Thursday, July 6, 2017

Block 74 Ephraim

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“Pride goes before destruction.” Proverbs 16:18
On his deathbed, Jacob adopted Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph’s two sons so they might receive shares of Jacob’s inheritance.  In this way, Jacob was able to give a double portion of inheritance to Joseph’s sons, an inheritance typically given to the oldest son.  When he adopted Joseph’s sons, he placed them before his oldest son, Ruben, who had disappointed him very much.  On his deathbed, Joseph positioned his sons, Manasseh (Joseph’s oldest) on Jacob’s right and Ephraim on his left.  But before Jacob delivered his final blessing, he crossed his arms and laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s head.  Joseph thought his father was confused, so he quickly switch the hands on his sons’ heads.  Jacob removed his hands, crossed his arms again and continued with his blessing. 
Jacob promised that Manasseh would become ancestor to a great nation, but Ephraim would become ancestor to an even greater nation.  As such, Ephraim received the blessing that was reserved for Jacob’s first-born son.  True to his word, Ephraim’s tribe was the strongest tribe of the northern kingdom.  Joshua, one of Ephraim’s descendants, was chosen to lead God’s people into the Promised Land.  Indeed, Ephraim became ancestor to a great nation.  The first temple was built by Ephraim’s tribe, and the tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant stored there.
But the tribe was not without flaws.  They, too, failed to drive the Canaanites out of the Promised Land.  Although they were valiant warriors, the Ephraimites often demonstrated pride and selfishness. Their pride got the best of them when they challenged a southern tribe in civil war and lost 42,000 warriors.  Pride and jealousy can easily get the best of us as well.  We should always remember that excessive pride can lead to destruction.  Luckily, like the tribe Ephraim, God loves us despite our failings.  He will continue to guide us to repentance so that we may be in harmony with Him.

I chose a variation of the Grandmother’s Pride block to represent Ephraim, who was chosen as his grandfather’s favorite.  Ephraim’s tribe demonstrated pride and selfishness.

Block 73 Manasseh

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“God is fair and just.” Psalm 25:8
So if Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, then why was he the only son who was left out of his father’s deathbed gifts of inheritance?  Typically, the eldest son received his father’s blessing and a double portion of the inheritance.  But sometimes, fathers justified deviating from the norm.  That’s exactly what happened in Joseph’s case.  Because he was Jacob’s favorite (but not firstborn) son, Jacob wanted to give him the double portion, but knew that this could prove to be problematic with the other brothers.  So Jacob devised a way around the expectation.  Before he died, Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and gave them each a portion of the inheritance —essentially dividing Joseph’s double portion between the two.
Manasseh was born in Egypt to Joseph while Joseph was estranged from his family.  The name Manasseh means “makes to forget,” and it is believed that Joseph chose the name because he hoped that Manasseh would help him forget all of his troubles that he had endured at the hands of his brothers.  Even though Manasseh was Joseph’s first born, he did not receive Jacob’s right hand and blessing.  That was given to his brother (see Block 74 Ephraim).  Manasseh was given land that was split by the Jordan river.  The two sides were almost completely disconnected and difficult to lead.  Both sides had great natural water resources, so both sides were very valuable to the northern kingdom.  Both sides also controlled and defended mountain passes that were important for trade routes. The land west of the Jordan was Canaan.  Manasseh was expected to conquer the Canaanites, but he was hesitant to go into battle, because he was afraid of defeat.  Although God was disappointed in Manasseh, he did not punish him.  Several generations later, when Manasseh’s last surviving great-great grandson (Zelophedad) died in the desert before entering the Promised Land, Manasseh’s great-great-great granddaughters petitioned Moses  to inherit their deceased father’s land.  Moses conferred with God and developed rules that would allow the property to remain in the family.  What nerve these girls had!  These great-great-great granddaughters were perfect examples of women who stood up for what is right and were rewarded for their efforts.  

I chose the Fair and Square block to represent Manasseh, whose female descendants were treated fairly by God (through Moses).