Dear church,

Joseph’s name isn’t found in the formal list of the twelve tribes of Israel. How could that be? Here was the savior of the nation, the son through whom the whole family was brought together and preserved during the great famine.

You won’t find Joseph’s name in the list of the twelve tribes. He’s not altogether forgotten, obviously. But his name didn’t carry on. In his place are the names of his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 

They became sons of Jacob. In essence, Joseph received a double portion of his family’s inheritance through his two sons. But Joseph’s name? It was left behind.

I hope you noticed the parallels between the story of Jacob blessing Ephraim and Manasseh and the story of Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau. The aged father with poor vision blessed the boys. And the younger was given the greater blessing. 

Joseph wanted it to be otherwise, trying to move his father’s right hand to the elder son. But old Jacob would not have it. Jacob was a crafty one. He knew what he was doing. Yes, the younger son would get the blessing.

And those two tribes – Ephraim and Manasseh – became part of the twelve. Standing in for their father, who was the savior of the whole family. Joseph’s name faded to the background.

Israel has had many saviors in its history. We can think of Joseph and Moses and Joshua. We also might think of Esther and Ezra and Nehemiah. Some saviors physically saved the nation from famine, from slavery, from wilderness wanderings, from annihilation. Others saved the nation in a religious or political sense, bringing them back to the land and back to God’s Word. 

We remember the names. But in light of the Savior, those names fade to the background – like Joseph’s. 

There is only one Name. “Therefore God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

The other names are important, certainly. But everything stops at Jesus. He’s the only one worthy of worship.

This chapter might be a reminder to keep people in perspective. We all have been influenced by a wide range of teachers, mentors, celebrities, preachers, parents, grandparents, and cultural influencers. We can give too much adoration to people. We can follow these powerful influences in our lives too closely. 

In the end, these individuals must take a back seat to Jesus. There is only one name that causes us to bow our knees.


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