Genesis 48

CHAPTER XLVIII

Joseph, hearing that his father was near death, took his two sons,

Ephraim and Manasseh, and went to Goshen, to visit him, 1.

Jacob strengthens himself to receive them, 2.

Gives Joseph an account of God's appearing to him at Luz, and

repeating the promise, 3, 4.

Adopts Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons, 5, 6.

Mentions the death of Rachel at Ephrath, 7.

He blesses Ephraim and Manasseh, preferring the former, who was

the younger, to his elder brother, 8-17.

Joseph, supposing his father had mistaken in giving the right of

primogeniture to the youngest, endeavours to correct him, 18.

Jacob shows that he did it designedly, prophecies much good concerning

both; but sets Ephraim the youngest before Manasseh, 19, 20.

Jacob speaks of his death, and predicts the return of his posterity

from Egypt, 21.

And gives Joseph a portion above his brethren, which he had taken

from the Amorites, 22.

NOTES ON CHAP. XLVIII

Verse 1. One told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick] He was

ill before, and Joseph knew it; but it appears that a messenger

had been now despatched to in form Joseph that his father was

apparently at the point of death.

Verse 2. Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.] He

had been confined to his bed before, (see Ge 47:31,) and now,

hearing that Joseph was come to see him, he made what efforts his

little remaining strength would admit, to sit up in bed to receive

his son. This verse proves that a bed, not a staff, is intended

in the preceding chapter, Ge 47:31.

Verse 3. God Almighty] El Shaddai, the all-sufficient

God, the Outpourer and Dispenser of mercies, (see Ge 17:1,)

appeared to me at Luz, afterwards called Beth-El; see

Ge 28:13; 35:6, 9.

Verse 5. And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh-are mine] I

now adopt them into my own family, and they shall have their place

among my twelve sons, and be treated in every respect as those,

and have an equal interest in all the spiritual and temporal

blessings of the covenant.

Verse 7. Rachel died by me, &c.] Rachel was the wife of Jacob's

choice, and the object of his unvarying affection; he loved her in

life-he loves her in death: many waters cannot quench love,

neither can the floods drown it. A match of a man's own making

when guided by reason and religion, will necessarily be a happy

one. When fathers and mothers make matches for their children,

which are dictated by motives, not of affection, but merely of

convenience, worldly gain, &c., &c., such matches are generally

wretched; it is Leah in the place of Rachel to the end of life's

pilgrimage.

Verse 8. Who are these?] At Ge 48:10 it is said, that

Jacob's eyes were dim for age, that he could not see-could not

discern any object unless it were near him; therefore, though he

saw Ephraim and Manasseh, yet he could not distinguish them till

they were brought nigh unto him.

Verse 11. I had not thought to see thy face] There is much

delicacy and much tenderness in these expressions. He feels

himself now amply recompensed for his long grief and trouble on

account of the supposed death of Joseph, in seeing not only

himself but his two sons, whom God, by an especial act of favour,

is about to add to the number of his own. Thus we find that as

Reuben and Simeon were heads of two distinct tribes in Israel, so

were Ephraim and Manasseh; because Jacob, in a sort of sacramental

way, had adopted them with equal privileges to those of his own

sons.

Verse 12. Joseph-bowed himself with his face to the earth.] This

act of Joseph has been extravagantly extolled by Dr. Delaney and

others. "When I consider him on his knees to God," says Dr.

Delaney, "I regard him as a poor mortal in the discharge of his

duty to his CREATOR. When I behold him bowing before Pharaoh, I

consider him in the dutiful posture of a subject to his prince.

But when I see him bending to the earth before a poor, old, blind,

decrepit father, I behold him with admiration and delight. How

doth that humiliation exalt him!" This is insufferable! For it in

effect says that it is a wondrous condescension in a young man,

who, in the course of God's providence, with scarcely any efforts

of his own, was raised to affluence and worldly grandeur, to show

respect to his father! And that respect was the more gratuitous

and condescending, because that father was poor, old, blind, and

decrepit! The maxim of this most exceptionable flight of

admiration is, that "children who have risen to affluence are not

obliged to reverence their parents when reduced in their

circumstances, and brought down by the weight of years and

infirmities to the sides of the grave; and should they acknowledge

and reverence them, it would be a mark of singular goodness, and

be highly meritorious." Should positions of this kind pass

without reprehension? I trow not. By the law of God and nature

Joseph was as much bound to pay his dying father this filial

respect, as he was to reverence his king, or to worship his

God. As to myself, I must freely confess that I see nothing

peculiarly amiable in this part of Joseph's conduct; he simply

acquitted himself of a duty which God, nature, decency, and common

sense, imperiously demanded of him, and all such in his

circumstances, to discharge. To the present day children in the

east, next to God, pay the deepest reverence to their parents.

Besides, before whom was Joseph bowing? Not merely his father,

but a most eminent PATRIARCH; one highly distinguished by the

Lord, and one of the three of whom the Supreme Being speaks in the

most favourable and affectionate manner; the three who received

and transmitted the true faith, and kept unbroken the Divine

covenant; I AM the GOD of ABRAHAM, the GOD of ISAAC, and

the GOD of JACOB. He has never said, I am the GOD of JOSEPH. And

if we compare the father and the son as men, we shall find that

the latter was exceeded by the former in almost endless degrees.

Joseph owed his advancement and his eminence to what some would

call good fortune, and what we know to have been the especial

providence of God working in his behalf, wholly independent of his

own industry, &c., every event of that providence issuing in his

favour. Jacob owed his own support and preservation, and the

support and preservation of his numerous family, under God, to the

continual exercise of the vast powers of a strong and vigorous

mind, to which the providence of God seemed ever in opposition;

because God chose to try to the uttermost the great gifts which he

had bestowed. If therefore the most humble and abject inferior

should reverence dignity and eminence raised to no common height,

so should Joseph bow down his face to the earth before JACOB.

Besides, Joseph, in thus reverencing his father, only followed

the customs of the Egyptians among whom he lived, who, according

to Herodotus, (Euterpe, c. 80,) were particularly remarkable for

the reverence they paid to old age. "For if a young person meet

his senior, he instantly turns aside to make way for him; if an

aged person enter an apartment, the youth always rise from their

seats;" and Mr. Savary observes that the reverence mentioned by

Herodotus is yet paid to old age on every occasion in Egypt. In

Mohammedan countries the children sit as if dumb in the presence

of their parents, never attempting to speak unless spoken to.

Among the ancient Romans it was considered a crime worthy of death

not to rise up in the presence of an aged person, and acting a

contrary part was deemed an awful mark of the deep degeneracy of

the times. Thus the satirist:-

Credebant hoc grande nefas, et morte piandum,

Si Juvenis VETULO non assurrexerat; et si

Barbato cuicumque puer. Juv. Sat. xiii., v. 54.

And had not men the hoary heads revered,

Or boys paid reverence when a man appear'd.

Both must have died. DRYDEN.

Indeed, though Dr. Delaney is much struck with what he thinks

to be great and meritorious condescension and humility on the part

of Joseph; yet we find the thing itself, the deepest reverence to

parents and old age, practised by all the civilized nations in the

world, not as a matter of meritorious courtesy, but as a point of

rational and absolute duty.

Verse 14. Israel stretched out his right hand, &c.] Laying

hands on the head was always used among the Jews in giving

blessings, designating men to any office, and in the consecration

of solemn sacrifices. This is the first time we find it

mentioned; but we often read of it afterwards. See

Nu 27:18, 23; De 34:9; Mt 19:13, 15; Ac 6:6; 1Ti 4:14. Jacob

laid his right hand on the head of the younger, which we are told

he did wittingly-well knowing what he was about, for (or

although) Manasseh was the first-born, knowing by the Spirit of

prophecy that Ephraim's posterity would be more powerful than that

of Manasseh. It is observable how God from the beginning has

preferred the younger to the elder, as Abel before Cain; Shem

before Japheth; Isaac before Ishmael; Jacob before Esau; Judah

and Joseph before Reuben; Ephraim before Manasseh; Moses before

Aaron; and David before his brethren. "This is to be resolved

entirely into the wise and secret counsel of God, so far as it

regards temporal blessings and national privileges, as the apostle

tells us, Ro 9:11;

See Clarke on Ge 25:23. But this preference has no concern

with God's conferring a greater measure of his love and

approbation on one person more than another; compare Ge 4:7, with

Heb 11:4, and you will see that a difference in moral character

was the sole cause why God preferred Abel to Cain."-Dodd. The

grace that converts the soul certainly comes from the mere mercy

of God, without any merit on man's part; and a sufficiency of this

is offered to every man, Tit 2:11,12. But it is not less certain

that God loves those best who are most faithful to this grace.

Verse 15. He blessed Joseph] The father first, and then the

sons afterwards. And this is an additional proof to what has been

adduced under Ge 48:12, of Jacob's

superiority; for the less is always blessed of the greater.

The God which fed me all my life long] Jacob is now standing on

the verge of eternity, with his faith strong in God. He sees his

life to be a series of mercies; and as he had been affectionately

attentive, provident, and kind to his most helpless child, so has

God been unto him; he has fed him all his life long; he plainly

perceives that he owes every morsel of food which he has received

to the mere mercy and kindness of God.

Verse 16. The Angel which redeemed me from all evil]

hammalac haggoel. The Messenger, the Redeemer or Kinsman; for so

goel signifies; for this term, in the law of Moses, is

applied to that person whose right it is, from his being nearest

akin, to redeem or purchase back a forfeited inheritance. But

of whom does Jacob speak? We have often seen, in the preceding

chapters, an angel of God appearing to the patriarchs; (see

particularly Ge 16:7, and the note there;

See Clarke on Ge 16:7) and we have full proof that this was no

created angel, but the Messenger of the Divine Council, the Lord

Jesus Christ. Who then was the angel that redeemed Jacob, and

whom he invoked to bless Ephraim and Manasseh? Is it not JESUS?

He alone can be called Goel, the redeeming Kinsman; for he alone

took part of our flesh and blood that the right of redemption

might be his; and that the forfeited possession of the favour and

image of God might be redeemed, brought back, and restored to all

those who believe in his name. To have invoked any other angel or

messenger in such a business would have been impiety. Angels

bless not; to GOD alone this prerogative belongs. With what

confidence may a truly religious father use these words in behalf

of his children: "JESUS, the CHRIST, who hath redeemed me, bless

the lads, redeem them also, and save them unto eternal life!"

Let my name be named on them] "Let them be ever accounted as a

part of my own family; let them be true Israelites-persons who

shall prevail with God as I have done; and the name of

Abraham-being partakers of his faith; and the name of Isaac-let

them be as remarkable for submissive obedience as he was. Let the

virtues of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob be accumulated in them, and

invariably displayed by them!" These are the very words of

adoption; and by the imposition of hands, the invocation of the

Redeemer, and the solemn blessing pronounced, the adoption was

completed. From this moment Ephraim and Manasseh had the same

rights and privileges as Jacob's sons, which as the sons of Joseph

they could never have possessed.

And let them grow into a multitude] veyidgu larob;

Let them increase like fishes into a multitude. FISH are the most

prolific of all animals; see the instances produced on

See Clarke on Ge 1:20.

This prophetic blessing was verified in a most

remarkable manner; see Nu 26:34, 37; De 33:17; Jos 17:17. At one

time the tribe of Ephraim amounted to 40,500 effective men, and

that of Manasseh to 52,700, amounting in the whole to 93,200.

Verse 18. Joseph said-Not so, my father] Joseph supposed that

his father had made a mistake in laying his right hand on the head

of the youngest, because the right hand was considered as the most

noble, and the instrument of conveying the highest dignities, and

thus it has ever been considered among all nations, though the

reason of it is not particularly obvious. Even in the heavens the

right hand of God is the place of the most exalted dignity. It

has been observed that Joseph spoke here as he was moved by

natural affection, and that Jacob acted as he was influenced by

the Holy Spirit.

Verse 20. In thee shall Israel bless] That is, in future

generations the Israelites shall take their form of wishing

prosperity to any nation or family from the circumstance of the

good which it shall be known that God has done to Ephraim and

Manasseh: May God make thee as fruitful as Ephraim, and multiply

thee as Manasseh! So, to their daughters when married, the Jewish

women are accustomed to say, God make thee as Sarah and Rebekah!

The forms are still in use.

Verse 21. Behold, I die] With what composure is this most awful

word expressed! Surely of Jacob it might be now said, "He turns

his sight undaunted on the tomb;" for though it is not said that

he was full of days, as were Abraham and Isaac, yet he is

perfectly willing to bid adieu to earthly things, and lay his body

in the grave. Could any person act as the patriarchs did in their

last moments, who had no hopes of eternal life, no belief in the

immortality of the soul? Impossible! With such a conviction of

the being of God, with such proofs of his tenderness and regard,

with such experience of his providential and miraculous

interference in their behalf, could they suppose that they were

only creatures of a day, and that God had wasted so much care,

attention, providence, grace, and goodness, on creatures who were

to be ultimately like the beasts that perish? The supposition that

they could have no correct notion of the immortality of the soul

is as dishonourable to God as to themselves. But what shall we

think of Christians who have formed this hypothesis into a system

to prove what? Why, that the patriarchs lived and died in the

dark! That either the soul has no immortality, or that God has

not thought proper to reveal it. Away with such an opinion! It

cannot be said to merit serious refutation.

Verse 22. Moreover I have given to thee one portion]

shechem achad, one shechem or one shoulder. We have already

seen the transactions between Jacob and his family on one part,

and Shechem and the sons of Hamor on the other. See

Ge 33:18, 19, and Ge 34:1-31. As he uses the word

shechem here, I think it likely that he alludes to the purchase of

the field or parcel of ground mentioned Ge 33:18, 19. It has been

supposed that this parcel of ground, which Jacob bought from

Shechem, had been taken from him by the Amorites, and that he

afterwards had recovered it by his sword and by his bow, i. e., by

force of arms. Shechem appears to have fallen to the lot of

Joseph's sons; (see Jos 17:1, and Jos 20:7;) and in our Lord's

time there was a parcel of ground near to Sychar or Shechem which

was still considered as that portion which Jacob gave to his son

Joseph, Joh 4:5; and on the whole it was probably the

same that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of money,

Ge 33:18,19. But how it could be said that

he took this out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword and

his bow, we cannot tell. Many attempts have been made to explain

this abstruse verse, but they have all hitherto been fruitless.

Jacob's words were no doubt perfectly well understood by Joseph,

and probably alluded to some transaction that is not now on

record; and it is much safer for us to confess our ignorance, than

to hazard conjecture after conjecture on a subject of which we can

know nothing certainly.

1. ON filial respect to aged and destitute parents we have

already had occasion to speak; see Ge 48:11. The duty of

children to their parents only ceases when the parents are laid in

their graves, and this duty is the next in order and importance to

the duty we owe to God. No circumstances can alter its nature or

lessen its importance; Honour thy father and thy mother is the

sovereign, everlasting command of God. While the relations of

parent and child exist, this commandment will be in full force.

2. The Redeeming Angel, the Messenger of the covenant, in his

preserving and saving influence, is invoked by dying Jacob to be

the protector and Saviour of Ephraim and Manasseh, Ge 48:16. With

what advantage and effect can a dying parent recommend the Lord

Jesus to his children, who can testify with his last breath that

this Jesus has redeemed him from all evil! Reader, canst thou

call Christ thy Redeemer? Hast thou, through him, recovered the

forfeited inheritance? Or dost thou expect redemption from all

evil by any other means? Through him, and him alone, God will

redeem thee from all thy sins; and as thou knowest not what a

moment may bring forth, thou hast not a moment to lose. Thou

hast sinned, and there is no name given under heaven among men

whereby thou canst be saved but Jesus Christ. Acquaint thyself

now with him, and be at peace, and thereby good shall come unto

thee.

3. We find that the patriarchs ever held the promised land in

the most sacred point of view. It was God's gift to them; it was

confirmed by a covenant that spoke of and referred to better

things. We believe that this land typified the rest which remains

for the people of God, and can we be indifferent to the excellence

of this rest! A patriarch could not die in peace, however distant

from this land, without an assurance that his bones should be laid

in it. How can we live, how can we die comfortably, without the

assurance that our lives are hid with Christ in God, and that we

shall dwell in his presence for ever? There remains a rest for the

people of God, and only for the people of God; for those alone who

love, serve, reverence, and obey him, in his Son Jesus Christ,

shall ever enjoy it.

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