- Locate the passage
As great as it must have been for Joseph to have all of his family in Egypt with him, the final 17 years of Jacob’s life must have gone by quickly for him. The narrator fast-forwards through those final years of Jacob’s life to the time of his death. The feature of this passage is the passing of the Patriarchal blessing from Jacob to Joseph and his sons. The blessing of the sons follows a common pattern of the younger given priority over the older.
The passage is narrative. It records the conversations between Jacob and Joseph.
- Determine the structure of the passage
47:27-31 – Jacob makes Joseph promise not to bury him in Egypt, but in Machpelah
48:1-7 – Jacob passes the Patriarchal blessing to Joseph
48:8-22 – Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh
- Exegete the passage
Jacob shows discernment as the end of his life drew near. He knew that his time was short. He also discerned the blessing of the Lord on Joseph’s younger son, Ephraim, above Manasseh.
Jacob had not fully experienced the promise of God to return to the land of Canaan, but trusted that God would fulfill His word. So, he convinced Joseph to promise not to bury him in Egypt, but in the cave of Machpelah where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah were buried (Cf. Gen. 49:31).
48:27-28 – These verses summarized Jacob’s life in Egypt. After his relocation to Egypt, the next significant aspect in the story is Jacob’s blessing of his children and grandchildren before he died.
- Jacob’s 17 years under Joseph’s care echo Joseph’s 17 years under Jacob’s care (Gen. 37:2), Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, 861. and form something of an inclusion to the Joseph narrative.
- Egypt was never intended to be a permanent dwelling place for Jacob. “Egypt was to Jacob and his family what the ark was to Noah—a temporary shelter from the disaster on the outside.” V. P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1–17. New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990): 625.
48:29-31 – The narrator gives us two pictures of Jacob’s final encounters with Joseph. One initiated by Jacob and the other by Joseph. In this encounter, Jacob anticipated that the end of his life was near and called on Joseph to urge him to promise not to bury him in Egypt.
- A similar oath strategy as pictured in Gen. 24:2 shows Joseph placing his hand underneath his father’s thigh to make a promise.
- Joseph agrees to his father’s wish
- Jacob bowed on his bed
- Perhaps Jacob was bowing before the Lord. However, Jacob has already given evidence of Joseph’s authority (“If I have found favor in your sight”) and the text recorded that Jacob remembered Joseph’s dream that he would one day bow before his son (Gen. 37:11). It seems likely here (as with David in 1 Kings 1:47-48) that he is bowing before his son and also worshiping the Lord.
48:1-2 – The narrator’s account of Jacob’s blessing of Joseph and his sons presents a striking contrast to the “blessing” of his sons in Gen. 48-49. There, Jacob has honest, though not always encouraging words for his other sons.
- Unlike their previous encounter, which was initiated by Jacob, this visit was initiated by Joseph
- News reached Joseph that his father was sick. So, Joseph came to visit
- Jacob summoned his strength and sat up in his bed to acknowledge Joseph
- God appeared to me at Luz
- The most telling moment in Jacob’s life was fresh on his mind as his death was imminent.
- God blessed Him there, and he would now pass that blessing on to his son
- Notable here is that God is not the one blessing Joseph (as with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). But Jacob is blessing Joseph
- This may suggest why the line of Joseph is not as prominent after Joseph’s life as was the line of Judah.
- Jacob does not pronounce that any royal offspring will come through Joseph, as that would have been a false promise.
- Your two sons are mine
- When Canaan was divided among the tribes of Jacob, Joseph was not listed as a “tribe.” Rather, his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, each received an inheritance.
- Thus, Joseph received a “double blessing” from his father.
- Rachel died beside me
- Though she would not be buried alongside him, Jacob’s mind turned to the love of his life, Rachel, as he neared death.
48:8 – Who are these?
- The text has already recorded that Jacob knew that Joseph had two sons, but perhaps he was unable to see clearly to recognize them (Cf. 48:10 – “his eyes were dim”) upon their arrival. Note that Jacob instructs Joseph to “bring them to me,” indicating that they were some distance away.
48:9-10 – Bring them to me and I will bless them
- Joseph acknowledged his two sons as a gift to him from the Lord
- The aged grandfather embraced his grandsons and kissed them.
48:11-13 – Joseph brought his sons to his father
- Jacob also acknowledged the goodness of the Lord in this moment
- 11 – the use of the word see (Hb. “ra’ah”) here contrasts its use in 48:10
- Jacob’s eyes were dim and he could not “see”
- But, God allowed him to “see” not only his son, but his grandsons
- Joseph appropriately placed his eldest son, Manasseh, near his father’s right hand, the hand which was reserved for the oldest son.
48:14-20 – Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh backwards
- He blessed Joseph (48:15)
- Jacob crossed his arms and put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, instead of Manasseh
- The blessing of Joseph brackets the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh on both ends (48:15, 21-22).
- In his blessing of Joseph, Jacob proclaims that:
- God was the source of blessing
- Abraham and Isaac walked before God
- In his blessing of Joseph, Jacob proclaims that:
- God had fed (provided for) Jacob throughout his life
- Jacob acknowledged the presence of God’s angels as part of His blessing. Here Jacob may have been referring to the presence of angels at Bethel (Gen. 28:12), or his encounter with God’s angels in Mahanaim (Gen. 32:1-2), or the message from God’s angel in his strife with Laban (Gen. 33:11). Either way, Jacob recognized the significance of God’s use of angels along his journey.
- See 1 Chron. 5:2 which states that Jacob’s birthright was given to Joseph.
- The angel who “redeemed” me
- This is the first use of the term “goël,” meaning, “to buy back or redeem” in Scripture.H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Genesis, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 519.
- May they “grow” into a multitude
- This hapax legomenon comes from a root meaning, “fish,” and carries the idea of swarming like the fishes of the sea.Ibid., 520.
- Jacob’s blessing was a blessing of his name and that of his fathers
- “Let my name be upon them, and the name of my fathers ….”
- Joseph “saw”
- Another play on the word, “ra’ah”
- Joseph objected, thinking his father was mistaken.
- Joseph was “displeased” at his father’s mistake
- The Hb. here “ra’a” is a homonym for the word, “to see” (Hb. “ra’ah”).
- But, Jacob explained that he was doing it on purpose
- Jacob acknowledged that both sons would be great, but the younger would be greater
- By you, Israel will pronounce blessing
- People will not only recognize Ephraim as before Manasseh, but also recognize them as unusually blessed of God
48:21-22 – I am about to die
- Even though Jacob had not physically experienced God bringing him back to Canaan, he claimed by faith that God would complete His promise. He categorically affirmed that God WILL bring you back.
- God will be with you
- God will bring you back
- Joseph was given one more portion in the land of Canaan than his brothers
- Those two portions given to Joseph were divided among Ephraim and Manasseh (and subsequently further divided as ½ of the tribe of Manasseh settled on the “other side” of the Jordan.
- I took from the Amorite
- This is likely used here as a general term for all the land taken from the Canaanites.
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
This passage reveals the faith of the Patriarch that has climaxed near the end of his life
Here, the patriarch demonstrated his faith that God would:
- Bring his family back to Canaan, and
- Pass on the promise given to him to his children and grandchildren
Ultimately, this passage reveals how to die in faith.
- We can commit our lives to God to the very end
Ill. Acts 13:36 – After David accomplished God’s plan for his life, God called him home.
App. That should be our goal–to accomplish God’s plan before He calls us home
App. So, however much time God allows us, we should commit to seeking to accomplish His purpose
App. When our time comes, will you be faithful to the Lord to the end?
- We can trust God to be faithful to His Word
Exp. Jacob believed that God would complete His promise to Jacob
- We can pass along our faith to our family confident that the God who has been faithful to us, will be faithful also to them
Exp. Jacob affirmed his faith in God to his son and grandsons. He trusted them into God’s care and affirmed to them God’s sufficient care in his life.
Exp. This deathbed confession contrasts Jacob’s pronouncement to Pharaoh that his days were “few and unpleasant” (Gen.47:9).
Exp. Jacob was confident that the God of his fathers, and his God, would be faithful to his grandsons as He had also been faithful to Joseph.
App. What are you passing along to your children and grandchildren in faith
Ill. When Paul looked at Timothy, he saw the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother resident in him (2 Tim 1:5).
Ill. John also affirmed the joy of children walking in the faith that they have learned from their parents (3 John 1:4)
- We can trust God’s ways plans over our own
Exp. Every parent has big plans for their children – Joseph was no exception. But, things did not work out according to Joseph’s plan. That was probably one of the first things in Joseph’s life that did not go as he determined in many years!
Exp. Even though, the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh was not as Joseph had planned, Jacob affirmed that God would be faithful.
App. Believers can live confident in their faith and they can die confident in their faith
Ill. Phil 1:6 – “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
|↑1||Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, 861.|
|↑2||V. P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1–17. New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990): 625.|
|↑3||H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Genesis, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 519.|