, since their existence is due to the Pharaoh.

This is why the Redeemer - Moses, is not from the lineage of Joseph, but from Levi. In Genesis 34, Levi proves himself to rebel against kings, such as Hamor and Shechem. Levi believed in the welfare of family and law, since he teamed up with Simeon for the well-being of their sister Dinah. That's a rare sense of unity, since brothers don't usually team up together in the book of Genesis. Joseph on the other hand, only thought of himself - hence being so focused on his dreams.

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    – Dottard
    Jan 11, 2021 at 22:00

In spite of this favored start the tribe of Ephraim produced a notoriously bad record. It grumbled against its inheritance in the land; it “vehemently tried to pick a quarrel with” Gideon; it fought against Jephthah; and concerning it we further read: “The sons of Ephraim, though armed shooters of the bow, retreated in the day of fight.” No wonder that Jehovah “proceeded to reject the tent of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim he did not choose. But he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.”—See the following texts Josh. 17:14, 15; Judg. 8:1; 12:1-6; Ps. 78:9, 67, 68.



May this help?

Aaron was of the tribe of Levi.

Exodus 6:16-20 These are the names of the sons of Leʹvi, according to their family descents: Gerʹshon, Koʹhath, and Me·rarʹi. The length of Leʹvi’s life was 137 years. 17 The sons of Gerʹshon were Libʹni and Shimʹe·i, according to their families. 18 The sons of Koʹhath were Amʹram, Izʹhar, Hebʹron, and Uzʹzi·el. The length of Koʹhath’s life was 133 years. 19 The sons of Me·rarʹi were Mahʹli and Muʹshi. These were the families of the Levites, according to their family descents. 20 Now Amʹram took Jochʹe·bed, his father’s sister, as his wife. She bore him Aaron and Moses. The length of Amʹram’s life was 137 years.

1 Chronicles 23:27, 28 For according to the last instructions of David, the Levites from 20 years old and up were numbered. 28 Their function was to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house . . .

Exodus 4:14 “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother?. . .

1 Chronicles 24:1, 2 Now the divisions of the descendants of Aaron were these: The sons of Aaron were Naʹdab, A·biʹhu, El·e·aʹzar, and Ithʹa·mar. 2 However, Naʹdab and A·biʹhu died before their father, and they did not have any sons; but El·e·aʹzar and Ithʹa·mar continued to serve as priests.

  • You have stated a series of correct fact. But what is you conclusion and answer to the question?
    – user25930
    Jul 23, 2019 at 21:51

The tabernacle of Joseph seems to refer to the tabernacle of Shiloh, Ephraim mentioned earlier in the Psalm (v. 60). According to Jer. 7:12, this is the place where God originally caused his name to dwell, lit. "to tabernacle" (cf. Deut. 12:5, 11; 14:23; 16:2,6, 11; 26:2). Indeed, the structure in Shiloh is referred to as "the temple (הֵיכַל, hêḵal) of the LORD" (1 Sam. 1:9; 3:3) as well as "the house of the LORD" (e.g., 1 Sam. 1:7, 24; 3:15). According to Ps. 78:56–60 and to Jer. 7:12, the reason God forsook and rejected the tabernacle of Shiloh/Joseph was due to (Northern) Israel's idolatry and wickedness. Based on this context, it seems that what the Psalmist means by "He did not choose the tribe of Ephraim" is that He did not choose Ephraim again after their rebellion and the destruction of Shiloh but that he instead chose the tribe of Judah to house his sanctuary.


Here is what I think on this: Think about how all throughout the Bible it's always the outsider that appreciates God's intervention more than those who are right there as part of the family of God. Jesus taught about this when he preached in Capernaum:

But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. (Luke 4:25‭-‬27 ESV)

Then When Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, he told his questioner to go and do like the Samaritan in the story, in other words, to realize that they weren't deserving and appreciate their salvation enough to do something about it.

It seems like I'm not answering the question but here is what I think happened. I think it's all about identity. Joseph was (and his identity was) "the good guy". So this is what the tribes of Joseph had as their identity and they eventually became too familiar, too proud, and too connected to their identity of being good. But this was not Judah's identity. Judah knew he was a bad guy. Do you ever wonder why that chapter about Judah shows up, weirdly inserted into the story of Joseph? It provides quite a contrast between Joseph who seemingly never sinned and Judah who slept with his own daughter-in-law who he thought was a prostitute. Judah did repent and never slept with her again after his one mistake. So Judah knew he wasn't righteous and deserving of God's grace and this became their tribal identity. And we know that Judah repented of his selfish way of living because he was the one brother that was ready to go to prison in Benjamin's stead.

Judah was a tribe of people that knew they were undeserving sinners so they were thankful like the 10th leper that they were included in God's family. This is why I believe God rejects Ephraim of Joseph and instead chooses Judah. We're all undeserving sinners but like the two men praying in the temple, God rejects the proud and chooses the humble.

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