Sonship, part 16: Primogeniture and reversal
We have been examining the concepts of sonship in the Bible, and as a subtopic under that, the concepts of firstborn and adoption. We left off in the middle of a ceremony wherein the patriarch Jacob-Israel adopts the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own sons, and collectively,
and as his firstborn.
Genesis 48:16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.
18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
There it is again, verse 20: Ephraim before Manasseh. One could call this the principle of reversal. How many times in Scripture and history do we see this occur? The birthright is supposed to go to the firstborn son. Technically, this is called the right of, or the law of primogeniture. It’s just a fancy word for firstborn.
But there are so many exceptions to it in the Old Testament that it almost becomes the rule that the firstborn loses it or is displaced for one reason or another. Of course, the patriarch Israel was doing this under the anointing of God’s Spirit and by the spirit of prophecy.
Let us list other instances in the Old Testament where the firstborn is displaced by the younger brother. First, Cain and Abel. Abel was murdered but then the inheritance, authority and priesthood were passed to Seth, not to Cain.
Another example: Isaac displaced Ishmael. And of course, Jacob supplanted Esau. The name, Jacob, means supplanter. Isn’t it fascinating how people often seem to become what their name is? Do you think there is power in naming? …naming people or naming things? Well, think about the Garden of Eden….. what did God assign Adam to do right there in the beginning?
Genesis 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; …
Of course, after Jacob supplanted Esau, we just saw how Joseph’s sons displaced Reuben and Simeon, and then even between the two sons of Joseph, the younger is set over the elder, Ephraim over Manasseh.
Another example is David. Where was he in the birth order? David was the eighth-born son. In Bible numeric symbolism, eight is the number of “new beginnings.”According to Psalm 89, David was appointed to the position of firstborn.
Psalm 89:20 I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:..27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
David is a type of Christ. If therefore, we look at this typically, it is speaking of Jesus Christ as the King of kings. And when we talk about supplanting the firstborn, then in one sense, this also applies to Jesus because He is the last Adam. Jesus is the new beginning for the human race.
He supplants the first Adam and inherits all things through His two works: He becomes king and priest and then He receives the kingdom. He has all power and authority and responsibility in heaven and earth—or we could say, he has all power and authority and responsibility on the earth and in outer space and in all dimensions, both visible and invisible.
Genesis 49:21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.
22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.
As we mentioned earlier, the sons of Joseph received a double portion, ad
double land inheritance in Canaanland. And so with all of this, we have seen in the study of Jacob’s adoption of the sons of Joseph and his placing them at the head of the line, as Jacob’s own firstborn, this suggests two principles which are borne out elsewhere in Scripture. (To be continued.)