Genesis 48:14
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Guiding his hands wittingly.—The LXX., Syriac, and Vulg. translate, “placing his hands crosswise;” but the Targum of Onkelos favours the translation of our version. There is some amount of philological support for the rendering of the three chief versions; but it must mainly rest upon their own authority, which is, however, very great.

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.

13. Joseph took them both—The very act of pronouncing the blessing was remarkable, showing that Jacob's bosom was animated by the spirit of prophecy. The

right hand was more honourable both in Scripture account, and amongst the Gentiles.

Laid it upon Ephraim’s head; which was a rite used often, and in divers cases, as in the conferring of offices either sacred or civil, as Numbers 8:10 Deu 34:9 Acts 6:6 13:3; and among other things, in giving benedictions, as Matthew 19:13.

Guiding his hands wittingly; this proceeded not from chance, or the mistake and weakness of his eyes, but from design, and the wisdom of his hands. Heb. He disposed his hands prudently, or, he dealt wisely with his hands. Here was a double wisdom showed.

1. Human, by which he gathered that Manasseh was the eldest, because Joseph placed him towards his right hand.

2. Divine and prophetical, by which he foresaw Ephraim’s advantage above Manasseh, and wisely suited the ceremony to the substance, giving the greater sign of honour to him, to whom God designed the thing.

And Israel stretched out his right hand,.... Not directly forward, but across, or otherwise it would have been laid on Manasseh, as Joseph designed it should by the position he placed him in:

and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, the right hand being the strongest and most in use, as it was reckoned most honourable to sit at it, so to have it imposed, as being significative of the greater blessing:

and his left hand upon Manasseh's head; who was the older:

guiding his hands wittingly; this was not done accidentally, but on purpose: or made his "hands to understand" (q), they acted as if they understood what he would have done, as Aben Ezra; as if they were conscious of what should be, or would be; though he could not see clearly and distinctly, yet he knew, by the position of them before him, which was the elder and which was the younger: he knew that Joseph would set the firstborn in such a position before him as naturally to put his right hand on him, and the younger in such a position as that it would be readiest for him to put his left hand on him; and therefore, being under a divine impulse and spirit of prophecy, by which he discerned that the younger was to have the greater blessing, he crossed his bands, or changed them, and put his right hand on Ephraim, and his left hand on Manasseh:

for Manasseh was the firstborn; or rather, though (r) he was the firstborn, as Aben Ezra.

(q) "intelligere fecit suas manus", Paguinus, Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Cartwright. (r) "tametsi", Tigurine version; "quamvis", Piscator; so some in Fagius.

And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon {d} Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

(d) God's judgments are often contrary to man's and he prefers what man despises.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. guiding his hands wittingly] Better, as R.V. marg., crossing his hands. So LXX ἐναλλὰξ τὰς χεῖρας = “the hands crosswise”; Lat. commutans manus.

The aged Jacob is moved by a supernatural impulse to cross his hands as he blesses the two boys; and their destinies are determined accordingly.

Verse 14. - And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, - the first instance of the imposition of hands being used as a symbol of blessing. Though not necessarily connected with the form of benediction, it is not without a natural fitness to suggest the transmission of spiritual benefit. Accordingly it afterwards became the recognized mode of conveying to another some supernatural power or gift, and was employed in the Old Testament Church in the dedication of priests (Numbers 27:18, 23; Deuteronomy 34:9), and in the New in the ordination of Christian office-bearers (Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), as well as by the Savior and his apostles in the performance of many of their miracles (Matthew 19:13; Mark 8:23, 25; Acts 9:17; Acts 19:6; Acts 28:8) - who was the younger (literally, and he the little one, i.e. the younger), and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; - literally, he placed his hands, prudently, i.e. of set purpose, the piel of שָׂכַל, to look at, conveying the intensive signification of acting with prudence and deliberation (Gesenius, Furst); intelligere fecit manus suas hoc est, docte, scite, et petite imposuit eis manus (Vatablus, vide Glass. 'Phil Tract.,' p. 761); a rendering of the words which has been adopted by the best scholars (Calvin, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Taylor Lewis, and others), though the translation, "he crossed his hands," which regards שִׂכֵּל as the pile of an unused root signifying to intertwine, ἐναλλὰξ τὰς χεῖρας (LXX.), commutans marius (Vulgate), is not entirely destitute of learned supporters (Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, Pererius, Knobel, Delitzsch, Gerlach, and others) - for Manasseh was the firstborn. Genesis 48:14The patriarch then stretched out his right hand and laid it upon Ephraim's head, and placed his left upon the head of Manasseh (crossing his arms therefore), to bless Joseph in his sons. "Guiding his hands wittingly;" i.e., he placed his hands in this manner intentionally. Laying on the hand, which is mentioned here for the first time in the Scriptures, was a symbolical sign, by which the person acting transferred to another a spiritual good, a supersensual power or gift; it occurs elsewhere in connection with dedication to an office (Numbers 27:18, Numbers 27:23; Deuteronomy 34:9; Matthew 19:13; Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17, etc.), with the sacrifices, and with the cures performed by Christ and the apostles. By the imposition of hands, Jacob transferred to Joseph in his sons the blessing which he implored for them from his own and his father's God: "The God (Ha-Elohim) before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God (Ha-Elohim) who hath fed me (led and provided for me with a shepherd's faithfulness, Psalm 23:1; Psalm 28:9) from my existence up to this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads." This triple reference to God, in which the Angel who is placed on an equality with Ha-Elohim cannot possibly be a created angel, but must be the "Angel of God," i.e., God manifested in the form of the Angel of Jehovah, or the "Angel of His face" (Isaiah 43:9), contains a foreshadowing of the Trinity, though only God and the Angel are distinguished, not three persons of the divine nature. The God before whom Abraham and Isaac walked, had proved Himself to Jacob to be "the God which fed" and "the Angel which redeemed," i.e., according to the more fully developed revelation of the New Testament, ὁ Θεός and ὁ λόγος, Shepherd and Redeemer. By the singular יברך (bless, benedicat) the triple mention of God is resolved into the unity of the divine nature. Non dicit (Jakob) benedicant, pluraliter, nec repetit sed conjungit in uno opere benedicendi tres personas, Deum Patrem, Deum pastorem et Angelum. Sunt igitur hi tres unus Deus et unus benedictor. Idem opus facit Angelus quod pastor et Deus Patrum (Luther). "Let my name be named on them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac," i.e., not, "they shall bear my name and my fathers'," "dicantur filii mei et patrum meorum, licet ex te nati sint" (Rosenm.), which would only be another way of acknowledging his adoption of them, "nota adoptionis" (Calvin); for as the simple mention of adoption is unsuitable to such a blessing, so the words appended, "and according to the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac," are still less suitable as a periphrasis for adoption. The thought is rather: the true nature of the patriarchs shall be discerned and acknowledged in Ephraim and Manasseh; in them shall those blessings of grace and salvation be renewed, which Jacob and his fathers Isaac and Abraham received from God. The name expressed the nature, and "being called" is equivalent to "being, and being recognised by what one is." The salvation promised to the patriarchs related primarily to the multiplication into a great nation, and the possession of Canaan. Hence Jacob proceeds: "and let them increase into a multitude in the midst of the land." דּגה: ἁπ λεγ, "to increase," from which the name דּג, a fish, is derived, on account of the remarkable rapidity with which they multiply.
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