Ephraim and Manasseh—

—Which is Which?


This article is a quotation of page 47 from a very informative booklet on the identity of modern-day Israel: America and Britain in Prophecy by Raymond McNair © 1996. It is available free from the Global Church of God, POBox 501111, San Diego, California, 92150-1111, 800-959-1641. We agree with much of the booklet, but found difficulty with this page. We reprint the entire one-page "box" with comments.

McNair: Remember from chapter one what God Almighty inspired the Patriarch Jacob to prophesy of the descendants of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh: "He [Manasseh] also shall be A NATION—and he also shall be GREAT [i.e., a GREAT NATION or GREAT PEOPLE]—but nevertheless his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be GREATER than he, and his race shall be a MULTITUDE OF NATIONS (Gen. 48:19 Fenton). Millions have come to see the fulfillment of that divine promise in the emergence to nationhood of the United States (the GREAT NATION); and they have also come to believe that Britain and her British-descended Common wealth nations constitute the MULTITUDE OF NATIONS—both of which Almighty God prophesied would rise to prominence "in the last days" (cf. Gen. 48-49; Deut. 33).

In recent years, however, some have concluded that the United States is modern Ephraim and that Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are Manasseh. This view is based, primarily, on three arguments: 1)America is the "multitude of nations" because it is composed of 50 states; 2) the U.S., at its height, was "greater" in wealth and power than Britain at its height; and 3) the U.S. is "younger" than Britain—just as Ephraim was younger than Manasseh. Do these points prove the case? Let's look at them one at a time.

First, could the fifty states of the Union be considered 50 "nations"? Could the US now be, or ever have been, looked upon as a "multitude of nations" in any sense? Emphatically, no! America is " ONE nation under God, indivisible" (as stated in the US Pledge of Allegiance). The American Civil War was fought (1861-1865) to prevent the United States from being rent asunder into two nations—the Union and the Confederacy. Our nation's motto, E Pluribus Unum, means " From many people, ONE [nation]"! During the 1960's, when various state governors tried to prevent racial desegregation, U.S. presidents sent federal law enforcement officers into certain states (Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi) to prove that those states were not sovereign, or independent, but had to answer to a higher power—the U.S. Federal Government! Not one of the 50 states which presently make up the United States is a sovereign nation! The U.S. is definitely, as De Tocqueville called it, "A GREAT NATION"—i.e., Manasseh!!

SN: There are a number of points to consider here:

1. The word "state," when used for the rest of the world means "nation" (e.g. "State of Israel", head of State). Most other large, segmented countries have "provinces." It has been over the last 100 years or so that the word "state" has come to mean "section of a country."

2. Neither the Pledge of Allegiance nor De Tocqueville's writing are the foundation of our government. The foundation is the constitution which specifies only limited powers given to the Federal Union. Quoting from the second paragraph of the 1947 Encyclopedia Britannica, article The United States of America: "The United States consists of 48 separate and theoretically sovereign states which are joined together by a federal government to which the original 13 states delegated certain powers as outlined in the federal constitution adopted in 1787 but put in force in 1789." From 1781 to 1787 the states worked together through the more loosely governed Articles of Confederation. To this day, the President of the USA is elected by the states, not directly by the popular vote.

3. When the American Civil War started, all Northern and Southern states each debated in their own state legislatures which side they would join (if any) and how many troops they would send, etc. The Southern states claimed that the Federal government had no jurisdiction over them in questions such as slavery—the legality of Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" was questioned in both North and South. The issue was not submitted to the Supreme Court, but solved by war. Even then, no significant Federal army existed until Lincoln issued executive order #1 which called up 75,000 militia troops to make one.

4. Our nation's motto, E Pluribus Unum, simply means "from many, one." It says nothing about "people" or "one nation." It fits the description of a "company of nations" rather well. In fact, that was the initial intent of the constitution from the beginning.

McNair: By the same token, it would be wrong, to call Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand " A great nation." They, in fact, form a plurality of independent, sovereign nations—each possessing its own parliament with complete authority over its own citizens, foreign policy, defense and finances. Canada, Australia and New Zealand each has a Governor General as a representative of the British Crown. However, this is a very loose tie, since these three countries look upon the British monarch as only a figurehead. Of course some will argue that the British Empire, which preceded the British Commonwealth, was the great single nation. Yet that too is false. Britain was the "Mother Country" which, through colonization, gave birth to several other British-peopled nations. Clearly, Britain is Ephraim!

SN: While the English Monarchy has practically given up much of its power to Parliament and the Prime Minister, the King or Queen is still the official head of the nation—and head of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc. When this editor visited those countries during the early 80's, common people still referred to Queen Elizabeth as "their queen." During much of the height of its power, the British Empire was largely ruled by a single monarch.

McNair: Second, was the American zenith of greatness really higher than Britain's? Absolutely not! The British directly ruled a quarter of the earth's land and nearly a third of its population. Even today, Canada alone is territorially larger than the entire United States, and Australia is almost as big as the territory of America's 48 contiguous states. Britain directly possessed the wealth of all these regions too. It only seems that America has possessed a greater percentage of wealth than Britain did. Why? Because advances in technology have enabled so much greater things to be accomplished with money than could ever have been done before. For example, a million dollars in today's money will buy only a tiny fraction of what a million dollars would have bought in the 1800's—yet today it could buy much better things that did not even exist then!

SN: Total land area does not seem to be the most important measure of national greatness. Large sections of Canada and Australia (and the Western USA) are not very productive. If we measure farmable or productive land, the USA is very close or ahead—depending on how we define "productive."

When it comes to total wealth, the USA was certainly behind the British Empire in the 1700's and much of the 1800's. But even if we adjust for inflation, the British Commonwealth is still wealthier this century than she was in the 1800's. The USA Gross National Product (GNP) this century has almost always been over twice as much as the combined British Commonwealth. Also, it does not seem a fair comparison to dismiss the USA's technology-related wealth: the USA is largely responsible for creating the technology that made it wealthy.

McNair: What about military dominance? It is true that, since America was the only nation in possession of the atomic bomb after World War II, the ratio of power between the U.S. and the rest of the world was greater at that time than any other nation has ever enjoyed. (In fact, none have even come close.) However, this only lasted about four short years—during which time the U.S. was in an extremely tight alliance with Great Britain. The tremendous military supremacy Britain enjoyed during its heyday lasted far longer than America's. And Britain has possessed far more of the vital "sea gates" than America. Here, again, it is obvious that Britain is Ephraim and the U.S.A. is Manasseh.

SN: Britain twice failed to defeat the USAin the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The USA's entry into World Wars I and II was unquestionably the deciding factor. While Britain did rule the seas for many years, few major nations feared world conquest by the British. Whereas, since World War II, the Soviet Union has been so afraid of American attack that they economically ruined their country in a race to build arms. The Persian Gulf war proved the superiority of American high-tech weapons over soviet weapons.

McNair: Third, just because the United States of America is a younger state than the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, does that mean that the U.S. must be Ephraim, Joseph's younger son, and that the U.K. must be Manasseh? Definitely not! These two brother peoples lived together in Britain for centuries. Thus, both peoples are basically the same age! However, from a national perspective, consider that, with the separation of the two brothers through the War of Independence (1775-1783), the Americans were forming into a "great nation" well before the British expanded into a "multitude of nations." And the United States is much older than the British Commonwealth, which was not formally established until the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

SN: This point apparently contradicts previous points. Here, McNair admits that Britain was not a "multitude of nations" until 1931—before that time, it was a single empire. Yet, he uses Britain in the 1800's for their greatest time of wealth and military strength (see his following paragraph, also). Obviously, the two tribes are about the same age—they both go back to Joseph. In regard to becoming a separate nation and reaching their height of power, the British Empire clearly did this before the USA.

McNair: But think about this, too. Joseph gave up his tribal status among the Twelve Tribes of Israel to his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. These then became two separate tribes—meaning there were now THIRTEEN Tribes of Israel in all (though the count normally stayed at 12 since the Levites didn't have a territorial allotment in the Promised Land). Benjamin, Jacob's 12th son, then moved into the 11th position vacated by Joseph. And the 12th and 13th positions, if we reckon their births chronologically, would be filled by Israel's adopted sons, Manasseh and Ephraim respectively. However, because Scripture makes it very clear that God, through Jacob, "set Ephraim before Manasseh" (Gen. 48:20), their two positions should be reversed—Ephraim being made 12th and Manasseh becoming 13th. (Note the recurrence of 13 in American heritage—13 colonies, 13 flag stripes, 13 everything on the Great Seal.) Thus Ephraim would inherit the birthright first and Manasseh would follow. And that is exactly what happened—the 1800's were the "British Century" and the 1900's have been the "American Century."

SN: McNair uses an inconsistent approach by ranking the original 12 tribes according to age, then ranking the twin-tribes according to inheritance.If we are to rank the tribes according to inheritance, then Ephraim (though younger) is clearly the 1st tribe with the greatest inheritance; Manasseh is 2nd. If we rank the tribes strictly by birth date, Reuben is 1st, Manasseh is 12th, and Ephraim is the 13th (the second born of Joseph's twins). The 13 original colonies are then proof that the USA is Ephraim.

Since the nation of Israel is sometimes called "Ephraim" in the Bible (Isa 7:17, 11:14 Ezk 37:16), using inheritance to rank Ephraim "number one" seems more reasonable. Can it be that the 13s in the USA's origins also picture that some of all the 13 tribes dwell in the USA? The United States of America certainly has Jews, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Norsemen and all of the other tribes dwelling in it. The Eternal may well have wanted people from every tribe to take part in the good, the bad and the lessons to be learned in the USA.

McNair: It should now be crystal clear. Modern Ephraim is definitely the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, while Manasseh, without question, is the U.S.A.

SN: When we read an article that dogmatically states the same thing over and over ("Ephraim is the UK, Manasseh is the USA"), it is easy to begin believing it even if the facts do not support the conclusion. If we have believed something to be a certain way for 10, 20 or 30 years, we probably do not need to change our opinion over-night—we can take time to examine the facts. But unless some new evidence comes to light, our conclusion is that the British Empire is largely the tribe of Manesseh and The United States of America is largely the tribe of Ephraim.

—Norman S. Edwards


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