Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Jacob being sick, Joseph comes and visits him, Genesis 48:1,2. Jacob declares God’s appearances and promises to him, Genesis 48:3,4; adopts Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim to be fathers of two tribes in Israel, Genesis 48:5,6; mentions Rachel’s death, and the place where he buried her, Genesis 48:7; calls for his sons to bless them: Joseph brings and places them: Jacob purposely crosses his hands, Genesis 48:8-14. His blessing on Joseph and his sons, Genesis 48:15,16. Joseph interposes to remove his father’s hands, Genesis 48:17,18. He declares the pre-eminence of the younger, but the other also blessed, Genesis 48:19,20. Prophesieth of their return to Canaan, Genesis 48:21. He gives Joseph a piece of land apart, Genesis 48:22.
1689 To obtain his venerable and religious father’s blessing for them.
And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.He got new strength, his spirits being quickened and refreshed by the tidings of Joseph’s approach, and he put forth all the strength which he had.
And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Thy two sons are mine, by adoption: I shall own them as if they were my immediate children, and each of them shall have equal share, both in my present estate, and future inheritance of Canaan, with the rest of my children. Thus Jacob transfers the double portion, which was the right of the first-born, from which Reuben by his transgression fell, Genesis 49:4, upon Joseph, 1 Chronicles 5:1. He names the two eldest, who, if any, might seem to claim a greater privilege than the rest.
And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.Shall be reputed as thy children, and my grandchildren, and shall not have any distinct share in my present or future inheritance, but shall have a part of their brethren’s lot, in such manner and proportion as thou shalt think fit, or as their succeeding parents or governors shall determine. But it doth not appear, nor doth Scripture any where mention, that Joseph had any other sons but these, and therefore it is probable he had no more; only Jacob speaks this upon supposition, in case he should have any other.
Shall be called after the name of their brethren; either Ephraimites or Manassites.
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.Rachel died by me; or, beside me; near me, before mine eyes, I seeing, but not being able to help her in her extremity; which makes the remembrance of it more grievous to me. This story he here mentions, partly because the sight of Joseph and his children brought his beloved Rachel to his remembrance; partly to give the reason of this action of his to the rest of his children, which was not only because Rachel was his first rightful wife by designation and contract, and therefore the right of the first-born was truly Joseph’s; but because by her early death he was cut off from all hopes of having more children by her, and therefore it was but fit he should supply that defect by adopting Joseph’s children.
I buried her there, not out of disrespect to her, whose person was, and memory yet is, precious and honourable to me, but either because dying in childbed they could not keep her till they came to the burying-place of the patriarchs at Hebron, Genesis 23:19, especially when they were tied to the slow motion of the flocks and herds; or because I would not bury her in the common burying-place with heathens and idolaters, in the city of Ephrath. By which he tacitly implies, that he would not have Joseph joined with the Egyptians in burial.
And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these?For Jacob’s eyes were dim through age and infirmity, as is observed Genesis 48:10, and therefore he could not distinctly discern them.
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.Or,
that I may bless them, not with a common, but with a paternal, and patriarchal, and prophetical blessing, in the name and by the Spirit of God, praying for and foretelling those blessings which God will confer upon them.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.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 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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 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,He blessed Joseph, not now in his person, but in his children, which yet is called here a blessing of Joseph, because they were a part of himself. In which sense, and upon the same ground, the land of Canaan is ofttimes said to be not only promised, but given to Abraham and Isaac, & c., not as if they were in person to possess it, but because it should be given to their children. Thus Ham is said to be cursed when his son is cursed, Genesis 9:25.
Which fed me, i.e. protected, sustained, and directed me.
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; not surely a created angel, but Christ Jesus, who is called an Angel, Exodus 23:20, and the Angel of the covenant, Malachi 3:1, who was the conductor of the Israelites in the wilderness, as plainly appears by comparing of Exodus 23:20,21, with 1 Corinthians 10:4,9. Add hereunto, that this Angel is called Jacob’s Redeemer, which is the title appropriated by God to himself, Isaiah 43:14 47:4, and that from all evil, and therefore from sin, from which no created angel can deliver us, but Christ only, Matthew 1:21; and that Jacob worshippeth and prayeth to this Angel no less than to God for the blessing, and that without any note of distinction, the word bless being in the singular number, and equally relating to God and to the Angel; and that the Angel to whom he here ascribes his deliverances from all evil, must in all reason be the same to whom he prayed for these very deliverances which he here commemorates, and that was no other than the very God of Abraham, as is evident from Genesis 28:15,20,21 32:9-11 35:3.
Let my name be named on them, i.e. let them be called by my name, owned for my immediate children, and invested with the same privileges with my other children, be the heads of distinct tribes, and as such receive distinct inheritances. And hence they are called the children of Jacob or Israel, no less than the children of Joseph. For the phrase, see Deu 28:10 2 Chronicles 7:14 Isaiah 4:1 Jeremiah 14:9.
And the name of my fathers; let them be called their children; let them not only have my blessing, but the blessings of Abraham and Isaac; let all meet together upon their heads; and let that gracious covenant of God made with Abraham, and confirmed with Isaac and me, be ratified and made good unto them.
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.It displeased him, because of that affection which parents generally have for their first-born. See Genesis 21:11.
And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Greater than he; so the tribe of Ephraim was both in number, Numbers 1:32,33,35 2:19,21 Deu 33:17, and in power and privileges; for that tribe was the seat first of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the kingdom. Whence the name of Ephraim is sometimes put for all the ten tribes, as Isaiah 7:2, and sometimes for Joseph himself, as Numbers 1:32 Revelation 7:8, which Manasseh never is.
A multitude of nations, i.e. equal to many nations in number and strength; or, from them shall proceed many nations, i.e. many numerous; potent, and flourishing families, whereof each is equivalent to an ordinary nation. For as
nations are sometimes called families, as Zechariah 14:18, so the tribes and families of Israel are called nations or people, as Ezekiel 2:3 Acts 4:27.
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.In thee, i.e. in thy seed, as appears both from the relative
them here, and from Genesis 48:15, where his blessing of them is called the blessing of Joseph; and from the following words, where this is interpreted of
in thee, or in thy seed, i.e. using their names in the form or words of blessing, as eminent examples of blessedness.
And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.Behold, I die, i.e. I am about to die; the present time for that which will shortly and certainly be, as Genesis 19:13 20:3 John 14:2.
The land of your fathers, i.e. Canaan; their land,
1. By habitation, as Nazareth is called Christ’s country because he dwelt in it.
2. By the donation of God, who had promised, and would in his time give the actual possession of it to them, i.e. to their seed.
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.i.e. I do now give to thee the right, and I do prophetically give, and God will really and actually give unto thy son Ephraim, or his and posterity, who shall possess this part over above that portion which shall fall to him by lot. This was all the land which Jacob had in Canaan, which he here gives to Joseph, partly, in testimony of his great affection and obligation to him; partly, as a sign that he did confirm the right of the first-born upon him; and partly, for the confirmation of the faith of Joseph and his brethren, and to oblige them to set up their rest no where but in Canaan.
One portion: the Hebrew word is Shechem, which word indeed signifies a shoulder, as Genesis 9:23, and is here put for a part of land which is choice and good, as the shoulder is among the parts of the body. See 1 Samuel 9:24. And he useth this word, that by allusion he might signify what place he speaks of, even Shechem, as may further appear by comparing Joshua 24:32 John 4:5. Yea, some would have Shechem here to be the proper name of the place, which might be if the word one were not added to it.
This place is understood, either,
1. Of the future conquest of the land of the Amorites or Canaanities by his posterity, which he here ascribes to himself, and speaks of it in the past time, as of a thing already done, as the manner of the prophets is. But Jacob would not attribute that to his sword, which his posterity deny to be done by their sword, Psalm 44:3. And it is manifest that Jacob here speaks of that which was his by a special title, and which in a peculiar manner he gave to Joseph. Or,
2. Of the city and territory of Shechem, whose inhabitants were rooted out by Simeon and Levi, and whose land being void was possessed by Jacob. And this is said to be got by Jacob’s sword and bow, because it was got with the sword and bow of his sons Simeon and Levi, and a great number of his family, who doubtless were associated with them in this expedition. But it is not likely that he would take to himself that which he declares his utter abhorrence of, Genesis 34:30 49:5,6, or that he should call that
his sword and his bow here which he calls instruments of cruelty in Simeon’s and Levi’s hands, Genesis 49:5. Or,
3. Which seems the truest, of that land in the territory of Shechem, which Jacob bought of Hamor, Genesis 33:19, which is said to be got by his sword and bow, either,
1. Properly, because he did by force of arms expel those Amorites, who upon his retirement from those parts, after the slaughter of the Shechemites, had invaded his lands, though this story be not elsewhere recorded; as many things are mentioned by the by in some one place of Scripture, without any particular account of the circumstances of them, either there or elsewhere, as Genesis 36:24 Deu 2:9-11 Joshua 24:11. And though Jacob was a man of peace, yet his sons were warriors; and they by his permission might drive out, by their arms, those straggling Canaanites which had taken possession of his purchase, Jacob being the more willing to recover his right herein, because it was an earnest of his future possession of the whole land. And the neighbouring Canaanites would not concern themselves in the defence of the invaders, both because they were convinced of the right of Jacob’s cause, and because they were overruled by Divine Providence, in which Jacob trusted, and of which he had ample experience. Or,
2. Metaphorically, i.e. by his money, which he calls his sword and his bow, not only because money is answerable to the sword and the bow, and all other things, Ecclesiastes 10:19, and is a defence, Ecclesiastes 7:12, and therefore may well be so called, even as prayers and tears are called the arms of the church, because they serve for the same purpose that arms do against their enemies; but also and principally by way of opposition to the sword and bow of his cruel sons. So the sense may be this, I have given to thee one portion, or one Shechem, not the city of Shechem, which Simeon and Levi took from the hand of the Amorite with their sword and their bow, but a part of the territory of Shechem which I took or received from the hand of the Amorite by my sword and my bow, i.e. by my money, whereby I purchased it.