Chapter 48:8-16 (ESV) - 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.” 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. And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. 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. 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). 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,
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 multitude in the midst of the earth.”
Question to consider: What is the significance of “the right hand” in blessing?
What a sacred and blessed moment this must have been for Israel and Joseph. So much had happened over the last 40 years to bring them to this moment, and both Joseph and Israel recognized God’s hand in all of it. I’ve been accused before of attributing times of blessing to God and times of difficulty to sin. I guess I’m guilty as charged. As we’ve been learning in our study of Genesis, the world has been corrupted by sin. In every sphere of influence, mankind has done evil against God and man and created times of difficulty for everyone. The only reason we experience times of blessing is because God is working in the midst of this sinful world to bring about His good purposes. My natural response to this is gratitude.
While Israel embraced his grandsons and began to bless them, Joseph bowed with his face to the ground, for He knew that the word about to be given by Israel was holy. An onlooker might have been shocked to see a ruler of Egypt bowing before this old man, but despite Joseph’s powerful position, he was a servant of God. What Joseph did not expect was for his father to cross hands and offer his right hand to the younger of his two sons.
The right hand was considered to be the place of favor and strength. It was usually reserved for the firstborn son for it was a type and shadow of Christ who is at the right hand of God. The text doesn’t say why Ephraim received the greater blessing, but the fact that Israel crossed his hands to do it meant it was deliberate. From this blessing, Israel declared that God was his shepherd. I have to wonder if David was meditating on this verse when he penned Psalm 23 and recognized that the Lord was his shepherd.
Just as God had cared for Israel, he prayed for God to grant a multitude of offspring to his grandsons.
Dear Lord, You are my shepherd who keeps me from want. You make me lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside still waters. You restore my soul. You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in Your house forever. Amen.