Genesis 48 - Jacob Blesses Joseph's Sons
A. Jacob calls for his sons.
1. (1-4) Jacob's testimony of God's promise.
a. Luz is another name for Bethel, where Jacob first met God. Jacob still remembers this outstanding encounter he had with the Lord.
b. Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you: Jacob's phrasing is reminiscent of exact promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 17 (see Genesis 17:2, 6, and 8). Abraham was careful to pass down the exact words of God's covenant with him to the inheritors of the covenant, because the exact words of God are important!
2. (5-6) Jacob adopts Joseph's sons as his own.
a. Reuben and Simeon were the first and second born of Israel. Jacob is showing these two sons of Joseph are being adopted into the family at the highest level (as if they were the first and second born).
i. And, perhaps, they are "replacements" for Reuben and Simeon, who had in a sense disqualified themselves from positions of status and leadership in Israel's family because of their sin (Genesis 34:25, 35:22).
b. Jacob's adoption of Manasseh and Ephraim explains why there can be 12 tribes listed in different combinations. Because of this adoption, there are actually 13 sons of Israel; the 12 were born, but Joseph was divided into two tribes.
i. So, as the tribes are listed through the Old Testament, they can be juggled and still remain 12 tribes. There are more than 20 different ways of listing the tribes in the Old Testament.
c. 12 is a number often associated with government or administration in God's eyes. There are 12 tribes, 12 apostles, 12 princes of Ishmael, 12 pillars on Moses' altar, 12 stones on the high priest's breastplate, 12 cakes of showbread, 12 silver platters, silver bowls, and gold pans for the service of the tabernacle, 12 spies to search out the land, 12 memorial stones, 12 governors under Solomon, 12 stones in Elijah's altar, 12 in each group of musicians and singers for Israel's worship, 12 hours in a day, 12 months in a year, 12 Ephesian men filled with the Holy Spirit, 12,000 from 12 tribes sealed and preserved through the tribulation, heaven has 12 gates of 12 pearls, and 12 angels at the gates, the New Jerusalem has 12 foundations, each with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb, it's length, breadth, and height are all 12,000 furlongs, and the tree of life in heaven has 12 fruits. The number 12 is special to God!
3. (7) Jacob concludes his testimony with an eye to his soon death.
B. Jacob blesses Manasseh and Ephraim.
1. (8-12) Jacob calls for Joseph's sons to bless them.
a. Joseph shows great reverence to his father.
2. (13-14) Jacob puts the favored hand on the second-born, despite Joseph's efforts.
a. The right hand in the Bible always has the idea of the favored position, because generally speaking, the right hand is the hand of strength and skill.
i. The right hand is associated with God's strength (Exodus 15:6), favor (Psalm 16:11), and help (Psalm 20:6); it is for good reason Jesus is described as sitting at the right hand of the Father (Mark 14:62).
b. Jacob was guiding his hands knowingly. He deliberately chose the second-born to receive a greater blessing than the firstborn.
3. (15-16) The blessing of Jacob upon Manasseh and Ephraim.
a. He gives the same blessing for both sons, but the son of the right hand will receive a greater proportion of the blessing.
i. This was fulfilled in Israel's history. Both tribes were blessed, but Ephraim was greater as a tribe, even to the point where the name "Ephraim" was used to refer to the whole northern nation of Israel (Isaiah 7:8, 17; 11:13).
b. Jacob's testimony is a testimony of grace, not personal merit. He is not recounting how faithful he has been to God, but how faithful God has been to him.
c. The God who has fed me is literally "The God who has shepherded me." This is the first mention in the Bible of God as a shepherd to His people.
5. (17-20) Jacob answers Joseph's objection about the order of blessing.
a. Ephraim was not the firstborn, but he had this position in God's view; For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9).
b. This shows how the idea of "firstborn" in the Bible is often a position of pre-eminence, not necessarily meaning "first out of the womb."
i. David had the position of firstborn, even though he was the youngest son (1 Samuel 16:11 and Psalm 89:27).
ii. Jesus has the pre-eminent position of firstborn (Colossians 1:15), though this does not mean Jesus is literally the first "born" creature of God, because Jesus was not created.
6. (21-22) Jacob makes a personal bequest to Joseph.
a. The one portion above your brothers speaks of Joseph being father of two tribes, while each of his brothers only fathered one.
b. Which I took from the hand of the Amorite: apparently, while still in Canaan, Jacob battled for control of a portion of land from the Amorites, and he deeded the land to Joseph and his descendants, to be appropriated some 400 years later!
c. God will be with you completes a wonderful work regarding Jacob's recognition of God's presence his life:
- I am with you (Genesis 28:15): God gives the young believer every possible assurance of His presence and grace.
- I will be with you (Genesis 31:3): God expects the growing believer to trust He will be with us, even when we only have the promise of His presence.
- God . . . has been with me (Genesis 31:5): God gives a glorious testimony to the mature believer, able to say how God has been with us, even when we haven't felt His presence in the way we wished.
- God will be with you (Genesis 48:21): God gives the mature believer the opportunity to encourage others with the promise of God's presence.
d. This is truly a passing of the torch to Joseph. Jacob is now the last of the three great patriarchs to pass from the scene.
i. "If Abraham dies, there is Isaac; and if Isaac dies, there is Jacob; and if Jacob dies, there is Joseph; and if Joseph dies, Ephraim and Manasseh survive. The Lord shall never lack a champion to bear his standard high among the sons of men. Only let us pray God to raise up more faithful ministers day and night. We have plenty of a sort, but, oh, for more that will weigh out sixteen ounces to the pound of gospel in such a way that people will receive it. We have too much of fine language, too much of florid eloquence, and little full and plain gospel preaching, but God will keep up the apostolic succession, never fear of that. When Stephen is dying, Paul is not far off. When Elijah is taken up, he leaves his mantle behind him." (Spurgeon)
C. Joseph as a picture of Jesus (continued from the end of Genesis 41):
35. Joseph's brethren were driven out of their own land.
36. Joseph does not go to his brothers; they come to him.
37. Joseph knew his brethren even while unknown and unrecognized by them.
38. Joseph blesses his brethren without their knowledge.
39. Joseph desires all his brethren come to him.
40. There is a time gap between Joseph's initial relationship with his brothers and his second relationship to his brothers.
41. Joseph made known to his brethren a way of deliverance through substitution.
42. Joseph's "second coming" to his brothers has two appearances. Joseph made himself known to his brethren at his second appearing to them.
43. Joseph was revealed as a man of compassion.
44. The brothers repent of their rejection of Joseph with great wonder and tears.
45. Joseph will allow no fellowship (as in eating together) until his brothers repent and he reveals himself.
46. Joseph's brethren went forth to proclaim his glory.
47. Joseph makes full provision for his brethren.
48. Joseph prepares a place for his brethren, and receives them into it.
49. Joseph brings Jew and Gentile together in the land.