Genesis 48

 

וַיְהִי אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וַיֹּאמֶר לְיֹוסֵף הִנֵּה אָבִיךָ חֹלֶה וַיִּקַּח אֶת־שְׁנֵי בָנָיו עִמֹּו אֶת־מְנַשֶּׁה   48:1

וְאֶת־אֶפְרָיִם

Gene. 48:1  And it happened after these things that it was said to Joseph:  “Behold, your father is sick.”  And he took his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, with him.

Now the event mentioned in this verse appears to have taken place twelve years after the seven-year famine had ended and seventeen years after Jacob arrived in Egypt (see v. 47:28).  So Joseph’s sons had to be between 20 and 23 years old.  Is this the first time they are to meet their grandfather?  To this point in the narrative, nothing has been mentioned of a prior meeting; so we must assume that this is to be their first meeting.  Why do you suppose this could be?  Was Joseph (or the scribe) ashamed that his sons’ mother was a foreigner?  Had Joseph embraced the pagan religion of the Egyptians and become fully assimilated?  Was he ashamed of that?  There is no certain answer.  However, for more on this see my remarks at the end of the chapter.

וַיַּגֵּד לְיַעֲקֹב וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה בִּנְךָ יֹוסֵף בָּא אֵלֶיךָ וַיִּתְחַזֵּק יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֵּשֶׁב עַל־הַמִּטָּה  48:2

Gene. 48:2  And someone spoke to Jacob and said, “Behold, your son Joseph comes to you.”  And Israel was strengthened and sat up on the bed.

וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל־יֹוסֵף אֵל שַׁדַּי נִרְאָה־אֵלַי בְּלוּז בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתִי  48:3

Gene. 48:3  And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי הִנְנִי מַפְרְךָ וְהִרְבִּיתִךָ וּנְתַתִּיךָ לִקְהַל עַמִּים וְנָתַתִּי אֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ  48:4

אֲחֻזַּת עֹולָם

Gene. 48:4  and said to me, ‘Behold, I am making you fruitful, and I will make you great, and I will make you for a company of peoples, and I will give this land to your seed after you as an eternal possession.’”

וְעַתָּה שְׁנֵי־בָנֶיךָ הַנֹּולָדִים לְךָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם עַד־בֹּאִי אֵלֶיךָ מִצְרַיְמָה לִי־הֵם אֶפְרַיִם וּמְנַשֶּׁה כִּרְאוּבֵן  48:5

וְשִׁמְעֹון יִהְיוּ־לִי

Gene. 48:5  “And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt up to my coming to you, to Egypt, will be to me as Reuben and Simeon.”

Three observations about this verse:  First, Jacob mentions the names of Joseph’s sons in reverse order of their births, which is rather unusual in itself.  Secondly, a cursory analysis of Jacob’s words seems to suggest that Jacob had not met the boys before this point.  Witness the words, “… [they] will be to me ….”  Taking both comments into account, one might also conclude that Jacob was already saying that he would bless Ephraim over Manasseh (see v. 48:13).  In other words, Ephraim would be like Reuben (Jacob’s first born) and Manasseh would be like Simeon (Jacob’s second born) to him.  Finally, what have the previous two verses to do with this one?  Is there a connection?  Why did Jacob tell Joseph about his visitation by God?  Perhaps he was leading into the next verse.

וּמֹולַדְתְּךָ אֲשֶׁר־הֹולַדְתָּ אַחֲרֵיהֶם לְךָ יִהְיוּ עַל שֵׁם אֲחֵיהֶם יִקָּרְאוּ בְּנַחֲלָתָם  48:6

Gene. 48:6  “And any of your offspring that you had begotten after them shall be yours.  They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.”

Did Joseph have other children besides Manasseh and Ephraim?  If he did, they would forever remain nameless.  I believe this gives us the answer to the last question relating to the previous verse.  Jacob was explaining to Joseph the following:  Jacob was to be the progenitor of “a company of peoples” (v. 48:4) with an “eternal possession.”  Any other children that Joseph had begot – or would beget – after these two would have no share of their own in that inheritance.  So vss. 48:3 and 48:4 are a prelude into vss. 48:5 and 48:6.

וַאֲנִי בְּבֹאִי מִפַּדָּן מֵתָה עָלַי רָחֵל בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּעֹוד כִּבְרַת־אֶרֶץ לָבֹא אֶפְרָתָה וָאֶקְבְּרֶהָ שָּׁם  48:7

בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְרָת הִוא בֵּית לָחֶם

Gene. 48:7  “When I was in my departure from Paddan, Rachel died on me in the land of Canaan amid the journey when there was yet a little way to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there in the midst of the journey to Ephrath.  It is Bethlehem.

This verse, unrelated to what came before or what follows, seems to have been placed into this narrative for no obvious reason.  Perhaps Israel was continuing to relate his history -- seventeen years after he came to Egypt?! – and was interrupted, and subsequently distracted, by the appearance of Joseph’s two sons (see next verse).

וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־בְּנֵי יֹוסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר מִי־אֵלֶּה  48:8

Gene. 48:8  Then Israel saw the sons of Joseph and said, “Who are they?”

Well, either Jacob had indeed never met them, or he had not seen them for a long time.

וַיֹּאמֶר יֹוסֵף אֶל־אָבִיו בָּנַי הֵם אֲשֶׁר־נָתַן־לִי אֱלֹהִים בָּזֶה וַיֹּאמַר קָחֶם־נָא אֵלַי וַאֲבָרֲכֵם  48:9

Gene. 48:9  And Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given to me here.” And he said, “Please bring them to me and I will bless them.”

The last word in the verse, an imperfect first-person verb, translated as and I will bless them, has a non-inverting vav prefix.

וְעֵינֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּבְדוּ מִזֹּקֶן לֹא יוּכַל לִרְאֹות וַיַּגֵּשׁ אֹתָם אֵלָיו וַיִּשַּׁק לָהֶם וַיְחַבֵּק לָהֶם  48:10

Gene. 48:10   Now the sight of Israel was dimmed from age.  He was not able to see.  So he approached with them to him and he kissed them and embraced them.

וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל־יֹוסֵף רְאֹה פָנֶיךָ לֹא פִלָּלְתִּי וְהִנֵּה הֶרְאָה אֹתִי אֱלֹהִים גַּם אֶת־זַרְעֶךָ  48:11

Gene. 48:11   And Israel said to Joseph, “To see your face I would not have judged possible, and here God has let me see also your seed.”

וַיֹּוצֵא יֹוסֵף אֹתָם מֵעִם בִּרְכָּיו וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לְאַפָּיו אָרְצָה  48:12

Gene. 48:12   And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he fell with his face to the earth.

From between his knees? How could this be?  Joseph’s sons were full-grown men, probably at least as tall as their father.  What can be going on here?  The only explanation I can conceive of is that they had been bowing low on their knees before their venerable respected and illustrious grandfather.

וַיִּקַּח יֹוסֵף אֶת־שְׁנֵיהֶמ אֶת־אֶפְרַיִם בִּימִינֹו מִשְּׂמֹאל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת־מְנַשֶּׁה בִשְׂמֹאלֹו מִימִין יִשְׂרָאֵל  48:13

וַיַּגֵּשׁ אֵלָיו

Gene. 48:13   And Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim by his right hand near the left hand of Israel and Manasseh by his left hand near the right hand of Israel, and he came near to him.

Joseph expected his father to bless Manasseh, the older son, with his right hand and Ephraim, the younger, with his left hand.

וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־יְמִינֹו וַיָּשֶׁת עַל־רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם וְהוּא הַצָּעִיר וְאֶת־שְׂמֹאלֹו עַל־רֹאשׁ מְנַשֶּׁה  48:14

שִׂכֵּל אֶת־יָדָיו כִּי מְנַשֶּׁה הַבְּכֹור

Gene. 48:14   But Israel stretched forth and placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim, but he was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands, but Manasseh was the first born.                                                                                             [Return to Jere. 31:8]

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת־יֹוסֵף וַיֹּאמַר הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלְּכוּ אֲבֹתַי לְפָנָיו אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק הָאֱלֹהִים הָרֹעֶה אֹתִי   48:15

מֵעֹודִי עַד־הַיֹּום הַזֶּה

Gene. 48:15   And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before Whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked, the God who has guided me, sustaining me until this day,

הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל־רָע יְבָרֵךְ אֶת־הַנְּעָרִים וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק וְיִדְגּוּ  48:16

לָרֹב בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ

Gene. 48:16   the Angel who redeemed me from all evil, let Him bless the lads so that my name is named in them, with the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and they grow into a multitude in the midst of the land.”

וַיַּרְא יֹוסֵף כִּי־יָשִׁית אָבִיו יַד־יְמִינֹו עַל־רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם וַיֵּרַע בְּעֵינָיו וַיִּתְמֹךְ יַד־אָבִיו לְהָסִיר אֹתָהּ מֵעַל  48:17

רֹאשׁ־אֶפְרַיִם עַל־רֹאשׁ מְנַשֶּׁה

Gene. 48:17   Joseph saw that his father had placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim, and it was bad in his eyes; so he held up the hand of his father to remove it from the head of Ephraim onto the head of Manasseh.

וַיֹּאמֶר יֹוסֵף אֶל־אָבִיו לֹא־כֵן אָבִי כִּי־זֶה הַבְּכֹר שִׂים יְמִינְךָ עַל־רֹאשֹׁו  48:18

Gene. 48:18   And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this is the first born.  Put your right hand on his head.”

וַיְמָאֵן אָבִיו וַיֹּאמֶר יָדַעְתִּי בְנִי יָדַעְתִּי גַּם־הוּא יִהְיֶה־לְּעָם וְגַם־הוּא יִגְדָּל וְאוּלָם אָחִיו הַקָּטֹן יִגְדַּל  48:19

מִמֶּנּוּ וְזַרְעֹו יִהְיֶה מְלֹא־הַגֹּויִם

Gene. 48:19   But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know.  He shall also be for a people and he shall also be great, but indeed, his younger brother shall be greater than he and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.”

 וַיְבָרֲכֵם בַּיֹּום הַהוּא לֵאמֹור בְּךָ יְבָרֵךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר יְשִׂמְךָ אֱלֹהִים כְּאֶפְרַיִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁה וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת־  48:20

אֶפְרַיִם לִפְנֵי מְנַשֶּׁה

Gene. 48:20   And he blessed them in that day saying, “Through you shall Israel bless saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh.’” And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

Now this is interesting and stunning.  When the scribe recorded this event, he was writing many years in the future. So to describe such a prophecy doesn’t take much insight or genius on his part.  The blessing must have been repeated often in his time.  What is remarkable is that this blessing is repeated constantly today over boys.  It has survived stubbornly through every cataclysmic era of Jewish history.  Prophesies like this one, and there are many more, cause me to believe in God’s powerful influence with the biblical scribes (and with those of us today who listen).

וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל־יֹוסֵף הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מֵת וְהָיָה אֱלֹהִים עִםָּכֶם וְהֵשִׁיב אֶתְכֶם אֶל־אֶרֶץ אֲבֹתֵיכֶם  48:21

Gene. 48:21   And Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and will return you to the land of your fathers.”

This is interesting.  Israel is actually looking into the future, over 400 years hence in this verse.  In effect, he is prophesying that Joseph’s bones will be carried back to Canaan long after both of them have died.

וַאֲנִי נָתַתִּי לְךָ שְׁכֶם אַחַד עַל־אַחֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר לָקַחְתִּי מִיַּד הָאֱמֹרִי בְּחַרְבִּי וּבְקַשְׁתִּי  48:22

Gene. 48:22   “And I give you one portion over your brothers, which I seized from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.”

There are two significant points of interest in this last verse of the chapter.  For one, there is no record of Jacob’s having taken anything from the Amorites by force.  Therefore, I see this as another prophecy:  It hadn’t happened yet, and Jacob is speaking of Israel, the people, who will indeed take the land of the Amorites from them some 450 years hence.  Here is one of my reasons for suspecting that the patriarchs personify the Jewish people through the three phases of their history to this day.  Secondly, the pronouns you and your in the verse are in the singular.  So Israel is still addressing Joseph.  Indeed, Ephraim and Manasseh will come to possess two portions of the land of Israel.

On another point, now that you have read this chapter and perhaps puzzled over it (as I have repeatedly), I will offer a peculiar hypothesis regarding it.  This hypothesis eliminates any concerns over the strange manifestations in much of the chapter.   I have to admit, however, that the hypothesis may be considered quite controversial.  Here it is:

I believe that this chapter is out of chronological order with the preceding and subsequent chapters.  I believe it took place at an earlier time than is indicated by the phrase, ”And it happened after these things” which introduces the chapter in v. 48:1.  I suspect that Joseph’s visit occurred soon after Jacob arrived in Egypt.  Manasseh and Ephraim were still small boys (three to six years old).  In opposition, some will point to v. 48:21 and say that Jacob was near death and must have been old at this time.  My response is that Jacob often complained and perhaps thought he was near death on several occasions.  He speaks of the imminence of his death in previous chapters.  And he was sick (see v. 48:1).

The controversy arises from the fact that if my hypothesis is correct, one cannot at first glance ascribe a time sequence to a verse or chapter in which phrases such as “after these things” or “after this” appear.  Every instance would have to be carefully reanalyzed according to clues that might be found in the text.

 

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