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 looked back on his life and saw but three things—God, love, grief. These were all he had to speak of. They were a trinity of the past; they dwarfed everything else.
I. "God appeared unto me at Luz." This one first and great appearance of God was memorable in all his life, because it was the first. It stamped itself upon his life; even in old age the memory of it was not obscured, effaced, or weakened, but was with him in the valley of the shadow of death.
II. Less august, but even more affecting, was the second of his three experiences—love. Of all whom he had known, only two names remained to him in the twilight between this life and the other—God, and Rachel. The simple mention of Rachel's name by the side of that of God is itself a monument to her.
III. The third of these experiences was that Rachel was buried. When Rachel died the whole world had but one man in it, and he was solitary, and his name was Jacob.
Application.—(1) See how perfectly we are in unity with the life of this, one of the earliest men. How perfectly we understand him! How the simplest experiences touch us to the quick! (2) The filling up of life, however important in its day, is in retrospect very insignificant. (3) The significance of events is not to be judged by their outward productive force, but by their productiveness in the inward life. (4) In looking back through the events of life, though they are innumerable, yet those that remain at last are very few,—not because all the others have perished, but because they group themselves and assume moral unity in the distance.
H. W. Beecher, Sermons (1870), p. 217.
Genesis 48:15-16When St. Paul wished to select from the history of Jacob an instance of faith, he took the scene described in the text, when Joseph brings his two sons to the deathbed of his father. The text is therefore to be considered as one in which faith was signally exhibited.
I. Jacob seems to make it his object, and to represent it as a privilege, that he should take the lads out of the family of Joseph, though that family was then one of the noblest in Egypt, and transplant them into his own, though it had no outward distinction but what it derived from its connection with the other. Faith gave him this consciousness of superiority; he knew that his posterity were to constitute a peculiar people, from which would at length arise the Redeemer. He felt it far more of an advantage for Ephraim and Manasseh to be counted with the tribes than numbered among the princes of Egypt.
II. Observe the peculiarity of Jacob's language with regard to his preserver, and his decided preference of the younger brother to the elder, in spite of the remonstrances of Joseph. There was faith, and illustrious faith, in both. By the "Angel who redeemed him from all evil," he must have meant the Second Person of the Trinity; he shows that he had glimmerings of the finished work of Christ. The preference of the younger son to the elder was typical of the preference of the Gentile Church to the Jewish. Acting on what he felt convinced was the purpose of God, Jacob did violence to his own inclination and that of those whom he most longed to please.
III. Jacob's worshipping (referred to in Hebrews xi.) may be taken as proving his faith. What has a dying man to do with worshipping, unless he is a believer in another state? He leans upon the top of his staff as if he would acknowledge the goodness of his heavenly Father, remind himself of the troubles through which he had been brought and of the Hand which alone had been his guardian and guide.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2261.
References: Genesis 48:15, Genesis 48:16.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 274. Genesis 48:16.—J. Wells, Bible Children, p. 69; J. Burns, Sketches of Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 131; A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 186; J. Thain Davidson, Talks with Young Men, p. 133. Genesis 48:21.—J. P. Gledstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 152; J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 379; S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 265; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1630. Genesis 48:22.—W. M. Taylor, Joseph the Prime Minister, p. 153. Gen 49—F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 175. Genesis 49:1.—F. Whitfield, The Blessings of the Tribes, pp. 1, 13. Genesis 49:1, Genesis 49:2.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 554. Genesis 49:1-12.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. ii., p. 275. Genesis 49:1-27.—W. M. Taylor, Joseph the Prime Minister, p. 171. Genesis 49:3, Genesis 49:4.—F. Whitfield, The Blessings of the Tribes, p. 53; J. C. M. Bellew, Five Occasional Sermons, p. 19. Genesis 49:8-12.—J. Monro Gibson, The Ages before Moses, p. 219.
Genesis 48 and 49
(with Deut. 33 and Judges 5)
Jacob's blessing of his sons marks the close of the patriarchal dispensation. Henceforth the channel of God's blessing to man does not consist of one person only, but of a people or nation. As the patriarchal dispensation ceases it secures to the tribes all the blessing it has itself contained. The distinguishing features which Jacob depicts in the blessing of his sons were found in all the generations of the tribes, and displayed themselves in things spiritual also.
In these blessings we have the history of the Church in its most interesting form. The whole destiny of Israel is here in germ, and the spirit of prophecy in Jacob sees and declares it. (1) Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted as sons of Jacob. No greater honour could have been put on Joseph than this: that his sons should be raised to the rank of heads of tribes, on a level with the immediate sons of Jacob. He is merged in them, and all that he has earned is to be found not in his own name, but in theirs. (2) The future of Reuben was of a negative, blank kind: "Thou shalt not excel"; his unstable character must empty it of all great success. (3) "Simeon and Levi are brethren," showing a close affinity and seeking one another's aid, but for bad purposes, and therefore they must be divided and scattered in Israel. This was accomplished by the tribe of Levi being distributed over all the other tribes as the ministers of religion. The sword of murder was displaced in Levi's hand by the knife of sacrifice; (4) Judah is the kingly tribe; from it came David, the man who more than any other satisfies man's ideal of a prince. (5) Zebulon was a maritime tribe; always restlessly eager for emigration or commerce. Issachar had the quiet, bucolic contentment of an agricultural or pastoral population. (6) "Dan shall judge his people." This probably refers to the most conspicuous of the judges, Samson, who belonged to this tribe. The whole tribe of Dan seems to have partaken of the grim humour with which Samson saw his foes walk time after time into the traps he set for them—a humour which comes out with singular piquancy in the narrative of one of the forays of this tribe, in which they carried off Micah's priest, and even his gods. (7) Gad was also to be a warlike tribe; his very name signified a marauding, guerilla troop, and his history was to illustrate the victories which God's people gain by tenacious, watchful, ever renewed warfare.
M. Dods, Israel's Iron Age, p. 173.
References: Gen 48.—F. Whitfield, The Blessings of the Tribes, p. 236; J. R. Macduff, Sunsets on the Hebrew Mountains, p. 23; R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. ii., p. 265. Genesis 49:1, Genesis 49:2.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 554.
And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.
And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,
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.
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.
And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.
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.
And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said, Who are these?
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.
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.
And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.
And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
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.
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.
And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.
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.