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Genesis 48:1-22

Context
Manasseh and Ephraim

48:1 After these things Joseph was told, 1  “Your father is weakening.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. 48:2 When Jacob was told, 2  “Your son Joseph has just 3  come to you,” Israel regained strength and sat up on his bed. 48:3 Jacob said to Joseph, “The sovereign God 4  appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me. 48:4 He said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful 5  and will multiply you. 6  I will make you into a group of nations, and I will give this land to your descendants 7  as an everlasting possession.’ 8 

48:5 “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. 9  Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine just as Reuben and Simeon are. 48:6 Any children that you father 10  after them will be yours; they will be listed 11  under the names of their brothers in their inheritance. 12  48:7 But as for me, when I was returning from Paddan, Rachel died – to my sorrow 13  – 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). 14 

48:8 When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he asked, “Who are these?” 48:9 Joseph said to his father, “They are the 15  sons God has given me in this place.” His father 16  said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” 17  48:10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing 18  because of his age; he was not able to see well. So Joseph 19  brought his sons 20  near to him, and his father 21  kissed them and embraced them. 48:11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected 22  to see you 23  again, but now God has allowed me to see your children 24  too.”

48:12 So Joseph moved them from Israel’s knees 25  and bowed down with his face to the ground. 48:13 Joseph positioned them; 26  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. 27  48:14 Israel stretched out his right hand and placed it on Ephraim’s head, although he was the younger. 28  Crossing his hands, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, for Manasseh was the firstborn.

48:15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,

“May the God before whom my fathers

Abraham and Isaac walked –

the God who has been my shepherd 29 

all my life long to this day,

48:16 the Angel 30  who has protected me 31 

from all harm –

bless these boys.

May my name be named in them, 32 

and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac.

May they grow into a multitude on the earth.”

48:17 When Joseph saw that his father placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him. 33  So he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 48:18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.”

48:19 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 34  of nations.” 48:20 So he blessed them that day, saying,

“By you 35  will Israel bless, 36  saying,

‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”

So he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 37 

48:21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you 38  and will bring you back to the land of your fathers. 48:22 As one who is above your 39  brothers, I give to you the mountain slope, 40  which I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”

1 tn Heb “and one said.” With no expressed subject in the Hebrew text, the verb can be translated with the passive voice.

2 tn Heb “and one told and said.” The verbs have no expressed subject and can be translated with the passive voice.

3 tn Heb “Look, your son Joseph.”

4 tn Heb “El Shaddai.” See the extended note on the phrase “sovereign God” in Gen 17:1.

5 tn Heb “Look, I am making you fruitful.” The participle following הִנֵּה (hinneh) has the nuance of a certain and often imminent future.

6 tn The perfect verbal form with vav consecutive carries on the certain future idea.

7 tn The Hebrew text adds “after you,” which has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.

8 tn The Hebrew word אֲחֻזָּה (’akhuzzah), translated “possession,” describes a permanent holding in the land. It is the noun form of the same verb (אָחַז, ’akhaz) that was used for the land given to them in Goshen (Gen 47:27).

9 sn 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.

10 tn Or “you fathered.”

11 tn Heb “called” or “named.”

12 sn 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.

13 tn Heb “upon me, against me,” which might mean something like “to my sorrow.”

14 map For location see Map5 B1; Map7 E2; Map8 E2; Map10 B4.

15 tn Heb “my.”

16 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Joseph’s father) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

17 tn The cohortative with prefixed vav (ו) indicates purpose after the imperative.

18 tn Heb “heavy.”

sn 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.

19 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 tn Heb “them”; the referent (Joseph’s sons) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

21 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Joseph’s father) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

22 tn On the meaning of the Hebrew verb פָּלַל (palal) here, see E. A. Speiser, “The Stem pll in Hebrew,” JBL 82 (1963): 301-6. Speiser argues that this verb means “to estimate” as in Exod 21:22.

23 tn Heb “your face.”

24 tn Heb “offspring.”

25 tn 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.

26 tn Heb “and Joseph took the two of them.”

27 tn 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.

28 tn The disjunctive clause is circumstantial-concessive here.

29 tn Heb “shepherded me.” The verb has been translated as an English noun for stylistic reasons.

30 sn 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.

31 tn The verb גָּאַל (gaal) 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).

32 tn Or “be recalled through them.”

33 tn Heb “it was bad in his eyes.”

34 tn Heb “fullness.”

35 tn 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.

36 tn Or “pronounce a blessing.”

37 sn 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.

38 tn The pronouns translated “you,” “you,” and “your” in this verse are plural in the Hebrew text.

39 tn The pronouns translated “your” and “you” in this verse are singular in the Hebrew text.

40 tn The Hebrew word שְׁכֶם (shÿkhem) 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).



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