The patriarchal promise and blessing of Jacob (Israel) to his son Joseph included the statement that Joseph "is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:" (Gen. 49: 22) the "branches of Joseph" that would fulfill these words of Israel's blessing to Joseph were Lehi and his family and Ishmael and his family. These two families comprised the core of the offspring of Joseph that would extend beyond the borders of the land promised to Israel's offspring in Palestine that would "run over the wall" of the great ocean and become "separate from their brethren." (Gen. 49: 22, 26) These two families, the offspring of Joseph, would be led to a land where the "utmost bounds of the everlasting hills" (Gen. 49: 26) were to be found. There, found among the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills, "the blessings of thy (Joseph's) father (Jacob) have prevailed above the blessings of my (Jacob's) progenitors they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren." (Gen. 49: 26)
We have already discussed in another entry, the lineage of Lehi. It was established that Lehi was a descendant of Joseph through Joseph's eldest son Manasseh. What is less often discussed or recognized is the lineage of Ishmael which appears also to have been through another branch of Joseph. Apostle Erastus Snow spoke in Logan, Utah in May 1882 and said:
"The prophet Joseph Smith informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the first book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Mannaseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishamel's daughters."
This statement by Erastus Snow claimed to have been a recounting of principles taught by the prophet Joseph Smith. By it we learn a number of interesting things. First, and rather importantly, we learn that both of ancient Joseph's sons, Manasseh, and Ephraim were represented in the group led by Lehi across the ocean to the land of promise. Ishmael, it appears, was a descendant of Joseph's younger, and birthright son, Ephraim.
The second interesting thing we learn by brother Snow's statement is that it appears that Lehi and Sariah had not only sons, Laman, Lemual, Nephi, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph, but they had daughters as well. This is why Joseph Smith and later Erastus Snow would say, "Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family." There is only one very brief mention in all of the Book of Mormon about these daughters of Lehi and Sariah. Nephi made the following comment as he is about to Separate himself and his people from Laman and Lemuel and their followers:
"Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words." (2Nephi 5: 6)
Nephi himself informs us here that he had sisters and that they were among those who "believed in the warnings and the revelations of God." It would have been these sisters of Neph'is that Ishmael's sons would have married into Lehi's family.
Hugh Nibley comments on Ishmael And the potential relationship between Ishmael and Lehi as follows:
"Lehi faced with the prospect of a long journey in the wilderness, sent back for Ishmael, who promptly followed into the desert with a large party; this means that he must have been hardly less adept at moving about than Lehi himself...the act of sending for him seems to be the most natural thing in the world, as does the marriage of his daughters with Lehi's sons. Since it has ever been the custom of the desert people for a man to marry the daughter of his paternal uncle (bint' ammi), it is hard to avoid the impression that Lehi and Ishmael were related." Hugh W. Nibley Lehi in the Desert; The World of the Jaredites
In any event, Lehi and Ishmael and their families comprised the seed of Joseph that would cross the ocean to the promised land unto the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. It was to be from the base of the promised land that the choicest blessings of God would be poured out "on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren." It was to be from the base of the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills that the Lord God of Israel would provide the means by which the offspring of Joseph, the remnant of Israel spoken of in the words of the Book of Mormon, would be established in preparation for the great latter day work of fulfilling the blessing of Jacob (Israel) to his son Joseph:
10 For thou hast prevailed, and thy father’s house hath bowed down unto thee, even as it was shown unto thee, before thou wast sold into Egypt by the hands of thy brethren; wherefore thy brethren shall bow down unto thee, from generation to generation, unto the fruit of thy loins for ever;
11 For thou shalt be a light unto my people, to deliver them in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them, when they are altogether bowed down under sin. (JST Genesis 48: 10-11)
"Thy father's house," mentioned by Jacob in these words of Joseph's blessing is "the house of Israel." The house of Israel is the entire focus and fulcrum of the Lord's work in the latter days. The seed of Joseph, the remnant of Israel of the latter days spoken of in the Book of Mormon will be the conduit by which the Lord will "deliver them (the house of Israel) in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them, when they are altogether bowed down under sin." (JST Gen. 48: 10-11)
In the words of the Lord from the Book of Mormon, the saving work of the seed of Joseph, the remnant of Israel will be played out in the latter days as follows:
26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. ("this people" are the offspring of the Nephites, the seed of Lehi and ancient Joseph) Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.
27 Yea, the work shall commence among all the dispersed of my people, with the Father to prepare the way whereby they may come unto me, that they may call on the Father in my name.
28 Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance.
29 And they shall go out from all nations; and they shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward. (3Nephi 21: 26-29)
Once again, in the like manner as ancient Joseph "saved" his brethren, the house, or sons of Israel in their days of starvation and famine, Joseph, (his remnant offspring) of the latter days will "deliver them (the house of Israel) in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them, when they are altogether bowed down under sin." (JST Gen. 48: 10-11) This will be a latter day work and event. It is foretold by the Lord in his own words recorded in the precious Book of Mormon.
The stage for the latter day work of the remnant seed of Joseph to once again save his brethren the house of Israel, began When the prophet Lehi and Ishmael, both grandsons of ancient Joseph, were led to the land of the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. Their remnant seed of the latter days, "the remnant of Israel" spoken of in the Book of Mormon will do a mighty work with God Himself at their rearward (3Nephi 21: 29) to, "deliver them (the house of Israel) in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them (the house of Israel), when they are altogether bowed down under sin." And they (the house of Israel) "shall bow down unto thee, from generation to generation, unto the fruit of thy loins for ever." (JST Gen. 48: 10-11)