Genesis 48:1–22: Blessing for Joseph’s Sons
As Jacob continues to make preparations for his impending death, he must extend blessings to his children. Just as his father, Isaac, blessed both him and Esau (Gen. 27), Jacob must pass on the patriarchal blessings to his own children. Before Jacob blesses all his children, however, Jacob will first extend a special blessing to Joseph—or, rather, to Joseph’s own children. In an extraordinary step, Jacob adopts Joseph’s two children as his own, putting them on equal footing as their uncles for the inheritance that will be received by their descendants after them. Joseph’s descendants will not have only one share of the inheritance, but two, through the respective tribal heads of Ephraim and Manasseh. Through this story, we see the gracious way that God extends unmerited favor to his people.
1) When Jacob reflects back on God’s kindness toward him at Luz, what specific blessings does he recall from Genesis 35? What are some key differences in how Jacob talks about those blessings now, compared to what we read about those blessings back in Genesis 35? What is the effect when Jacob adopts Ephraim and Manasseh as his own children? How do we see God’s unmerited favor toward Jacob now reflected to Joseph and his sons?
2) What does Jacob/Israel “see” (v. 8)? How is it that he can see, when his eyesight is dim because of his old age (v. 10)? What does Joseph “see” (v. 17)? How does Joseph evaluate what he sees? Why does elderly, blind Jacob see this blessing so differently than Joseph, in the prime of his life? Why does Jacob put Ephraim before Manasseh (v. 20)? How do we see Ephraim gaining more greatness through the rest of the history of his tribe?
3) What does God promise Joseph in vv. 21–22? Why is the promise important that Joseph will be buried in the land of his fathers? How does Joseph end up finally buried in the land of Canaan (cf. Gen. 50:26; Ex. 13:19; Josh. 24:32)? Where is this “mountain slope” (lit., “Shechem”) that Jacob gives to Joseph (v. 22; cf. Josh. 24:32)? What value will this land have for Joseph during his lifetime? What is the purpose of making Joseph a promise that he will not benefit from during his life?
4) What do we mean when we define “grace” as “unmerited favor”? How do we see God’s gracious, unmerited favor toward Jacob and his children after him, in this passage? How does God show gracious, unmerited favor toward us? What does it mean to walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7)? How does this passage portray blind Jacob walking by faith, and Joseph as walking by sight? What is one are where you being challenged to walk by faith, and not by sight, right now?