December 13, 2017

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART IV: JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN (Gen. 37:1-50:26)

 

Topic #F: THE LAST DAYS OF JACOB AND OF JOSEPH. (Gen. 47:28-50:26).                    

 

                              Lesson IV.F.3: He Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh. (Genesis 48:8-22)                                             


Genesis 48:8-22 (KJV)

 

And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these?

And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.

10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them.

11 And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.

12 And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself 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 unto him.

14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,

16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head.

18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.

22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.

 

 

Introduction

 

As in earlier patriarchal narratives, the blessing of the father is passed along to the next generation.  Two features stand out here.

  1. It was the younger son, Ephraim, who receive the blessing of the firstborn rather than the older, Manasseh (v.19). Thus, once again, receiving the blessing offered by God does not rest with one’s natural status in the world but is based solely on God’s grace.
  2. The blessing recorded here is largely subordinated to and superseded by the blessing for Judah in chapter 49.

 

In his words, Jacob recalled God’s promise to him at Bethel (35:9-13) by repeating the Lord’s words almost verbatim.  The first blessing (vv. 15-16) appears to be of Joseph rather than the two sons, but in the blessing itself, he referred to “these boys” (v. 16), and that blessing ultimately focused on them.  They were to be called by Jacob’s name and the names of Abraham and Isaac; they were to “increase greatly,” just as God had promised Abraham 12:2. 

 

 

Commentary

 

And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these?

 

And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, of whom he had been speaking as if they were not present.  He might not have known until now that they were present, for Jacob’s vision was so poor, due to his advanced age and poor health that we are told in verse 10 “that he could not see” [“Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them” (Genesis 48:10).], and therefore he could not make out who they were; he saw two young men standing by Joseph, but he did not know who they were, and therefore asked the following question: “Who are these?” I have no doubt that he had inquired about his grandchildren from Joseph, before he called them his heirs. They were at this time about eighteen or twenty years of age.

 

Who are these? Whose sons are they? The old man is nearly blind (Genesis 48:10) and he has only been aware of Joseph, but now he becomes aware of two others with him and asks who they are. In Joseph’s answer“They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place” (48:9)―we detect what we have talked about before, that the fruit of the womb is not born by chance, but is to be reckoned among the precious gifts of God. This confession has indeed found heartfelt utterance from the tongues of multitudes of new parents; but there is too few who heartily acknowledge that their seed has been given them by God. And hence a large proportion of man’s offspring becomes continually more and more degenerate: because the ingratitude of the world renders it unable to perceive the effect of the blessings of God.

 

9 And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.

 

And Joseph said unto his father, they are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. In the land of Egypt; he considers his sons as gifts of God, which children are [“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). The faithful acknowledge that all benefits come from God's free mercy.] It was not only an attitude of the Jews, that children are the gift of God [The Hebrew word for God used here is Elohim, God Himself]; but of Heathens, and the Greeks and Romans.

 

Joseph tells him that they are his two sons. His words echo Jacob’s mention of them as being born in Egypt. Then, on hearing this, Jacob calls them forward to receive adoption immediately. It might have been a great relief when Joseph heard his father say he will adopt them, since he was concerned that Jacob would not want to bless these boys, because their mother was an Egyptian. Jacob's great love for Joseph meant that love would extend to his sons, as well. So he said, “Bring them . . . and I will bless them.” The Lord Jesus Christ in like manner presents us to His heavenly Father with, “Here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me” (Hebrews 2:13.) Whereunto the Father replies, as Jacob does here, “Bring them now unto me, and I will bless them.”

 

The blessing of Joseph’s sons is the one act among all the others that the writer of Hebrews selected as an act of faith [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).] There is a bit of irony in the fact that on just such an occasion as this Jacob had exercised his guile in his youth (chapter 27).

 

And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them; not in the ordinary way, only just wishing them prosperity and happiness, but as a patriarch and prophet, under the influence and inspiration of the Spirit of God, declaring what would happen to them, and what blessings they would partake of, in time to come.

 

It speaks highly in Joseph's favor that, after listening to Jacob’s promise regarding Ephraim and Manasseh, he did not seek to draw his aged father's attention to the young men before him, but quietly waited for Jacob to take the initiative in any further conversation of a personal nature that he might wish to address to them. “And he [i.e. Jacob] said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.” The legal rite of adopting children involved the one adopting taking each child upon his knee [This was thus part of the adoption ceremony.], but in this case Jacob probably made them kneel between his knees [Note how Joseph brings them from between his knees - Genesis 48:12], since he is old and weak, and they are grown men.

 

10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them.

 

 Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see (48: 8)Or his eyes were “heavy,” so that he could not lift them up easily and see clearly; his eyebrows hung over, his eyes were sunk in his head, making it difficult for him to see well enough to identify an object or person. [See the similar account of Isaac (Genesis 27:1).] The dimness of Jacob's sight accounts for his not recognizing these children of Joseph’s; but, as soon as they were known to him, he asked for them to set close by his bed, and he embraced them with all conceivable tenderness. Any feeling heart may easily envision the satisfaction which the good old patriarch must have had, in beholding not only a son whom he had given up for lost, but that son in a position of authority and revered as a savior by an entire nation, and blessed with two sons that he will adopt into his family. His heart was warmed with the grateful sentiment—I had not thought I would ever see THY FACE, he says; I even gave up hope of that satisfaction; but God has shown me abundant mercy, for he hath shewed me also THINE OFFSPRING! (48:11).

 

And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. “And he [their father] brought them near unto him, so that he might see them better and bless them; and he [their old grandfather] kissed them, and embraced them, as a token of his affection for them. [See Isaac's blessing of Jacob (Genesis 27:26-27.).”]

 

11 And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.

 

And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face. Some years ago he never expected to see his son again, for he had come to believe he was dead when his other sons brought him his coat dipped in blood; and besides, many long years had passed before he heard anything about him.

 

Notice how Jacob regards all mercies as GOD'S gift. Friend, are you a partaker of divine grace? Are you a parent also? And do you have a well-grounded hope that any of your offspring are partakers of divine grace? And is there anything in this expression by the patriarch that can be applied to your case? Can you say, I never thought that I would become a Christian, because I am so utterly unworthy, and yet GOD has revealed to me that my children (descendants) have also received God’s mercy? [“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33).]

 

There is a lot that can be read into the delicacy and tenderness in these expressions. He now feels amply compensated for the grief and trouble caused him by the supposed death of Joseph, by seeing not only Joseph but his two sons, whom God, by a remarkable act of kindness, is about to add to the number of his own family. As a consequence we find that just as Reuben and Simeon were heads of two distinct tribes in Israel, so were Ephraim and Manasseh; because Jacob had adopted them with equal privileges to those of his own sons.  Our blessings are even sweeter to us, when we see them coming from God’s hand.

 

As we’ve seen, Joseph replaced Reuben [In so doing, God was replacing Leah (the elder) with Rachel (the younger).  It was another reversal of birth order.], Jacob’s firstborn (49:3-4; 1 Chronicles 5:2); and now Joseph’s sons would replace Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-7), Jacob’s second and third sons.  The Levites were given no inheritance in of the Promised Land but lived in 44 cities scattered throughout Israel (Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 18:2; Joshua 13:33; 14:4; 21:1); and Simeon was eventually absorbed into the tribe of Judah (Judges 19:1-9).  In this way, God punished Levi and Simeon for their anger and violence at Shechem (Genesis 34). 

 

And, lo, God hath showed me also thy seed. It was an additional blessing to see his offspring; but it is almost impossible to believe that in a course of the seventeen years he had been in Egypt, he had not seen them before. Therefore, he takes this opportunity, which was the last he would have to express his pleasure on this occasion.

 

12 And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.

 

And Joseph brought them out from between his knees; either from between his own, where they were kneeling, while he was sitting, in order that they might be nearer his father, to receive his blessing by the laying on of his hands; or rather from between his father's knees, as he sat upon his bed with his feet upon the ground [See 49:33]. Joseph kissed and embraced them, while they were still between his knees. And then, in order to keep them from being burdensome to his aged father, leaning on his breast, and especially, to put them in a proper position to receive his benediction, he took them from between his knees, and placed them against him; the eldest son to his right and the younger son to his left hand and ordered them to kneel.

 

Holy Jacob did not desire to embrace his grandsons after the common manner of men; but since he was God’s interpreter, he wished to impart to them the same blessing he had received from his father, Isaac. And although, in dividing the land of Canaan, he assigned them equal portions with his sons, yet the placement of his hands represented something higher; namely, that they should be two of the patriarchs of the Church, and should hold an honorable pre-eminence in the spiritual kingdom of God.

 

And he bowed himself with his face to the earth.  “He bowed himself,” testifying thereby, of his reverence to his father, his thankfulness for the favor which he had now showed to him and his, and his humble and earnest request for his blessing upon them. The duty and honor Joseph showed towards his father are among the brightest ornaments of his character. Though highly exalted in the court of the greatest monarch upon earth, he didn’t think it beneath him to bend before his aged father, and pay him all the marks of submission and duty; and he did so at a time when the text assures us Jacob's eyes were dim, and could not see; and consequently, when he could not be upbraided by his father for lack of due respect.

 

Joseph is filled with gratitude for what his father has done for his sons. He raises them from where they are and shows his gratitude by bowing low to his father. The great Vizier does obeisance to the old man, his father. And now is the time for them to receive his dying blessing as his sons.

 

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 unto him.

 

And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand. He took Ephraim his youngest son in his right hand, and gave him to his father. This would put him in the right position to have his grandfather's left hand placed upon him.

 

And Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand. He took Manasseh, his eldest son, in his left hand, and brought him to his father, and so he was in the proper position to have Jacob’s right hand laid upon him. Manasseh is the eldest and should receive the blessing from the right hand in acknowledgement of his seniority. The right hand was conceived as being the most powerful, as it usually is in actual practice. The right hand has supremacy over the left among most people. Thus Joseph guides them towards Jacob in the right positions for the blessing. But Jacob in his dying insight is aware of something that Joseph is not aware of.

 

And brought them near unto him in the above manner, so near that he could lay his hands on them. The very act of pronouncing the blessing was remarkable, showing that Jacob's bosom was animated by the spirit of prophecy.

 

This is the first of many scriptural instances of the laying on of hands.  By this symbolic act, a person transfers a spiritual power or gift to another.  In this case Jacob symbolically transfers a blessing from himself to Joseph’s sons.  Ephraim and Manasseh do become great tribes.  At one time, Ephraim was used as a synonym for the kingdom of Israel.

 

Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh also carries prophetic significance and force (48:19-20).  This is the fourth consecutive generation of Abraham’s descendants in which the normal pattern of the firstborn assuming prominence over the second-born is reversed; Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over Reuben, and Ephraim over Manasseh.

 

14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

 

And Israel stretched out his right hand, not directly forward, but across [we might say that he crossed his arms.], or otherwise it would have been laid on Manasseh, as Joseph intended; which is evidenced by the position he placed him in. But something very unexpected occurred; bearing in mind his eyes were dim with age, so that he could not, by looking, recognize which was the elder, yet he intentionally crossed his arms so that his right hand rested upon Ephraim’s head.

 

Laying hands on the head was always used among the Jews when giving blessings, appointing men to any office, and in the consecration of solemn sacrifices. This is the first time we meet with the mention of it; but we often read of it afterwards (See Numbers 18:23; Deuteronomy 34:9; Matthew 13:15; Acts 6:6; 1 Timothy 4:14.)

 

And laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger―Jacob laid his right hand on the head of the younger [Note: Since the right hand is the strongest and most used, it was thought to be more honorable to sit at it, so to have it employed to indicate the recipient of a blessing suggests a greater blessing will follow.], which we are told he did “wittingly,” that is, he knew very well what he was doing, for though Manasseh was the first-born, he knew through the Spirit of prophecy that Ephraim's posterity would be more powerful than that of Manasseh. It was clear from the beginning that God has preferred the younger to the elder―for instance, it was Abel before Cain; Shem before Japheth; Isaac before Ishmael; Jacob before Esau; Judah and Joseph before Reuben; Ephraim before Manasseh; Moses before Aaron; and David before his brethren. “This is entirely due to the wise and secret counsel of God, so far as it relates to earthly blessings and national privileges, as the apostle tells us [“for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,” (Romans 9:11). Note:  The decree of God, which is entirely free, and depends upon his own will and choice, stands firm and immutable, and is not to be disannulled by earth or hell, for it stands not on the precarious foot of works, but on the mighty will of God. God's judgments are often contrary to man's and he prefers what man despises.]. But this preference has nothing to do with God conferring a greater measure of His love and approbation on one person more than another; compare Genesis 4:7, with Hebrews 11:4, and you will see that a difference in moral character was the sole cause why God preferred Abel to Cain. The grace that converts the soul certainly comes from the mere mercy of God, without any merit on man's part; and a sufficiency of this is offered to every man, Titus 2:11-12. But it is not less certain that God loves those best that are most faithful to this grace.

 

And his left hand upon Manasseh's head; who was the older.

 

Guiding his hands wittingly means that this was not done accidentally, but on purpose: or made his "hands to understand,”―they acted as if they understood what he would have done, as if they were conscious of what should be done, or would be done. Though he could not see clearly and distinctly, yet he knew, by the position of them before him, which was the elder and which was the younger. He knew that Joseph would set the firstborn in such a position before him that he would naturally put his right hand on him and the younger in such a position that, as you would expect, put his left hand on him. But, Jacob, being under a divine impulse and spirit of prophecy, became aware that the younger was to have the greater blessing; therefore, he crossed his bands, or changed them, and put his right hand on Ephraim, and his left hand on Manasseh.

 

For Manasseh was the firstborn; or rather, “though he was the firstborn.”

 

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,

 

And he [Jacob] blessed Joseph while his hands were resting on the heads of his two sons, by openly declaring his blessing upon Ephraim and Manasseh, who became the heads of tribes. In blessing his seed he honors himself. In exalting Joseph’s two sons to the same rank and rights of his natural children, he bestows upon them the double portion of the first-born. Furthermore, he blessed Joseph, but not personally at this time, but through his are his children, which is nevertheless called here a blessing of Joseph, because they were a part of him. In which sense, and upon the same basis, the land of Canaan is often said to be not only promised, but given to Abraham and Isaac, & their descendents. Along these lines Ham is said to be cursed when his son is cursed (9:25). 

 

And said, God [literally, the Elohim], before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk [See 17:1, 24:40.], in whom they believed, whom they professed, and whom they feared, served, and worshipped, and with whom they had communion, is theGod [literally, the Elohim], before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk” is the Author of salvation, the Judge who dispenses justice and mercy, the Father, before whom the adopted and regenerate child walks. From Him salvation comes, to Him the saved returns, to walk before Him and be perfect.

 

The God which fed me [literally, the Elohim shepherding me (See 23:1; 28:9); that is to say, protected, sustained, and directed me.] all my life long unto this day; who had upheld him in life, provided for him all the necessities of life, and had watched over him ever since he was a being, and had fed him as the great shepherd of the flock, both with worldly and spiritual food, being the God of his life, and him, the recipient of His mercies in every sense. As long as we have lived in this world we have had the continual experience of God’s goodness to us in providing for the support of our natural life. Our bodies have called for daily food, and we have never suffered due to Him neglecting us.

 

16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

 

The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.  Jacob testifies of an angel who had redeemed him from all evil. The Angel of the Lord appears frequently in the Old Testament.  He appears to Hagar when she flees from Sarai (16:7-13), wrestles with Jacob (43:22-32; Hosea 12:4), and appears to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2).  Many believe this angel is a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.  This is further supported by the first use of the word redeemed in the Bible. The deliverances of believing sinners from misery and danger, by the application of Divine power, coming through the payment of the blood of Christ, are in scripture frequently entitled redemption.  In His work of salvation God has become a redeemer in a sense beyond anything Jacob imagined.

 

Just as God does not give His glory to the creatures, we may be sure that such things are not spoken of a created angel.  This is one proof among many, that He who by Malachi is called the Messenger or Angel of the covenant, even Jesus Christ, was known by the patriarchs as being distinct from the Father, yet one with Him; and that as such, he manifested himself to them and was worshipped by them. It is clear then that this particular angel is not to be considered a created angel. He wishes to be their guardian, but an eternal one, for He is the Son of God, the Angel of God's presence, the Angel of the covenant; the same was the God of his father, mentioned before, as the One who had redeemed him [Jacob] from all evil; not only had He protected and preserved him from earthly evils and imminent dangers from Esau, Laban, and others; but had delivered him from the power, guilt, and punishment of sin, the greatest of evils, and from the dominion and tyranny of Satan the evil one, and from everlasting wrath, ruin, and damnation. Only a divine Person could do such things. He wishes, desires, and prays, that He would "bless" the lads with earthly and spiritual blessings, which a created angel cannot do; and besides, Jacob would never have asked him to do these things.

 

The word “bless” is in the singular number, and equally relates to God and to the Angel, the same Angel to whom he here attributes his deliverances from all evil. It is reasonable to assert that the same One to whom he prayed for these very deliverances which he here commemorates, was none other than the very God of Abraham, which is evident from Genesis 28:15, 20, 21; 32:9-11 35:3.

 

And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac. The Angel; not a created angel as shown above, but Christ Jesus, who is called an Angel (Exodus 23:20), and the Angel of the covenant (Malachi 3:1), who was the conductor of the Israelites in the wilderness, which becomes obvious when Exodus 23:20, 21is compared with 1 Corinthians 10:4, 9. What's more, this Angel is called Jacob’s Redeemer, which is the title appropriated by God and applied to Himself (Isaiah 43:14, 47:4). He will redeem men from all evil, and therefore from sin, from which no created angel can deliver us; only Christ has that kind of power (Matthew 1:21). Jacob worshipped and prayed to this Angel no less than he prayed to God for the blessing.

 

Jacob’s prayer may be stated this way, “Let them forever be consideredpart of my own family and let them be called by my name [Israel]; let them be true Israelites, persons who shall prevail with God as I have done; and in the name of Abraham, let them be partakers of his faith; and in the name of Isaac, let them be as remarkable for submissive obedience as he was. Let the virtues of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob accumulate in them, and be always displayed by them!” These are the very words of adoption; and by the laying-on of hands, the prayer of the Redeemer, and the solemn blessing pronounced, the adoption was completed. Ephraim and Manasseh are now about twenty years old. From this moment Ephraim and Manasseh had the same rights and privileges as Jacob's sons, which as the sons of Joseph they could never have possessed. And let them grow into a great nation with multitudes of people, and more than any other of the tribes; even in the times of Moses the number of them were 85,200 men fit for war (Numbers 26:3); and their territory was in the middle of the land of Canaan.

 

17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head.

 

And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him.  Joseph was agitated by his father’s act, for it did not immediately occur to him that the patriarch was guided by the spirit of prophecy in what he did, while Joseph was reacting with paternal affection. Though Joseph himself was endowed with the spirit of prophecy, he was not using it now; for prophets were not always inspired, nor did they have knowledge of all things. Old Jacob speaks with prophetic energy: “I know it, my son, I know it” (48:19). 

 

And he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head.  Joseph, who was willing to support the reputation of his first-born, would have removed his father’s hands; but something, perhaps the influence of the Holy Spirit, stopped him.

 

18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

 

“Not so,” he cried.  “Not so my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.” He thought Jacob’s shortsightedness accounted for his actions, and he certainly did not want his father to preempt his own preferences.  Manasseh was his older boy, and by all natural standards Manasseh should get the major share of any material or spiritual benefits Jacob might bestow.  The reversal of the blessing is reminiscent of the deception of Isaac, but here the maneuver anticipated the history of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, but soon after the permanent settlement in Canaan Ephraim had gained the ascendency.

 

19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

 

Jacob knew what he was doing, for it says, “And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it.”  Thus Jacob’s faith overcame the will of man [Joseph’s will] just as Isaac’s faith had overcome the will of the flesh. 

 

Jacob succeeded in convincing his son that he knew what he was doing, and that he did it neither by mistake, nor from a partiality for one more than the other; but from a spirit of prophecy, and in compliance with the Divine guidance. God, in bestowing His blessings upon His people, gives more to some than to others, more gifts, more grace, and more comfort, and more of the good things of this life.  He often gives most to those that are least likely.  He chooses the weak things of the world; he raises the poor out of the dust. God doesn’t prefer those whom we think are the fittest and who we prefer, but as it pleases Him.  God often, by the distinguishing favors of His covenant, advances the younger above the elder.  Thus free grace becomes more memorable.

 

He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great.

In addition to the special blessing upon Ephraim, blessing was also given to Manasseh (See 27:39-40).  He also shall be great; but his younger brother shall be greater than he”; his posterity shall be greater, both in number and in self-esteem: and in the future, the family of Ephraim was a more numerous tribe than that of Manasseh (Numbers 1:32-34); and in many respects had the pre-eminence (Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 33:17). Joshua and Jeroboam both were of this tribe; and the kingdom of the ten tribes is frequently called that of Ephraim (Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 11:13; Isaiah 28:1; Hosea 5:12-13, 15).

 

But truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. What is called a multitude of nations, “shall become a multitude of nations,” is, in the Hebrew, fullness of nations, that is, of families; as much as to say, "His offspring shall replenish the country with numerous families:" the fullness of the earth, and the fullness of the sea, is that which the earth and the sea contain, and which replenishes them, Psalms 96:11. Isaiah 42:10. Psalms 24:1.

 

20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

 

And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh―The blessing given to Manasseh is “God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh,” and it is still used among Jewish people.  The emphasis that all Israel shall bless themselves by wishing to be as fortunate as Ephraim and Manasseh, possibly dates the passage in a time of national prosperity, most likely the reign of Jeroboam II in the mid-eighth century b.c.

 

In blessing Joseph’s sons, Jacob also blessed Joseph; for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh became strong leaders in Israel.  Jacob gave all the glory to God, the God who called his fathers and blessed them, who shepherded him all his life and cared for him, and who saved him from evil and harm even though he had experienced great difficulty.

And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.  That was not just the stubbornness of an old man used to having his own way.  It was not a personal preference but a prophetic pronouncement.

 

Jacob was a true prophet, for Ephraim certainly became the greater of the two tribes.  Ephraim became so dominant that, after the ten tribes broke away to set up its rival kingdom, it was Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, who led the rebellion (1 Kings 11:26).  As time wore on the tribe of Ephraim gave its name to the entire Northern Kingdom. 

 

21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.

 

“And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die.” The patriarch could speak of death with composer, but he wished to prepare Joseph and the rest of the family for the shock.

 

How poor are they who have no riches but those of this world!  How miserable is a death-bed to those who have no well-grounded hope of good, but dreadful apprehension of evil, and nothing but evil forever!  Let us fear being distracted with a portion in this world, or with a hypocritical religion, or a presumptuous hope, which will at least leave us in despair. 

 

Jacob “said to Joseph . . . But God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers,” which is prophesy given him by the Holy Spirit―that he would return to Canaan someday, for it was God’s will.  But Jacob, in all probability, was not authorized to speak of their bondage—he dwelt only on the certainty of their restoration to Canaan.

 

Like Jacob, Joseph also had remarkable faith.  In giving his two sons to Jacob, he is virtually consenting to their being rejected for a future and position in Egypt.  By identifying his sons with the despised shepherding people, Joseph seals them off from ascendency.  It is madness from the perspective of the world.  But like his father, Jacob, Joseph believed the word of promise—that God was building a great people who would one day return to the land of promise.

 

22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.

 

Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren.  Jacob’s prophetic promise to Joseph, made here, is a play on words.  The word for portion means “ridge,” or “shoulder [of land],” and is the same as Shechem (Joshua 24:32).  Joseph was to have a “portion” in the Promised Land [Canaan] for his own.  It was a ridge near Shechem.  This apparently was a personal gift made by Jacob to Joseph [“Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.”(John 4:5).]  It was a ridge near Sychar where Joseph would be buried.  It compensated for the fact that two tribes came from Joseph and they needed more territory.  It was a parcel of land which Jacob first bought from the Amorite, and then later they retook it by force.  Jacob returned the compliment, and by force he reclaimed it.  It has been an area of controversy up to the present time.  It is here that modern Israel wants to build on the west bank.

 

 In Jesus day, people spoke of Shechem [near Sychar] as territory Jacob had given to Joseph (John 4:5).The double portion in Ephraim and Manasseh was confirmed, but its fulfillment would be in Canaan, not Egypt.  Joseph, through his two sons, would have a greater inheritance [a double portion] than the other brothers would have. Ezekiel 47:13 indicates that in the future kingdom, Joseph will have two portions of land.

 

Jacob’s words about the Amorites are puzzling.  But we must remember the spirit of prophecy was still upon him.  He was speaking of himself as the embodiment of the nation and speaking of the future as though it were the past—as though the conquest of Canaan and the slaying of the Amorite were already an accomplished fact.

 

Which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.  It is probable that during one of his frequent absences, the Amorites seized his land and possessions; but the patriarch, with the united forces of his tribe, took it back from them by his sword and his bow, but no such battle is recorded.  [This verse is the only evidence we have that Jacob was an accomplished warrior.  This victory may have occurred during the painful Shechem affair (34:25-26). This piece of property must not be confused with the one that Jacob had purchased (33:19) and where he was finally laid to rest (Joshua 24: 32).] On the other hand, He may have viewed Simeon and Levi’s slaughter of the Shechemites as his own taking of the city (34:27-29).  Jacob gave Joseph Shechem, which he regards as a down payment for all that God would give his descendants as they battled the Canaanites in the future.  Jesus would meet the woman of Sychar there and lead her to saving faith (John 4:15).

 

Joshua 24:32 states that Joseph’s embalmed body is buried on a plot of ground which was purchased from “the sons of Hamor” (See also John 4:5-6).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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