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Thursday, May 30th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 48

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-22


A little later Joseph was told that his father was sick, so he brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim to visit him. Jacob strengthened himself to sit on the bed. Then Jacob speaks to Joseph of God's first recorded appearance to him (Genesis 28:11-15) at Luz (or Bethel) in Canaan, giving him His special blessing, promising to multiply him into a multitude of people and to give that land to his descendants for an everlasting possession (vs.3-4). Jacob was therefore not interested in any other land on earth. Though he would himself be in heaven and have no part of the earthly inheritance, he was deeply concerned about the welfare of his descendants, and Joseph too has the same concern.

Now Jacob claims the two sons of Joseph as his own, calling the Ephraim and Manasseh in order of their birth (v.5). This was not just a whim of Jacob's old age, but history has proved it to be an important matter. Jacob had 12 sons at the time, the exact number of administrative completeness. Why should he give Joseph an extra place among the tribes by naming them after his two sons? The wisdom of God was in this, for later we find that Levi was given no distinctive inheritance among the tribes (Numbers 1:47-53) because that tribe was separated in order to do the service of God in the tabernacle and among all the tribes. Thus the 12 tribes were each given their distinct inheritance in the land of Canaan, while the Levites were dispersed among the tribes.

However, any sons that Joseph might have afterward would be considered connected with either Ephraim or Manasseh (v.6).

Verse 7 is the only expression we hear from Jacob's lips as to the death of his favored wife, Rachel. The depths to which his heart was affected is not at all dwelt upon, but though he so restrained his feeling, the memory of it was real and poignant as he tells Joseph of the exact location of her death and the place of her burial. These were things he would not forget.

By this time Jacob's eyesight had failed, so he did not recognize Ephraim and Manasseh (vs.8-10), but when Joseph brought them near, Jacob kissed and embraced them, telling Joseph he had not expected to see him again, but that now God had allowed him to see Joseph's sons.

To receive the blessing of Jacob, Manasseh was presented by Joseph on Jacob's right hand and Ephraim on his left (v.13), but Jacob crossed his arms, putting his right hand on Ephraim's head and his left on Manasseh's head (v14). Verse 15-16 tell us that he blessed Joseph, then invoked the blessing of the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac upon both Ephraim and Manasseh, speaking of God as the one who had fed him all his life. Consistently with his claiming them as his own sons, he asks that his name would be upon them, and the names of Abraham and Isaac, stressing the continuity of the blessing of God upon that family. Also, he says "may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." This is clearly earthly blessing, not having anything to do with heaven.

Joseph was not pleased that Jacob had placed his right hand on Ephraim's head and took hold of his hand to change it to the head of Manasseh, telling him that since Manasseh was firstborn, Jacob should put his right hand on his head. But Jacob firmly refused, for he knew well what he was doing. It is natural to think that the firstborn should have the prime honor, but God often reverses such things. Adam had the place of the firstborn in creation, but Christ has rightly taken the place of having all the rights of the firstborn (Colossians 1:15-16). Jacob too no doubt remembered that Esau was set aside so that Jacob would take first place (Genesis 25:23).

Another important feature of this is evident in the meaning of the names of these brothers. Manasseh means "forgetting" and Ephraim means "fruitful," because Joseph was caused to forget the natural blessing of his father's house because fruitful in Egypt. But forgetting is negative: fruitfulness is positive, and the positive must take the first place. Jacob says that Manasseh would become great, but Ephraim would be greater than he (v.19). Both are blessed (v.20), but Ephraim is set before Manesseh.

Jacob then calmly speaks of his death, but assures Joseph that God would be with him bring him again into the land of promise. This referred, not to Joseph personally (except for his bones), but to Joseph's family. He reminds Joseph again that he had given him a portion double to that of his brothers, speaking of taking it by conquest from the Amorites, the enemies within the land of canaan, though we are from the Amorites, the enemies within the land of canaan, though we are given no record of such warfare. But the sufferer, Joseph, is well repaid for all the affliction he had seen.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 48". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/genesis-48.html. 1897-1910.
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