1 Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, “Indeed your father is sick”; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
2 And Jacob was told, “Look, your son Joseph is coming to you”; and Israel strengthened himself and sat up on the bed.
3 Then Jacob said to Joseph: “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me,
4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’
5 And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
6 Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.
7 But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”
8 Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and said, “Who are these?”
9 Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.” And he said, “Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.”
10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them.
11 And Israel said to Joseph, “I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!”
12 So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth.
13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him.
14 Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn.
15 And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
17 Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.
18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”
20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ ” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers.
22 Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”
[When Joseph arrived at his death bed, Jacob] rehearsed … how God Almighty had first appeared to him at Luz, whose name he had therefore changed to Bethel. There God had confirmed to him the promises made to Abraham and Isaac: he would become a multitude of people, and the good land of Canaan would be given to his seed for an everlasting possession. Actually, God had appeared to Jacob at Bethel twice (Genesis 28:10-19 and 35:6-13). … It was on the second occasion that these specific promises had been made. — Morris, page 645.
By adopting Joseph’s two sons (v.5) , Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own, Jacob made them equal with his other sons and insured that Joseph’s descendants would receive a double inheritance.
Again God bypassed the older son (v.14) in favor of the younger, as he had with Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, and Joseph over Reuben.
It may have been at this time (v.15) that Jacob transferred the rights of the firstborn from Reuben to Joseph, the firstborn of his favorite wife, Rachel (1 Chronicles 5:1).
Jacob … desired that Joseph be recognized in a special way, partly because of all he had done for the family, but probably primarily because he was the firstborn son of his wife Rachel. Jacob had fully intended, in the beginning, that Rachel be his only wife; in that case, Joseph would indeed have been the firstborn. It had been by Laban’s deception, not by Jacob’s choice, that things had developed differently.
As … in the case of Esau and Jacob, it was customary that the oldest son receive a double portion of the inheritance; but the father, as head of the family, could change this arrangement if the situation, in his opinion, warranted such a change. Jacob, therefore, was perfectly within his rights to transfer this birthright from Reuben (who had clearly shown, through both his incestuous relation with Bilhah and general weakness of character, that he was not really fit for such a responsibility) to Joseph, who should have been the firstborn and who had shown beyond question that he was indeed fit for the responsibility. “[Reuben] was the firstborn, but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel” (1 Chronicles 5:1). Joseph decided it would be most effective to convey this double inheritance directly to Joseph’s two sons, rather than to Joseph himself. This he would do by adopting them as his own sons, so that they would each be equal in rank to Reuben and Simeon, the two who were firstborn chronologically, and to his other sons. — Morris, page 646
Angel (v.16) = the preincarnate Christ.
fed (v.16) = lit. “shepherd” — The first reference in the Bible to God as a shepherd.
redeemed (v.16) — first use in the Bible of “redeem.” It means “to save,” or “to be a savior or deliverer.”
After the division of the kingdom, the tribe of Ephraim (as predicted in v.19) did become dominant in the north and its name was used for all of Israel (Isaiah 7:2; Hosea 4:17; 13:1).
The Holy Spirit in Hebrews 11:21 points to Jacob’s action in this chapter as as the great faith action of his life. Feeble and dying, and having nothing except the staff on which he leant and worshiped, he yet bestowed vast and unseen possessions on his grandsons. — Williams, page 41.
Also, Williams believes this is the occasion when Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph while leaning on his staff (as per Hebrews 11:21), while in Genesis 47:31, he “bowed himself on the head of the bead.” In other words, this isn’t a contradiction, but two separate occasions. I think that’s possible.
Jacob concluded … by promising Joseph that God would be with him and bring even him again back to the land of his fathers. Joseph did indeed return there to bury his father (Genesis 50:7), and eventually he himself would be buried there, but Jacob had primary reference to the return of his descendants to in habit the land. he then mentioned a very special tract of ground, which he himself had conquered from the Amorites. This was apparently not a large tract, and is nowhere else referred to (except possibly John 4:5), but represented to Jacob a token that God would eventually give his descendants all the land. Of this tract, he deeded to Joseph a double portion — Morris, page 650.