Jacob Blesses the Sons of Joseph
Genesis 48. In this chapter we have the event that is perhaps the highlight of Jacob’s life. In blessing the sons of Joseph, Jacob demonstrates once and for all that he has learned the lesson God was seeking to teach him throughout his lifetime. It is this act that Jacob is noted for in Hebrews 11; “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff” (Heb. 11:21). Jacob here was conferring the double portion of the firstborn on Joseph via his two sons.
Joseph Brings His Sons to Jacob (48:1-11)
1 And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick. And he took with him his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. 2 And one told Jacob and said, Behold, thy son Joseph is coming to thee. And Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. vv.1-2 Joseph Approaches. Jacob was now coming to the end of his life, and Joseph brought Ephraim and Manasseh, his two sons, to Jacob. In anticipation of the visit, “Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed”. Jacob would do something very important, and gathered his strength for a final task. Isaac asked for savory meat before blessing his sons, but Jacob strengthens himself.
3 And Jacob said to Joseph, The Almighty GOD appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, 4 and he said to me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a company of peoples; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. 5 And now thy two sons, who were born to thee in the land of Egypt before I came to thee into Egypt, shall be mine: Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon. 6 And thy family which thou hast begotten after them shall be thine: they shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. 7 And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was yet a certain distance to come to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem. vv.3-7 Ephraim and Manasseh Elevated. Jacob begins to explain to Joseph the rational for what he would do. He goes all the way back to Bethel, just before he left the land of Canaan to go into Padan-Aram, when he had the dream of the ladder reaching down from heaven. It was there that El-Shaddai appeared to Jacob and confirmed to him the promise of numerous seed, and the land of Canaan as the portion of his family. This was very much on Jacob’s mind as he lay on his deathbed, in Egypt. He was thinking of Canaan. It was of utmost importance to Jacob that the family of Joseph be included in the children of Israel. Rachel had died, and so that maternal link with the family was gone. For the love he had for Joseph, Jacob then adopted the two sons of Joseph as his own sons. In 1 Chronicle. 5:1-2 we see that the birthright passed from Reuben to Joseph because of Reuben’s sin, and the double portion of birthright resulted in two tribes for Joseph, rather than just one! In Ephraim and Manasseh we get a picture of “the adoption of sons” (Eph. 1:5). The adoption of sons is not what brings us into God’s family – that happens by new birth. Adoption brings us as children into an elevated position and relationship involving intelligence. It is the greatest blessing we have as believers. Read more… For Joseph’s sake, Jacob took two of his grandchildren and elevated them to the position of sons; “Ephraim and Manasseh… are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” These two grandsons were now sons, and they would have a portion of the inheritance along with Jacob’s other sons.
8 And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these? 9 And Joseph said to his father, They are my sons, whom God has given me here. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, to me, that I may bless them. 10 But the eyes of Israel were heavy from age: he could not see. And he brought them nearer to him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. 11 And Israel said to Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face; and behold, God has let me see also thy seed. vv.8-11 Ephraim and Manasseh Introduced. Israel had not seen the boys with Joseph and yet the blessing of the boys was already on Jacob’s heart. Jacob’s eyes were physically dim with age, but spiritually his sight had never been keener! Compare with Isaac.
Jacob Blesses the Sons of Joseph (48:12-22)
12 And Joseph brought them out from his knees, and bowed down with his face to the earth. 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 to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it on Ephraim’s head — now he was the younger — and his left hand on Manasseh’s head; guiding his hands intelligently, for Manasseh was the firstborn. vv.12-14 Jacob Guides His Hands. The natural order would be for Manasseh to be by Jacob’s right hand as the eldest, to receive the blessing of the eldest, and Ephraim toward the left hand as the youngest. Joseph directed the boys according to that order. But Jacob stretched his hand out the opposite way, crossing his arms, so that his right hand was on the head of the younger. This was no accident; “guiding his hands wittingly”. Jacob had learned the lesson that God had been seeking to teach him. God’s ways are not mans. How often Jacob had taken the natural approach to gain the blessing. Jacob learned at the end of his path the lesson God was trying to teach him from the beginning; that God is sovereign and He blesses according to His gracious will. Jacob acts now with the wisdom that he had from God, and perhaps a wisdom that had been deepened by years of trial followed by years of reflection and worship.
15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God that shepherded me all my life long to this day, 16 the Angel that redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the land! vv.15-16 The Blessing Begins. Jacob begins the blessing, and he speaks of God in touching terms. Notice it is on Joseph, but it was his through his two sons. First, as “the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked”. Jacob could see now the continuity of God’s purpose from the time that he called Abraham. The same God that Abraham and Isaac walked before, or lived in fear of, was the God that had taken up a personal care for Jacob. Earlier Jacob spoke of his life in terms of is difficulty; “few and evil have the days of the years of my life been”. Now he can look back and see the shepherding care of the Lord with him all along the way; “the God that shepherded me all my life long to this day”. Jacob was a shepherd by occupation, but now he can see that God had shepherded him. He speaks of God also as “the Angel that redeemed me from all evil”. On one hand we can easily see the connection between this “Angel” and the “man” who wrestled with Jacob until the break of day, and give Jacob the new name of Israel (Genesis 32:24). When he speaks of being “redeemed” from “all evil” he refers to the deliverance that the Lord had given Jacob in the end. Jacob prayed for blessing on the boys generally, and that his name, and Isaac’s and Abraham’s, would be on them, making them his own sons, like Reuben and Simeon. These boys would not be Egyptians, but truely the children of Israel! It is interesting that, although the blessing of Abraham would flow down many generations, in a certain sense God identifies Himself especially with these three; as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (). Jacob also prayed that both would have large families, and large portions in the land of Canaan. Nearly 50% of the land of Canaan (in the midst of the land) would later be possessed by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh!
17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it was evil in his eyes; and he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn: put thy right hand on his head. 19 But his father refused and said, I know, my son, I know: he also will become a people, and he also will be great; but truly his younger brother will be greater than he; and his seed will become the fulness of nations. 20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee will Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh! And he set Ephraim before Manasseh. vv.17-20 Blessing Interrupted, then Completed. Joseph interrupted Jacob in the middle of the blessing, after the general blessing was given, and before the first-born’s extra portion was given. Joseph thought his father was making a mistake by putting his right hand on the younger Ephraim. Joseph tried to correct his father, but Jacob in turn corrected Joseph! In his response, Jacob communicated a great depth of understanding; “I know, my son, I know”. Jacob knew what it was to seek the blessing on natural terms, according to the lines of nature. He had followed that path for many years, while God was patiently seeking to teach him dependence. Jacob had learned his lesson! He understood that God works according to His own sovereign will, and this is in spite of (or sometimes against) the flow of nature. First that which is natural, afterward that which is spiritual. He had been given wisdom from God in this case to give the greater blessing to the younger son. Joseph was corrected. Jacob had a wisdom that cannot be conferred or explained. He just knew it. It was the intelligence of faith. “You’re just going to have to go with me on this”. Ephraim would be greater. Historically, Ephraim became proud, and this resulted in much trouble. Yet both sons would be great, and their names would be synonymous with blessing among the children of Israel. But the order is now changed: not Manasseh and Ephraim, but Ephraim and Manasseh. In type fruitfulness (Ephraim) would come before forgetting (Manasseh). The positive comes first, then the negative. For the Lord (Joseph as a type), the fruit of the cross becomes the source of eternal joy which eclipses the toil of the cross which He had while here in the world; “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11). Hebrews 11 records this event as the defining act of faith in Jacob’s life; “by faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff” (Heb. 11:21). Jacob made divine application of what God had taught him, and this is the expression of his faith.
21 And Israel said to Joseph, Behold, I die; and God will be with you, and bring you again to the land of your fathers. 22 And “I” have given to thee one tract of land above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow. vv.21-22 Final Words to Joseph. Turning now to Joseph, Jacob comforts him that God would be with Joseph after his father’s death, and that God would lead Joseph’s family to Canaan; “the land of your fathers”. But Joseph’s portion as having the birthright would be “one tract of land above thy brethren”, came to pass. Jacob speaks of Canaan as the land “which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow”. We never read of Jacob taking the land of Canaan by conquest. Why does he say this then? Perhaps he has laid hold by faith of the future conflict that would come when his family returned from Egypt as a great nation, and views it as a thing already accomplished. It is also possible that Jacob was looking back to the events of ch.34 now in the light of God’s purpose. The double portion of Joseph was located near Schechem. In Shechem, what Levi and Simeon had done was offensive to Jacob and God, but God had turned it to blessing. It says out of the hand of “the Amorites”, see Gen. 15.