Genesis 47–48: Jacob Adopts Joseph's Sons

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 39–40


Genesis 47 tells about what occurred during the last five years of the famine. The famine got so bad that people traded their personal property and land for food. Because of this trading, Pharaoh gradually became the owner of nearly everything in the country.By the end of Genesis 47, Jacob was ready to die. He had just one request: to be buried in the land God promised him, his fathers, and his posterity.Before he died, Jacob needed to assign birthright responsibilities. Generally, the firstborn son received the birthright blessing and responsibilities. Isaac, however, was not actually the first child of Abraham. Jacob was not the firstborn of Isaac. Joseph was nearly the last son born to Jacob. Yet all three of these men received the birthright blessings. In Genesis 48, Ephraim received the birthright instead of his older brother, Manasseh. There is no account of why Ephraim was selected. We know that God chooses according to His laws and purposes (see D&C 130:20–21). Although Ephraim received the birthright, the blessings of Manasseh are also great because of what was promised to all the posterity of Joseph (see Genesis 49:22–26; Deuteronomy 33:13–17). In addition, both of these sons were “adopted” by Jacob (see Genesis 48:5). Because of the birthright, Joseph was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance from his father, Jacob. Ephraim was assigned to preside, or lead, the family of Israel. Ephraim and Manasseh were each given one part of the double portion of inheritance and became two of the “tribes of Israel.”