15 Then [Jacob] blessed Joseph and said, God [Himself], before Whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac lived and walked habitually, God [Himself], Who has [been my Shepherd and has led and] fed me from the time I came into being until this day,
16 The [a]redeeming Angel [that is, the Angel the Redeemer—not a created being but the Lord Himself] Who has redeemed me continually from every evil, bless the lads! And let my name be perpetuated in them [may they be worthy of having their names coupled with mine], and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them become a multitude in the midst of the earth.
17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he held up his father’s hand to move it to Manasseh’s head.
18 And Joseph said, Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn; put your right hand upon his head.
19 But his father refused and said, I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people and shall be great; but his younger brother shall be [b]greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.
20 And he blessed them that day, saying, By you shall Israel bless [one another], saying, May God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh. And he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
21 And Israel said to Joseph, Behold, I [am about to] die, but God will be with you and bring you again to the land of your fathers.
22 Moreover, I have given to you [Joseph] one portion [Shechem, one mountain slope] more than any of your brethren, which I took [reclaiming it] out of the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.
Genesis 48:16The “Angel of the Lord” is here identified as Christ Himself. See also the footnote on Gen. 16:7.
Genesis 48:19This prophecy begins to be fulfilled “from the days of the judges onward, as the tribe of Ephraim in power and compass so increased that it became the head of the northern ten tribes, and its name became of like significance with that of Israel; although, in the time of Moses, Manasseh still outnumbered Ephraim by 20,000” (Karl F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament). Joshua, whom Israel so long regarded as their ruler, was an Ephraimite. The ark of the covenant was placed in Shiloh in the territory of Ephraim, which increased the tribe’s prestige. How could Jacob have prophesied Ephraim’s supremacy so positively except by divine inspiration?
3 Reuben, you are my [a]firstborn, my might, the beginning (the firstfruits) of my manly strength and vigor; [your birthright gave you] the preeminence in dignity and the preeminence in power.
Genesis 49:3Reuben was the eldest of Jacob’s twelve sons and therefore entitled to the birthright, which would make him successor to his father as head of the family or tribe and inheritor of a double portion of his father’s estate. But Reuben forfeited all this by his conduct with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22). By adopting Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and giving each of them a portion of the inheritance, Jacob virtually gave Joseph Reuben’s extra portion of the land. And Judah became the tribal leader in Reuben’s place (Gen. 49:8-10).
4 But unstable and boiling over like water, you shall [a]not excel and have the preeminence [of the firstborn], because you went to your father’s bed; you defiled it—he went to my couch!
Genesis 49:4The whole fertile territory once occupied by the tribe of Reuben has long since been deserted by its settled inhabitants and given up to the nomad tribes of the desert. Reuben did “not excel,” and even before Jacob’s death he had lost his “preeminence of the firstborn” (John D. Davis, A Dictionary of the Bible).
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