Chapter 48

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2020-05-25 11:07.

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When news reached him that his father was ill, Joseph, with his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, went to see him. Upon being told that Joseph had arrived, “Israel” (Jacob) gathered all his strength and sat up in bed. Jacob then related what God Almighty had revealed to him at Luz [Louza (LXX), the earlier name of the place Jacob called “Bethel” (28:11-19). He mentioned that God had blessed him and had said to him: “I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a crowd of peoples and will give this land [Canaan] to your seed [descendants] after you for a possession to limitless time.” (48:1-4)

Apparently so that Joseph would share in a double portion of that inheritance in the land of Canaan as the one who would be considered his firsborn son, Jacob declared Ephraim and Manasseh to be his own sons just his first two sons Reuben and Simeon were his own. Accordingly, Ephraim and Manasseh would each have an inheritance in Canaan. Any sons of Joseph would be his own, and they would be called “by the name of their brothers” in their share of the inheritance. This would mean that their tribal territory in the land of Canaan would be under the name of Ephraim and Manasseh or that they would be considered like direct descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. (48:5, 6)

It appears that, because Joseph was the son of his beloved wife Rachel, Jacob recalled the sorrow her death brought him, saying to him: “And when I came from Paddan [Mesopotamia of Syria [LXX]) Rachel died to me in the land of Canaan on the way” to Ephrath “when there was still some distance to go” there “and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem.” Jacob’s choosing to adopt Ephraim and Manasseh also seems to have been the manner in which he considered honoring the memory of Rachel. The two sons of Joseph were born before the beginning of the years of famine. (41:50) Therefore, at this time, Ephraim could have been over 20 years of age and Manasseh could have been a year or two older. (48:7)

After vision-impaired “Israel” (Jacob) asked who the ones with Joseph were, Joseph identified them as the sons whom God had given him. Jacob asked Joseph to bring them near to him and he then kissed them and embraced them. As he had for years believed that Joseph was dead, he never thought that he would see his beloved son again, and he was grateful to God for letting him see Joseph’s children. The sons of Joseph appear to have been positioned at Jacob’s knees, and Joseph had them step back. According to the Hebrew text, he then bowed before his father, with his face to the floor (literally, the earth or the ground). The Septuagint, however, indicates that the two sons were the ones who bowed down. (48:8-12)

For his father to bless his sons, Joseph positioned the younger son Ephraim to his father’s left and the older son Manasseh to his father's right. “Israel” (Jacob) crossed his arms, placing his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Manasseh. The Masoretic Text refers to his blessing Joseph. Possibly this is to be understood as Jacob’s doing so by blessing Joseph’s two sons, for Joseph is not mentioned in the quoted words of the blessing. According to the Septuagint rendering, Jacob blessed the sons. His words of blessing were: “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked [or conducted themselves aright], the God who has sheperded me continually [from youth (LXX)] to this day, the angel [or messenger] who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads. In them, may my name and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac be called [be perpetuated or live on]. And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the land.” (48:13-16)

It displeased Joseph that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh, and he tried to change the position of his father's hands, telling him that he should be putting his right hand on the firstborn’s head. His father refused to change the position of his hands, acknowledged that he knew who the firstborn was, and indicated to Joseph the the older son would become a people but that the younger brother would gain the ascendancy and that his “seed” or descendants would become a multitude of nations.” Ephraim’s becoming a “multitude of nations” may be understood to mean that the number of his descendants would be great enough to form separate nations. Historically, it proved to be that the tribe of Ephraim became greater than the tribe of Manasseh. Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim became the successor of Moses, brought the nation into the Promised Land, and served as the commander of the warriors who conquered the land. In later years, when two separate kingdoms came to exist among the Israelites, the first king (Jeroboam) of the ten-tribe kingdom was from the tribe of Ephraim. In subsequent years, the tribe of Ephraim continued to be the dominant tribe in the realm. Jacob revealed that, by the two sons of Joseph or by reference to them by name, Israel or Jacob’s descendants as a nation would pronounce blessings, saying, “God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh.” In his expressions of blessing, Jacob continued to mention Ephraim before Manasseh. (48:17-20)

Jacob recognized that he was about to die but maintained his faith in God’s promise that his descendants would return to the land of Canaan, saying to Joseph, “God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers” (Abraham and Isaac). To Joseph, Jacob promised to give the double portion that was the usual share of the inheritance that the firstborn son received. The wording of the Hebrew text could be translated, “I have given to you one shoulder [or one mountain slope] more than to your brothers, which [portion] I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” According to the Septuagint, Jacob said, “But I give you Sikima [Shechem] as a special [portion] above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Ammorites [Amorites] with my sword and bow.” (48:21, 22)

The Hebrew word shekhem, depending on the context, can mean “shoulder,” “mountain slope,” or the city named Shechem. At the time, the tribes of Israel received their inheritance, the city of Shechem came to be in the territory of Ephraim, and it was there that the bones of Joseph were buried after the Israelites entered the land of Canaan. (Joshua 24:32) Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shechem in revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah, and he disapproved of their violent act. Therefore, it does not appear that Jacob would have linked his seizure with the rash action of his sons. It is more likely that Jacob spoke prophetically of the conquest of the area as if it already had been accomplished but which actually occurred much later when his descendants had become a nation and entered the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim. Accordingly, through the sword and the bow wielded by his descendants, Jacob could prophetically speak of it as having been done by him. Just as giving of the land to Joseph did not actually take place until long after the deaths of both Jacob and Joseph, so also the conquest by means of the sword and the bow may be considered as a later development. It was certain to happen and could, for this reason, be spoken of as having already taken place. (48:22)