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GENESIS - CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT
After the events recorded in the preceding chapter, word came to Joseph that his father was ill. Joseph rushed to his bedside, accompanied by his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. These sons were no longer children, but were likely between 20 and 25 years old. Apparently they had not as yet been formally adopted into the family of Israel. This Jacob must do before his death.
Joseph desired that his sons share in Israel’s inheritance, not the power and pomp of Egypt. Also, he wanted to insure his rights as first-born, to double portion of Jacob’s estate. By confirming his two sons as heirs, in place of himself, he was assured of this right.
Jacob recalled his initial experience with God Almighty, El Shaddai, at Luz (Bethel). There he was assured of his place in the Divine lineage and blessings upon the Chosen People. This would now be conferred upon Joseph’s sons.
Jacob pronounced the prophetic patriarchal blessing upon Joseph, in a special manner. Long ago he had acknowledged him as his chosen to receive the honor and property rights of the firstborn. He evidenced this choice in the distinctive coat he bestowed upon him (Ge 37:1-4). Now the sons of Joseph stood before Jacob to receive the portion alloted to him.
At this time, Jacob formally adopted into the family of Israel the two sons of Joseph, bestowing upon them equal footing with Reuben and Simeon. Reuben had forfeited his rights as firstborn in his incestuous relationship with Bilhah. Simeon had forfeited his rights as next in line, by his part in the bloody massacre at Shechem (Ge 34:25-31).
One manifestation of Jacob’s failing health was loss of eyesight. He was unable to see Joseph’s two sons to discern who they were. Joseph identified them as his sons, and placed them before Jacob to receive the prophetic blessing accompanied by the laying on of hands. He placed Manasseh on the right hand of Israel and Ephraim on the left. According to the order of their birth, this was the proper arrangement. Manasseh was the eldest, and Joseph assumed he would be preferred above Ephraim.
Even though Jacob was unable to see with his eyes, the vision of faith caused him to cross his hands, and place his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh’s. This indicated the choice of Ephraim as heir to the rights of the firstborn, rather than Manasseh. This choice illustrates the superiority of faith’s vision over what men may see naturally.
In the blessing he pronounced upon Joseph, through his two sons, Jacob invoked the Name of "the Elohim," the One who had sustained him in all his journeys. The "Angel," Maleach, is not a created being, but is in reality the Jehovah Angel with whom Jacob wrestled at Jabbok (Ge 37:23-29). He it was who "redeemed" Jacob from the threat of captivity at the hands of his brother Esau.
Jacob invoked God’s blessing upon Ephraim and Manasseh, and assigned his own family name to these two sons of Joseph They would share in the blessings of Abraham and Isaac under the Covenant promises.
Joseph noted his father’s hands: the right was upon Ephraim’s head, the left upon Manasseh’s. This displeased him. He thought Jacob had made a mistake and was bestowing the blessing upon the wrong son. Perhaps he was mindful of what had occurred in the blessing conferred by Isaac on his two sons Jacob and Esau. He moved to correct what he considered a grave error.
Jacob was fully aware of what he was doing. He was acting under God’s direction. He prophesied that Manasseh would indeed be blessed, but the greater honor would belong to Ephraim. This was God’s direction. It was contrary to human reasoning. But in God’s infinite wisdom He made the choice He knew was best.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 48". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany