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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 48

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Chapter 48

So it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, your father's sick ( Genesis 48:1 ):

He's dying.

and so Joseph grabbed his two sons to go and visit his father for the last time, Manasseh and Ephraim. And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, your son Joseph is coming unto you: and so Israel gathered together his strength, and he sat up on the bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and he said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came in the land of Egypt, are mine; even as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. And thy issue, whichever you have after them, will be yours, and will be called after the name of their brothers in their inheritance. And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, and when there was yet but a little way to come to Bethlehem: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem. And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these? And Joseph said to 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 ( Genesis 48:1-9 ).

So as Joseph comes in to his father, Jacob first of all rehearses to Joseph the fact that God met him in the area near Bethel, Luz, which was later called Bethel, the house of God. And it was there that God promised to give unto Jacob and to his seed that land as an everlasting covenant. Now it is interesting that God gave to Abraham the promise, to Isaac the promise, and now to Jacob God spoke and gave the promise of this land. After Jacob there is no account of God's appearing to any of the sons of Jacob to confirm the promise that He made.

God made the promise to Abraham, confirmed it to Isaac, confirmed it to Jacob. But now Joseph hears it from his dad, not from God directly. But now his father is relating to him the promise of God. How that God promised to me and to my seed that land, everlasting covenant. And so he is relating it on to Joseph.

Now, he said, the two sons that have been born from you here in Egypt I'm claiming them. They're going to be mine. If you have any more children after this, they can be named after you. But these two I'm claiming for me, they're going to be just like Reuben and Simeon and they will get their inheritance in the land.

Now it was customary that the oldest son receive a double portion of the inheritance. But here Jacob is promising to Joseph the double portion; the double portion will be in Ephraim and Manasseh. So he gets the double portion of the blessing from Jacob in that Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons born of Joseph will become tribes and will inherit the land as tribes. By which we then see that there are more than twelve tribes of Israel, because Ephraim and Manasseh became tribes and received their inheritance in Israel. So Joseph becoming two, Ephraim and Manasseh, in reality, there are thirteen tribes in Israel.

Now Jacob also said, "Any that are born after this, they're yours. But these two are mine." So it is interesting that in one of the listings of the tribes, there is actually a listing of the tribe of Joseph. So if indeed there were descendants of Joseph and there was a tribe of Joseph, they did not receive any actual inheritance in the land, but the inheritance went to Ephraim and Manasseh. But the land was divided into twelve portions and apportioned out to the twelve tribes, but the thirteenth tribe was the tribe of Levi. They did not receive any portion in the land but actually dwelt in about forty-eight cities that were given to the tribes of Levi, but no portion of the land was apportioned out to them.

But it is interesting that we always read of twelve tribes. You never read of the thirteen tribes of Israel but of the twelve tribes of Israel. And whenever there is a listing of the tribes, there are always a listing of only twelve. At some times, one tribe or another is deleted from the listing of the twelve.

For instance, when we read of the twelve tribes of Israel that are sealed in the book of Revelation, chapter seven, the tribe of Dan is missing from that list. Usually in the listing of the tribes, the tribe of Levi is missing from the list, but Levi is inserted in Revelation chapter seven, and the tribe of Dan is deleted from the listing of the tribe as those who will be sealed during the Great Tribulation, the hundred and forty-four thousand sealed to be spared a portion, at least, of the Great Tribulation that is coming.

Twelve is a symbolic number. It is the number of human government. And that is the reason why you have twelve apostles, twelve tribes, though there may be more than the twelve. In talking about governmental purposes, there are always twelve listed and only twelve for the purpose of human type of government. Twelve is the number of human government. So the twelve tribes of Israel, though in reality there were thirteen actual tribes or possibly if indeed the tribe of Joseph existed separate from Ephraim and Manasseh you had fourteen tribes but never a listing of fourteen, only of twelve.

So here he claims the two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. They're just going to be like Reuben and Simeon and they shall receive their inheritance in the land. And so then Israel, and no doubt his eyes were failing him, and he saw just the shadowy figure of Joseph's two sons who at this time were probably in their twenties. They weren't just little kids. They were probably in their twenties at this time because Joseph by this time was fifty-six years old. And so his sons are in their early twenties at this point.

And so Jacob sees these two others and he said, Who are these? And Joseph answered, "These are my two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim".

And Joseph thought that they bring them near to him and he kissed them and he hugged them. And Israel said to Joseph, I had given up ever seeing your face: and, lo, God is even showing me your children ( Genesis 48:10-11 ).

He had really figured that he would never be able to see the face of Joseph again. But God in His grace, not only did he get to see Joseph again but Joseph's children.

And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with the face to the earth. 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 Israel stretched out his 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 ( Genesis 48:12-14 ).

So as Joseph brought the two sons up to his father in order that they might receive a blessing from his father, he brought them up so that Jacob's right hand would rest upon Manasseh and his left hand would rest upon Ephraim, because Manasseh was the older and thus the first blessing to go to the older son. But as he brought them up in this order that the old man might just lay his hands on the two boys, the old man crossed his hands. And he put his right hand over here on Ephraim and his left hand over here on Manasseh and began to bless them. And Joseph said, "Wait a minute, dad, wait a minute, you got a mistake here". And he says, "Oh, son, I know what I'm doing". And so Ephraim was then blessed and given a place of prominence over Manasseh though he was not the firstborn.

Now this is not the first time this happened. Even with Jacob himself, the old man that was doing this, he was not the firstborn. His brother Esau was firstborn and yet the blessing had come to him. And so now he is doing the same thing with his grandsons crossing his hands and pronouncing the greater blessing upon Ephraim.

And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my father Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day ( Genesis 48:15 ),

That's an interesting phrase, isn't it? Recognizing that his provision the bottom line had come from God. Sure he'd been out there working. Sure he'd been out there taking care of the cattle and the sheep and so forth. And yet when it comes right down to it, I depend upon God for my sustenance. If God doesn't sustain me I'm not going to be sustained. God has fed me all the days of my life.

And the Angel which redeemed me ( Genesis 48:16 )

Now this is interesting, he blessed Joseph and said, "God before whom my father Abraham and Isaac did walk." That is, God the Father. "The God which fed me all the days of my life to this day." That would be the work of the Holy Spirit in the ministry to the saints. "The Angel which redeemed me from all evil." That would be the work of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer. And so here you actually have the trinity of God being mentioned in the prayer of Abraham. God of my father Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who has fed me; the Angel of the Lord who redeemed me.

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. And when Joseph saw that his father had laid the right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. And Joseph said to his father, Not so, father: for this is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head. 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. 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 Israel said to Joseph, Behold, I'm dying: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow ( Genesis 48:16-22 ).

And so one portion more; two portions going to Joseph and thus the birthright being passed on to Joseph; his receiving of the two portions. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 48". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-48.html. 2014.
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