We read in Genesis 48:5 NKJV

5 And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.

I understand that Jacob blessed Joseph's two sons, but why did he claim them as his? Jacob seems to have had plenty of his own sons. Was this a common practice? What was the reason for claiming them?

2 Answers 2


This provisions of claiming Joseph's children as his own was part of the birthright provisions (taken from Reuben because of his sin, Gen 49:4, 1 Chron 5:2) which were three:

  • Double portion of father property - this went to Joseph and so his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh each became a tribe in their own right
  • priesthood went to Levi who did not receive any land inheritance
  • leadership (and ultimately, kingship) went to Judah.

This is summarized in 1 Chron 5:1, 2 -

These were the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel. Though he was the firstborn, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel, because Reuben defiled his father’s bed. So he is not reckoned according to birthright. And though Judah prevailed over his brothers and a ruler came from him, the birthright belonged to Joseph.

Commenting on Gen 48:5, Ellicott says this:

(5) As Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.—That is, Ephraim shall be regarded as my firstborn, and Manasseh as my second son. This was undoubtedly the case; for though “Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the prince (and of him the Messiah), yet the birthright was Joseph’s” (1Chronicles 5:2). The legal right of the firstborn was a double share of the father’s goods. This was bestowed upon Joseph in giving him two tribes, and to the other· sons but one. It was in a spiritual sense, and with reference to the promise that all mankind should be blessed in Jacob’s seed, that the birthright was Judah’s. As Joseph was the son of the chief and best-beloved wife, he had a sort of claim to the birthright; but in agreement with the law afterwards specially enacted (Deuteronomy 21:15-17), Jacob acknowledges that the right had belonged to Reuben, but excludes him from the possession of it as the penalty of his great and terrible sin. Simeon and Levi are next passed over, because of their cruelty, and so Judah takes Reuben’s place.

The pulpit commentary is the same:

as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine - literally, Ephraim and Manasseh, as Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine. The double portion thus conferred upon Joseph in the persons of his son? was a practical investiture of him with the birthright of which Reuben had been deprived (1 Chronicles 5:1), in respect at least of the inheritance; in respect of the honor of being the next connecting link in the chain of redemption, leading on and down to the coming of the Savior, the birthright appears to have been transferred to Judah (Genesis 49:8-10).

  • +1. This was very clear and I appreciate it! Thank you! I'm still curious if this was a common practice.
    – Jason_
    Jan 16 at 17:18

Genesis 46:1-27 New American Standard Bible

So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also assuredly bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.” Then Jacob left Beersheba, and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and their possessions, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt. Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. And the sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. And the sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. And the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. And the sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul. And the sons of Issachar: Tola, Puvvah, Iob, and Shimron. And the sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah; all his sons and his daughters numbered thirty-three. And the sons of Gad: Ziphion, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, and Areli. And the sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, and their sister Serah. And the sons of Beriah: Heber and Malchiel. These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Leah; and she bore to Jacob these sixteen persons. The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. Now to Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. And the sons of Benjamin: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob; there were fourteen persons in all. And the sons of Dan: Hushim. And the sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. These are the sons of Bilhah, whom Laban gave to his daughter Rachel, and she bore these to Jacob; there were seven persons in all. All the people belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons, were sixty-six persons in all, and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two; all the people of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.

In the rich tapestry of Egyptian mythology, a captivating narrative unfolds, woven with the threads of gods and goddesses, power struggles, and the eternal dance between order and chaos. At the heart of this mystical saga are the iconic figures of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Horus, whose stories intertwine to shape the very fabric of the ancient Egyptian belief system.

The tale begins with Osiris, a revered god associated with fertility, agriculture, and the afterlife. His brother, Set, harbors jealousy and resentment, leading to a fateful confrontation that changes the course of divine history. Set's actions result in tragedy for Osiris, setting the stage for his sister and wife, Isis, to embark on a quest to restore her husband to life.

Isis's unwavering determination and powerful magic eventually lead to the resurrection of Osiris, and their union gives rise to Horus, a significant deity associated with kingship and protection. However, the narrative doesn't merely revolve around individual deities; it delves into overarching themes of death, rebirth, and the cyclical nature of existence.

As the gods navigate through realms of life, death, and divine succession, the Egyptian mythology encapsulates profound insights into the human condition and the cosmic order. The enduring legacy of Osiris, Set, Isis, and Horus echoes through the ages, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural and religious tapestry of ancient Egypt.

Let's delve a bit more into this story:

  1. Assassination of Osiris by Set: Set, the god of disorder and chaos, felt envious of Osiris, the god of vegetation, fertility, and judgment. Set plotted a deceitful trap during a celebration and successfully trapped Osiris in a sarcophagus, which was then thrown into the Nile River.

  2. Division of Osiris' Body: To ensure Osiris could not be resurrected, Set divided Osiris' body into 14 pieces and scattered them across Egypt. However, Isis, the devoted wife of Osiris, with the help of her sister Nephthys, managed to find and reunite all the pieces except the phallus, which had been lost in the river.

  3. Resurrection of Osiris: Even without finding the phallus, Isis managed to resurrect Osiris through magic. In some versions of the myth, the lost phallus is replaced by a plant stem, symbolizing fertility and regeneration.

  4. Birth of Horus: After resurrection, Osiris and Isis conceived Horus. Isis transformed into a bird (typically represented as a hawk) to protect the newborn and prevent Set from discovering him.

  5. Horus' Revenge: When he grew up, Horus avenged his father's death by confronting Set. After a series of disputes and conflicts, Horus defeated Set, becoming the ruler of Egypt.

  6. Role of Osiris in the Underworld: Despite his death, Osiris did not completely disappear. After resurrection, he went on to rule the underworld, becoming associated with the afterlife and the judgment of souls.

This story is rich in symbolism and reflects Egyptian belief in the afterlife, divine justice, and the renewal of nature. Each character plays a crucial role in the mythology, contributing to the understanding of Egyptian cosmology.

Joseph, the son of Isaac, assumed the role of governor in Egypt, skillfully managing the economy during a period of famine. He entered into matrimony with Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, a revered priest of On. This union not only strengthened the ties between Joseph and the local authorities but also significantly enhanced his standing and influence in Egypt.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 1, a notable recurrence of the number 14 is observed within the genealogy, totaling 42 generations.

Matthew 1:1-17 New American Standard Bible

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers. Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, and Hezron fathered Ram. Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, and Nahshon fathered Salmon. Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, and Obed fathered Jesse. 6 Jesse fathered David the king. David fathered Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, and Abijah fathered Asa. Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, and Joram fathered Uzziah. Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, and Ahaz fathered Hezekiah. Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, and Amon fathered Josiah. Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah fathered Shealtiel, and Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel fathered Abihud, Abihud fathered Eliakim, and Eliakim fathered Azor. Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, and Achim fathered Eliud. Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, and Matthan fathered Jacob. 16 Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

This numerical pattern, equivalent to 42 NOMOS, draws an intriguing connection to the ancient territorial organization of Egypt. NOMOS represented administrative subdivisions in the Egyptian territory, each governed by a nomarch. Over time, these various NOMOS were centralized under the authority of an emperor.

Tracing back to the year 3200 B.C., Menes, the ruler of Upper Egypt, emerges as a central figure in this unification process. He played a pivotal role in subordinating 42 NOMOS, marking the commencement of the grand Egyptian Empire. This historical event signifies the transition from a fragmented political structure to a concentration of power, which proved pivotal for the empire's enduring development and influence in the region.

Thus, the correlation between the 42 generations mentioned in Matthew and the 42 NOMOS in the Egyptian context underscores a fascinating symbolic convergence, providing an intriguing perspective on the history and events that shaped these ancient civilizations.

Jesus himself had a profound connection with Egypt, as evidenced by his early escape to and concealment in the region. In his childhood, he sought refuge in Egypt, eluding the threats to his life:

Matthew 2:13-15 King James Version

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

This narrative establishes a close link between Jesus and the land of the pharaohs.

Moreover, there are indications that Jesus sought shelter in Ephraim, as suggested by the biblical passage in John 11:54.

John 11:54 New International Version

Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

These events paint a nuanced picture of Jesus' life, unfolding across different geographic territories and highlighting the diversity of his experiences.

Upon examining the Gospels, one can discern influences from Egyptian mythology, with symbolic elements enriching the narratives. The depiction of the dove, for instance, echoes Egyptian mythology where the bird symbolizes renewal and spirituality.

Another example is the metaphor of the wheat grain found in the Gospels, where it falls to the ground, dies, and, in its death, yields abundant fruit. This image resonates with Egyptian concepts of rebirth and fertility, adding a deeper layer of meaning to Jesus' words.

In Egyptian mythology, Set is often associated with desolation, the desert, and solitude. On the other hand, Esau is portrayed in the Bible as a man of the field, connected to hunting and the external world. Both characters, Set and Esau, share a sense of detachment or distance from the family or divine core, symbolizing a wild and uprooted nature.

Jacob, in the Bible, is known for his complex story, including the struggle with the angel and the change of his name to Israel. Osiris, in Egyptian mythology, is a figure associated with death and rebirth, symbolizing fertility and regeneration. Both Jacob and Osiris represent aspects of spiritual transformation and renewal in their respective traditions, suggesting a symbolic connection between these mythological figures.

Jacob had 12 sons and a daughter, Dinah, along with Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, totaling 14 male descendants. This creates an interesting correspondence with the mentioned 14 pieces. Jacob's division into 14 parts can be interpreted as a symbolization of the spread and multiplication of his descendants, with each son representing a unique part of the whole, reflecting the diversity and growth of Jacob's lineage.

Psalm 78:67-68 New International Version

Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; but he chose the tribe of Judah,Mount Zion, which he loved.

The New Testament reaches out to the Gentiles, including Egypt.

Isaiah 19:20-21 King James Version

And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it.

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