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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Genesis 48

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Jacob Blesses Joseph’s Sons

A. Jacob calls for his sons.

1. (Gen 48:1-4) Jacob remembers God’s promise.

Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, “Indeed your father is sick”; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And Jacob was told, “Look, your son Joseph is coming to you”; and Israel strengthened himself and sat up on the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph: “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’”

a. God Almighty appeared to me at Luz: Luz is another name for Bethel, where Jacob first met God. Jacob vividly remembered this outstanding encounter with the Lord.

b. Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you: Jacob’s phrasing is reminiscent of exact promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 17 (see Genesis 17:2, 17:6, and 17:8). Abraham was careful to pass down the exact words of God’s covenant with him to the inheritors of the covenant, because the exact words of God were important.

2. (Gen 48:5-6) Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons as his own.

“And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.”

a. As Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine: Reuben and Simeon were the first and second born of Israel. Jacob received the two sons of Joseph as adopted into the family at the highest level (as if they were the first and second born).

i. And, perhaps, they were something like replacements for Reuben and Simeon, who were in a sense disqualified from positions of status and leadership in Israel’s family because of their sin (Genesis 34:25, 35:22).

b. They shall be mine: Jacob’s adoption of Manasseh and Ephraim explains why there are 12 tribes often listed in different combinations. Because of this adoption, there were actually 13 sons of Israel. The 12 were born, but Joseph was divided into two tribes.

i. Therefore as the tribes are listed through the Old Testament, they can be arranged different ways and still remain 12 tribes. There are more than 20 different ways of listing the tribes in the Old Testament.

ii. As a number, 12 is often associated with government or administration in God’s eyes. There are 12 tribes, 12 apostles, 12 princes of Ishmael, 12 pillars on Moses’ altar, 12 stones on the high priest’s breastplate, 12 cakes of showbread, 12 silver platters, silver bowls, and gold pans for the service of the tabernacle, 12 spies to search out the land, 12 memorial stones, 12 governors under Solomon, 12 stones in Elijah’s altar, 12 in each group of musicians and singers for Israel’s worship, 12 hours in a day, 12 months in a year, 12 Ephesian men filled with the Holy Spirit, 12,000 from 12 tribes sealed and preserved through the tribulation, heaven has 12 gates of 12 pearls, and 12 angels at the gates, the New Jerusalem has 12 foundations, each with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb, it’s length, breadth, and height are all 12,000 furlongs, and the tree of life in heaven has 12 fruits. The number 12 is special to God.

3. (Gen 48:7) Jacob concludes his testimony with an eye to his soon death.

“But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

B. Jacob blesses Manasseh and Ephraim.

1. (Gen 48:8-12) Jacob calls for Joseph’s sons, to bless them.

Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and said, “Who are these?” And Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.” And he said, “Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.” Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, “I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!” So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth.

a. These are my sons, whom God has given me in this place: We remember that the names of Joseph’s sons were Manasseh (the firstborn) and Ephraim (the younger). The name Manasseh means forgetfulness, and the name Ephraim means fruitfulness (Genesis 41:51-52).

b. He bowed down with his face to the earth: Joseph lived his own life as a high official of Egypt for many years, and had no contact with his father during that time. Yet it did not diminish the reverence he had towards his father.

2. (Gen 48:13-14) Jacob puts the favored hand on the second-born, despite Joseph’s efforts.

And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn.

a. Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left hand: The right hand in the Bible always has the idea of the favored position because generally speaking, the right hand is the hand of strength and skill.

i. The right hand is associated with God’s strength (Exodus 15:6), favor (Psalm 16:11), and help (Psalm 20:6). This is why Jesus is described as sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 14:62).

b. Guiding his hands knowingly: Israel knew exactly what he intended to do. He deliberately chose the second-born to receive a greater blessing than the firstborn.

3. (Gen 48:15-16) The blessing of Jacob upon Manasseh and Ephraim.

And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; 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 earth.”

a. And he blessed Joseph: Israel gave the same blessing to both sons, but the son of the right hand received a greater proportion of the blessing.

i. This was fulfilled in Israel’s history. Both tribes were blessed, but Ephraim was greater as a tribe, even to the point where the name Ephraim was used to refer to the whole northern nation of Israel (see examples in Isaiah 7:8, 7:17, and 11:13).

b. The God who has fed me all my life long to this day: Jacob’s testimony was a testimony of grace, not personal merit. He did not say how faithful he was to God, but how faithful God was to him.

i. The phrase, “the God who has fed me” is literally “The God who has shepherded me.” This is the first mention in the Bible of God as a shepherd to His people.

4. (Gen 48:17-20) Jacob answers Joseph’s objection about the order of blessing.

Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ “ And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

a. This one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head: As the two sons of Joseph stood before Israel, the older (Manasseh) was before Israel’s right hand and the younger (Ephraim) was before Israel’s left hand. Joseph positioned them intentionally so the older could receive the right hand blessing according to custom. Yet Isaac deliberately crossed his hands and put his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s head.

b. For this one is the firstborn…truly his younger brother shall be greater than he: Ephraim was not the firstborn but God chose him to take the position of firstborn. Jeremiah 31:9 described this: For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9).

i. This shows how the idea of firstborn in the Bible is often a position of pre-eminence, not necessarily meaning “first out of the womb.”

ii. David had the position of firstborn, even though he was the youngest son (1 Samuel 16:11 and Psalm 89:27).

iii. Jesus has the pre-eminent position of firstborn (Colossians 1:15), though this does not mean Jesus was literally the first “born” creature of God, because Jesus was not created.

5. (Gen 48:21-22) Jacob makes a personal bequest to Joseph.

Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”

a. Behold, I am dying: This was truly a passing of the torch from Israel to Joseph. Israel was the last of the three great patriarchs to pass from the scene.

i. “If Abraham dies, there is Isaac; and if Isaac dies, there is Jacob; and if Jacob dies, there is Joseph; and if Joseph dies, Ephraim and Manasseh survive. The Lord shall never lack a champion to bear his standard high among the sons of men. Only let us pray God to raise up more faithful ministers day and night. We have plenty of a sort, but, oh, for more that will weigh out sixteen ounces to the pound of gospel in such a way that people will receive it. We have too much of fine language, too much of florid eloquence, and little full and plain gospel preaching, but God will keep up the apostolic succession, never fear of that. When Stephen is dying, Paul is not far off. When Elijah is taken up, he leaves his mantle behind him.” (Spurgeon)

b. One portion above your brothers: This referred to Joseph being father of two tribes, while each of his brothers only fathered one.

c. Which I took from the hand of the Amorite: Apparently, while still in Canaan, Jacob battled for control of a portion of land from the Amorites, and he deeded the land to Joseph and his descendants. The descendants of Joseph would take this land some 400 years later.

d. God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers: This completed a wonderful work regarding Jacob’s recognition of God’s presence his life.

· I am with you (Genesis 28:15): God gives the young believer every possible assurance of His presence and grace
· I will be with you (Genesis 31:3): God expects the growing believer to trust He will be with us, even when we only have the promise of His presence
· God…has been with me (Genesis 31:5): God gives a glorious testimony to the mature believer, able to say how God has been with us, even when we haven’t felt His presence in the way we wished
· God will be with you (Genesis 48:21): God gives the mature believer the opportunity to encourage others with the promise of God’s presence

C. Joseph as a picture of Jesus (list continued from the end of Genesis 41).

  1. His brethren were driven out of their own land.
  2. In his second appearing, he did not first go to his brothers; they came to him.
  3. He knew his brethren even while unknown and unrecognized by them.
  4. He blessed his brethren without their knowledge.
  5. He wanted all of his brethren to come to him.
  6. There was a significant time gap between his initial relationship with his brothers and his second relationship to his brothers.
  7. He gave his brothers a way of deliverance through substitution.
  8. His “second coming” to his brothers had two appearances. He made himself known to his brethren at his second appearing to them.
  9. He was revealed as a man of compassion.
  10. His brothers repented of rejecting him, with great wonder and tears.
  11. He allowed no fellowship (as in eating together) until his brothers repented and he revealed himself.
  12. His brethren went forth to proclaim his glory.
  13. He made provision for his brethren.
  14. He prepared a place for his brethren, and he received them into it.
  15. He brought Jew and Gentile together in the land.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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