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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Genesis 48

Verses 1-7

Joseph and His Sons with His Father


Joseph is informed that his father is sick. He understands that this sickness will lead to death. He takes both his sons to his sick father, expecting them to receive the blessing of their dying grandfather. Joseph, more than any of his brothers, was full of love for his father. Therefore he has reason to expect special favor from him.

It is a privilege for young people who are just starting their career in the world to be in contact or to come into contact with their grandparents who have lived with the Lord and are about to leave the world. Old believers can testify to the goodness of God and of His ways He has gone with them in His wisdom. That will be a great encouragement for the upcoming generation.

When Israel (Gen 48:2b) hears that Joseph is coming, he collects his strength and sits up in bed. Hearing the name of Joseph gives him strength. As Jacob (Gen 48:3) he begins to tell about the blessing God has given him and the promises made to him. He now wants to pass on the blessing he has received to his offspring.

Jacob deprives Reuben and Simeon of the blessing of the birthright and gives that blessing to Joseph’s sons. For this he adopts both of Joseph’s sons, who were given to him by a heathen woman, to be his own sons (1Chr 5:1). Reuben has lost the birthright; Jacob himself has bought it and appropriated it for himself with deceit, by pretending to be Esau (Gen 25:31-33; Gen 27:19). The Lord Jesus is also called the Firstborn, because He is worth the title, while the first Adam forfeited it. Jacob first mentions Ephraim.

Jacob is reminded by Joseph’s sons of the death of Rachel, his favorite wife. In her death he learned – in picture – that everything the flesh relies on must be taken away. God has taken Rachel from him, Rachel whom he wanted to spare at all costs. God also took Joseph and Benjamin from him. But God gives him back Joseph and Benjamin and he even sees Joseph’s sons.

A burial also speaks of new life. The death of Rachel was accompanied by the birth of Benjamin. Bethlehem is the turning point in the life of Jacob, Bethlehem is also the turning point in the history of the people of Israel, because the Lord Jesus, their Messiah, was born there: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, [too] little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic 5:2; Mt 2:1). They don’t see it yet, but they will see it.

Verses 8-16

Jacob Blesses Joseph and His Sons


When Joseph brings his sons to his father, his father asks who they are. The answer is the same as the answer Jacob once gave to Esau (Gen 33:5). Although Jacob cannot see the sons of Joseph, his grandsons, he embraces them. He loves them, as a grandfather loves his grandchildren. They are his crown (Pro 17:6a). He acknowledges God’s goodness that he was able to see not only Joseph, but also his children, while he thought Joseph was dead for so long. He says that God has blessed him abundantly.

“By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph” (Heb 11:21). It has been said that Jacob has never walked as powerfully as here where he is sick in bed, and has never seen as clearly as here while his eyes have become weak. It is possible that when blessing the youngest before the eldest he thought of the deceit he committed as the youngest to get the blessing of the eldest (Gen 27:19).

Jacob also blesses Joseph himself in Joseph’s sons (Gen 48:15), confessing God as his Shepherd. He knows that God has led him, even though he has not thought of Him so often. He knows that God has saved him from all need (cf. 2Tim 4:18), in which he has ended up through his own fault.

In the blessing which Jacob pronounces, he uses three designations for God:
1. First he speaks of “the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked”. With this he indicates that he knows God as the God of the covenant.
2. He then speaks of “the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day”. In this he indicates that God took care of him all his life and has never let him be wanting for anything.
3. Finally, he calls God “the angel who has redeemed me from all evil”. Jacob is also aware of God’s protection and deliverance from all the tribulation he has experienced.

With these three special names for God he prays for God’s gracious blessing for both boys.

Verses 17-20

Jacob Blesses the Youngest First


Joseph thinks his father is wrong. It is the only imperfection we read of Joseph in the Bible, which shows that he too is a fallible human being. Only the Lord Jesus has always been perfect, without any imperfection. Jacob blesses by faith. His eye of faith sees God’s purpose to bless the youngest before the oldest here too, just as He did with him and Esau. He expressed his confidence in God by saying twice: “I know.”

God overlooks natural privileges and chooses those who otherwise would not be eligible for the blessing of the birthright. The blessing of the birthright is for Joseph – in his sons. Judah gets the position associated with the birthright (1Chr 5:1-2).

In the books of the prophets, after the division of the Israel into ten and two tribes, the ten tribes realm is regularly referred to by the name Ephraim. Manasseh has not become as great as Ephraim and is also divided in two. Half a tribe lives in the land and the other half lives at the other side of the Jordan.

Verses 21-22

An Extra Blessing for Joseph


Joseph receives an extra blessing from Jacob. It is a portion, literally a mountain ridge, which Jacob took from the enemy with his sword and his bow. He made an effort for that. The sword is a weapon used when the enemy is near. The bow is used when the enemy is far away. The sword is a picture of the Word of God that we use in faith to defeat the enemy. The bow represents the hope through which we already appropriate now what is yet to come (2Kgs 13:15-17).

It may be that what Jacob says here is to be seen as prophetic present tense. It is not known that Jacob has conquered a piece of land in Canaan. It may therefore be that he is referring here to the conquest of it by his descendants. It may also be that he refers to the piece of land he first bought (Jos 24:32), but that this land was later, when he has left for Egypt, taken over by the Amorites. In any case, it is a piece of land that has been fought for. He gives this land to Joseph (cf. Jn 4:5).

We may live in the light of the future, when all enmity is destroyed. By sword and bow we take possession of a mountain ridge to give it to the true Joseph. A mountain ridge is a height, a place elevated from the earth and therefore closer to heaven. It speaks of fellowship with God, of being satisfied with Him.

Habakkuk can sing while everything is lacking him: “The Lord GOD is my strength, … and makes me walk on my high places.” (Hab 3:17-19). We too can pass on blessings to our children, blessings we have obtained through the conquests we have made on the enemy. If we pass it on, it is good to tell how we have conquered this blessing, so that our children will work in the same way for their descendants. The blessing is: fellowship with God.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 48". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-48.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.