Chapter 48

  1. Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh

    • Some time after Joseph made his oath to Jacob, he was told that his father’s health was failing fast.

    • Joseph and his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, went to visit Jacob.

    • Jacob used all his strength to sit up in bed and he told Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me and blessed me at Luz (Luz is another name for Bethel) in Canaan. He told me that He would make me fruitful, that I would have many descendants, and that many nations would come from me. He also promised to give this land to me and my descendants, to belong to us for eternity. Your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, that were born here in Egypt before I arrived, I now count as my own, just like Reuben and Simeon are mine. Children that you have after them are counted as yours and will inherit land within the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh. Long ago, when I was returning from Paddan-aram, Rachel died in Canaan while we were still a good distance away from Bethlehem. So, with great sadness, I buried her on the way to Bethlehem.”

      • God Almighty in Hebrew is “El Shaddai”.

      • “Jacob’s phrasing is reminiscent of exact promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 17 (see Genesis 17:2, 17:6, and 17:8). Abraham was careful to pass down the exact words of God’s covenant with him to the inheritors of the covenant, because the exact words of God were important.” (Guzik)

      • Something pretty significant just occurred here with respect to the passing down of Jacob’s inheritance as well as how the 12 tribes of Israel are arranged and referred to. There are 12 tribes of Israel, but after this “adoption” there are now 13 sons of Israel.

        • HCSB commentary has an easy to follow explanation, “Jacob is here effectively saying he is “adopting” Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, into the places of honor formerly held by Reuben and Simeon. He held them responsible for two tragic acts. Reuben, the firstborn, had slept with Bilhah (35:22). Simeon, the second-born, had led the slaughter at Schechem (34:25,30). This is how Ephraim and Manasseh rose to prominence as the fathers of two of the tribes of Israel. Joseph was allotted a double portion through his sons as a result of his role in saving the family.”

      • Guzik’s explains in his commentary how this “adoption” (or, some prefer the term “sonship”) makes for some confusing references to the tribes of Israel later on in the Bible if you don’t have a full understanding of Jacob’s blessing, “Jacob’s adoption of Manasseh and Ephraim explains why there are 12 tribes often listed in different combinations. Because of this adoption, there were actually 13 sons of Israel. The 12 were born, but Joseph was divided into two tribes. Therefore as the tribes are listed through the Old Testament, they can be arranged different ways and still remain 12 tribes. There are more than 20 different ways of listing the tribes in the Old Testament.”

      • Guzik also points out the very interesting significance of the number 12, “As a number, 12 is often associated with government or administration in God’s eyes. There are 12 tribes, 12 apostles, 12 princes of Ishmael, 12 pillars on Moses’ altar, 12 stones on the high priest’s breastplate, 12 cakes of showbread, 12 silver platters, silver bowls, and gold pans for the service of the tabernacle, 12 spies to search out the land, 12 memorial stones, 12 governors under Solomon, 12 stones in Elijah’s altar, 12 in each group of musicians and singers for Israel’s worship, 12 hours in a day, 12 months in a year, 12 Ephesian men filled with the Holy Spirit, 12,000 from 12 tribes sealed and preserved through the tribulation, heaven has 12 gates of 12 pearls, and 12 angels at the gates, the New Jerusalem has 12 foundations, each with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb, it’s length, breadth, and height are all 12,000 furlongs, and the tree of life in heaven has 12 fruits. The number 12 is special to God.”

* Did Joseph have any sons after Manasseh and Ephraim?

      • In comparing different Bible translations a friend of mine pointed out something interesting about the wording of verse 6 of this chapter that causes me to wonder if Joseph did indeed have any sons after Manasseh and Ephraim. Some translations refer to sons of Joseph born after Manasseh and Ephraim in the past tense (indicating that he had already had more sons); some translations refer to these sons in the future tense (indicating that he will have more sons); and yet other translations refer to these sons in a hypothetical sense (if he has any more sons, then…). You can compare the wording in several different translations at this link: http://biblehub.com/genesis/48-6.htm No sons are documented elsewhere in the Bible, (not that they necessarily would have to be documented to exist) but I found this quirk among our translations interesting.

    • Then Jacob looked over at Manasseh and Ephraim and asked Joseph, “Are these your sons?”

      • HCSB notes, “Verses 8 -9 should not be understood to mean Jacob had never seen Ephraim and Manasseh or that his mind was confused in old age. Rather, because Jacob’s eyesight had deteriorated, he could not see who accompanied Joseph.”

    • Joseph said, “These are the sons that God has blessed me with here in Egypt.”

    • Jacob had become almost blind in his old age, so he told Joseph to bring them closer to him so he could bless them.

    • Joseph brought them over and Jacob kissed and hugged them. Jacob said to Joseph, “I never thought I would see you again, but now God has even let me see your children.”

    • Joseph moved his sons, who were at his father’s knees, and bowed with his face to the ground.

        • “Joseph lived his own life as a high official of Egypt for many years, and had no contact with his father during that time. Yet it did not diminish the reverence he had towards his father.” (Guzik)

  1. Ephraim’s Greater Blessing

    • Then Joseph positioned his sons to receive their blessings. He put Ephraim at Jacob’s left hand and Manasseh at his right since Manasseh was the firstborn, but Jacob crossed his arms and placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s head.

      • “The right hand in the Bible always has the idea of the favored position because generally speaking, the right hand is the hand of strength and skill. The right hand is associated with God’s strength (Exodus 15:6), favor (Psalm 16:11), and help (Psalm 20:6). This is why Jesus is described as sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 14:62). Israel knew exactly what he intended to do. He deliberately chose the second-born to receive a greater blessing than the firstborn.” (Guzik)

    • Then Jacob blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked, the God who has always been my shepherd, and the Angel who has always kept me from harm- may He bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac, and may their descendants multiply and be numerous.”

      • “This is the first mention in the Bible of God as a shepherd to His people.” (Guzik)

      • “Israel gave the same blessing to both sons, but the son of the right hand received a greater proportion of the blessing.” (Guzik)

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The right hand was for the head of the firstborn, and Jacob was deliberately giving that position to the younger son. That pattern was followed for four consecutive generations: Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over Reuben, and Ephraim over Manasseh. Many years later, Ephraim became the leading tribe in the northern kingdom, superior to the tribe of Manasseh. The entire north kingdom of Israel was occasionally called Ephraim.”

    • Joseph was upset when he saw that Jacob had put his right hand on Ephraim’s head, so he lifted Jacob’s hand to move it to Manasseh’s head saying, “No father, this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.”

    • But Jacob did not remove his hand and responded, “I know, son, I know. Manasseh will also become a great people, but his younger brother will be even greater and his descendants will become many nations.”

    • So Jacob blessed the boys that day with this blessing, “The people of Israel will use your names when they give a blessing. They’ll say, ‘May God make you as prosperous as Ephraim and Manasseh.’”

    • Jacob then told Joseph, “I’m about to die, but God will be with you and He’ll bring you back to the land of Canaan- the land of your ancestors.”

    • Beyond what I am giving your brothers, I am also giving you the mountain slope that I took from the Amorites by my sword and bow.

      • “Not enough information is presented to know what Jacob is referring to in the phrase translated “the one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and bow.” “One mountain slope” is rendered Shechem, which probably relates to the destruction and capture of that city by Jacob’s sons (chapter 34). The connection seems likely because the wording in 48:22 refers to a land transfer, and Joseph is later buried in Schechem (Joshua 24:32).” (HCSB commentary)