כו. כָּל הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַבָּאָה לְיַעֲקֹב מִצְרַיְמָה יֹצְאֵי יְרֵכוֹ מִלְּבַד נְשֵׁי בְנֵי יַעֲקֹב כָּל נֶפֶשׁ שִׁשִּׁים וָשֵׁשׁ:
כז. וּבְנֵי יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר יֻלַּד לוֹ בְמִצְרַיִם נֶפֶשׁ שְׁנָיִם כָּל הַנֶּפֶשׁ לְבֵית יַעֲקֹב הַבָּאָה מִצְרַיְמָה שִׁבְעִים:
26. All the soul(s) coming to Egypt with Jacob, those descended from him, excluding the wives of Jacob's sons, all the soul(s) were sixty six.
27. And Joseph's sons, who were born to him in Egypt, two soul(s); all the soul(s) of the house of Jacob who came to Egypt were seventy.The commentators discuss how the total that came from Canaan was sixty six, while adding the three who were in Mitzraim gives a total of seventy. Some commentators say that Yaakov himself was the seventieth person. Others say that Yocheved was born "in the gates of Egypt and wound up being the seventieth person. However, I have come up with another possibility. The שבטים (Yosef's brothers) are counted but the verse explicitly states that their wives were not counted. On the other hand, Yosef's wife אסנת בת פוטי פרע (Asenas), while not mentioned by name, is not explicitly excluded.
The Torah does not say something unless it is meant to teach us something. When counting people, the wives are normally not mentioned unless there is a specific need. However אתנת, while not mentioned by name is not explicitly excluded.Thus, since they had two children, there were four people in Egypt.
The question is now why she would be counted when the other wives were not. The significance of the way Menashe and Ephraim are spoken of comes through. The term used is אשר יולד לו (that were born to him) shows that she very carefully ensured that they were raised to follow in the way of Yoseph and to be worthy of being counted among the "Children of Israel". In fact they merited to be counted as the progenitors of tribes themselves.they were raised to a life of privilege and power. Their father was the viceroy of Egypt who controlled everyone and everything around them. The Medrash states that Menashe was the one who carried out his father's orders and ensured that everything worked all right. Ephraim learned with Yaakov and maintained the tradition.
Rabbi Beryl Wein points out that throughout our history, the intermarriage rate has been determined more by the way that the goyim have treated us than by our ability to resist assimilation. We have been able to survive the persecutions of the past and fight against the forces that attempt to destroy us. However, the most difficult tests have been the necessity to learn to live in a non-Jewish society that treats us kindly or allows us to live freely. This is the test that we are face with now in the United States. We have lost more Jews to assimilation than we have to persecution. This is the lesson of Ephraim and Menashe and what we need to learn from אתנת.
The Torah tells us that the redemption will be in the reverse order of the exile.
“וזכרתי את בריתי יעקב ואף את בריתי יצחק ואף את בריתי אברהם אזכור והארץ אזכור” (ויקרא כו מב).Avraham was regarded as a "Prince of G0d". Yitzchak was able to live in Geror and become wealthy and live in peace, though he was harassed before he could settle down. Yaakov became a penniless wanderer who had to work and fight and undergo physical hardships. The redemption will be in the reverse order. First we survived the physical attempts to destroy us; the Crusades, the Spanish Expulsion, the Holocaust, and all the other massacres and attempts to destroy us. We are now attempting to learn the lesson that אתנת and יוסף taught Ephraim and Menashe, how to survive as Jews in a country in which it is easy to assimilate and in which we are accepted. Only when we learn how to pass this test can we reach the level of Avraham and be recognized as נשיא אלוקים.