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GENESIS 48:1-7 (Israel adopts Joseph’s two sons among his own twelve sons)
48:1-2 When Joseph heard that his father was ill, and in danger of dying, he brought his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim (both born in Egypt, 41:50 -52) to receive Israel’s blessing. Jacob managed to summon up the strength to sit up and indicate what he had in mind
48:3 He reminded Joseph of the promise of the LORD (28:13), here called el shaddai (God Almighty), when he appeared to him in Luz, the place which he renamed Bethel (28:19) on his way north to Haran.
48:4 The promise included his offspring being as the dust of the earth (28:14) and eventually occupying the promised land (28:13). With all the trials he had suffered over the past hundred years, and now his position in Egypt, Jacob could have lost the assurance of God’s promises, but in spite of his failings he clung to them in faith.
48:5-6 Israel now included Joseph’s two sons among the twelve tribes of the Jewish people, but that would not include any other sons that Joseph might have.
Note: It seems that the tribe of Manasseh was destined to take the place of the tribe of Reuben among the twelve tribes. Their ancestor Reuben had been disinherited when he had intercourse with Rachel’s maid Bilhah (35:22; 49:3-4; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2) by whom Jacob had begotten Dan and Naphtali (30:5-8). The tribe of Reuben helped in the occupation of the promised land (Numbers 32:6, 16-19, see Judges 5:15-16), and they later had a distinct identity in the land of Gilead across the Jordan (1 Chronicles 5:10), but they were not counted as part of the twelve tribes. They were not mentioned in David’s census (2 Samuel 24:5-6). It is possible that they were decimated in a Assyrian invasion of Transjordan (2 Kings 16:9; 17:3). If they were taken away into exile by the Assyrians, none had returned by the time the Book of Chronicles was written (1 Chronicles 5:26). Strangely Reuben is mentioned in Ezekiel 48:6, 31 and Revelation 7:5). This may suggest that although on earth we may suffer the consequences of God’s judgment, our eternal destiny is retained.
48:7 It is not clear why the memory of the death of his beloved Rachel (35:16-20) should be given as a reason for including Joseph’s two sons among the twelve sons of Israel.
GENESIS 48:8-22 (Israel blessed Joseph’s younger son ahead of the older)
48:8-11 Jacob had included Joseph’s two sons among his original twelve, and displaced Reuben from the family genealogy (note under 48:5-6). He then asked Joseph to bring his two sons to bless them before his death. Jacob took them on his knees and warmly embraced them.
48:12-13 In preparation for Jacob’s hands of blessing Joseph removed the two sons from Jacob’s knees. He then prostrated himself and carefully steered Ephraim, the younger son to his father’s left hand, and Manasseh to Jacob’s right hand.
48:14 Israel decided that was not the divine plan for the order of their blessing, and he deliberately crossed his hands so that his right hand rested on Ephraim’s head. This must have reminded Jacob of the occasion a hundred years earlier when his father Isaac had blessed him instead of his brother Esau (27:28-29).
48:15 Having blessed Joseph, he recalled the God before whom his grandfather Abraham (12:1), and his father Isaac, had walked not fearing the enemies in an alien land. The same God had tenderly shepherded him through his own tumultuous life. This is the first time the LORD is referred to as Shepherd. Joseph will use the term again in 49:24 (as in “The LORD is my shepherd, Psalm 23:1, and Jesus’ words indicating that he is that Old Testament “Good Shepherd,” who would lay down his life for his sheep, and he added “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:11-14). There is a clear connection between the LORD who took care of Jacob and Jesus the eternal Son of God
48:16 He then called down the LORD’s blessing upon the two boys, and prayed that his name would be perpetuated in their lives, and their offspring would be multiplied (as promised to Abraham in 12:2; 15:5; 17:5; 22:17, and to Isaac in 26:4, and to Jacob in 28:3, 14).
48:17-18 Joseph was not pleased at his father’s reversal of the blessing of the firstborn, and tried to get Israel to put his hand on Manasseh for the blessing.
48:19-20 Jacob said he knew what he was doing, and Manasseh’s offspring would become one of the tribes of Israel. But the multiplication of the Jewish people would be through the tribe of Ephraim.
Note: Hezekiah tried to reunite the Northern Kingdom with the people of Judah in the south, and sent messengers to invite the people of Manasseh and Ephraim to celebrate the passover in Jerusalem, but “they laughed them to scorn and mocked them” (2 Chronicles 30:10). Before the fall of the Northern Kingdom it seems the tribe of Manasseh, who were shepherds grazing in the area across the Jordan just south of Damascus, were decimated by the Assyrian invaders from the north (2 Kings 16:9; 17:5) Ephraim gradually became the dominant tribe in the Northern Kingdom, and their name could be used for the northern tribes as a whole (2 Chronicles 25:7; Isaiah 7:5; Hosea 4:17, 5:3; 6:4, 10). Together with the descendants of Reuben (see note on 48:5-6) the tribe of Manasseh were not part of the main group of the Northern Kingdom who went into exile (2 Kings 17:23; 18:9-11). The Ephraimites went into exile 135 years before the people of Judah in the Southern Kingdom, and like them they had intermarried (see Ezra 10:2, 10) and been absorbed into the population of Mesopotamia (Esther 3:8;; 8:9-11). A proportion of them had deserted to reside in the area of Judah (2 Chronicles 15:9) so they may have gone into exile when Jerusalem fell. Remnants of the Jews from the Southern Kingdom returned from exile (Ezra 1:3; 8:1-14) but there is no mention of a return of people from the tribe of Manasseh which disappeared from history.
48:21 Finally Israel promised Joseph that he would be brought back to Canaan. His body was taken back there (50:25-26; Exodus 13:19). But his descendants did go out in the Exodus, and their tribes were given territory in the promised land (Joshua 14:3-4; 16:4-9).
48:22 For the portion of the inheritance transferred from Reuben see the note on 48:5-6. The territory of Ephraim would include the town of Shechem occupied when Jacob came south from Haran (33:18-20). There is no record of Jacob himself capturing the city by the sword, but he counted his sons, Simeon and Levi, as doing this for him when they treacherously killed all the male inhabitants (34:25-29).
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