Genesis 48:1–22

48 1 After these things happened, they said to Joseph, “Your father is sick.” He took his two sons with him—Manasseh and Ephraim. When someone told Jacob, “Your son Joseph is coming to you,” Israel gathered his strength and sat up in bed. Jacob said to Joseph, “God Shaddai appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, blessed me, and said to me, ‘I will make you bear fruit and multiply you; I will make you into many peoples and give this land to your seed after you, to hold for the ages.’ Now, your two sons who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, they are mine. Ephraim and Manasseh, like Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine. Those whom you will beget after them, they are yours, but their inheritance will come through their brothers’ names. Ahh, when I came back from Paddan, Rachel died … my grief … in the land of Canaan, on the road, with some distance yet to go to Ephrath, so I buried her there, on the way.” [Ephrath is Bethlehem.]
     Israel saw Joseph’s sons and said, “Who are these?”
     Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.”
     Israel said, “Bring them to me, and I will bless them.” 10 And Israel’s eyes were heavy with age; he could not see. Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them.
     11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never thought I would see your face, but now God has also let me see your seed.” 
     12 Then Joseph drew them from Israel’s knees, and they bowed low, face to the ground. 13 Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim in his right hand to Israel’s left, and Manasseh in his left hand to Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and placed it on the head of Ephraim, the younger one, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head; he crossed his hands though Manasseh was the firstborn.15 He blessed them and said,
               “The God before whom my fathers walked,
                    Abraham and Isaac,
               the God who has looked after me
                    all my life until this day,
               16 the messenger who protected me from all harm,
                    bless these lads.
               May my name be called through them
                    and the names of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac.
               May they multiply into a great multitude
                    throughout the land.”
     17 Joseph saw that his father had placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head. He was upset and took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head and place it on Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, this one is firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.”
     19 But his father refused, saying, “I know, my son, I know. He will also become a people, and also be great. But his younger brother will be greater than he, and his seed will become many nations.” 20 Israel blessed them that day, saying,
               “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying,
                    ‘God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”
So Israel put Ephraim before Manasseh. 
     21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Look, I am dying. God will be with you and return you to the land of your fathers. 22 As for me, I intentionally give you one portion more than to your brothers, a portion that I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”

Having heard that Jacob’s death was imminent, the storyteller revisits the beginning of Jacob’s birth and his wresting away of primogeniture from Esau. A variation on the wrestling of brothers is extended to father and son, following the motifs of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob. Readers learn more about Jacob and Joseph, Jacob and his grandsons.

Joseph, learning of Jacob’s entering hospice, brings his sons to Jacob. A question arises: Is this the first time Joseph has brought the Egyptian and Hebrew parts of his family together?

Remembering his dream at Bethel and the promise of a plenitude of seed, Jacob proceeds to adopt Joseph’s children by the Egyptian Asenath. Jacob locates his grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, on the same plane as the sons of Leah.

There is confusing talk about later sons of Joseph. If there are any, they will be connected to Canaan through Ephraim and Manasseh (those who have received a blessing directly from Jacob’s/Israel’s hand.

After a remembrance of Jacob’s first great loss, Rachel, he returns unaware of introductions already made. His age-blinded eyes were as his father Isaac’s when deceived by Rebekah and himself.

Embracing the lads, and perhaps smelling them for a scent of ascendancy, Jacob finds them placed with the firstborn, Manasseh, as his right hand, for a primary blessing, and Ephraim at his left, for a secondary blessing.

At this point, Jacob repeats the actions of his father, Isaac—he crosses his hands and offers a blessing to both while his right hand rests on the younger and his left on the older.

Joseph, desiring order that the center be clear, objects.

Jacob claims to know what he knows and confirms that the younger Ephraim will be “greater” than Manasseh. The shift from younger to older continues—Abel/Shem, Isaac, Jacob raised over Cain, Ishmael, Esau. Israel completes the ritual, “May YHWH adopt you as Ephraim the Younger and Manasseh the Older.”

Joseph is promised a return to Canaan. A question: in what capacity or leadership?

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