Genesis 48

Genesis 48

Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh

48 After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ And now 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. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” And he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.” Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his 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 him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said,

  “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
    the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
  the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
    and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
    and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying,

  “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying,
  ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’”

Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.”


Genesis 48 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

From Jacob (Israel’s) sons, the 12 tribes would be formed. This can be confusing when you factor in Genesis 48. Jacob brings Joseph’s sons to him and actually adopts them as his own. This means that instead of a “tribe of Joseph” there will be two tribes branching out from Joseph’s two sons – Ephraim and Manasseh.

So, does this mean there are actually 13 tribes? More on that later. Let’s first look at the adoption by Jacob.

Your two sons born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt are now mine. Ephraim and Manasseh belong to me just as Reuben and Simeon do.

Genesis 48:5 HCSB

Ephraim and Manasseh would be elevated to equal status among their uncles. Jacob uses Reuben and Simeon in his example because they were the sons who willingly committed horrific crimes against their father. Reuben, his firstborn, had slept with his concubine. Simeon, the secondborn, had led the rebellion against Shechem murdering every male in the city. In Genesis 49, we will read of how Jacob chooses Joseph to receive the double portion over Reuben. Joseph was now the chosen son and Reuben and Simeon had fallen out of favor.

But this leads us to a problem. How do we reconcile the 12 tribes of Israel if there are actually 13?

Generally speaking, even though there is not a tribe of Joseph, the two nations spanning from his sons can be summarized as the house of Joseph. This is one way to simplify the mathematical inconsistency. However, Ephraim and Manasseh would become their own tribes with their own plots of land. Geographically, since we know there were only 12 plots of land given, one tribe would not receive land.

“The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, will have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They will eat the LORD’s fire offerings; that is their inheritance.  2  Although Levi has no inheritance among his brothers, the LORD is his inheritance, as He promised him.

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 HCSB

Though the Levites would not receive land, their inheritance would be the Lord and they would be scattered among the tribes. This was also the case before any land was assigned to them. For instance, when the camp was formed with all the tribes having their own space to fill, the Levites stayed inside the ring of those 12 tribes.

This is all interesting and helps to clarify our understanding of Israel’s history. However, the fascinating point to consider is how God has continued to faithfully lead this broken family. His promises have continued despite the stubbornness of sin. God’s plan for this nation could not be thwarted by their fallen nature because as He was growing them numerically, He was also growing them spiritually. As He was growing them nationally, He was growing them individually. His plan would be accomplished and his people would be sanctified.

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