Genesis 48: Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh

1 After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2 And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. 3 And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’

-Jacob is referring to the vision he received when he first left his father’s household in Genesis 28. He saw the vision of heaven where the angels were ascending and descending a ladder between heaven and Earth. After 67 years or half a lifetime for Jacob, he still remembers this vision and understands what it means. He knows Joseph’s sons are part of the 12 tribes (13 counting the Levites) and a part of what will be the nation of Israel so he blesses them as receiving part of this inheritance and promise.

5 And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. 6 And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. 7 As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).” 8 When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” 9 Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” And he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.” 10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” 12 Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.

-Israel was speaking of Joseph’s sons yet hadn’t even seen them because his vision was so bad and could not guess who they were. When Israel says he lost Rachel it sounds almost as if Rachel was lost on the journey between Canaan and Egypt while working their way towards Ephrath but we know that’s impossible since she died upon Benjamin’s birth. So Israel is just explain how Joseph’s mother died in the middle of talking about Joseph’s sons. Israel “bowed himself with his face to the earth” meaning he was bowing to God because he felt so blessed to not only see Joseph, his favored son, again but also that he has children of his own. What a blessing indeed.

13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. 14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). 15 And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” 17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.”

-It is very interesting that Israel does this because he seems to have foreknowledge of what is going to happen. Even though he has twelve sons, there are going to be twelve tribes of Israel plus the Levite priests. Either Israel is short one son or one of the sons will split in two. Well this son happens to be Joseph and since he has two sons, they split Josephs “region” making up the twelve tribes plus the Levite priests. Israel’s crossing his hands instead of from side to side was showing that they crossed over one another and the older will not simply get the blessing but the younger will be mightier than the older but they both will be people’s in themselves. We have seen this happen with Isaac and Jacob and now it is happening with Ephraim and Manasseh. We even saw Zerah miraculously retreat into the birth canal and Perez being born first. God seems to be making a habit out of showing that order of birth does not determine success in life. How Israel knows this means he must have been filled with the Spirit to have this kind of knowledge. We talked about this before with visions and also with Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams.

20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.”

-How does one own one mountain slope? Is Israel talking about owning a portion of a mountain? We are not told the story of how Israel fought off Amorites with a sword and bow but he apparently fought them at some time and one some kind of “portion”. The word for “portion” in Hebrew is “shekem” which actually means “neck” or “shoulder”. If the context is a hill, then this word could be talking about the slope or “neck” of a mountain but it does not say mountain here. The most literal translation would just be “Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” The Hebrew does not suggest the portion is a mountain slope so I do not know why it says this in the ESV translation as well as the HCSB translation. The King James Version, NKJV, and NASB just say portion leaving it ambiguous and the NIV and NLT suggest a portion of some kind of land. Since the patriarchs were always sojourners and a point was made when Abraham bought land to bury Sarah, it is unlikely that Jacob took land from the Amorites. This portion could have been spoils or maybe the Amorites livestock. The point is, Israel gave Joseph more of a blessing that becomes split between his two sons which elevate them to the same status as the other eleven sons. So in terms of blessings, 13 of them are blessed and 13 is the number of peoples that will make up the nation of Israel.

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