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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 8–22
Verses 8–22

Here is, I. The blessing with which Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph, which is the more remarkable because the apostle makes such particular mention of it (Heb. 11:21), while he says nothing of the blessing which Jacob pronounced on the rest of his sons, though that also was done in faith. Observe here,

1. Jacob was blind for age, Gen. 48:10. It is one of the common infirmities of old age. Those that look out at the windows are darkened, Eccl. 12:3. It is folly to walk in the sight of our eyes, and to suffer our hearts to go after them, while we know death will shortly close them, and we do not know but some accident between us and death may darken them. Jacob, like his father before him, when he was old, was dim-sighted. Note, (1.) Those that have the honour of age must therewith be content to take the burden of it. (2.) The eye of faith may be very clear even when the eye of the body is very much clouded.

2. Jacob was very fond of Joseph’s sons: He kissed them and embraced them, Gen. 48:10. It is common for old people to have a very particular affection for their grand-children, perhaps more than they had for their own children when they were little, which Solomon gives a reason for (Prov. 17:6), Children’s children are the crown of old men. With what satisfaction does Jacob say here (Gen. 48:11), I had not thought to see thy face (having many years given him up for lost), and, lo, God has shown me also thy seed! See here, (1.) How these two good men own God in their comforts. Joseph says (Gen. 48:9), They are my sons whom God has given me, and, to magnify the favour, he adds, “In this place of my banishment, slavery, and imprisonment.” Jacob says here, God has shown me thy seed. Our comforts are then doubly sweet to us when we see them coming from God’s hand. (2.) How often God, in his merciful providences, outdoes our expectations, and thus greatly magnifies his favours. He not only prevents our fears, but exceeds our hopes. We may apply this to the promise which is made to us and to our children. We could not have thought that we should have been taken into covenant with God ourselves, considering how guilty and corrupt we are; and yet, lo, he has shown us our seed also in covenant with him.

3. Before he entails his blessing, he recounts his experiences of God’s goodness to him. He had spoken (Gen. 48:3) of God’s appearing to him. The particular visits of his grace, and the special communion we have sometimes had with him, ought never to be forgotten. But (Gen. 48:15, 16) he mentions the constant care which the divine Providence had taken of him all his days. (1.) He had fed him all his life long unto this day, Gen. 48:15. Note, As long as we have lived in this world we have had continual experience of God’s goodness to us, in providing for the support of our natural life. Our bodies have called for daily food, and no little has gone to feed us, yet we have never wanted food convenient. He that has fed us all our life long surely will not fail us at last. (2.) He had by his angel redeemed him from all evil, Gen. 48:16. A great deal of hardship he had known in his time, but God had graciously kept him from the evil of his troubles. Now that he was dying he looked upon himself as redeemed from all evil, and bidding an everlasting farewell to sin and sorrow. Christ, the Angel of the covenant, is he that redeems us from all evil, 2 Tim. 4:18. Note, [1.] It becomes the servants of God, when they are old and dying, to witness for our God that they have found him gracious. [2.] Our experiences of God’s goodness to us are improvable, both for the encouragement of others to serve God, and for encouragement to us in blessing them and praying for them.

4. When he confers the blessing and name of Abraham and Isaac upon them he recommends the pattern and example of Abraham and Isaac to them, Gen. 48:15. He calls God the God before whom his fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, that is, in whom they believed, whom they observed and obeyed, and with whom they kept up communion in instituted ordinances, according to the condition of the covenant. Walk before me, Gen. 17:1. Note, (1.) Those that would inherit the blessing of their godly ancestors, and have the benefit of God’s covenant with them, must tread in the steps of their piety. (2.) It should recommend religion and the service of God to us that God was the God of our fathers, and that they had satisfaction in walking before him.

5. In blessing them, he crossed hands. Joseph placed them so as that Jacob’s right hand should be put on the head of Manasseh the elder, Gen. 48:12, 13. But Jacob would put it on the head of Ephraim the younger, Gen. 48:14. This displeased Joseph, who was willing to support the reputation of his first-born, and would therefore have removed his father’s hands, Gen. 48:17, 18. But Jacob gave him to understand that he know what he did, and that he did it not by mistake, nor in a humour, nor from a partial affection to one more than the other, but from a spirit of prophecy, and in compliance with the divine counsels. Manasseh should be great, but truly Ephraim should be greater. When the tribes were mustered in the wilderness, Ephraim was more numerous than Manasseh, and had the standard of that squadron (Num. 1:32, 33; 35; 2:18, 20), and is named first, Ps. 80:2. Joshua was of that tribe, so was Jeroboam. The tribe of Manasseh was divided, one half on one side Jordan, the other half on the other side, which made it the less powerful and considerable. In the foresight of this, Jacob crossed hands. Note. (1.) God, in bestowing his blessings upon his people, gives more to some than to others, more gifts, graces, and comforts, and more of the good things of this life. (2.) He often gives most to those that are least likely. He chooses the weak things of the world; raises the poor out of the dust. Grace observes not the order of nature, nor does God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred, but as it pleases him. It is observable how often God, by the distinguishing favours of his covenant, advanced the younger above the elder, Abel above Cain, Shem above Japheth, Abraham above Nahor and Haran, Isaac above Ishmael, Jacob above Esau; Judah and Joseph were preferred before Reuben, Moses before Aaron, David and Solomon before their elder brethren. See 1 Sam. 16:7. He tied the Jews to observe the birthright (Deut. 21:17), but he never tied himself to observe it. Some make this typical of the preference given to the Gentiles above the Jews; the Gentile converts were much more numerous than those of the Jews. See Gal. 4:27. Thus free grace becomes more illustrious.

II. The particular tokens of his favour to Joseph. 1. He left with him the promise of their return out of Egypt, as a sacred trust: I die, but God shall be with you, and bring you again, Gen. 48:21. Accordingly, Joseph, when he died, left it with his brethren, Gen. 50:24. This assurance was given them, and carefully preserved among them, that they might neither love Egypt too much when it favoured them, nor fear it too much when it frowned upon them. These words of Jacob furnish us with comfort in reference to the death of our friends: They die; but God shall be with us, and his gracious presence is sufficient to make up the loss: they leave us, but he will never fail us. Further, He will bring us to the land of our fathers, the heavenly Canaan, whither our godly fathers have gone before us. If God be with us while we stay behind in this world, and will receive us shortly to be with those that have gone before to a better world, we ought not to sorrow as those that have no hope. 2. He bestowed one portion upon him above his brethren, Gen. 48:22. The lands bequeathed are described to be those which he took out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword, and with his bow. He purchased them first (Josh. 24:32), and, it seems, was afterwards disseized of them by the Amorites, but retook them by the sword, repelling force by force, and recovering his right by violence when he could not otherwise recover it. These lands he settled upon Joseph; mention is made of this grant, John 4:5. Pursuant to it, this parcel of ground was given to the tribe of Ephraim as their right, and the lot was never cast upon it; and in it Joseph’s bones were buried, which perhaps Jacob had an eye to as much as to any thing in this settlement. Note, It may sometimes be both just and prudent to give some children portions above the rest; but a grave is that which we can most count upon as our own in this earth.