Genesis 48:12
And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
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(12) He bowed himself.—The Samaritan, Syriac, and LXX. Versions regard the Hebrew verb as a contracted plural, and many modern commentators adopt this view. It would thus be Manasseh and Ephraim who stood before Jacob with faces bent towards the ground. The pronoun, however, is in favour of the verb being singular, and the sense it gives is equally satisfactory.

Genesis 48:12. From between his knees — Not his own, but Jacob’s, between which they stood, while Jacob kissed and embraced them, and from which Joseph removed them, that they might not be burdensome to their aged and weak grandfather, and especially that he might place them in a fit order and a reverent posture to receive the blessing which he earnestly desired. He bowed himself — To testify his reverence for his father, his gratitude for the favour now shown to him and his children, and his humble request for his blessing upon them.48:8-22 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!He now observes and proceeds to bless the two sons of Joseph. "Who are these?" The sight and the observant faculties of the patriarch were now failing. "Bring them now unto me, and I will bless them." Jacob is seated on the couch, and the young men approach him. He kisses and folds his arms around them. The comforts of his old age come up before his mind. He had not expected to see Joseph again in the flesh, and now God had showed him his seed. After these expressions of parental fondness, Joseph drew them back from between his knees, that he might present them in the way that was distinctive of their age. He then bowed with his face to the earth, in reverential acknowledgment of the act of worship about to be performed. Joseph expected the blessing to be regulated by the age of his sons, and is therefore, careful to present them so that the right hand of his dim-sighted parent may, without any effort, rest on the head of his first-born. But the venerable patriarch, guided by the Spirit of him who doth according to his own will, designedly lays his right hand on the head of the younger, and thereby attributes to him the greater blessing.

The imposition of the hand is a primitive custom which here for the first time comes into notice. It is the natural mode of marking out the object of the benediction, signifying its conveyance to the individual, and implying that it is laid upon him as the destiny of his life. It may be done by either hand; but when each is laid on a different object, as in the present case, it may denote that the higher blessing is conveyed by the right hand. The laying on of both hands on one person may express the fulness of the blessing conveyed, or the fullness of the desire with which it is conveyed.

9. Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them—The apostle (Heb 11:21) selected the blessing of Joseph's son as the chief, because the most comprehensive, instance of the patriarch's faith which his whole history furnishes. From between his knees; not his own knees, from which they had been taken before, but Jacob’s knees, between which they stood whilst Jacob kissed and embraced them; from which Joseph removed them, partly that they might not be burdensome to their aged and weak grandfather, and principally that he might place them in fit order and reverent posture to receive the blessing for which he longed.

He bowed himself, testifying thereby his reverence to his father, his thankfulness for the favour which he had now showed to him and his, and his humble and earnest request for his blessing upon them. And Joseph brought them out from between his knees,.... Either from between his own, where they were kneeling, as he was sitting, in order that they might be nearer his father, to receive his blessing by the putting on of his hands; or rather from between his father's knees, he, as Aben Ezra observes, sitting on the bed, having kissed and embraced them, they were still between his knees; and that they might not be burdensome to his aged father, leaning on his breast, and especially, in order to put them in a proper position for his benediction, he took them from thence, and placed them over against him to his right and left hand:

and he bowed himself with his face to the earth; in a civil way to his father, and in reverence of him; in a religious way to God, expressing his thankfulness for all favours to him and his, and as supplicating a blessing for his sons through his father, under a divine influence and direction.

And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
12. Joseph brought … his knees] To set a child upon the knees was to symbolize reception or adoption into the family: see note on Genesis 30:3. From this passage it would appear that Joseph had set Ephraim and Manasseh upon, or against, the knees of their grandfather, so that they might receive the formal symbol (not here described) of adoption. This being done, he then removes them from between the knees of Jacob.

he bowed himself] For “bowed himself,” see note on Genesis 47:31. Who bowed himself? (1) Either Joseph, who thus threw himself on the ground to receive the blessing described in Genesis 48:15. (2) Or Jacob, who thus rendered thanks to God for enabling him to adopt into his family the children of Joseph. According to (2), Jacob would be represented as able to prostrate himself with his face to the earth (see note on Genesis 47:31). According to (1), Genesis 48:13-14 are interposed between Joseph’s prostration in Genesis 48:12 and the imposition of Jacob’s blessing in Genesis 48:15. But, if we may regard this story as independent of Genesis 47:29-31 (J), it seems simplest to refer the act to Jacob.Verse 12. - And Joseph brought them out from between his knees (literally, from near his knees, i.e. the knees of his father, who while in the act of embracing had drawn them into that position), and he (viz. Joseph) bowed himself with his face to the earth. The reading "and they bowed themselves," i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh (Samaritan, Michaelis), and the rendering καὶ προσκύνησαν αὐτῴ (LXX.), are incorrect. Referring to the promise which the Almighty God had given him at Bethel (Genesis 35:10. cf. Genesis 38:13.), Israel said to Joseph (Genesis 48:5): "And now thy two sons, which were born to thee in the land of Egypt, until (before) I came to thee into Egypt...let them be mine; Ephraim and Manasseh, like Reuben and Simeon (my first and second born), let them be mine." The promise which Jacob had received empowered the patriarch to adopt the sons of Joseph in the place of children. Since the Almighty God had promised him the increase of his seed into a multitude of peoples, and Canaan as an eternal possession to that seed, he could so incorporate into the number of his descendants the two sons of Joseph who were born in Egypt before his arrival, and therefore outside the range of his house, that they should receive an equal share in the promised inheritance with his own eldest sons. But this privilege was to be restricted to the two first-born sons of Joseph. "Thy descendants," he proceeds in Genesis 48:6, "which thou hast begotten since them, shall be thine; by the name of their brethren shall they be called in their inheritance;" i.e., they shall not form tribes of their own with a separate inheritance, but shall be reckoned as belonging to Ephraim and Manasseh, and receive their possessions among these tribes, and in their inheritance. These other sons of Joseph are not mentioned anywhere; but their descendants are at any rate included in the families of Ephraim and Manasseh mentioned in Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29. By this adoption of his two eldest sons, Joseph was placed in the position of the first-born, so far as the inheritance was concerned (1 Chronicles 5:2). Joseph's mother, who had died so early, was also honoured thereby. And this explains the allusion made by Jacob in Genesis 48:7 to his beloved Rachel, the wife of his affections, and to her death-how she died by his side (עלי), on his return from Padan (for Padan-Aram, the only place in which it is so called, cf. Genesis 25:20), without living to see her first-born exalted to the position of a saviour to the whole house of Israel.
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