Ephraim-A "Multitude" or "Fullness" of the Nations [Gentiles]?

by Peter Salemi


Many anti-British-Israelism preachers say that Genesis 48:19 that reads of Ephraim, "but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations." They say that the latter end of that verse should read, "the fullness of the nations," therefore it cannot mean that Ephraim would become a multitude of nations.

Instead it means that Israel (meaning the Jews-they believe that the Jews are all 12 tribes) would be replaced by gentiles and they become believers and faithful to Jesus Christ-a multitude of people would become spiritual Israel. They attribute this interpretation to Romans chapter 11, where Paul says, "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." (v.25). Therefore Ephraim will not become a multitude of nations, but that Ephraim-Israel, Jacob gave him the name Israel (Gen 48:16) shall become the "fulness of the gentiles;" That the gentile races will convert to Christianity and that they are the "Israel of God." Is this true? Is this speaking of a "spiritual" Israel?

All one has to do is read the passage as it is laid out for us, "his seed" meaning descendants [Heb. "zera" see Brown-Driver Briggs Heb Def.] "shall become," there is nothing here indicating a spiritual Israel-Jacob was speaking to only two of the tribes of Israel. This prophecy was specific to them and their "seed." It is speaking of their seed "grow[ing]" into a "multitude in the midst of the earth." (Gen 48:16). It is speaking about race not grace.

Many say that the "multitude of nations" in this passage should read, "and his seed will become the fulness of nations." (Darby, Tree of Life, LITV, and Young's Translations). However, the majority of translations have a "multitude," "many," "family" or "group" of nations. (Apostolic Bible Polyglot; King James; American Standard; BBE; Brenton English Septuagint; CEV; DRB; ESV; GNB; GW; ISV; JBS; JUB; LEB; MKJV; RV; WEB; WEBA; Websters).

The Hebrew word for "multitude" in this passage is "mel-o" (Strong's #4393). It means, "fulness (literally or figuratively): - X all along, X all that is (there-) in, fill, (X that whereof . . . was) full, fulness, [hand-] full, multitude." (emphasis added). This "fulness" that is in this passage does not mean however a completeness as Paul says. This "fulness" means a large number, a large number of nations would come out of Ephraim.

Another passage in the Old Testament uses this very word, in Isaiah, "For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude [melo] of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof." (Isaiah 31:4). It speaks of a "multitude of shepherds;" notice it speaks of "their" voice, and the noise of "them." So this word means a large amount or multitude of shepherds. It would not make sense if this passage was translated a "fulness of shepherds."

This word in Genesis 48:19 in the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament is "plethos" This is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word, meaning, "a fulness, that is, a large number, throng, populace: - bundle, company, multitude." (Strong's #4128). The meaning of this "fulness" is completely different to the meaning in Paul's passage.

Even today one of the definitions of fulness means "Having a great deal or many-a book full of errors...Providing an abundance" ("Fulness" Free Dictionary.com). Ephraim seed was to become many [full] of nations. 

The Apostle Paul however says "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. " (Rom 11:25). This word is a different Greek word. This word is "pleroma" meaning "repletion or completion, that is, (subjectively) what fills (as contents, supplement, copiousness, multitude), or (objectively) what is filled (as container, performance, period): - which is put in to fill up, piece that filled up, fulfilling, full, fulness." (Strong's #4138). When a complete number of gentiles be converted, then will the blindness from Israel-Judah be lifted and all Israel shall be saved (Rom 11:26).

Genesis 35  & 48

Now when one studies the context of Genesis 48, it is exactly the same as the birthright promise that God told Jacob he would become, as it says, "And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;" (Gen 35:11).

Notice the parallels between Gen 48 and 35, Jacob said:

"and let my name be named on them" (v.16) God gave the name Israel to Jacob, and Jacob gave it to Ephraim and Manasseh. (see Gen 35:10)

"and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." (v.16). God said to Jacob be "fruitful and multiply."  (Gen 35:11)

"he [Manasseh] 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." (v.19). God told Jacob that out of him, meaning his descendants shall be a "nation and a company of nations."

Manasseh was to become a "people" ("am" "nation" Strong's #5971 see Brown-Driver & Briggs Heb Def.).

Ephraim's "seed" was to become a "multitude" of nations." The context is clear, "multitude" or "company" is meant, and not a completeness or fulness in the sense to "fill up" but a fulness is the sense of a large number of nations to come out of Ephraim's seed!

Does Goy or Goyim always mean Non-Israelite people?

There is a perception today that goy or goyim always means non-Israelite peoples or nations. The word goy or goyim can mean "nations" in general-Heathen nations, and Hebrew nations in its proper context.

Let us note the verses which follow below found in the Old Testament and New Testament which refer to Israel as a nation and use the Hebrew word goy and the Greek word ethnos. To demonstrate the absurdity of always translating the word goy or ethnos as gentile we suggest that you read the following verses substituting the word gentile or heathen, for nation or nations:

Gen. 12:2-"I will make of thee a great nation."
Gen. 17:4,5-"A father of many nations have I made thee."
Gen. 20:4-"Lord, wilt thou slay a righteous nation?"
Gen. 25:23-"Two nations are in thy womb."
Gen. 35:11-"A nation and a company of nations"
Gen. 48:19-"Thy seed shall become a multitude of nations."
Isa. 1:4-"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity."
Isa. 10:6-"Send him against an hypocritical nation."
Jer. 31:36-"Shall cease from being a nation before me."
Luke 7:5-"He loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue."
John 11:48-"The Romans will come and take our place and nation."
John 11:50-"That one man should die for the people and that the whole nation perish not."
Acts 24:2-"Worthy deeds are done unto this nation by the providence."
Acts 24:17-"I came to bring alm to my nation."

From the foregoing verses and many others that could be given, it can easily be seen that the Hebrew word goy and the Greek word ethnos do not always refer to non-Israel people.

2. Now let us read a few verses where the same words are used and, as can be seen, refer very definitely to non-Israel people.

Gen. 14:9-"With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with the Tidal king of nations."
Gen. 21:13-"And also the son of the bond woman will I make a nation."
Gen. 21:18-"For I will make of him a great nation."
Ex. 9:24-"There was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation."
Ex. 34:24-"For I will cast out the nations before thee."
Isa. 37:12-"Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed?"
Matt. 10:5-"Go not in the way of the gentiles."
Matt. 24:7-"For nation shall rise against nation."
Luke 21:24-"They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations."
Acts 7:7-"And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God."
Acts 8:9-"But there was a certain man called Simon which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched all the people of Samaria."
Acts 10:45-"Because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gifts of the Holy Ghost."

In the above verses three words have been used to translate the same Greek word ethnos, and they are nations, gentiles, and people.

3.Now we come to the third way in which the words have been used, and that is to describe all the nations, which of course, always includes Israel and non-Israel nations.

Gen.22: 18-"And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
Gen. 25:23-"Two nations are in thy womb."
I Chron. 16:23,24-"Declare his glory among the heathen....his marvelous works among the nations."
Psa. 9:19,20-"Let the heathen be judged in thy sight. Put them in fear, oh Lord: that the nations may know themselves to be but men."

Note the last two verses have used the two words heathen and nations to translate the same word in one passage.

Matt. 24:9,14-".....and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached for a witness to all nations."
Matt. 28:19-"Go ye therefore and teach all nations."
Acts 10:35-"But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."

Clearly the proper context must be examined to understand what nation the scripture is speaking of. Some believe that Genesis 48:19 should read the "fulness of the Gentiles." Clinging to the theory that this scripture means that the gentiles will be converted to Christianity because of the blindness of Israel, therefore the Church becomes the Israel of God; therefore Ephraim cannot become a multitude of nations therefore it cannot mean the British Commonwealth of nations, and the whole British-Israelite belief is false.  As examined above this is not the case. This scripture is literal, Ephraim and Manasseh were to become in the last days a nation and a company of nations-literal descendants of these two individuals, and it has been fulfilled by the USA and the British (read our booklet the USA and the British in Bible Prophecy for proof).

So when one examines the scripture of Genesis 48:19, clearly, it says that Ephraim would become a "multitude of nations" and not the "fulness of the Gentiles."