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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–7
Verses 1–7

Here, I. Joseph, upon notice of his father’s illness, goes to see him; though a man of honour and business, yet he will not fail to show this due respect to his aged father, Gen. 48:1. Visiting the sick, to whom we lie under obligations, or may have opportunity of doing good, either for body or soul, is our duty. The sick bed is a proper place both for giving comfort and counsel to others and receiving instruction ourselves. Joseph took his two sons with him, that they might receive their dying grandfather’s blessing, and that what they might see in him, and hear from him, might make an abiding impression upon them. Note, 1. It is good to acquaint young people that are coming into the world with the aged servants of God that are going out of it, whose dying testimony to the goodness of God, and the pleasantness of wisdom’s ways, may be a great encouragement to the rising generation. Manasseh and Ephraim (I dare say) would never forget what passed at this time. 2. Pious parents are desirous of a blessing, not only for themselves, but for their children. “O that they may live before God!” Joseph had been, above all his brethren, kind to his father, and therefore had reason to expect particular favour from him.

II. Jacob, upon notice of his son’s visit, prepared himself as well as he could to entertain him, Gen. 48:2. He did what he could to rouse his spirits, and to stir up the gift that was in him; what little was left of bodily strength he put forth to the utmost, and sat upon the bed. Note, It is very good for sick and aged people to be as lively and cheerful as they can, that they may not faint in the day of adversity. Strengthen thyself, as Jacob here, and God will strengthen thee; hearten thyself and help thyself, and God will help and hearten thee. Let the spirit sustain the infirmity.

III. In recompence to Joseph for all his attentions to him, he adopted his two sons. In this charter of adoption there is, 1. A particular recital of God’s promise to him, to which this had reference: “God blessed me (Gen. 48:3), and let that blessing be entailed upon them.” God had promised him two things, a numerous issue, and Canaan for an inheritance (Gen. 48:4); and Joseph’s sons, pursuant hereunto, should each of them multiply into a tribe, and each of them have a distinct lot in Canaan, equal with Jacob’s own sons. See how he blessed them by faith in that which God had said to him, Heb. 11:21. Note, In all our prayers, both for ourselves and for our children, we ought to have a particular eye to, and remembrance of, God’s promises to us. 2. An express reception of Joseph’s sons into his family: “Thy sons are mine (Gen. 48:5), not only my grand-children, but as my own children.” Though they were born in Egypt, and their father was then separated from his brethren, which might seem to have cut them off from the heritage of the Lord, yet Jacob takes them in, and owns them for visible church members. He explains this at Gen. 48:16; Let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers; as if he had said, “Let them not succeed their father in his power and grandeur here in Egypt, but let them succeed me in the inheritance of the promise made to Abraham,” which Jacob looked upon as much more valuable and honourable, and would have them to prize and covet accordingly. Thus the aged dying patriarch teaches these young persons, now that they were of age (being about twenty-one years old), not to look upon Egypt as their home, nor to incorporate themselves with the Egyptians, but to take their lot with the people of God, as Moses afterwards in the like temptation, Heb. 11:24-26. And because it would be a piece of self-denial in them, who stood so fair for preferment in Egypt, to adhere to the despised Hebrews, to encourage them he constitutes each of them the head of a tribe. Note, Those are worthy of double honour who, through God’s grace, break through the temptations of worldly wealth and preferment, to embrace religion in disgrace and poverty. Jacob will have Ephraim and Manasseh to believe that it is better to be low and in the church than high and out of it, to be called by the name of poor Jacob than to be called by the name of rich Joseph. 3. A proviso inserted concerning the children he might afterwards have; they should not be accounted heads of tribes, as Ephraim and Manasseh were, but should fall in with either the one or the other of their brethren, Gen. 48:6. It does not appear that Joseph had any more children; however, it was Jacob’s prudence to give this direction, for the preventing of contest and mismanagement. Note, In making settlements, it is good to take advice, and to provide for what may happen, while we cannot foresee what will happen. Our prudence must attend God’s providence. 4. Mention is made of the death and burial of Rachel, Joseph’s mother, and Jacob’s best beloved wife (Gen. 48:7), referring to that story, Gen. 35:19. Note, (1.) When we come to die ourselves, it is good to call to mind the death of our dear relations and friends, that have gone before us, to make death and the grave the more familiar to us. See Num. 27:13. Those that were to us as our own souls are dead and buried; and shall we think it much to follow them in the same path? (2.) The removal of dear relations from us is an affliction the remembrance of which cannot but abide with us a great while. Strong affections in the enjoyment cause long afflictions in the loss.