Manasseh and Ephraim1 After these things Joseph was told, ▼
▼ Heb “and one said.” With no expressed subject in the Hebrew text, the verb can be translated with the passive voice.“Your father is weakening.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. 2 When Jacob was told, ▼
▼ Heb “and one told and said.” The verbs have no expressed subject and can be translated with the passive voice.“Your son Joseph has just ▼
▼ Heb “Look, your son Joseph.”come to you,” Israel regained strength and sat up on his bed. 3 Jacob said to Joseph, “The sovereign God ▼ appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me. 4 He said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful ▼
▼ Heb “Look, I am making you fruitful.” The participle following הִנֵּה (hinneh) has the nuance of a certain and often imminent future.and will multiply you. ▼
▼ The perfect verbal form with vav consecutive carries on the certain future idea.I will make you into a group of nations, and I will give this land to your descendants ▼
▼ The Hebrew text adds “after you,” which has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.as an everlasting possession.’ ▼
5 “Now, as for your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, they will be mine. ▼
▼ They will be mine. Jacob is here adopting his two grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim as his sons, and so they will have equal share with the other brothers. They will be in the place of Joseph and Levi (who will become a priestly tribe) in the settlement of the land. See I. Mendelsohn, “A Ugaritic Parallel to the Adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh,” IEJ (1959): 180-83.Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine just as Reuben and Simeon are. 6 Any children that you father ▼
▼ Or “you fathered.”after them will be yours; they will be listed ▼
▼ Heb “called” or “named.”under the names of their brothers in their inheritance. ▼
▼ Listed under the names of their brothers in their inheritance. This means that any subsequent children of Joseph will be incorporated into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.7 But as for me, when I was returning from Paddan, Rachel died – to my sorrow ▼
▼ Heb “upon me, against me,” which might mean something like “to my sorrow.”– in the land of Canaan. It happened along the way, some distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there on the way to Ephrath” (that is, Bethlehem). ▼
8 When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he asked, “Who are these?” 9 Joseph said to his father, “They are the ▼
▼ Heb “my.”sons God has given me in this place.” His father ▼
▼ Heb “and he”; the referent (Joseph’s father) has been specified in the translation for clarity.said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” ▼
▼ The cohortative with prefixed vav (ו) indicates purpose after the imperative.10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing ▼
▼ Heb “heavy.”▼
▼ The disjunctive clause provides supplemental information that is important to the story. The weakness of Israel’s sight is one of several connections between this chapter and Gen 27. Here there are two sons, and it appears that the younger is being blessed over the older by a blind old man. While it was by Jacob’s deception in chap. 27, here it is with Jacob’s full knowledge.because of his age; he was not able to see well. So Joseph ▼
▼ Heb “he”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.brought his sons ▼
▼ Heb “them”; the referent (Joseph’s sons) has been specified in the translation for clarity.near to him, and his father ▼
▼ Heb “and he”; the referent (Joseph’s father) has been specified in the translation for clarity.kissed them and embraced them. 11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected ▼ to see you ▼
▼ Heb “your face.”again, but now God has allowed me to see your children ▼
▼ Heb “offspring.”too.”
12 So Joseph moved them from Israel’s knees ▼
▼ Heb “and Joseph brought them out from with his knees.” The two boys had probably been standing by Israel’s knees when being adopted and blessed. The referent of the pronoun “his” (Israel) has been specified in the translation for clarity.and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 Joseph positioned them; ▼
▼ Heb “and Joseph took the two of them.”he put Ephraim on his right hand across from Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh on his left hand across from Israel’s right hand. Then Joseph brought them closer to his father. ▼
▼ Heb “and he brought near to him.” The referents of the pronouns “he” and “him” (Joseph and his father respectively) have been specified in the translation for clarity.14 Israel stretched out his right hand and placed it on Ephraim’s head, although he was the younger. ▼
▼ The disjunctive clause is circumstantial-concessive here.Crossing his hands, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, for Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked –
the God who has been my shepherd ▼
▼ Heb “shepherded me.” The verb has been translated as an English noun for stylistic reasons.
all my life long to this day,
16 the Angel ▼
▼ The Samaritan Pentateuch reads “king” here, but the traditional reading (“angel”) may be maintained. Jacob closely associates God with an angelic protective presence. This does not mean that Jacob viewed his God as a mere angel, but it does suggest that he was aware of an angelic presence sent by God to protect him. Here he so closely associates the two that they become virtually indistinguishable. In this culture messengers typically carried the authority of the one who sent them and could even be addressed as such. Perhaps Jacob thought that the divine blessing would be mediated through this angelic messenger.who has protected me ▼
▼ The verb גָּאַל (ga’al) has the basic idea of “protect” as a near relative might do. It is used for buying someone out of bondage, marrying a deceased brother’s widow, paying off debts, avenging the family, and the like. The meanings of “deliver, protect, avenge” are most fitting when God is the subject (see A. R. Johnson, “The Primary Meaning of √גאל,” Congress Volume: Copenhagen, 1953 [VTSup], 67–77).
from all harm –
bless these boys.
May my name be named in them, ▼
▼ Or “be recalled through them.”
and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac.
May they grow into a multitude on the earth.”
17 When Joseph saw that his father placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him. ▼
▼ Heb “it was bad in his eyes.”So he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a nation and he too will become great. In spite of this, his younger brother will be even greater and his descendants will become a multitude ▼
▼ Heb “fullness.”of nations.” 20 So he blessed them that day, saying,
“By you ▼
▼ The pronoun is singular in the Hebrew text, apparently elevating Ephraim as the more prominent of the two. Note, however, that both are named in the blessing formula that follows.will Israel bless, ▼
▼ Or “pronounce a blessing.”saying,
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”
So he put Ephraim before Manasseh. ▼
▼ On the elevation of Ephraim over Manasseh see E. C. Kingsbury, “He Set Ephraim Before Manasseh,” HUCA 38 (1967): 129-36; H. Mowvley, “The Concept and Content of ‘Blessing’ in the Old Testament,” BT 16 (1965): 74-80; and I. Mendelsohn, “On the Preferential Status of the Eldest Son,” BASOR 156 (1959): 38-40.
21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you ▼
▼ The pronouns translated “you,” “you,” and “your” in this verse are plural in the Hebrew text.and will bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 As one who is above your ▼
▼ The pronouns translated “your” and “you” in this verse are singular in the Hebrew text.brothers, I give to you the mountain slope, ▼
▼ The Hebrew word שְׁכֶם (shekhem) could be translated either as “mountain slope” or “shoulder, portion,” or even taken as the proper name “Shechem.” Jacob was giving Joseph either (1) one portion above his brothers, or (2) the mountain ridge he took from the Amorites, or (3) Shechem. The ambiguity actually allows for all three to be the referent. He could be referring to the land in Shechem he bought in Gen 33:18–19, but he mentions here that it was acquired by warfare, suggesting that the events of 34:25–29 are in view (even though at the time he denounced it, 34:30). Joseph was later buried in Shechem (Josh 24:32).which I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
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