8 When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”
9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.
Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”
10 Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.
11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”
12 Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
“May the God before whom my fathers
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,
the God who has been my shepherd
all my life to this day,
16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
—may he bless these boys.
May they be called by my name
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may they increase greatly
on the earth.”
17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day and said,
“In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”
So he put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”
(Genesis 48:8-22 NIV)
In our last look at Genesis Chapter 48, we saw Joseph take his two sons and visit his ailing father Jacob. Jacob then blessed Joseph by giving him a double blessing, making his two sons equal with their uncles for inheritance.
In today’s passage, we see Jacob meeting and blessing Joseph’s sons. While Joseph’s physical eyesight may have been failing (v. 10), his spiritual insight and discernment was as sharp as ever.
Notice the shift of names between verses 1-7 and 8-22. In verses 1-7, Jacob is referred to by his old name – Jacob. In verses 8-22, Jacob is referred to by his new God-given name, Israel.
The old-named man in verse 1-7 spent most of the dialogue by looking back at his life – God’s original blessing, his life with his beloved wife Rachel (Joseph’s mother), and Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh who were born in Egypt before Jacob arrived.
In verses 8-22, Jacob is known by his new name – Israel. Here, he looks forward to God’s blessing that he will not see – the move of his family back to the Promised Land (verse 21). Israel had already made Joseph promise to take his bones back to the Promised Land – to not leave him behind in Egypt whenever the Lord called his descendants back to the geographic home God had promised here on earth.
Israel also blessed Joseph’s sons, though not as Joseph had hoped. Israel switched hands and gave the first-born blessing to Ephraim (the younger brother) rather than to Manasseh (the first-born). We see this intentionality when Joseph tried to correct his father and switch his hands. This was not a failure due to lack of physical eyesight on Israel’s part, but rather a fulfillment of spiritual insight and discernment from the Lord.
Israel knew that Joseph would never return to the Promised Land alive due to his position in Egypt, but Joseph’s sons would return to the Promised Land. Israel then repeated his double-blessing on Joseph by giving both Manasseh and Ephraim equal shares of land in the Promised Land. The boys were on equal ground with their uncles, Joseph’s brothers.
As we progress through our years of life, may we be intentional about living our lives for others and not just for ourselves. Jacob’s early years were all about Jacob, but after his encounter with Almighty God and a name change, Israel’s life was about others and seeing God’s fulfillment of His promises in future generations.
May our faith increase!