More on the Blessing to Joseph and Ephraim (18 November 2015, 6 Kislev, 5776)
Before he died Jacob (Israel) summoned Joseph and his two sons to his bedside.
He gave them a special blessing of their own, described in Genesis chapter 48.
Later he blessed all of his sons and once again gave Joseph a blessing (Genesis 49:6) .
In the blessings described in Genesis 48 Jacob is referred to under his name "Israel".
14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 He blessed Joseph, and said,
The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
And may my name live on in them,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraims head, it displeased him; and he grasped his fathers hand to remove it from Ephraims head to Manassehs head. 18 Joseph said to his father, 'Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.' 19 But his father refused and said, 'I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.'
20 He blessed them that day, saying,
'By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying,
'May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!''
Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
Israel was blessing Joseph and his sons.
He was calling on the Angel to continue the blessings. This implies that the full force of the blessings would be felt outside of the Land of Israel.
[Within the Land of Israel the Almighty Himself makes HIS Presence felt more forcefully. Outside of the Land Angelic intermediaries are more appropriate.
See: "A Strange Brotherhood"]
This hints at the blessing needing to be fulfilled while the sons of Israel would be in Exile.
Israel asked the his name and the name of his fathers be called upon the children.
This was partly fulfilled by the names for Scythians (Isak-guli, etc) derived from Isaac and later national nicknames such as "Yank" from Jacob being applied to the descendants of Joseph.
The blessing however called for one name to be applied to them all. This was the name "Hebrew" which indeed historically was used for the Celtic Peoples under the forms, "Hiberi", "Iberi", etc.
[All this was discussed at greater length in Hebrew Joe .]
"And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth" (Genesis 48:16).
Looking at the Hebrew text we may render this last verse in a more literal manner.
"And may they swarm like fishes ["Va-yidgu"] into a majority [le-rov] in the midst of the earth" (Genesis 48:16).
Does this mean that descendants of Joseph will eventually become the majority population in the world?
Perhaps they will in the future.
The expression translated as "into a majority" from the Hebrew "le-rov" may also be understood to mean the main power, the determining element.
The blessing goes on. It says in effect that Manasseh would also become a great nation AFTER Ephraim, i.e. first Ephraim then Manasseh.
The descendants of Ephraim "shall become a multitude of nations."
In Hebrew the words translated as a "multitude of nations" are "Maloe [=fullness] HaGoyim [=of the nations]." The King James Version translates Genesis 48:19: "his [i.e. Ephraim's] seed shall become a multitude of nations". One major Rabbinical Commentator, with Abraham Iben Ezra (1084-1164), said the expression meant: "many peoples will come out of him", i.e. "a multitude of nations" just like the King James Version has rendered it.
Onkelos (1st century CE) translated the words into Aramaic as "Banohi yihon Shalitin beAmmaia", i.e. "his sons shall be rulers over peoples", or "rulers over the peoples".
Remember literally the verse says "his seed will be the fullness of nations": The Midrash Rabah (97;7) takes an illustrative approach. The Midrash which is quoted by Rashi says that the fame or renown of his seed will be all over the world, fill up the world, as it was in the time of Joshua who caused the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:13).
Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882/892-942) said it means his seed will be full-fledged nations.
Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1234) said the meaning is "world-filling nations".
The Aramaic Paraphrase of Yehonathan ben Uzziel (incorporating material from ca. 100 BCE to 700 CE) which stresses legendary sources says it means his seed will be famous or great among the nations.
Taking all the above into cognizance we have a tendency to emphasize an interaction with the nations.
The Hebrew language and Principles of Biblical Exegesis allow us to accept ALL of the above opinions as pertinent and as expressing different aspects of the same reality.
The differing opinions do not contradict but rather supplement and complement each other.
The Hebrew verse actually also may be translated as saying:
"His seed will be involved with the fullness of the nations. The nations will need him to complete themselves. They cannot give expression to themselves without him. He will rule over them!!"