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Why Did Jacob Adopt Ephraim And Manasseh?

Of Jacob's two wives (Rachel and Leah) and two concubines (Bilhah and Zilpah), Rachel was the only one that Jacob truly loved - or wanted to marry. He married Leah only as the result of a deception:

"29:25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?" (Genesis 29:25 KJV)

It was through Rachel and Leah's insistence, not Jacob's, that two concubines were included in the multi-wife family:

"30:1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 30:2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 30:3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her." (Genesis 30:1-3 KJV)

"30:9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife." (Genesis 30:9 KJV)

"Thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine ... when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me"

Rachel was the first of the four women to die, at a young age, while giving birth to Jacob's son Benjamin, not long after the family group arrived in what would become known as the land of Israel (Rachel's firstborn son, Joseph, was born, like all of the other children of Jacob except Benjamin, while they were with Laban in Syria - see Jacob's Family). Rachel was buried near Bethlehem (her tomb is shown in the photo).

The Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem

"35:16 And they journeyed from Bethel [see Jacob's Vow At Bethel and Jacob's Return To Bethel]; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed [see also Travail], and she had hard labour. 35:17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 35:18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, for she died, that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.

35:19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 35:20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." (Genesis 35:16-20 KJV)

After Rachel's death, Jacob favored her two sons, particularly Joseph, which caused jealousy from his other sons. It was that animosity that caused them to sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt - and then tell Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. To Jacob, it was another grievous blow for Rachel - first the death of Rachel herself, and then the seeming death of her son Joseph (Jacob did not seem to favor Benjamin as much as Joseph, perhaps faulting the innocent child for the death of his mother).

"37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. 37:4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him." (Genesis 37:3-4 KJV)

When it was later made known that Jacob was not only alive but had, with the LORD's help, risen to become the ruler of Egypt (see The Israelite Patriarchs - Joseph), second only to the Pharaoh, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt to escape a famine. Jacob remained there until he died of old age. But before he died, Jacob adopted his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, as sons. Apart from the LORD's involvement in the choice of Ephraim and Manasseh (see the Fact Finder question below), why did Jacob want to do that?

Ephraim and Manasseh As we read in the verse quotes above, Jacob's wives Rachel and Leah both had children through their maidservants, appointing them as surrogate mothers e.g. "30:3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her" (Genesis 30:3 KJV). Jacob was apparently doing the same thing - having more children with his beloved wife Rachel, after she died at a young age, by means of the sons of Rachel's son Joseph.

"48:1 And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 48:2 And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.

48:3 And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, 48:4 And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.

48:5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. 48:6 And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. 48:7 And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem." (Genesis 48:1-7 KJV)

Fact Finder: What was the LORD's involvement in the choosing of Ephraim and Manasseh (see also The Israelite Patriarchs - Ephraim and The Israelite Patriarchs - Manasseh)?
See notes for Genesis 48 in Genesis 48-50


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