In the light of Jacob’s sickness, Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob. The chapter proceeds with the decision of Jacob to bless the two sons of Joseph and to set the younger over the firstborn. The blessing of Jacob teaches us an example of obeying the will of God over existing customs and traditions and an example of passing on the promised blessing of God to the next generation.
Did You Know...?
- Sick (48:1) can literally be translated as “ill” or “become weak” in Hebrew (Judg 16:7, 11, 17). In the book of
1 Kgs 14:1, 5 and 2 Kgs 8:7, the word “sick” refers to a terminal illness.
- “Israel strengthened himself” (48:2): The phrase in Hebrew can literally be translated as “Israel sat up by a great effort.” Throughout the Scriptures, the word “strengthened” in Hebrew can refer to several meanings, such as: the men of Israel “encouraged themselves” in the battle line (Judg 20:22), David “strengthened himself” in the Lord his God when he was greatly distressed (
1 Sam 30:6), King Rehoboam “strengthened himself” in Jerusalem and reigned ( 2 Chr 12:13).
- Bed (48:2) in Hebrew can be literally translated as “couch.”
- Luz (48:3) was the place where God spoke to Jacob through a dream for the first time. Later, Jacob “called the name of that place Bethel” (Gen 28:10-19, 35:6).
- “Ephraim and Manasseh…as Reuben and Simeon (48:5): The phrase can be literally translated in Hebrew as “Ephraim and Manasseh, as Reuben and Simeon, will belong to me.” Thus, setting the status of the grandsons of Jacob not only as equal to Reuben and Simeon but also as direct descendants of Jacob.
- “The eyes of Israel were dim with age” (48:10): The sentence can literally be translated as “the eyes of Israel were heavy from old age” in Hebrew.
- “I had not thought to see your face” (48:11): The expression of Jacob can be translated literally in Hebrew as “I had not expected to see your face.”
- “Right hand” (48:13): In the Scriptures the expression “right hand” can refer to several meanings of symbols, such as: being skilful (Ps 137:5), being an instrument of delivering Israel from the enemy (Ex 15:6), being used in divine oath (Is 62:8), being used for protection (Ps 16:8), being a personification of wisdom (Prov 3:16).
- “Guiding his hands knowingly” (48:14): In Hebrew, the phrase can literally be translated as “he was a layer-crosswise of his hand.”
- “The God who has fed me all my life long to this day” (48:15): The sentence of Jacob can be literally translated in Hebrew as “God was shepherding me ever since I was unto this day” or in Greek-Septuagint, “the God who is rearing me from youth up until this day.”
- “Redeemed” (4:16): In the Scriptures, the word “redeem” in Hebrew has an important meaning. According to the book of Leviticus, the “redeemer”—the near of kin of male relative—was responsible to redeem the relative who fell into debt or slavery (Lev 25:22-26, 48-49). Moreover, according to the book of Numbers, the word “redeemer” can literally be translated as an “avenger” of death in the case of a murder of his relative (Num 35:12).
- “Let them grow” (48:16): The verb “grow” comes from the Hebrew root “fish,” which can literally refers to as “proliferation” or “multiplication” (Num 11:22, Gen 1:22).
- “Into a multitude” (48:16): The blessing of Jacob for Ephraim and Manasseh came to a realization during the time of Moses. According to the book of Numbers, the joint number of Ephraim and Manasseh increased from 72,700 male adults (Num 1:32-35) to 85,200 male adults (Num 26:28-37), exceeding the numbers of Reuben that consisted of only 43,730 males (Num 26:7) and the numbers of Simeon that consisted of only 22,200 males (Num 26:14). Later, Moses addressed his farewell in the book of Deuteronomy with “ten thousands of Ephraim” and “thousands of Manasseh” (Deut 33:17). In addition, the huge population of Ephraim and Manasseh posed a problem for Joshua in the territories allotment (Josh 17:14-18).
- “It displeased him” (48:17): The phrase can literally be translated as “it was evil in his eyes” in Hebrew or “it appeared troublesome to him” in Greek-Septuagint.
- “He took hold of his father’s hand” (48:17): The verb “took hold” can be literally translated as “grasped” in Hebrew or “took away” in Greek-Septuagint.
- “I know, my son, I know” (48:19): The phrase can be literally translated in Hebrew as “I was a knower, my son, I had known.” While the structure of the first “I know” emphasizes the subject as the one who understands of the current situation, the second “I know” emphasizes the period of time that the subject already knew what he was doing even before Joseph reminded him.
- “But truly” (48:19): The expression can be literally translated as “nevertheless.”
- “May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh” (48:20): In the Scriptures, the usage of name(s) sometimes is used in the utterance of a blessing or of a curse. For example, the writer of the book of Ruth describes how the elders at the gate blessed Ruth like the house of “Rachel and Leah” and “the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah” (Ruth 4:11-12). On the other hand, the prophet Jeremiah gives the warning to the captivity of Judah concerning the curse of God, “The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire” (Jer 29:21-22).
- “One portion” (48:22): According to bible references, there are several interpretations in regards to the intended meaning of Jacob’s “one portion” to Joseph: First, the expression may refer to the city of Shechem. The word “portion” in Gen 48:22 is pronounced as “shekem” in Hebrew, which coincides with the pronunciation of the city of Shechem. The Scriptures did describe the importance of the city of Shechem to the Israelites, from the mentioning of Shechem within the future territory of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Josh 17:7), the mentioning of Shechem as the most important city in the kingdom of northern Israel (
1 Kgs 12:1, 25) [ref]
to the mentioning of Shechem as the burial place of Joseph (Josh 24:32). Second, the expression may refer to the physical feature of the land. The word “portion” in Hebrew can literally be translated as “shoulder” or “back,” which is interpreted by the NIV and RSV as a shoulder of land or a ridge, a slope of a mountain. [ref]
Third, the expression may refer to the blessing of a double portion. Commentators interpret Jacob’s additional portion to Joseph as an act of elevating Joseph’s status to be a firstborn (
1 Chr 5:1-2), [ref]
which entitles the holder of the firstborn status to have a double portion (Deut 21:15-17). [ref]
Fourth, the expression may refer to a figurative meaning. Early tradition figuratively interpreted this phrase for “prayer and petition for divine help” or “a prophetic utterance pointing forward to the conquest of Canaan.” [ref]
How were Isaac and Jacob different in passing on their final blessing?Hide Answer
In passing on their final blessing, Isaac and Jacob each used a different method. While, in Gen 27:1-4, Isaac deliberately summoned only Esau to give his final blessing; in Gen 48:1-9, Jacob not only uplifted both Ephraim and Manasseh as his sons but he also blessed both of them side by side.
What were the three messages of Jacob to Joseph on his deathbed?Hide Answer
There were three messages which Jacob gave to Joseph on his deathbed. First, Jacob recounted his first encounter with the Lord and His promise of blessings at Luz (Gen 48:3-4). Second, Jacob adopted Manasseh and Ephraim as his sons (Gen 48:5-6). Third, the reminiscence of the death and the burial of Rachel, Joseph’s mother (48:7).
In Gen 35:11-12, God said to Jacob, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.” In Gen 48:3-4, Jacob retold the words of God as follows, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.”
How were the two quotations above different and what can we learn about Jacob’s faith in regards to the difference?Hide Answer
The quotation of God’s words in Gen 35:11-12 was slightly different from Jacob’s quotation in Gen 48:3-4. The differences were as follows: First, the command of God “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 35:11) was turned into a continuous promise of God “I will make you fruitful and multiply you” (Gen 48:4). Second, the mention of the Promised Land of God (Gen 35:12) was turned into “an everlasting possession” (Gen 48:4).
These differences of the quotation reflect Jacob’s firm faith in God’s promises. Although the establishment of an “everlasting” covenant had originated with God to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather (Gen 17:2-7), and the promise of a land to Jacob’s descendants had been spoken by God to Jacob in the past at Luz (Gen 35:6-12), Jacob firmly believed that the promises of God were still in effect. Jacob believed that God would carry out and fulfill His promises even up to the generations of Jacob’s descendants. Though Jacob had experienced the downs of life after the event at Luz, especially with the death of his beloved wife, Rachel (Gen 35:16-20), and with the news of the supposed death of his beloved son, Joseph (Gen 37:31-35), they did not make Jacob give up his faith. At the end, on his deathbed, Jacob still firmly held on to the promises of God and passed them on to Joseph. Likewise, the example of Jacob teaches us to continuously maintain our firm belief in God’s promises. Although the challenges of our life may deter us from holding on to the yet to be fulfilled promises of God, from Jacob’s example, we know that good things will come to those who faithfully wait.
What was the significance of Jacob emphasizing the blessings of God at Luz to Joseph in Gen 48:3-4?Hide Answer
In Gen 48:3-4, Jacob emphasized to Joseph the blessings of God which God had spoken to Jacob at Luz because of several significances. First, the blessings which Jacob mentioned to Joseph was the blessings of God which had been passed down, starting from Abraham (Gen 13:16-17), Isaac (Gen 26:3-4), Jacob himself (Gen 35:11-12) and now to Joseph (Gen 48:3-4). Second, Jacob’s mention of “an everlasting possession” reminded Joseph that there laid the Promised Land at Canaan given by God to Joseph and his descendants. In other words, Jacob’s words to Joseph in Gen 48:3-4 served as a reminder to Joseph that his elevated position and comfortable life in Egypt were but a temporary one, for God had prepared a promised inheritance in Canaan as an everlasting possession for Joseph and his descendants.
The claim of Jacob over Ephraim and Manasseh as his sons in Gen 48:5-6 revealed several significances. First, through the claim, Jacob elevated the status of Ephraim and Manasseh and made them as sons just like Reuben and Simeon (Gen 48:5). Thus, instead of being the grandsons of Jacob, Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted and became the direct descendants of Jacob. The writer of the book of Numbers mentioned that the descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim were included in the census of the twelve tribes of Israel (Num 26:28-37). Moreover, the writer of the book of Deuteronomy mentioned that the two sons of Joseph were a part of the final blessing of Moses to the twelve tribes—the children of Israel (Deut 33:13-17).
Second, through the claim, Ephraim and Manasseh would be part of the tribes of Israel and would inherit God’s promise of an everlasting possession. Furthermore, the claim of Jacob serve as a reminder that both Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s rights of birth and citizenship in Egypt are but superficial. Jacob’s claim of adoption reminded the two of them that they were also the inheritor of the land of promise in Canaan. The writer of the book of Joshua described how Joshua divided the land of inheritance to the twelve tribes of Israel. According to the book of Joshua, not only did Ephraim and Manasseh receive their share (Josh 16-17:13), they were also given the mountain country as an additional inheritance (Josh 17:14-18).
What was the significance of Jacob reminiscing over the death of Rachel to Joseph?Hide Answer
In Gen 48:7, Jacob’s reminiscence about the death of Rachel, his wife and the mother of Joseph, carried a certain significance. After Jacob had passed on the blessings of God to Joseph and his descendants now Jacob shifted his focus to his remaining period of life through the emphasis of his keywords “but as for me.” Just as Rachel had died “in the land of Canaan” (Gen 48:7), Jacob knew that he was “dying” (Gen 48:21) and commanded his sons to bury him “in the land of Canaan” (Gen 49:30). Furthermore, the reminiscence of death serves as a conclusion to Jacob’s journey of faith. Throughout his life, Jacob had struggled with the ups and downs of life and succeeded in keeping up his faith in God’s promise. Thus, Gen 48:7 also functions as a transition from the ending of Jacob’s life story of faith to the beginning of a new chapter which has been passed on, the story of Joseph’s and his descendants’ life of faith.
In their final blessing, both Isaac’s and Jacob’s eyes “were dim” with age (Gen 27:1, 48:10) that they could not see clearly who was in front of them. In the case of Isaac, even when Jacob, his youngest son, responded to his father, Isaac questioned him with “Who are you, my son?” (Gen 27:18) to obtain the person’s identity. Similarly, in the case of Jacob, when Jacob was presented with Ephraim and Manasseh by Joseph, Jacob questioned Joseph with “Who are these?” (Gen 48:8) in order to know the identity of the persons in front of him.
The difference;Hide Answer
In his final blessing, while Isaac in his blindness had intended to bless Esau the firstborn (Gen 27:1-4), Isaac was deceived by Jacob and unknowingly gave the blessing of the firstborn to Jacob (Gen 27:18-29). On the other hand, Jacob in his blindness, was not confused of whom to bless. Although Manasseh, the firstborn, was presented on the right hand side, Jacob “[guided] his hands knowingly” (Gen 48:13-14) to bless Ephraim by his right hand and Manasseh by his left hand (Gen 48:14). Thus, Jacob intentionally blessed Ephraim by his right hand and Manasseh by his left hand.
What can we learn about obedience to God’s promise until one’s old age from the different reaction between Isaac and Jacob’s final blessing in their blindness? See Gen 25:23, 27:1-4, 18-29, 28:10-22 and Ps 92:14.Hide Answer
From the different reaction between Isaac and Jacob’s final blessing in their blindness, we can learn a lesson about obedience to God’s promise until one’s old age. In the example of Isaac, the Lord God already told Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, during her pregnancy that “the older [should] serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). But in his old age during the final blessing, Isaac only summoned Esau, his firstborn, because he intended to give the blessing of God to his older one instead of the younger one (Gen 27:1-4). Thus, Isaac’s intention was contradictory to God’s will.
In the example of Jacob, the book of Genesis described how Jacob started his own journey of life by deceiving his father, Isaac (Gen 27:18-29), and it also described the beginning of Jacob’s personal belief toward God (Gen 28:10-22). Although Jacob experienced the ups and downs of life, at the end, in his old age Jacob was able to faithfully keep God’s promise that “the older [should] serve the younger” and passed on the promise to the sons of Joseph (Gen 48:14-19).
The example of Jacob serves as an example for us to obey God’s promise until the end. Once the writer of the book of Psalms wrote how the people of God “[would] still bear fruit in old age” (Ps 92:14). Just as Jacob held on to God’s promise in his old age and “[bore] fruit in old age” by passing down the blessings and the faith in God to the next generation (Gen 48:19), we, too, shall fervently maintain our faith and pass it on to our children so that they can imitate and personally experience the relationship with the Lord God.
Joseph introduced his sons as the ones who were given by God (Gen 48:9). His introduction was similar to that of his parents. Once Rachel, Joseph’s mother, demanded that Jacob, Joseph’s father, give her a son. But Jacob angrily said that he was not “in the place of God who [had] withheld from [Rachel] the fruit of the womb” (Gen 30:2). Jacob told Rachel, his wife, that it was God who had the power to give a child, the fruit of the womb. Later, after the birth of Dan, Rachel admitted that God had “heard [her] voice and given [her] a son” (Gen 30:6). Furthermore, in front of Esau, Jacob introduced his children as ones “whom God [had] graciously given” (Gen 33:5)—the very phrase which was later uttered by Joseph in Gen 48:9 to introduce his children to Jacob.
What lesson can we learn from Joseph’s introduction of his sons? See Psa 127:3.Hide Answer
From Joseph’s introduction of his sons, we learn a lesson of cherishing our children as gifts from the Lord. The writer of the book of Psalm even wrote that “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Ps 127:3). Thus, instead of treating our children as burdens of marriage or nuisances of our daily life, we need to cherish them as an inheritance from the Lord, a God-given heritage whom we responsibly need to nurture.
There was a sharp contrast between Jacob’s ambition in the past to obtain the blessings through deceit in Gen 27:18-29 with Jacob’s initiative to bless the two sons of Joseph in Gen 48:9. In his youth, Jacob was selfishly adamant in obtaining the blessings of the firstborn by making his brother Esau sell his birthright to him (Gen 25:29-34) and by deceiving his old, dim-eyed father to bless him instead of Esau (Gen 27:1, 18-29). But now, in his old age, Jacob was selflessly more than willing to pass on all his blessings which he had received from God to Joseph and his two sons and to the generations after them (Gen 48:15-19).
From Jacob’s thankfulness to meet Joseph and his offspring in Gen 48:11, we can learn a lesson about patience in suffering. Starting from Jacob hearing the news of the death of Joseph in Gen 37:31-35 up to his meeting with Joseph in person in Gen 46:28-30, Jacob had been “mourning” (Gen 37:35) in those twenty years (Gen 37:2, 41:46, 53) for the loss of his beloved son, Joseph. But at the end, the Lord wiped Jacob’s tears and reunited him with his beloved son.
The example of Jacob serves as a lesson about patience during our suffering. The writer of the book of Psalm mentions that the Lord “number[s one’s] wanderings, put [one’s] tears into [His] bottle” (Ps 56:8). In other words, the Lord does not just understand the difficulties in our life but He also values every tear from our suffering. In addition, the writer of the book of Psalm continues that “those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Ps 126:5). Just as the Lord had wiped the tears and mourning of Jacob when he was reunited with Joseph, his beloved son, the Lord values and listens to our prayers in tears of supplication and He will answer them in His perfect time.
Describe the blessings which Jacob gave to Joseph and the two sons.Hide Answer
Jacob’s blessings to Joseph could be divided as follows: First, the blessing of the presence of God, the God “before whom…Abraham and Isaac walked” and the God “who [had] fed [Jacob] all…life long to this day” and “who [had] redeemed [Jacob] from all evil” (Gen 48:15-16). Second, the blessing of the name of Jacob—Israel—and of the lads’ forefathers—the name of Abraham and Isaac—to be upon them. Third, the blessing of the lads’ descendants to “grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” (Gen 48:15-16).
There were several significances of Jacob mentioning the God “before whom Abraham and Isaac walked” to Joseph and his two sons in the blessings. First, the phrase requires the recipients of the blessings to lead a faithful lifestyle before God. In Gen 17:1, the writer of the book of Genesis described how the Almighty God demanded Abraham to “walk before [him] and be blameless” (Gen 17:1). God’s demand was not only for Abraham as the holder of God’s covenant (Gen 17:4) to walk faithfully in following the Lord and His commandments but also to be blameless by not succumbing to his fleshly desire in every aspect of his life. Second, the phrase requires the recipients of the blessings to faithfully obey and to patiently wait for the promise of God’s guidance and deliverance. In Gen 26, the writer of the book of Genesis narrated how Isaac obeyed the warning of the Lord God not to “go down to Egypt” (Gen 26:1-6) and how Isaac avoided the quarrel with the Philistines and patiently waited for the Lord’s guidance (Gen 26:17-22). Therefore, similar to what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had done, now Jacob wanted Joseph and his descendants to walk before the Lord by obeying His commandments and leading a blameless life in front of Him.
Describe an experience of how you have walked before the Lord Jesus.
Jacob’s phrase, “the God who has fed me all my life long to this day,” had a certain significance for Joseph and his two sons. Just as Jacob was shepherding the sheep in his profession (Gen 31:38-41), the Lord God had been a shepherd to him by feeding him “all [his] life long to this day.” As a shepherd, Jacob not only nursed, fed and kept the flock but he also willing to be consumed by day-drought and night-frost in caring for the flock (Gen 30:31, 31:38-40, 33:13). In the same way, the Lord had been shepherding Jacob “wherever [he went]” (Gen 28:15) and had been “with [him] in the way which [he had] gone” and had “answered [him] in the day of [his] distress” (Gen 35:3). Thus, Jacob’s mentioning of the God who had shepherded Jacob in all his life revealed that Joseph and his two sons, the recipients of the blessings, would be shepherded and fed throughout their lives by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Describe an experience of how the Lord has fed and kept you throughout your life.
By mentioning the Angel who had redeemed him from all evil, Jacob shared with Joseph and his two sons an important message. Throughout his life, Jacob had experienced how God redeemed him from all evil. First, God rescued Jacob from his uncle Laban who had the “power to do [Jacob] harm” (Gen 31:29) by warning Laban through a “dream by night” (Gen 31:24). Second, God had protected Jacob from his brother Esau who had had previously intended to kill Jacob (Gen 27:41) for taking the blessing of the firstborn and had been coming to meet Jacob with his “four hundred men” (Gen 32:6). Just as the Lord God had been protecting and redeeming Jacob from all evil, now the Lord would redeem Joseph and his two sons, the recipients of God’s blessings, from all the evil in their lives.
Describe an experience of how the Lord has redeemed you from evil.
What was the significance of Jacob letting “[his] name be named upon [the two sons of Joseph]” in the blessings? See Gen 32:28.Hide Answer
In his blessings, Jacob let his name to be named upon the two sons of Jacob for an important reason. The writer of the book of Genesis explained how the name of Israel had been given by God (Gen 32:28). Therefore, by adopting Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons (Gen 48:5), Jacob wanted them to know that despite their Egyptian origins, they were still sons of Israel and were also heirs of God’s promise and blessings.
How was the blessing of “the name of Abraham and Isaac upon the lads” connected to us today? See Gal 3:26-29.Hide Answer
The blessing which Jacob gave to Joseph and his two sons is applicable for us today. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:26-29). Even though physically we may not be direct descendants of the Israelites, our faith in Christ Jesus makes us sons of God and heirs of God’s promise. Thus, spiritually we are the seed of Abraham and the name of Abraham and Isaac is upon us.
The phrase of Jacob to let the lads “grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” has a significance for Joseph and his two sons. The blessing which Jacob gave to Joseph and his two sons was originally a command of God given to Jacob to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 35:11). The same command had also been given by God to Isaac (Gen 28:3, 26:4) and to Abraham (Gen 17:2, 22:17). The mentioned command was first recorded in the book of Genesis during creation where the Lord blessed and commanded the sea creatures and every winged bird to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:22). Therefore, the phrase of Jacob to Joseph and his two sons was not only a blessing from the Lord but also a command from the Lord to “be fruitful and multiply” and to grow into a multitude who carries the legacy of the name of the Lord.
How was the blessing of letting the lads “grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” connected to us today? See Rev 7:6-14.Hide Answer
The blessing of Jacob letting Ephraim and Manasseh to grow into a multitude is applicable for us today. The writer of the book of Revelation described that after certain numbers of the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed, including the tribes of Manasseh (Rev 7:6) and the tribes of Joseph (Rev 7:8), the writer saw “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues…clothed with white robes” (Rev 7:9). This great multitude, the writer of the book of Revelation explained, “are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). In other words, they are the ones who are saved in Christ Jesus. Today, being saved through the blood of the Lamb of God means we are included into and become a part of the great multitude “clothed with white robes” who stand before the throne of God in the kingdom of Christ.
When Joseph saw Jacob, his father, blessing Ephraim with his right hand, Joseph was displeased. After all, Manasseh was his firstborn son and according to the book of Genesis, firstborns had special privileges. Joseph’s father, Jacob, had considered his firstborn as “[his] might and the beginning of [his] strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power” (Gen 49:3). Before that, Joseph’s grandfather, Isaac, had declared his intention of giving his final blessing to Esau the firstborn (Gen 27:1-4), the one who had the birthright (Gen 25:29-34). Thus, in considering the firstborn as the one who had the birthright and was the beginning of his father’s strength, dignity and power; it mattered to Joseph on which son’s head his father would place his right hand. To that end, Joseph attempted to make a correction and “took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head” (Gen 48:17-18).
But Jacob stood firm. He said to Joseph, “I know, my son, I know.” He assured Joseph that Manasseh would become great. However, he emphasized that “[Ephraim would] be greater than [Manasseh], and his descendants [would] become a multitude of nations” (Gen 48:19). In other words, Jacob explained to Joseph that God’s choosing was not based on customs or traditions but by His calling instead. Jacob’s reply to Joseph was later echoed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. The apostle Paul wrote that “the purpose of God” for setting “the older” to “serve the younger” was “not of works but of Him who calls” (Rom 9:11-12). In addition, the writer of the book of Hebrews commended Jacob’s faith in blessing the sons of Joseph before Jacob’s death (Heb 11:21). Just as Jacob’s father, Isaac, had blessed Jacob and Esau “concerning things to come (Heb 11:20),” Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh by passing on the faith concerning the future promise of God’s choosing.
Compare the reaction of Ephraim and Manasseh in responding to the reversed blessing with that of Jacob and Esau’s.Hide Answer
In responding to the reversed blessing, the reaction of Ephraim and Manasseh was different from that of Jacob and Esau. The reversed blessing of Jacob and Esau caused a lengthy strife between the two brothers. Though Esau’s vow to kill Jacob (Gen 27:41) subsided after their meeting in Gen 32-33, the strife between the two tribes of Edom and of Israel continued throughout the Scriptures (Num 20:14-21; Judg 11:17;
2 Sam 8:14; 2 Kgs 8:20-22).
On the other hand, just as Joseph had willingly accepted the prophecy of Jacob in regards to Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen 48:19-20), Ephraim and Manasseh obeyed their grandfather’s reversed blessing by bringing each of their children to “Joseph’s knees” (Gen 50:23). Furthermore, the unity and harmony between the tribe of Ephraim and the tribe of Manasseh were recorded throughout the Scriptures (Num 1:32-35; Deut 33:17; Josh 14:4).
List the example of “the older shall serve the younger” from the Scriptures.Hide Answer
The Scriptures listed several examples of “the older shall serve the younger,” such as the example of Isaac and Ishmael (Gen 16:10-18:15, 25:5), the example of Jacob and Esau (Gen 25:19-28:5), the example of Joseph and Reuben (Gen 48:15-16, 49:1-28), and the example of Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen 48:13-20).
What lesson can we learn about God’s choosing from the example of “the older shall serve the younger” in the Scriptures?Hide Answer
From the example of “the older shall serve the younger” in the Scriptures, we can learn about God’s choosing. The Lord does not choose His servants based on appearance or physical stature—through the example of God choosing David over his seven brothers (
1 Sam 16:1-13), on one’s age—through the example of God choosing Samuel over Eli’s two sons ( 1Sam 2:18-21) and Timothy over older men and older women ( 1 Tim 4:12, 5:1-2), or on one’s works (Rom 9:11-12; Tit 3:5). But the Lord chooses His servants based on their heart ( 1 Sam 16:7), on His will (Rom 9:18) and on His mercy by which ones are enabled to have the ministry of the Lord ( 1 Cor 4:1-6).