What the Bible says about
Joseph as Fruitful Bough
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The people of Joseph are a productive lot. To produce goods and services requires a vast amount of energy—call it zeal, enthusiasm, or drive. They live in a well-watered land that enhances agriculture and industry. The people are so driven that they extend their influence and zeal beyond the boundaries of their countries.
Historically, the people of Joseph have moved into other countries, taken the raw materials to make their products, built manufacturing plants, and influenced the native culture. When the British or Americans colonized, they brought their way of life and imposed it on the natives. Americans continue to introduce movies, television, rock music, household appliances, big cars, etc., to impoverished nations around the globe.
These things just typify the inherent drive of the people of Joseph, a proclivity to expand beyond the frontiers in every endeavor. They are an aggressive and innovative people in science, industry, education, government, and religion. This is generally beneficial and productive, but in one area, religion, it has profound repercussions. Satan has taken advantage of this characteristic, producing a religion that allows Israelites to think that they are Christian and yet still be free to explore the frontiers of religious thought.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption
In Genesis 49:22, within the chapter that records Jacob's final words to his sons, God prophesies that Joseph will be growth-oriented, restive, not content with the status quo.
This is a difficult passage, so many of its words having more than one meaning. Young, in his literal translation, renders the Hebrew this way: "Joseph [is] a fruitful son, a fruitful son by a fountain: daughters overstep the wall." Here certainly is a description of the fecundity of Joseph: both his immense population and his material abundance. Here too, however, is almost certainly a description of the inclination of Joseph's daughters—the modern nations of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—to overclimb walls. Like an ivy plant not content to remain in its place, Joseph grows up wall and chimney, invading walkway and gazebo, re-rooting itself all over lawn and garden.
Globalism (Part Three): America Runs Over the Wall
Numbers 23:9—God's vision of Israel as spoken by the mouth of Balaam—sets us on the right path to finding Joseph's walls, the bounds of his habitations. God describes Israel as "a people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations." Clearly, God does not envision Israel integrated into the world. Rather, He has always wanted Israel to be separated from it. This vision has a number of applications, one certainly pertaining to the moral sanctification God intends Israel to display in the Millennium. God's vision for Israel is a people distinct from all others—His people, not partaking of the curses of this world's international intrigues, imbroglios, poverty, disease, etc. As we know, those days are yet to come.
Relevant to national Israel today, however, the passage likely has geographic significance. God fulfilled His vision of an isolated Israel by situating some Israelites in England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand—on islands. (Australia is a continent-sized island.) He located America and Canada in the New World, effectively isolating them from other major nations by vast oceans. By doing so, God insulated Israel from the world.
In other scriptures, God is more specific about modern-day Israel's boundaries. When he addresses Israel in prophecies that have clear, latter-day application, He refers to Israel as residing at the coasts (or coastlands) and in the isles. Additionally, Israel dwells in the north and west. Taking Jerusalem as the geographic starting point, Israel will reside to the north and west of the Middle East in the time of the end. Here are a few passages.
» Hosea 11:10: In context, God is prophesying about Ephraim's return—from the west—to his inheritance. (Often God uses Ephraim as an emblem for all Israel, much as the word Washington often refers to the United States as a whole.)
» Isaiah 49:1, 8-13: Again, God is describing His re-gathering of Israel. The "coastlands" and "people from afar" (verse 1) may refer to the lands of Israelites living in the southern hemisphere (see also Isaiah 41:1). Others will return "from the north and the west" (verse 12).
» Jeremiah 3:12: God tells Jeremiah to "Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say,
'Return, backsliding Israel. . . .'" This cannot refer to the ancient Kingdom of Israel, north of Judah, for it was already in captivity long before Jeremiah's day. God is telling Jeremiah to go further north and warn His apostate people.
» Jeremiah 31:7-10: God promises He will save His people residing in the north (verse 8). Those of His people in the "isles afar off" (verse 10) are probably those of New Zealand and Australia.
Joseph runs "over the wall" when he attempts to extend his influence beyond the isolated lands God gave him. This extension of influence can be cultural, economic, and even military. From a modern policy perspective, America stays within her walls as long as she follows a national policy of isolationism—remaining isolated from foreign nations as much as possible. When America follows a course of internationalism—the doctrine that it is proper to intervene (passively or even militarily) in other nations' affairs—she usually starts to overclimb the walls God established for her.
It is fair to see American history as a slow march from isolationism to internationalism. That is, America started out isolated, purposefully distinct from other nations. Ever so slowly, though, she began to take an internationalist stance, overclimbing the wall, until she finally became deeply entangled in the military and economic affairs of the world's nations.
Globalism (Part Three): America Runs Over the Wall
Genesis 49:22 predicts regarding Joseph, Jacob's son through Rachel, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall." Joseph, modern Britain and America, is prophesied to be an unusually prosperous people whose influence spreads far and wide beyond their home locations. At the end time, they have been at the forefront of spreading the "wine of the wrath of her fornication" by means of their cultural influences.
Meanwhile in their homelands, Satan has convinced most Britons and Americans that everybody, regardless of personal beliefs and conduct, is worshipping the same God, the God of true Christianity! What mass confusion and a horrific influence this has been. In doing this, they make God to be a sovereign over mass confusion, unconcerned about what people believe about Him or how they worship Him. They make Him into a God with no purpose for His human creation except a vague concept of somehow "saving" them, whatever that means!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character
Probably the easiest peoples to identify are those descended from the tribe of Joseph, that is, the peoples of Ephraim and Manasseh. The reason is their wealth. Remember, God chose Ephraim and Manasseh to be the recipients of the birthright blessing, as recorded in Genesis 48. As the "birthright" tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh eventually received the great physical blessings God mentions through Jacob in Genesis 49:22-26 and through Moses in Deuteronomy 33:13-17.
Ephraim, basically the Angles and Saxons, roamed around in Northern Europe, eventually invading England in AD 449. In the course of time, some Ephraimites migrated to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and other nations of the now-defunct British Empire. Ephraim grew to become that "company of nations" God promised would descend from Jacob (Genesis 35:11); more particularly, the British peoples became that "multitude of nations" Jacob prophesied would descend from Ephraim (Genesis 48:19). The peoples of the British Empire (and, later, the Commonwealth) are the "ten thousands of Ephraim" who Moses, speaking of Ephraim and Manasseh together, said would "push the peoples to the ends of the earth" (Deuteronomy 33:17).
Britain grew slowly, protected by her geography and by the hand of God, who, more than once miraculously saved her from destruction. Her power grew slowly, as if by fits and starts. All that changed, however, in the early 1800s, when the 2,520-year punishment had reached its term. God was now prepared to bestow the birthright blessings on Ephraim. After defeating the French dictator Napoleon at Waterloo in AD 1815, Britain virtually redrew the boundaries of Europe. Never before had a European nation wielded such unquestioned control over the Continent as a whole—and got away with it for so long.
Moses prophesied that Joseph would "push the peoples to the ends of the earth" (Deuteronomy 33:17). Push is exactly what England did, for the birthright blessings included far more than domination over Europe. They included economic (and in some cases, political and military) dominance over much of the world. Answering the call of the "white man's burden," the British, through its maritime supremacy, created a worldwide Empire an order of magnitude larger than that of Rome. Her folk pushed to India, Africa, North (and, to a lesser degree, South) America, China, Australia, New Zealand, and various islands around the globe.
Britain's Empire came to include a number of African nations, some South American ones, many Caribbean islands, as well as many of the islands of Oceania—and, of course, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and India! Moreover, Britain maintained a heavy economic influence over China for years. It was a fact—the sun never set on the British Empire.
As time went by, Britain assumed control of a large number of "gates" located in or near her enemies' territories, this in fulfillment of Genesis 22:17 and 24:60. These strategic positions placed her, geopolitically, on the "top of the world," ensuring her of military and commercial hegemony. Here is a partial list of these valuable gates:
» The Suez Canal
» The Straits of Hormuz (below Iran)
» The Straits of Gibraltar
» The Straits of Malacca and the Singapore Strait (off the Malay Peninsula)
» The Falkland Islands (off Argentina)
» The Cape of Good Hope (at the southern tip of Africa)
» The Kabul Pass (a land gate in Afghanistan)
» The island nation of Malta (in the Mediterranean Sea)
Finally, Britain is ruled by a descendant of the Davidic monarchy. The throne of David, according to the prophet Jeremiah, would rule over the "house of Israel" (Jeremiah 33:17), not over some Gentile peoples. David's throne—overthrown (Ezekiel 21:27) from Jerusalem to Ireland and later to Scotland—now resides in England. Since God states that "the scepter shall not depart from Judah" (Genesis 49:10), sitting on that throne is a monarch who is of the lineage of David. That monarch rules over Israelites, not Gentiles.
Searching for Israel (Part Ten): Clues and Answers
Why did God choose to bestow the birthright blessing to Joseph? Deuteronomy 33:16 provides the key to the answer. Moses writes, "Let the blessing come on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers."
God honored Joseph because he "was separate from his brothers." He was separate in that he alone remained faithful to his God. Conspicuous by their absence are the names of Joseph's brothers from the Faith Chapter. Hebrews 11 does not mention Reuben, Judah, Dan, Gad, or any other of Jacob's sons. Verse 22 emphasizes Joseph's faithfulness: "By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones" (Genesis 50:22-26)
Allaying his brothers' fears of retribution and revenge, Joseph explained his understanding that God had placed him in power in Egypt "to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance" (Genesis 45:7). To his dying day, he never broke faith with his brothers: As recorded in Genesis 50:20-21, he reassures them of their well-being after their father's death:
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.
Nor did he ever break faith with his God. Dying, he reminded his brothers that God would bring their posterity out of Egypt, restoring them "to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" (Genesis 50:24).
The two sons of Joseph received the birthright blessings because their father was separate, ethically and morally, from his perfidious, scheming brothers. His brothers exhibited few scruples concerning killing Joseph, forswearing murder only when they saw the opportunity to profit from selling him into slavery. Compounding their despicable and abject turpitude, they darkened their father's days by sustaining the ruse of Joseph's death for more than a decade. See Genesis 34 for a fine example of cunning deception, ruthless murder, and rapacious greed on the part of Simeon and Levi in the affair of their sister Dinah with Shechem, a Hivite prince living in Canaan at that time.
What a paradox! Today, Ephraim and Manasseh have used the wealth and influence God gave them because of Joseph's faithfulness to push on Gentile nations a way of life totally contrary to God's way. Rather than separating from the ways of this world, as their father Joseph did, modern-day Ephraim and Manasseh push globalism, another term for the Babylonian system of "get," on the whole world. Sifted among the nations, Joseph subverts those around him rather than serving as an example of godliness to the Gentiles.
Searching for Israel (Part Eleven): Manasseh Found
The prophet Moses recognized in Joseph this proclivity to overextend. Deuteronomy 33:17 records God's prophecy of Joseph's world leadership.
The "wild ox," rendered unicorn in the King James Version, is an emblem for strength.Moses goes on to tell what Joseph will do with his strength: "push the people, all of them, to the ends of the earth" (The Amplified Bible). Here, the force of the word rendered "together" is inclusiveness: Joseph will push all of the nations. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines the verb push as to "thrust, gore, hence, succeed, attain, make progress, figuratively, wage war with." So strong are its overtones of force and violence that the Hebrew word carries the meaning of the verb butt.Here are a few biblical examples of the use of "push":
1. In I Kings 22:11, a false prophet speaks to Ahab, who wants God's blessing in his war against Syria (in which Ahab subsequently dies). "Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself; and he said, 'Thus says the LORD: "With these you shall gore [push, KJV] the Syrians until they are destroyed."'" This refers clearly to war-making.
2. Daniel 8:4: "I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no beast could withstand him. . . ." Notice, an animal with horns—as an ox—is doing the pushing.
3. Psalm 44:5: "Through You we will push down our enemies; through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us."
4. Daniel 11:40: "At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack [push at, KJV]" the king of the north.
5. Ezekiel 34:21: In context, the verb push here seems to refer to economic coercion on the part of false ministers.
In summary, the word push connotes the use of force and violence typical of warfare, or the use of economic power to gain one's ends. Fenton's seems the most accurate translation of Deuteronomy 33:17. Joseph is
Like a noble and splendid prince—
His horns are the horns of a bull:
With them he will conquer nations
And unite the Land into one.
Fenton combines the words "push" and "together" to form the verbs "conquer" and "unite." To unite is to push together!
But when did Joseph ever do that?
»Deuteronomy 33:17 certainly does not refer to the time of Joseph's conquering Palestine. Neither ancient Israel at large, nor Joseph particularly, sought to unite her enemies! Furthermore, ancient Israel's efforts were local; it pushed the nations off the land—and that not fully, but it certainly did not push all the nations of the earth at that time.
»Nor does this passage refer to America's conquering the various Indian nations in the 19th century and before, uniting the continent. This interpretation rings hollow because America's suppression of the North American aborigines was local, never entailing a worldwide pushing.
It is not in past events, but in current ones, where we find fulfillment of Deuteronomy 33:17. God is surely referring to Israel's ambition to build and rule a global village, a world government, pushing all the nations of the world together. Today, America works assiduously to build "permanent alliances"—military (e.g., NATO), economic (e.g., the IMF and the WTO), financial, cultural, educational, scientific, and technological (many through the auspices of the United Nations). Americans today speak of NAFTA rather than of "manifest destiny"; not content to limit their marketplace to the lands God fixed for them, they have jumped the wall, striking complex business and economic deals with Gentile nations, all for financial gain.
America today aspires to lead a global village. She uses her almost inestimable economic clout to that end, and enforces her aspirations through extensive, virtually worldwide, military ventures. Is there any better way to describe America's activities today than by saying she has overclimbed the wall, pushing peoples together around the globe?
Yes, indeed, God planned that 21st century globalism would be "made in America." He knew that America, which properly should serve as an example to the world though the "masterly inactivity" of her "national character," would eventually come to push the nations of the world to adopt her system of government (democracy) and her economic structure (capitalism).
Globalism (Part Four): Israel Pushes the Nations
2 Kings 17:6
When the Assyrians conquered the northern ten tribes of Israel and dispersed her population in the lands beyond the Euphrates, only the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in the Land of Promise. Though the house of Judah had not yet forsaken Him, God began to raise up prophets to warn the southern kingdom that she was headed for the same fate as her sister Israel.
Through these prophets, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea, God gives us directions by which we can find where Israel lives in the last days. Remember, all the following directions must be understood from the vantage point of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 3:12: "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: 'Return, backsliding Israel,' says the LORD."
Jeremiah 3:18: "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers."
Jeremiah 31:8: "Behold, I will bring them from the north country."
When Jeremiah prophesied—about a century after Israel went into captivity—Israel lived to the north, and even in the end time, the Israelites will still live primarily in the north. North alone, however, could be rather vague, so God adds more detail:
Hosea 11:10: "They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west."
Hosea 12:1: "Ephraim [the leading tribe of Israel] feeds on the wind, and pursues the east wind [the east wind travels west]." This scripture implies that Israel migrated westward. Though this verse has a primarily spiritual meaning, its value as a clue to Israel's whereabouts is confirmed by
Isaiah 49:12: "Surely these shall come from afar; look! Those from the north and the west. . . ."
A line stretching from Jerusalem to the northwest cuts through much of Europe from Greece to the North Sea. Where along this line should we look for Israelites? We know that the line of David would continually rule over some part of the house of Israel (Jeremiah 33:17).
Psalm 89:20, 25: I have found My servant David. . . . Also I will set his hand over the sea."
David's dynasty would rule over a sea power somewhere to the north and west of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 31:10: "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him.'"
Isaiah 49:1, 3: "Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! . . . You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." (See also Isaiah 41:1, 8-9.)
Israel, headed by Ephraim, would inhabit islands and coastlands far from Jerusalem. This seems to eliminate any of the Mediterranean nations; they would be considered "near" to Jerusalem rather than "afar off." Now we are looking for a nation, dominating on the seas, living on islands and coastlands in the area of the North Sea. Are there any other clues?
Jeremiah 31:7: "For thus says the LORD: 'Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "O LORD , save Your people, the remnant of Israel."'"
In the end time, Israel is regarded as among the leaders of the world's nations. This narrows our search considerably. Yet, one bit of evidence still remains:
Genesis 49:22: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall."
Isaiah 49:20: "The children you will have, after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, 'The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.'"
These verses hint very strongly at colonization of other lands because of burgeoning population and prosperity. Though many nations have colonized other lands in the past, only the nations of northwestern Europe have done it to a great extent.
Do any nations fit all these criteria? Only one: Britain! We should be able to find Israelites, primarily of the half-tribes of Joseph, the birthright tribes, in Britain.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The elegant clothing, jewelry, and precious metals illustrate her wealth. It is a wealth as among nations, not merely a church. As a group, the Israelitish people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, grew to control around 60% of the world's wealth at the height of their prosperity.
Nobody else on earth is in the position to influence, persuade, and guide as Israel is. Through the misuse of these gifts, Israel has risen to worldly greatness in terms of evil too. Despite its material greatness, it is unfortunately also spiritually great in its immorality, great in its confusion, great in its deviance from responsibility, great in its polluted influence—so great in its power only it can hold the Beast in check and make it do its bidding until God's time comes.
In recent history, Israel—represented primarily by the Joseph tribes—has brushed the world aside politically and economically. No other nation of people on earth today fits the characteristics given in Revelation 17 and 18.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible
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