March 14, 2019

Crossed Hands and Rich Blessings

Genesis 48

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Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh

After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty1 appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance2 to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

When Israel saw Joseph's sons, he said, “Who are these?” Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” And he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.” 10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” 12 Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. 13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near him. 14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). 15 And he blessed Joseph and said,

  “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
    the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
16   the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
    and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
    and let them grow into a multitude3 in the midst of the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since 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. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude4 of nations.” 20 So he blessed them that day, saying,

  “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying,
  ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’”

Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope5 that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.”


[1] 48:3 Hebrew El Shaddai
[2] 48:7 Or about two hours' distance
[3] 48:16 Or let them be like fish for multitude
[4] 48:19 Hebrew fullness
[5] 48:22 Or one portion of the land; Hebrew shekem, which sounds like the town and district called Shechem

Crossed Hands and Rich Blessings

Key Verse | Genesis 48:19

But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations." 

Bio | Scott Bodell

Hey, Journeyers, I'm Scott. But Manasseh or Joseph might substitute, depending on which part of my past you survey. I'm a work-in-progress, hopefully a Jacob some day. I'm blessed to be a father of two young adult men. Newly married Cameron is a law student in Houston, granting me the extra blessing of a wonderful sweet daughter-in-law, Madison. And recently graduated (and newly employed) Carter lives in Austin. I am hugely blessed with a Proverbs 31 bride, Sylvia. And I choose to believe God blesses us richly through our dogs. We've had our sweet rescue pup, Frankie, now for six months.

Central Truth

For His purposes and according to His will, God blesses whomever He chooses. 

Devotional | Genesis 48

As Jacob, from his deathbed, crosses his arms to bless the younger Ephraim over the older brother Manasseh, you can imagine Joseph thinking, "Dad, where's this going? Can you not see what you're...

As Jacob, from his deathbed, crosses his arms to bless the younger Ephraim over the older brother Manasseh, you can imagine Joseph thinking, "Dad, where's this going? Can you not see what you're doing?" As a father accustomed to having his way, Joseph was beyond surprised.

Jacob was in fact blind and certainly near death. But for this event, the Lord allowed him to see clearly and sit up to be His man executing His plan of divine selection to grow His people. Joseph failed to even see the worldly implications of Jacob's decree. By first adopting Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons, Jacob ensured a much greater inheritance for Joseph, placing him above all the brothers.

But Jacob could now see God's hand in a reflection of his own life, not as a grueling grind of hardship and pain, but as a chain of events to accomplish God's will—not the world's, not his, and not Joseph's. His last act on this earth was following God's will and passing on a heritage of righteousness to his son and newly adopted sons. It was God's plan to make Ephraim the greater over Manasseh. Jacob wasn't about to alter that course. 

Like Joseph, we sometimes feel that God crosses His hands to bless others over us or the ones we love. But when we feel less-than-blessed, are we not usually making worldly comparisons instead of assessing the gifts we've received to serve the Lord? Note Jacob's response: "He [Manasseh] also shall be great." Since when was "great" by God's standard of blessing not good enough for us?

Scripture tells us the Lord blesses us according to His will and purpose for our lives (Ephesians 1:11). He is not obliged to meet our expectations. Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians encourages all of us to discern how God has gifted us and called us to take our place in the Body of Christ and serve His will for the world.

Our true blessings are found when we seek to walk in the will of God and serve His purposes, not our own.

See Comments

Discussion Questions

1. Have you felt "passed over," like Manasseh, in your family, friend circles, or workplace? Can you counter that feeling with God's blessing to rise above it?

2. Have you been a Joseph, disappointed when a plan deviates from your expectation? Have you, as a parent, bristled when your children don't get the recognition or payoff you feel they deserve? Still confessing my past failures on that one.

3. Are you, like Jacob, embracing your trials (James 1:2-4)? Are you able to boast all the more gladly about your weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)? Are you seeking and submitting to the will of God for your life? 

4. What are your spiritual gifts, and how are you using them to serve the Lord's kingdom?

8 Comments available

carol larson 2 months ago

Thanks Scott… reminded that we are never “passed over” by the God who loves us.

“Yes, God is more than ready to overwhelm you with every form of grace, so that you will have more than enough of everything —every moment and in every way. He will make you overflow with abundance in every good thing you do.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 - TPT

greg jones 2 months ago

@Patrica Simmons

Re:comments yesterday.

Your welcome, thank you for your kind reply. Please consider the following.

“Israel prospering while Egypt starves is another harsh reality, but is the result of God’s Covenant.” I think it’s the famine the covenant is about occupying the land isn’t it?

“As Sue points out, slavery was a means to survive and not the horrible atrocity we now know it to be.“ I’m not sure the women and children from Shechem would agree. Two sons are serial killers, a sciopathic act. Can reasoning that slightly considers victims be considered sociopathic reasoning? I’m considering the group reasoning Germany during WWII? Question not intended as an accusation.

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

What a blessing !! " the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys"

greg jones 2 months ago

It’s interesring, Abraham”s first son born to an Egyptian mother is abandoned at the time Isaac is weened. Joseph’s sons by an Egyptian mother are adopted at about the same age Ishmael was abandoned. The older brother here, like Ishmael, Esau, and Jacob’s own sons is not favored according to custom.

Sarah doesn’t want Ishmael to have a share of isaac’s inheritance. Is Jacob thinking in terms of reconciliation or greater prosperity in his blessing? I know what I want to believe.

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

In the future the enjoyments of blessings of Ephraim and Manassah ‘criss cross’ and Jacob ‘criss crosses’ his hands in blessings.

Manasseh starts as the largest tribe early on in the Exodus but near the end of Judges becomes the smallest. but even then Moses gives a stronger blessing to Manasseh

Jacob’s Blessing - Genesis 48:20

Moses Blessing - Deuteronomy 33:17

Sue Bohlin 2 months ago

Thanks, Scott. Insightful devo!

Jacob switching his hands when blessing Joseph’s boys reminds me that our sovereign God is in charge of the smallest details of life, and a life of faith means rolling with whatever He allows.

Hope Harris 2 months ago

In response to Q1: I spent a great deal of life feeling like a stranger on the outside looking in on others lives. Due to the loss of my mom at an early age. I felt lost and alone.

This in turn caused me to seek have my legitimate needs for acceptance, affirmation, attention and affection met in illegitimate ways from other women.

I am so God didn’t allow me to die ( I can count at least five times I should have) without the opportunity to come to know Him.

I was an outsider and orphan alone in this world and God adopted me into His family and has surrounded me with friends who are family to me. Psalm 68:6 and Mark 10:27-30

Hugh Stephenson 2 months ago

Reflecting today on this verse, “…the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,”

Jacob’s blessing evokes such a powerful image of God as shepherd. Jacob knows he was not walking with God early in his life, but he can look back and see how God was always with him, guiding him, keeping him and watching over him.

If God is shepherd, then Jacob is sheep. Boice cites Keller on sheep, (paraphrasing) - they require endless care, attention & constant protection from enemies. They are timid, easily panicked, cruel, competitive, prone to parasites & insects. They have no defense mechanisms against predators.

At 61 I can look back and see some parallels with Jacob; conniving to get what I want, wresting with God, having enough exposure to Him to see glimpses. Finally, surrendering when I am finally exhausted and beaten and see no other option.

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