“After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2 And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. 3 And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ 5 And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. 6 And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. 7 As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).” (Genesis 48:1–7 (ESV)
Following the events recorded in Genesis 47, seventeen years pass (Gen. 47:28). This is signaled by the opening phrase found in today’s text: After this. Joseph discovered that his father Jacob was ill and dying. The word ill in the Hebrew refers to terminal sickness.
In response to this news, Joseph sought what Jacob and his brother Esau sought so many years before (Gen. 27). That was a blessing from their father. In Jacob and Esau’s case, it was a blessing from Isaac. In Joseph’s situation, he sought a blessing from his father, but not for himself. Rather, he sought Jacob’s blessing for his own two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim. It was a blessing Jacob would give.
Moses records in the today’s text Jacob’s adoption of his grandsons as his own sons (Gen. 48:5). This is best seen as Jacob’s ultimate expression of his deep love and affection for his son Joseph. The Mosaic Law would later indicate that the firstborn son normally received a double portion of his father’s blessing to illustrate his privileged status (Deut. 21:15–17).
Joseph’s inheritance will be reckoned through two tribes named after his two eldest sons. Joseph’s honor belonged to the entire nation of Israel. However, the Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh will be regarded as special because they are directly linked to Joseph, the one God used to save the world from famine.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Jacob’s preface to his adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh sets up the passing on of the patriarchal blessing to all his sons. Recalling his encounter with the Lord at Luz (Bethel, 28:10–22), Jacob summarizes the content of God’s word to him — life, land, and offspring (48:3–4) — with verbiage that aligns his blessing with the one given to Abraham (17:1–8) and Isaac (26:1–5). A new era in the history of the Lord’s people is about to begin, and Jacob’s words reveal his faith that even his death cannot thwart God’s intent to bless His elect. The Almighty’s promise to Abraham, mediated through Isaac and now Jacob, must come true even if it must be passed down once again.”
We may not witness the fulfillment of our prayers to God this side of glory. However, we continue to trust the Lord that He will answer our prayers, even after we die. Let each of us take comfort in the character of God.
Soli deo Gloria!