When Jacob wrestled with the angel he received a new name, Israel, or a prince, a champion of God.

Israel became the founder of the great Israelite nation, and from his twelve sons grew up the twelve tribes of Israel, among whom was distributed the country now called Palestine. Among these sons the father's favorite was Joseph, who was next to the youngest. This favoritism aroused the anger and jealousy of the older brothers, and they plotted to get rid of him. One day when they were all out with some flocks in a field quite distant from their home, they thought they were rid forever of the hated Joseph by selling him to a company of men who were journeying to Egypt. Then they dipped the lad's coat in goat's blood and carried it to Israel, who, supposing his son to have been devoured by a wild beast, mourned him as dead.

When Joseph had grown to manhood in Egypt, a singular chain of circumstances brought the brothers together again. There was a sore famine, and Egypt was the headquarters for the sale of corn. Joseph had shown himself so able and trustworthy that he was given charge of selling and distributing the stores of food. So when Israel's older sons came from their home to Egypt to buy corn they had to apply to Joseph, whom they little suspected of being the brother they had so cruelly wronged. There is a pretty story, too long to repeat here, of how Joseph disclosed himself to his astonished brethren, and forgave them their cruelty, how he sent for his father to come to Egypt to live near him, how there was a joyful reunion, and how "they all lived happily ever after."

When the time drew near for Israel to die, he desired to bestow his last blessing on his sons. And first of all his beloved son Joseph brought him his own two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Now according to the traditions of the patriarchs, it was the eldest son who should receive the choicest blessing from his father. Israel, however, had found among his own sons that it was a younger one, Joseph, who had proved himself the most worthy of love. This may have shaken his faith in the wisdom of the old custom. Perhaps, too, he remembered how his own boyhood had been made unhappy because he was the younger son, and how he had on that account been tempted to deceit.

Whatever the reason, he surprised Joseph at the last moment by showing a preference for the younger of the two grandsons, Ephraim, expressing this preference by laying the right hand, instead of the left, on his head. The blessing was spoken in these solemn words: "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads."

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The narrative relates[3] that "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. And Joseph said unto his father, 'Not so, my father: for this is the first-born; put thy right hand upon his head.' 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.' 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."

[3] Genesis, chapter xlviii. verses 17-20.

As we compare the picture with the story, it is easy to identify the figures. We are naturally interested in Joseph as the hero of so many romantic adventures. As a high Egyptian official, he makes a dignified appearance and wears a rich turban. His face is gentle and amiable, as we should expect of a loving son and forgiving brother.

In the old man we see the same Jacob who wrestled by night with the Angel and was redeemed from his life of selfishness. The same strong face is here, softened by sorrow and made tender by love. The years have cut deep lines of character in the forehead, and the flowing beard has become snowy white.

The dying patriarch has "strengthened himself," to sit up on the bed for his last duty, and his son Joseph supports him. The children kneel together by the bedside, the little Ephraim bending his fair head humbly to receive his grandfather's right hand, Manasseh looking up alertly, almost resentfully, as he sees that hand passing over his own head to his brother's. Joseph's wife Asenath, the children's mother, stands beyond, looking on musingly. We see that it is a moment of very solemn interest to all concerned. Though the patriarch's eyes are dim and his hand trembles, his old determined spirit makes itself manifest. Joseph is in perplexity between his filial respect and his solicitude for his first-born. He puts his fingers gently under his father's wrist, trying to lift the hand to the other head. The mother seems to smile as if well content. Perhaps she shares the grandfather's preference for little Ephraim.

The picture is a study in the three ages of man, childhood, manhood, and old age, brought together by the most tender and sacred ties of human life, in the circle of the family.