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Genesis 48:14-20

Context
48:14 Israel stretched out his right hand and placed it on Ephraim’s head, although he was the younger. 1  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 2 

all my life long to this day,

48:16 the Angel 3  who has protected me 4 

from all harm –

bless these boys.

May my name be named in them, 5 

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. 6  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 7  of nations.” 48:20 So he blessed them that day, saying,

“By you 8  will Israel bless, 9  saying,

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

So he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 10 

1 tn The disjunctive clause is circumstantial-concessive here.

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

3 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.

4 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).

5 tn Or “be recalled through them.”

6 tn Heb “it was bad in his eyes.”

7 tn Heb “fullness.”

8 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.

9 tn Or “pronounce a blessing.”

10 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.



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