What Ephraim Meant to Joseph (Genesis 41:52)

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I’ve heard it said that happiness doesn’t exist in a vacuum. For every joy we experience, there’s a sorrow that is lurking in the background.

The inverse is also true, though. For every sorrow we experience, there’s usually a happiness just beyond the horizon. Something to look forward to — something to strive towards. 

Life is a study in duality. We have good times and bad times. Oftentimes, the two can happen at the same time.

Think back to your own life. I don’t know your personal story, but I’m betting most of the good moments in your life have a negative component mixed in there somewhere. Maybe it’s a recent family reunion (happy) that also reminded you of who has passed away (sad). Maybe it’s a new job (happy) that meant you had to leave coworkers you love (sad).

That’s life though, isn’t it? It’s not nearly as binary as we want it to be.

If you look closely at Ephraim’s name, you see that. The name literally means “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52).

That’s a curious way to frame his relationship with Egypt, I think. After all, ever since he arrived, he’s done nothing but be fruitful: Potiphar’s house, prison cell, now the second in control over Egypt. That’s quite a career trajectory.

And yet he still views it as the “land of his affliction.” I don’t mean to speak for Joseph, but judging from the names of his two sons, I would argue that Joseph’s family never left his mind, nor the circumstances of his arrival. Sure, he’s reached the top of the social ladder, but in his mind, he still can’t forget what his family did to him. Even thirteen years later.

But that’s life, isn’t it?

Fortunately, God gives us “Ephraims” and “Manassehs” to bring light to the dark times. He gives us reminders of His blessings despite the cruelty of the world around us.