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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 48

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Genesis 48:1. His two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. We here see again with what alacrity, reverence and devotion the sons of the holy patriarchs awaited the final benediction of their departing Sires, while the children after the flesh paid no regard to it. God had on special occasions appeared to the patriarchs, and blessed them and their seed. The believing children therefore awaited it at the hands and from the prophetic spirit of their sires, being assured that they had a right to confer it. In the christian church the same custom is preserved, on the admission of young people to communion; on the appointment of ministers to their work; and in the apostolic age, they laid their hands upon them anew for almost every important mission, praying devoutly for God to give the Spirit.

Genesis 48:5. Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob, guided by the Spirit of God, preferred Ephraim before Joseph’s firstborn. He received them not as grandsons, but as sons begotten of his own body, and made them heads of tribes. Thus Ephraim shared with Reuben in the double portion given to the firstborn.

Genesis 48:6. And thy issue. Whatever issue Joseph might have, if any survived, they were associated with the two half tribes of which his sons were the heads.

Genesis 48:14. Israel guiding his hands wittingly. Joseph having placed his sons kneeling, and in order, according to their age, to receive the blessing, Israel, as Tertullian supposes, crossed his hands to confer it.

Genesis 48:16. The angel which redeemed me. The word Angel, being joined here with Goel, is not equivocal. He is the angel who appeared to Abraham under the oak of Mamr√®, and called to him out of heaven by the name of Elohim, and of JEHOVAH. Genesis 18:22. He is the ever-living Goel of Job; his only Redeemer and hope. Genesis 19:25. He is our near kinsman, to whom belonged the right of redemption. Ruth 3:12. Boaz said to Ruth, “There is a kinsman [Goel] nearer than I.” He is our Saviour and deliverer, as the word is constantly rendered in the book of Psalms. The christian fathers have so understood the word, and with common consent. Vide Bulli def. fid. This is the Word which was in the beginning, the Word that was made flesh, and dwelt among us. He is the Angel whom Jacob invoked in his last moments, as he had done through life; he is the Lord Jesus to whom St. Stephen commended his spirit. Acts 7:59. Where then, oh Socinian, where is thy Redeemer!

Genesis 48:22. Which I took with my sword. The scriptures being silent concerning any violence used by Jacob, we can only say that some of the ancients have thought that Jacob retook Shechem a second time out of the hands of the Amorites; others have thought that he fought to rescue the sepulchre of his fathers; but certain it is, that Shechem was given to Joseph’s children. Joshua 17:1; 2 John 1:4; 2 John 1:4:5 . There also Joseph’s bones were interred. But many think, that the patriarch solely alludes here to the act of Simeon and Levi, who put the males of Shechem to the sword.


Jacob still remembered, and now recited, the promises which God first made him at Bethel or Luz; for God had made them to him and his children. In like manner let every believer keep his eye fixed on the promises through the whole of his pilgrimage, for those gracious words of God which comforted and encouraged him in his youth, or in his trouble, must encourage him to the end, and be the prop and support of his children. The recollection of past mercies seems, where faith is kept in exercise, to recal all the ancient heaven felt in the soul, when God delivered us in the day of trouble.

This venerable patriarch, on the approach of Joseph to his bed, was reminded of Rachel, though now dead more than half a century; and he wished Joseph to know that he received the birthright on her account. But oh how much does the recollection of saints in glory, whom we once so dearly loved, enliven the gloomy aspect of the grave. Wearied with the evils of life, and with the crimes of men, the good man wants to associate with the society of the blessed. He wishes to shake off the cumbrous load of flesh, whose infirmities daily increase; he wishes to pierce the veil of futurity, and escape away. At length death suddenly throws open the massy gates, unfolds the scenes of glory, and his soul springs up into everlasting life.

How happy, how divinely happy is the aged man, who in dying, sees himself surrounded with children and with grandchildren kneeling for a blessing, and in a fair way both for worldly and everlasting prosperity. This heightens the joys of dying, and augments the hopes of heaven. And surely this, with the children of the righteous, should be no small motive to conversion and piety. This divine change will, above all considerations, augment the joys of a good father in his last moments, and the want of it will be the greatest affliction of his soul.

But the lustre of Joseph’s blessing, on account of righteousness, eclipsed the glory of Reuben, on account of sin, and a sin committed forty years before. Mark then, oh my soul, the consequences of a single crime. Not to mention the destruction to which it exposes both body and soul, the consequences, even where the sincerest repentance follows, may be lasting as life, and afflictive to our children after death. The God of Israel is a jealous God, and it is better to die than to revolt against his arm.

In conferring those blessings, was the patriarch prompted by the Spirit to bless Ephraim above Manasseh? Then we learn that divine endowments, spiritual offices and temporal gifts, are bestowed by a sovereign act of God’s good pleasure. Are all apostles? Are all evangelists? Do all speak with tongues? If the secondary gifts and blessings are our allotment, let us adore him for what we have and diligently improve them, that at his coming we may be called good and faithful servants, and be invited to enter into the joy of our Lord. And it is one presumed mark of Reuben’s repentance, that we never hear that he murmured either against Jacob, or against Joseph.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 48". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-48.html. 1835.
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