Thursday, September 07, 2006

Genesis 48

Genesis 48: Blessings for Manasseh and Ephraim


Israel is near death, in this chapter, and so Joseph comes to see him, and brings his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. When Israel hears that Joseph has come, he “rallies his strength” (verse 2) and sits up to greet him.

Israel has decided to “reckon” Joseph’s children as his own. That means that Manasseh and Ephraim will be treated as if they are Israel’s children—in effect, giving Joseph a double portion of whatever Israel leaves behind.

When Joseph brings Manasseh and Ephraim before Israel, he puts Manasseh on Israel’s right, and Ephraim on his left. There is another cultural significance to this, which is mostly lost on me, but it would have been important, in that day and culture, for the oldest son to get the blessing from Israel’s right hand, and the youngest from his left. But Israel crosses his arms, and puts his right hand on the youngest son’s head. Joseph tries to get Israel to switch his hands, but…

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.” 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.

(verses 19–20)

If I understood the significance of this better—or at all—I’m sure I’d have more to write about it.


The way that Israel is talking about the blessing he has given, in the quote above, it definitely sounds like more of a prophecy than a blessing. Israel isn’t just saying “Here’s hoping you have a good life”—he’s saying “You’re going to have a good life”.

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