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Genesis 48:1-4

  1. .
    Gen 48:1a . . Some time afterward, Joseph was told: Your father is ill

    The Hebrew word for "ill" is chalah (khaw-law') and can mean not only sick, but also weak (Judg 16:17) sad (1Sam 22:8) suppliant (1Kgs 13:6) injured (1Kgs 22:34) in pain (Jer 4:31) drunk (Hos 7:5) and evil: as disaster or misfortune. (Ecc 5:13)

    Gen 48:1b . . So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

    The visit was probably just a comfort call; like visiting a friend or relative at the hospital. I really don't think it was prompted by a fear that Jacob was going to die at any moment. Joseph's boys apparently came on their own, rather than by request, because Jacob wasn't expecting them; and what kid can resist a trip to grandpa's house.

    The boys by this time were young men, having been born during the seven years of plenty, prior to the beginning of the seven years of famine (Gen 41:50). Jacob lived in Egypt at least seventeen years prior to this current event (Gen 47:28), and immigrated during the second year of the seven years of famine (Gen 45:6, Gen 45:11). So his grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim were both in their early twenties by now.

    Gen 48:2 . .When Jacob was told "Your son Joseph has come to see you" Israel gathered his strength and sat up in bed.

    No greetings or social graces are recorded from this meeting; though they must have occurred. Surely Jacob wouldn't just launch into a speech the moment his kin walked through the door. How weird would that be; especially since Joseph was Jacob's very favorite son? But Genesis skips over that part of the meeting, and without even so much as hinting how the topic came up at this point in the visit; just goes right to the meat of it.

    The speech Jacob is going to make was probably one he had been rehearsing in his mind for some time as he sensed the nearness of his impending death; which would certainly serve to remind him that he was running out of time; so if he was ever going to get these things off his chest, he better do it at the very next opportunity, while he was able, because who really knows how many more opportunities one might have left?

    People often put off important things-- e.g. making out their will --till sudden death, or the onset of dementia finally closes the door. Jacob had something important to say about his two grandsons, so it was fortuitous that they came along with their dad to visit grandpa that day.

    Gen 48:3a . . And Jacob said to Joseph: El Shaddai appeared to me at Luz

    El Shaddai-- the god who controls the laws of nature (cf. Col 1:17) --is also Yhvh because that's an appellation Genesis labels Him at Bethel (Gen 28:13). And an appellation Jacob labeled Him too, at the very same site. (Gen 28:16-20)

    Luz is Bethel (Gen 28:10-19, Gen 35:6-7). That location was an especially sacred site for Jacob because it was his very first personal encounter with God. You know, hearing about God, and reading about God, and praying to God, just aren't the same as actually meeting God. Not the same at all. Head knowledge is one thing, personal experience is quite another; yes, quite, quite another. There's nothing like a close encounter with God to set someone's faith in concrete.

    Gen 48:3b . . and He blessed me

    At this point, Jacob paraphrases the essential elements of El Shaddai's Luz blessing, with the exception of one element which I would esteem even more valuable than the prosperity elements: God's ever-abiding companionship.

    "Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Gen 28:15)

    Gen 48:4 . . and said to me: I will make you fertile and numerous, making of you a nation; and I will assign this land to your offspring to come for an everlasting possession."

    Although Israel's possession of Palestine is eternal, their occupation of it isn't, as the Jews' past evictions have easily demonstrated.

    Jacob's statement of the blessing is selective, and left out a couple of items; one of which is that God also assigned the land to Jacob himself, not just to his offspring (Gen 28:13) so God will have to resurrect Jacob in order to make good on that portion of the blessing.

    Exactly how Ephraim and Manasseh felt about the next event in Jacob's life isn't stated; nor would they have had a say in it anyway as Jacob was the reigning paterfamilias at the time; and within his own clan, Jacob was only one step in rank below Yhvh.
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