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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 48

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 48:0


Israel's Last DaysJacob Blesses Joseph's SonsJacob's Adoption and Blessing of Ephraim and Manasse(Genesis 47:27-22)Jacob Blesses Ephraim and ManassehJacob Adopts Joseph's Two Sons and Blesses Them
Genesis 48:1-7Genesis 48:1-7Genesis 48:1-7Genesis 48:1-4Genesis 48:1-6
Genesis 48:5-7
Genesis 48:7
Genesis 48:8-16Genesis 48:8-16Genesis 48:8-16Genesis 48:8Genesis 48:8-12
Genesis 48:9a
Genesis 48:9-12
Genesis 48:13-16Genesis 48:13-16
(vv. Genesis 48:15-16) (vv. Genesis 48:15-16) (vv. Genesis 48:15-16) (vv. Genesis 48:15-16) (vv. Genesis 48:15-16)
Genesis 48:17-22Genesis 48:17-22Genesis 48:17-22Genesis 48:17-18Genesis 48:17-19
Genesis 48:19
(vv. Genesis 48:20) (vv. Genesis 48:20)Genesis 48:20(vv. Genesis 48:20)Genesis 48:20(vv. Genesis 48:20)
Genesis 48:21-22Genesis 48:21-22

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 48:1-7 1Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, "Behold, your father is sick." So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. 2When it was told to Jacob, "Behold, your son Joseph has come to you," Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. 3Then Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4and He said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.' 5Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. 6But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. 7Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)."

Genesis 48:1 "Joseph was told" The rabbis say that Ephraim studied regularly with his grandfather Jacob and he is the one who told Joseph, but this is typical of rabbinical comments that are based on a supposition, not contextual or textual information. It is always fair to ask those who claim to speak for God, "Show me where you got this from Scripture."

"So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him" These boys were half-Egyptian, but apparently this is setting the stage for the patriarchal blessing (i.e., adoption) which would include them as full heirs.

Genesis 48:3 "Jacob said to Joseph, 'God Almighty'" This is the traditional patriarchal name for God (cf. Exodus 6:3). It is El Shaddai; El from the general name for God from the root "to be strong" and Shaddai from the root for a "woman's breast," which seems to mean "the all-sufficient One." See full note in Special Topic: Names for Deity.

"appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me" Luz is the Canaanite name for Bethel (cf. Genesis 28:17, Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:9-15). Apparently, as YHWH had blessed Jacob, Jacob was now going to bless Joseph's sons. It is interesting to note that, as godly a man as Joseph was, YHWH never appeared to him as He did to the Patriarchs (see note at Genesis 46:2), which shows that even this literary unit concerning Joseph is really in the larger section on the life of Jacob.

Genesis 48:4 "I will make you fruitful and numerous" There are three specific blessings here which are related to the Abrahamic blessing of Genesis 12:1-3: (1) I will make you fruitful and numerous; (2) I will make you a company of peoples; and (3) I will give the land to your descendants.

It is interesting that Jacob leaves out the clause from Genesis 35:11 (line 5), "and kings shall come forth from you," because apparently that aspect was for Judah (cf. Genesis 49:10). Prosperity and abundance would characterize the family, but kings would come from Judah (i.e., Messiah, Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2).

"for an everlasting possession" This is the Hebrew term 'olam. It must be interpreted in light of the context. When one remembers the exilic period it is obvious that this term does not mean to perpetuity. See Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

Genesis 48:5 "are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are" It is interesting that in Genesis 48:1 Manasseh is mentioned before Ephraim, but from Genesis 48:5 and Genesis 48:14 Ephraim will appear before Manasseh. This seems to be planned by Jacob (cf. Genesis 48:13-14). Ephraim and Manasseh are going to replace Simeon and Reuben as the firstborn, pre-imminent heirs of Jacob (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:1). The younger Ephraim will be the stronger of the two. This does not affect Judah's leadership of the family (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:2)! This is as much a discipline of Reuben (cf. Genesis 35:22; Genesis 49:4; 1 Chronicles 5:1) and Simeon (cf. Genesis 34:25; Genesis 49:5-7) as it was an inclusion for Joseph's sons. Not only is there reversal in expectation between Manasseh and Ephraim (as there was with Esau and Jacob), but this same reversal of expectation will occur between Joseph and Judah (cf. Genesis 49:8-12). Joseph was the obvious choice for family leadership, but the choice was YHWH's, not the culture (i.e., remember David and his brothers).

Genesis 48:6 "But your offspring that have been born after them" This implies that Joseph may have more children, but if he did we have no record of them in the Bible.

Genesis 48:7 This is a historical summary about Joseph's mother. Rachel's death was painful and shocking to Jacob. He saw these two grandsons of Rachel's first son, Joseph, as somehow coming from Rachel herself. They would be considered full "sons" (in an inheritance sense) of Rachel. She would be happy for this even in the afterlife!

Verses 8-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 48:8-16 8When Israel saw Joseph's sons, he said, "Who are these?" 9Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." So he said, "Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them." 10Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11Israel said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well." 12Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. 13Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right, and brought them close to him. 14But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. 15He blessed Joseph, and said, "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."

Genesis 48:8 "When Israel saw Joseph's sons" We learn from Genesis 48:10 that his eyesight was very bad, but not completely gone. Jacob (remembering his trickery of his father) wants to be sure who he is blessing!

Genesis 48:9 "Joseph said to his father, 'They are my sons, whom God has given me here'" The rabbis say that Joseph had to show his marriage license to Jacob to convince his father that his wife had become a convert. However, to me it seems that this verse is emphasizing the fact that in all areas, Joseph saw the hand of God in his life.

"Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them" The two VERBS are

1. bring/take, BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. bless, BDB 138, KB 159, Piel IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

The term "bless" has a fuller and more theological sense here. It involves the metaphorical adoption of these two grandsons into full inheritance rights as Jacob's own sons. There are now thirteen tribes.

Genesis 48:10 "he kissed them and embraced them" This was a special bonding as well as a legal (cf. Genesis 48:12) experience.

Genesis 48:12

NASB, NRSV "took them from his knees" NKJV "brought them from beside his knees" TEV, REB "took them from Jacob's lap" LXX "brought them out from between his knees" Peshitta "removed them from before his knees"

This was an adoption rite, which is alluded to in Genesis 48:5. Passing the children under the loins seems to have been the manner for this ancient adoption process (i.e., as women gave birth through their knees, Genesis 30:3; Job 3:17, JB footnote, p. 73).

Genesis 48:14 "But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim" This is the aspect of crossing his hands so that his right hand-the hand of pre-imminence-would bless the younger son who would have the pre-imminence over his brother (as Jacob and Esau). The reversal of the culturally expected option (cf. Genesis 48:18) shows God's control and sovereignty (cf. Genesis 48:19). This is the first biblical account of blessing in association with the laying on of hands. From this point forward it will become a regular practice.


Genesis 48:15-16 Verses Genesis 48:15-16 are a supplement to the family blessing recorded in Genesis 49:0. In Jacob's final blessing to the whole family he does not mention Joseph's two sons by name (cf. Genesis 49:22-26). This blessing is in poetic form (as is Genesis 48:20). Notice the threefold designation of God. God is seen as (1) the patriarchal God; (2) the Shepherd; and (3) the Angel. It is obvious that the angel of Genesis 48:16 must be the Angel of the Lord who is a physical manifestation (cf. Genesis 16:7-13; Genesis 18:2, Genesis 18:16, Genesis 18:17-21, Genesis 18:22-23; Genesis 22:11-15; Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:13; Genesis 48:15-16. See Special Topic at Genesis 12:7).

Genesis 48:15 "He blessed Joseph" Obviously these two boys (Genesis 48:16) were receiving the patriarchal blessing of Joseph (Genesis 48:15). From Genesis 49:0 it seems that Joseph was receiving the double inheritance rights (cf. Genesis 49:22-26) of the firstborn, while Judah was to receive the Messianic line (cf. Genesis 49:8-12).

"walked" This VERB (BDB 229, KB 246) is often a metaphor for lifestyle faith (cf. Genesis 5:22, Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 24:40; Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:15). God demands it (cf. Genesis 17:1). God wants a people who reflect His character to a lost and needy world (i.e., the nations). The Patriarchs, with all their imperfections, lived before YHWH in an obedient, repentant, faithful way!

To put it another way, eternal life has observable characteristics. We are saved, not just to be with God when we die, but to be with God now! The goal of biblical faith is Christlikeness now (i.e., Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:13)! The Bible's covenants have requirements.

1. faith (initial and daily)

2. repentance (initial and daily)

3. obedience (lifestyle)

4. perseverance through life

These are summarized in Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 26:17; Deuteronomy 28:9; Deuteronomy 30:16!

Genesis 48:16 "who has redeemed me from all evil" This is the term Go'el (BDB 145 I, KB 169, Qal PARTICIPLE, cf. Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13), which is used for the kinsmen redeemer (Ruth 4:6) or blood avenger (cf. Deuteronomy 19:6; Joshua 20:3). It refers to that near kin who avenged or bought one back either from slavery, financial ruin, or as a prisoner of war. This term also occurs in Ruth 4:6; Numbers 5:8; 1 Kings 16:11; Job 19:25.


"And may my name live on in them" This may refer to the ancient view that a man lived on in his children (i.e., 2 Samuel 18:18; NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 677), or more likely, that the covenant faith of Jacob (cf. Genesis 48:16, line 3) would be passed on to these two boys.

The last three VERBS of Genesis 48:16 are IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense (i.e., "let. . .")

1. bless, BDB 138, KB 159, Piel IMPERFECT

2. be called, BDB 894, KB 1128, Niphal IMPERFECT

3. grow, BDB 185, KB 213, Qal IMPERFECT

Verses 17-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 48:17-22 17When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim's head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. 18Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head." 19But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations." 20He blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, 'May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!'" Thus he put Ephraim http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/special_topics/laying_on_hands.htmlbefore Manasseh. 21Then Israel said to Joseph, "Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow."

Genesis 48:17 "it displeased him" This VERB in the Qal stem (BDB 949, KB 1269, Qal IMPERFECT) is a strong VERB denoting Joseph's feeling about this reversal. The VERB can describe

1. distress, Genesis 21:11, Genesis 21:12

2. displeasure, Numbers 11:10; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 8:6; 1 Samuel 18:8; 2 Samuel 11:25; Nehemiah 2:10

3. grief, Deuteronomy 15:10; 1 Samuel 1:8; Nehemiah 2:3

4. hostility, Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 28:54, Deuteronomy 28:56

5. evil, Genesis 38:10; 2 Samuel 11:27

6. went ill with, Psalms 106:32; 2 Samuel 20:6

Obviously #2 fits this context best, but it is a strong word. Joseph's feelings about what Jacob did were not a minor issue! He interrupted the blessing in an attempt to move Jacob's hand. Even Joseph did not always know the Lord's will. Jacob, not Joseph, is the Patriarch of the covenant family.

Genesis 48:19 The VERB "I know" (BDB 393, KB 390, two Qal PERFECTS) is repeated twice for emphasis. Jacob knew what he was doing (apparently by divine leadership). The reversal of expectations would continue.

Genesis 48:20 "Israel" The "he" of line 1 refers to Jacob/Israel, but Israel in the second line could refer to the nation (a collective, cf. TEV).

"May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh" This is going to be a blessing proverb which was used by the people of God.

Genesis 48:21 "Behold I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers" The "I" is emphatic. Jacob is the Patriarch. This is another allusion to the fact that the whole family will be delivered from Egypt and that they will return to the Promised Land (cf. Genesis 15:12-16).

Genesis 48:22 "I give you one portion more than your brothers" This term "portion" (BDB 1014 I) is literally "shoulder" in Hebrew. It is the name of the city of Shechem. Some think it refers to this geographical location because of the remainder of Genesis 48:22, which refers to the slaughter of the Shechemites, but this seems unusual because in the book of Genesis this is such a negative act. Others say that the word "shoulder" means that they were a stature higher, i.e. inherited more-the double inheritance of the firstborn. Some say that it refers to Shechem being the territory which Ephraim will inherit and others say it refers to Shechem being the site where Joseph will be buried (cf. Joshua 24:32). Manasseh will inherit on both sides of the Jordan (the only tribe to do so). Ephraim will be the largest of the tribes in number and land allocation (Judah second). Ephraim will dominate the northern part of Canaan, as Judah does the south. The leader Joshua is from Ephraim, as is Samuel!

"which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow" This seems to be a historical event, but we do not have a record of it. The rabbis speculate that after the slaughter of the Shechemites that the other Canaanite kings came against Jacob and that he defeated them in battle. There is no record of this.

The term Amorite is a collective term to describe all of the Canaanite tribes (cf. Genesis 15:16). See Special Topic: PRE-ISRAELITE INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 48". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-48.html. 2021.
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