“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked [in faithful obedience], The God who has been my Shepherd [leading and caring for me] all my life to this day, 16 The [a]Angel [that is, the Lord Himself] who has redeemed me [continually] from all evil, Bless the boys; And may my name live on in them [may they be worthy of having their names linked with mine], And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a [great] 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 [because he was not the firstborn]; and he grasped his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn; place your right hand on Manasseh’s head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; Manasseh also will become a people and he will be great; but his younger brother shall be [b]greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” 20 Then Jacob blessed them that day, saying,
“By you Israel will pronounce a blessing, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’”
And he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to [Canaan] the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover, I have given you [the [c]birthright,] one portion [Shechem, one mountain ridge] more than any of your brothers, which I took [reclaiming it] from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.”
Genesis 48:19This prophecy begins to be fulfilled during the time of the judges, as the tribe of Ephraim increased in prominence and became the head of the northern ten tribes. Joshua, whom Israel regarded as their ruler, was an Ephraimite. The ark of the covenant was placed in Shiloh in the territory of Ephraim, which also increased the tribe’s prestige. By its fulfillment, Jacob’s prophecy proved to be divinely inspired.
3 “Reuben, you are my [a]firstborn; My might, the beginning of my strength and vigor, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power [that should have been your birthright]. 4 “But unstable and reckless and boiling over like water [in sinful lust], you shall [b]not excel or have the preeminence [of the firstborn], Because you went up to your father’s bed [with Bilhah]; You defiled it—he went up to my couch.
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 (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 the extra portion of the land that would have gone to Reuben. Judah became the tribal leader in Reuben’s place (49:8-10).
Genesis 49:4The fertile land once occupied by the tribe of Reuben was deserted by its settled inhabitants and given over to the tribal nomads of the desert. Because of his behavior, Reuben had forfeited his rights as the firstborn even before Jacob’s prophecy.
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