Vayechi - ויחי - "He lived"
When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” 20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” (Genesis 48:17-20)
This week’s Torah portion is arguably the most important portion in the book of Genesis. In the beginning of the Torah cycle, I said that the book of Genesis explains the entire Bible, and this week’s portion is critical for understanding God’s plan of salvation. When Israel is speaking with Joseph about Ephriam our English Bibles often translate the Hebrew term “Melo Ha Goyim” as “multitude of nations.” This is an incorrect translation of the term.
Melo Ha Goyim literally translated into English is - Fullness of the nations. The normal English translation would have you think that Ephraim’s decedents will create independent nations. Many theologians believe that this is only addressing the northern kingdom of Israel that was established in 1 Kings Chapter 12.
In 1 Kings 12, 10 of the 13 tribes separated from the southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. The southern kingdom changed their name to Judah, while the northern kingdom kept the name of Israel, but they were also known as Ephraim. After the Babylonian exile, Judah took the name Israel to represent the nation as a whole but also kept their identity as Judah and it remains the same to this day.
The Melo Ha Goyim of Ephraim cannot possibly refer to when Ephraim separated from Israel because Israel is not a part of the nations. According to the scriptures God never referred to Israel as part of the nations even after they separated themselves from Judah. In order to truly understand what Melo Ha Goyim means, we will need to examine biblical history and what God says about the northern kingdom of Israel.
The complete nation of Israel is destined to only have 5 kings. Saul was the first king of Israel (see 1 Samuel), after Saul came David and then David’s son Solomon ruled after him. After Solomon passed away, his son Rehoboam became the next king. Rehoboam did not rule for long before the 10 northern tribes defected to become a separate nation ruled by a man named Jehoboam.
When Ephraim defected from Judah, they did not turn their backs to God they simply began to worship Him their own way, very similar to what most of Christianity do today. God accepted the separation of Judah and Israel, but He did not accept the fact that Israel was not worshipping Him as Moses wrote for them to do. God sent prophets to try and reason with Israel, but each effort was to no avail.
Eventually God could no longer stand to see them sinning in His presence so around 770 B.C. He caused Assyria to begin attacking Israel (see I Chronicles 5:26, II Kings 15:29, II Kings 17:3-6 and II Kings 18:11-12). It took Assyria about 20 years to completely wipe out Israel. Assyria mixed Israel with other nations that they conquered to prevent organized rebellion.
Eventually the northern kingdom began to forget who they are and disappeared into the nations. This was something predestined by God (see Ezekiel chapter 6): However, God never completely turns His back on His people.
“If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me—41 I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 26:40-45)
God has never forgotten the northern kingdom, throughout the Bible He often talks about bringing them back.
The LORD said: Israel, I promise that someday all your tribes will again be my people, and I will be your God. 2 In the desert I was kind to those who escaped death. I gave them peace, and when the time is right, I'll do the same for you. I, the LORD, have spoken. (Jeremiah 31:1-2)
And He will lift up a standard for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. 13 Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim. 14 They will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east; they will possess Edom and Moab, and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them. 15 And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; and He will wave His hand over the River with His scorching wind; and He will strike it into seven streams and make men walk over dry-shod. 16 And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:12-16)
Here is an extensive list:
Isaiah 11:11, 12
Isaiah 27:12, 13
Jeremiah 30:3, 7-11
Ezekiel 20:34, 40-44
Ezekiel 28:25, 26
Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 12, 14
Hosea 1:10, 11
Joel 3:1, 17-21
Zechariah 8:7, 8
Zechariah 8:13, 23
God told Abraham that through his seed, the world will be blessed. It’s a no brainer to accept that the blessing God was talking about is Yeshua, but what if God had a more extensive idea for the blessing of the world? At one point in time, if people wanted to have a relationship with God they needed to go to Israel because that was where His temple was; that was where the manifestation of God resided.
God allowed the 10 northern tribes of Ephraim to get scattered into the world and forget who they are, He allowed the same thing to happen for most of the southern nation of Judah.
It appears that God’s plan for salvation involved Him creating a people that would integrate into the world, come to knowledge of Yeshua and as they turned back to God, these people would bring along those who are around them.
Genesis 48:17-20 is very important when it comes to getting a full understanding of God’s plan for salvation. Based on Genesis 48:17-20, it is reasonable to come to the conclusion that at some point in time at least 5 out of every 10 people walking the earth will be decedents of Ephraim, and when you examine the entire Bible this makes sense.
Throughout the entire Bible, the only blessing that the world gets is the promise that through Abraham’s seed, it will be blessed. Every other blessing, every other promise is all for Israel, even the New Covenant prophecies are only directed towards Israel, not the world. Is it possible that we are destined to be children of Abraham, not only in the spirit, but in the natural as well?
This is a question that only God can answer, but it would seem that this was a belief of the first century believers and this is evident due to the greeting that James gave in his book (see James 1:1).
At some point in time everything will be made clear, but for now let us accept that we are Abraham’s children because of the blood of Yeshua.