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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 48

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-7


Genesis 48:3. God Almighty.] Heb. El Shaddai (Genesis 17:1). He refers to the appearance recorded in Genesis 28:13-19.—

Genesis 48:5. As Reuben and Simeon they shall be mine.] “They shall not be two branches, merely, of one tribe, but two fully-recognised tribes of Jacob and Israel, equal in this respect to the firstborn Reuben and Simeon.” (Lange.)—

Genesis 48:6. Shall be thine.] “The sons afterwards born shall belong to Joseph, not forming a third tribe, but included in Ephraim and Manasseh; for Joseph is represented in a two-fold way through these:” (Lange.)

Genesis 48:7. Padan.]—Here alone used for Padan-Aram. Bethlehem. An addition of the narrator. Rachel died by me. Not near, as referring to space. The preposition has an emotional sense, and means on account of me, for my sake. She had borne for him the hardships of the journey, which brought on her fatal travail.—



I. The authority which he claimed for this act. He refers to a leading point in the covenant history. God, the Almighty, who is able to perform His word, had appeared to him, had promised to make him a great nation, and to give his seed the land of Canaan. (Genesis 48:3.) God had spoken to him, and this is his authority. On this he bases all the family hopes. The mention of God’s appearance and promise would inspire confidence in Joseph.

II. The purpose he had in view.

1. To deliver them from the corrupting influences of the world. Though they had an Egyptian mother, and belonged to that nation by birth and circumstances, yet they were not to be suffered to remain Egyptians. Ordinary men would regard them as having brilliant prospects in the world. But it was a far nobler thing that they should espouse the cause of God, and cast in their lot with his people.

2. To give them a recognised place in the covenant family. This would impart a dignity and meaning to their life, and an impulse and an elevation to all their thoughts Godward.

3. To do special honour to Joseph. Joseph was worthy of special honour. He was the noblest son of the family. He saved the house of Israel, as well as of Egypt. This act of Jacob would give two shares in the land of promise to his beloved and distinguished son.

III. The sad memories which it awoke.

1. They were selected in the room of Jacob’s two sons, who had forfeited the blessing. Instead of Reuben and Simeon. They had grievously sinned, and thus lost their inheritance. The portion of Reuben was given to Ephraim; and of Simeon, to Manasseh. The grounds of this are given in 1 Chronicles 5:1; see also Genesis 34:0; Genesis 49:5-7; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14 to 1 Chronicles 29:2. They reminded him of one whom he had loved and lost. (Genesis 48:7.) This reference to Rachel does not seem to have any direct connection with what is written before or after. But the old man cannot help remembering that there stood before him now the sons of Rachel’s son. He is forced now to think of her. After so many years, he still feels her loss. Time could not altogether heal the deep wound which, now touched by remembrance, opens afresh. It would seem as if he adopted these two boys for Rachel’s sake. He did not despise the fresh and deep feelings of his younger days. May we not hope that these tender human feelings which so persist through time and change may survive the grave? Surely they seem to be of such a nature that they are not destined to die. The effect of thus referring to the death of his mother would be to strengthen Joseph’s attachment to Canaan.


Genesis 48:1-2. We all know that the mind has a powerful influence on the body, and that strong passions sometimes communicate to it an extraordinary degree of strength. Jacob felt his strength return to him when he heard Joseph’s name, and exerted all his vigour to receive him with proper marks of gratitude and affection.—(Bush.)

Genesis 48:3-4. God Almighty.

1. The sure support of faith in the Divine promises.
2. The sufficient answer to every doubt.
3. The assurance that no obstacles can finally stand in the way of God’s purpose concerning His people.

The truly thankful keep calendars and catalogues of God’s gracious dealings with them, and delight to recount and reckon them up; not in the lump only and by wholesale, but by particular enumeration upon every good occasion; setting them forth one by one, as here, and ciphering them up, as David’s word is. (Psalms 9:1.) We should be like civet-boxes, which still retain the scent when the civet is taken out of them. (Psalms 114:1-2; Exodus 18:8.)—(Trapp.)

The earthly Canaan was secured by promise to the seed of Abraham till the time came when God should create, as it were a new world, by introducing a new dispensation of grace among them.—(Bush).

Genesis 48:5-6. Thus his sons, as well as himself, were taught to fix their faith and hope not in Egypt, whatever might be their expectations as the descendants of Joseph by an Egyptian princess, but in Canaan, or rather, in the promise of the God of Israel.—(Fuller).

Genesis 48:7. Jacob was the better for the loss of his beloved Rachel; he thence became less selfish than before; accordingly, when he came to Egypt there was no unseemly rejoicing as there would otherwise have been, over the brilliant prospects of his race, and the latter part of his life was that of affection, rather than as formerly, of avarice. There is something in this long continuance of affection for a lost wife that seems to tell us something of the possibility of reunion. Upon this subject, Scripture tells us almost nothing. When we look at the analogy of this world, and mark the growth of our affections as they develop in our life, first to parents, then to brother, and then to wife, and then to child, each in some measure supplanting the other, we might be inclined to believe that there would be a perpetual growth of attachments to spirits higher and higher still; but when we see a feeling like this of Jacob’s, we cannot but hope that that which had lasted so near to the grave might survive the grave. We know not, God grant that it may!—(Robertson).

Verses 8-20


Genesis 48:12. And Joseph brought them out from between his knees.] “His,” i.e., Jacob’s. He was in a sitting posture, and in embracing them had drawn them between his knees.—

Genesis 48:14. And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head.] This is the first mention of the imposition of hands in blessing. Also used for the investiture of office. In both senses, retained by the Christian Church (Numbers 27:18; Numbers 27:23; Deuteronomy 24:9; Matthew 19:13; Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17). Guiding his hands wittingly. The LXX, Vulgate, and Syriac have, he changed, or crossed his hands. The expression denotes a conscious and intelligent purpose.—

Genesis 48:15. And he blessed Joseph.] In Ephraim and Manasseh, his representatives. The two are comprehended in the dying blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:22); and of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:13, etc.). The God which fed me. “Fed,” i.e., guided and tended me as a shepherd (Psalms 23:0; Psalms 28:9).—

Genesis 48:16. The angel.] The angel of God’s presence (Isaiah 63:9); the Covenant angel. Redeemed me from all evil. Heb. Goel: the same as the word used for “Redeemer” in Job 19:25. And let my name be named on them, and the names of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac.My name,” i.e. Israel; and let them be counted Abraham’s seed and Isaac’s. There is special reference to the blessing of the Divine promise on the seed of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 21:12). (Alford.)—

Genesis 48:20. In thee shall Israel bless.] “The tribe of Joseph was only regarded as an example of prosperity for the rest of the Hebrews, whereas the Israelites were viewed as the cause of blessing for all the other nations.” (Kalisch.)—



I. Its nature and property.

1. They were blessed in the person of Joseph. He is blessed in his sons. (Genesis 48:15; Genesis 48:20.) The principle is recognised of blessing mankind in the name and for the sake of another.

2. With the covenant blessing. Not with that of the gods of Egypt, though he had cause to be grateful to that nation. He would have his children to know the true fount of blessedness. He invoked the blessing of the God of his fathers. (Genesis 48:15.) The assurance that others have shared the gifts of grace with us is a support to our faith. We of the Church belong to a holy nation, which has a great and venerable past.

3. With the blessing of which he himself had experience. “The God which fed me all my life long until this day.” (Genesis 48:15.) He felt that God had tended and cared for him like a shepherd. This speech was dear to all the patriarchs, and was a favourite image with David and the prophets. In Jacob’s lips, the figure is singularly appropriate, for he remembered his shepherd life with Laban. Jacob also invoked the blessing of “the angel which redeemed him from all evil.” This was that covenant angel with whom he wrestled, even God appearing as his Redeemer. The chief aspect under which he contemplates God is that of one who rescues from evil—“the Deliverer.” (Romans 11:26.) This idea is represented in its various forms by the words “Kinsman,” “Redeemer,” “Vindicator,” “Rescuer,” or “Avenger.” (Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 43:1; Exodus 6:6; Psalms 19:14; Psalms 103:4; Jeremiah 50:34; Hosea 13:14; Job 19:25.)

4. With a different blessing for each. He bestows the larger blessing upon the younger. (Genesis 48:19.)

II. Its outward form. It was conveyed by the imposition of hands. (Genesis 48:14.) The blessing was not merely a wish or a hope, but a reality. This laying on of hands was the outward means or symbol of its conveyance. Outward forms impress, they steady the mind, and assist contemplation. The blessing was as real as the outward act which accompanied it, the reality of nature leading on to the reality of grace.

III. Its warrant.

1. The covenant position in which God had placed him. He stood with his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, in the same covenant relation with God. (Genesis 48:15-16.)

2. The act was divinely directed. Old Jacob crossed his hands, and thus in bestowing the blessing reversed the order of nature. (Genesis 48:14; Genesis 48:17.) He refused to be corrected by Joseph, for though his sight was dim, his spiritual eye discerned the will of God. He guided his hands “wittingly,” with full knowledge of the decree of the Most High. God, who distributes His gifts as He will, prefers the younger to the elder. Nature and grace often take cross directions. Jacob had spiritual insight and foresight. He was a true prophet of God, and this was his warrant for that great act of faith when he “blessed both the sons of Joseph.” (Hebrews 11:21).


Genesis 48:8-9. The dying hour must have made an impression on those young men. In death itself there is nothing naturally instructive; but in this death there was simplicity; they saw the sight of an old man gathered ripe unto his fathers, and they would remember in their gaiety and strength what all life at last must come to.—(Robertson).

Genesis 48:10. Perhaps this might remind Jacob of his conduct to his old blind father, Isaac. In him we see all the powers of life fading, and we are tempted to say, Can this live for ever? The eye cannot see God, therefore the eye fails; the ear cannot hear Him, therefore it is filled with dust; but faith and love, the things that are to survive the grave, exist in their strength up to the grave.—(Robertson).

Genesis 48:11. How much better is God to us than our fears! Only let us wait with faith and patience, and our desponding thoughts will be turned into songs of praise.—(Fuller).

God delights to outbid the hopes of His people, and to be better to them than their deserts, than their desires, yea, than their faith (Isaiah 54:2-3; Isaiah 54:12; Isaiah 54:14). As it is storied of a certain emperor, that he delighted in no undertakings so much as in those that his counsellors and captains held impossible, and he seldom miscarried. So God—Exodus 15:11.—(Trapp).

Genesis 48:11-14. As a man and a father Jacob would have been of the same mind with Joseph, but as a prophet he must give the richest blessing to him who was to partake most richly of the blessings of heaven. The appearance is as if his hands knew what they were about; they seemed to move themselves intelligently; they performed the office of the eye.—(Bush).

Joseph did this for the best; but “God only wise” had otherwise ordered it. We many times think we do well, when it proves much otherwise. “Lean not therefore to thine own understanding,” saith the wise man (Proverbs 3:5); but make out to him that “dwells with prudence.” (Proverbs 8:12.)—(Trapp.)

Genesis 48:15. This is the highest praise that can be given to ancestors; this is the crown of all commendation, to have walked with God as a man walketh with his friend. This is better than a thousand escutcheons. “The God which fed me all my life long.” Jacob looks beyond all second causes, and sees, as once at Bethel, God on the top of the ladder. (Genesis 28:0.)—(Trapp.)

The Lord had been his shepherd, had kept and led him, as well as supplied all his wants. The Lord fed him when he was in his father’s house; when he procured his food by toil at Laban’s house; the Lord fed him even when in Egypt his beloved son supplied all his wants.—(Bush.)

Genesis 48:16. This is the all-sufficient Friend who wards off evil by himself satisfying the demands of justice and resisting the devices of malice. There is a beautiful propriety of feeling in Jacob ascribing to his father the walking before God, while he thankfully acknowledges the grace of the Quickener and Justifier to himself. The Angel is explicitly applied to the Supreme Being in this ministerial function. The God is the emphatic description of the true, living God, as contra-distinguished from all false gods. Jacob’s threefold periphrases is intended to describe the one God, who wills, works, and wards. And let my name be named on them. Let them be counted among my immediate sons, and let them be related to Abraham and Isaac, as my other sons are. This is the only thing that is special in the blessing. Let them grow into a multitude. The word “grow” in the original refers to the spawning or extraordinary increase of the finny tribe. The after history of Ephraim and Manasseh will be found to correspond with this special prediction.—(Murphy.)

God’s people are said to have His name called upon them (Deuteronomy 28:11,—Heb. “That the name of the Lord is called upon thee.” Let us endeavour to be an honour and a praise to that worthy name by which we are called.—(Bush).

Genesis 48:17-19. Here are a couple of Holy prophets differing in their judgments; yet not about the substance of the blessing, but the circumstance of it. Wonder not though such things still fall out in the true Church, and the doctors sometimes divided in points less material, and that touch not the foundation.—(Trapp).

One reason why the Most High does not follow the rules which men would prescribe to Him in the distribution of His favours undoubtedly is, that we may learn not to glory in the flesh, but in the Lord. Were He to dispense His bounties according to such rules as might appear reasonable to us, high thoughts of human worth would be apt to be cherished, and losing our impressions of Divine sovereignty, we should be tempted to “sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own drag.”—(Bush).

Genesis 48:20. How God sometimes prefers the younger to the elder, we may see in the case of Shem who was preferred to Japheth, in the case of Isaac who was preferred to Ishmael, of Jacob who was preferred to Esau, of Judah and Joseph who were preferred to Reuben, of Moses who was preferred to Aaron, and finally, of David, who was preferred to all his brethren.

God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh. A form of speech to this day in use among the Jews. As they greet with it men and their young companions, so it is also said to wives and young women: God make thee as Sarah and Rebecca.—(Lange.)

Verses 21-22


Genesis 48:22. One portion above thy brethren.] He was to have two lots in the land of promise. Which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow. “The designation of the land as taken out of the hand of the Amorite by Jacob’s sword and bow is spoken of in the anticipatory spirit of a prophet, assuming as done that which his descendants should do. See the expression repeated in form of expression almost verbatim (Joshua 24:12).” (Alford.) The Amorite was a poetical name for the Canaanites generally.



The good patriarch had suffered many sore calamities, had been tossed with many a tempest on the waves of this troublesome world. Now the peaceful haven is in sight and he is glad to be at rest. He speaks most simply and calmly of his death. “And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold I die.” We have here a threefold picture:—

I. Of strength in weakness. His bodily powers were failing, his eyes were dim; but yet he showed—

1. The strength of faith. He believed that God would be with his descendants, and bring them up from Egypt; that the Lord would perform that word unto him upon which he had caused him to hope. He describes the portion which he gave to Joseph as that “which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” As to their form, these words refer to the past; but the terms are prophetical, and speak of future conquest. The land would be wrested by him from the Amorites in the person of his posterity (Genesis 15:13-16). With prophetic boldness he uses the past for the future. Here was faith in the word of God which came to him.

2. The strength of Godliness. He wishes to wean his posterity from Egypt. He desires to make all his descendants the servants of that God whom he had served all his life long.

3. The strength of peace. He is calm and peaceful, and to be calm in the prospect of death is to be conscious of the upholding of an infinite strength. All through life, and supremely so in death, the peace of God is the strength of His people (Psalms 29:11). And when all fails on earth, they only enter into a deeper and a perpetual peace (Psalms 73:26).

II. Of success in failure. He was failing on earth, and the time would soon come when he could be no longer with them. “I die,” he says, “but God shall be with you.” God still lives on; and this was the confidence and stay of his soul. All was failing him now but his God. Helpless on earth, he falls into the “everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27.) He still has Omnipotent support, and that was true success.

III. Of life in death. He was dying, but the light of immortality shines through the decays of his mortal frame. His faith and love, strong even to the end, surely lasted beyond death. The soul which has once looked up into the face of God cannot die. The spiritual man shows himself amidst the ruins of death. It is remarkable that Jacob says nothing about the long intervening years of bondage which his children would have to endure. He only speaks concerning the end and grand result of all. He sees nothing now but the true life, real blessedness for himself and for them. The light of God’s favour, shining beyond and overwhelming all earthly sorrows, entirely filled his soul.


Genesis 48:21-22. As it was no more betwixt God and Moses, but “Go up and die;” so betwixt God and Jacob, but “Behold I die.” Death, he knew, to him should be neither total, but of the body only; nor perpetual of the body, but for a season only. See both these set forth by the Apostle, Romans 8:10-11.—(Trapp.)

The consolation given to survivors. Jacob says, “Behold I die, but God shall be with you,” etc. Thus our Redeemer said to His disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away,” etc. This then explains to us the principle of bereavement; slowly and by degrees all drops off from us—first our parents, then our companions, till at last we find ourselves alone, with no arm of flesh to support us; and then comes the sense of dependence on the arm Divine: therefore it is emphatically written that He is the God of the fatherless and the widow.—(Robertson.)

As to the manner of their deliverance, neither Jacob nor his sons knew any more on this head than Abraham was enabled to inform them, viz., that God would judge the land where they were oppressed, and would bring them out with great substance. Their business was to believe and embrace the promise, and to leave the manner of its accomplishment to God.—(Bush.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 48". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/genesis-48.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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