Joseph visits his dying father. (Verse 1-7.)
Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons. (Verse 8-22.)
And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
Joseph wanted his two sons to receive a blessing from their grandfather and they surely did. As Levi’s inheritance would be the Lord himself because of their priesthood there would be a need for another tribe.
2 And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.
this is the context of Hebrews 11:21
3 And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,
[Gen 17:1, Gen 35:11, Exod 6:3]
“appeared to me…Luz…” – compare 28:13-19
4 And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.
5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
Manasseh and Ephraim would belong to Jacob as sons in Joseph’s place and eventually in Levi’s place. This was not a demotion for the tribe of Joseph but rather a promotion to double honor.
Twice as much land as everyone else would receive would go to Joseph’s descendants just like the firstborn would usually receive. Joseph had replaced Rueben with the blessing of the firstborn, but Rueben would still have his tribe although it would dwindle in size and be captured first for staying on the east side of the Jordan.
6 And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.
here we see an adoption; Jacob (or Israel) adopts Joseph’s two sons as his own; Jacob says they are just as much his sons as Reuben and Simeon; hence, throughout the rest of the Bible the student can find Ephraim and Manasseh counted among the sons of Jacob; Joseph is almost never included in the lists of Jacob’s sons – rather than thinking of it as a deletion of Joseph, it is better to think of it as a blessing for Joseph in that he has received a double portion of his inheritance by virtue of his two sons. According to I Chron. 5:12, the original birthright of Reuben was given to these two sons of Joseph though it is Judah that is made the head of all the brethren. – there are five adoptions in the Bible; Ephraim and Manasseh by Jacob; Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:10); Esther by Mordecai in Esther 2:7; and the New Testament Christian is adopted by God – read Romans 8:14-17 and Galatians 4:5-7.
7 And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.
8 And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these?
9 And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.
[Gen 27:4, Gen 27:27, Gen 49:28, Deut 33:1, Heb 11:20]
10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them.
[Gen 27:1, 1st Sam 3:2, Eccl 12:3]
11 And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.
12 And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.
14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,
16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
the Angel…” – this is about the closest one gets to guardian angels in the Bible. The whole concept of people having guardian angels is simply not a Bible doctrine.
17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.
18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
Ephraim was the name that the Northern kingdom often went by as well as Israel and Samaria. Unfortunately, neither of these two tribes which started out so well ended well because they were both a part of the northern confederacy and were taken into captivity by Assyria because of their Idolatry.
20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
Jacob intentionally blesses the younger over the firstborn; there is no indication anywhere that this is what God wanted, but Jacob does it nonetheless. Remember that Jacob was in a somewhat similar situation back in Gen. 27 when he was the younger stealing the blessing from the firstborn before a very blind old man!
21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.
this prophecy is a result of what God told Jacob in 46:4
22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.
God takes seriously our actions as he did both Rueben’s and Joseph’s and he rewarded them appropriately. Joseph suffered patiently and received a double portion, while Rueben was guaranteed a double portion, he did not respect it and it was lost.
1 Chronicles 5:1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. 2 For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:)
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1-7 – The death-beds of believers, with the prayers and counsels of dying persons, are suited to make serious impressions upon the young, the gay, and the prosperous: we shall do well to take children on such occasions, when it can be done properly. If the Lord please, it is very desirable to bear our dying testimony to his truth, to his faithfulness, and the pleasantness of his ways. And one would wish so to live, as to give energy and weight to our dying exhortations. All true believers are blessed at their death, but all do not depart equally full of spiritual consolations. Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons. Let them not succeed their father, in his power and grandeur in Egypt; but let them succeed in the inheritance of the promise made to Abraham. Thus the aged dying patriarch teaches these young persons to take their lot with the people of God. He appoints each of them to be the head of a tribe. Those are worthy of double honour, who, through God’s grace, break through the temptations of worldly wealth and preferment, to embrace religion in disgrace and poverty. Jacob will have Ephraim and Manasseh to know, that it is better to be low, and in the church, than high, and out of it.
Verse 8-22 – The two good men own God in their comforts. Joseph says, They are my sons whom God has given me. Jacob says, God hath showed me thy seed. Comforts are doubly sweet to us when we see them coming from God’s hand. He not only prevents our fears, but exceeds our hopes. Jacob mentions the care the Divine providence had taken of him all his days. A great deal of hardship he had known in his time, but God kept him from the evil of his troubles. Now he was dying, he looked upon himself as redeemed from all sin and sorrow for ever. Christ, the Angel of the covenant, redeems from all evil. Deliverances from misery and dangers, by the Divine power, coming through the ransom of the blood of Christ, in Scripture are often called redemption. In blessing Joseph’s sons, Jacob crossed hands. Joseph was willing to support his first-born, and would have removed his father’s hands. But Jacob acted neither by mistake, nor from a partial affection to one more than the other; but from a spirit of prophecy, and by the Divine counsel. God, in bestowing blessings upon his people, gives more to some than to others, more gifts, graces, and comforts, and more of the good things of this life. He often gives most to those that are least likely. He chooses the weak things of the world; he raises the poor out of the dust. Grace observes not the order of nature, nor does God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred, but as it pleases him. How poor are they who have no riches but those of this world! How miserable is a death-bed to those who have no well-grounded hope of good, but dreadful apprehensions of evil, and nothing but evil for ever!