Jan. 17 Reading: Genesis 48-50 Commentary

Below is our Genesis 48-50 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.'” (Gen. 50:19-20)

Genesis 48 – Jacob Blesses Joseph’s Sons

commentaryAfter many years of living with Joseph in Egypt, Jacob became ill. Before he died though, there were several tasks he wanted to accomplish. The first of those is the blessing of Joseph’s two sons born to him in Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim.

The blessing of the sons does not go to script, at least in Joseph’s mind. Jacob’s sight is failing and when he blesses the boys, he put his right hand on Ephraim (the younger) and put his left hand on Manasseh (the older). Typically, the tradition was to place the right hand on the oldest son to receive the best blessing. So Joseph thought his father had made a mistake because of his old age and eyesight. He tries to correct it before the blessing by moving his father’s hands to the appropriate son.

But Jacob is having none of it. Indeed, he has done this intentionally. God must have granted him some foresight into future events because he refuses, telling Joseph:

‘I know, my son, I know. He [Manasseh] too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother [Ephraim] will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” (Gen. 48:19)

Once again in the book of Genesis, God was upending the traditional order of things. Just like the younger Jacob received the blessing instead of his brother Esau, so now the older son (Manasseh) would serve the younger (Ephraim) in the future.

Genesis 49 – Jacob Blesses His Sons

Jacob also has a few last words for his sons. A few highlights (or lowlights) of Jacob’s blessings to his sons include:

  1. Reuben – Jacob begins with words of praise for his firstborn. But he ends with a rebuke of Reuben’s actions of trying to solidify his claim as the firstborn by sleeping with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (Gen. 35:22).
  2. Simeon and Levi – These two brothers are linked together because of their role in taking revenge on Shechem (and his people) who had raped their sister Dinah (Gen. 34). Jacob describes their excessive wrath on Shechem and his people as cruel (v. 7).
  3. Judah – Judah, the fourth born son of Jacob, is the first to receive full blown praise from Jacob. His tribe would rise above those of Reuben, Simeon, Levi and the other brothers in terms of important in Israel. No doubt he redeemed himself from the disappointing events of Gen. 38 through his selfless actions in trying to save his brother Benjamin. From Jacob’s blessing we see that a line of kings will arise from Judah’s descendants (“…the scepter shall not depart from Judah…” – Gen. 49:10)
  4. Joseph – Besides Judah, Joseph receives the longest blessing of all. He was the one who had been separated from his brothers and been lost for dead. But by the mighty hand of God, Joseph had endured and triumphed. For this, Jacob lavished Joseph with multiple blessings (v. 25-26).

Jacob’s last request to the family was that his body be returned to Canaan and buried in the family cave Abraham had bought (Gen. 23). With that he breathed his last and died.

Genesis 50 – A Dramatic View of God’s Providence

Joseph honors his father’s last request to be buried in the family cave in Canaan. He leads a great procession of family and servants out of Egypt to go bury his father. The procession and mourning along the way is so great that it even catches the attention of the Canaanites (v. 11).

Jacob is now dead and Joseph’s brothers fear he has been waiting for just the right time to take his revenge on them. It makes sense to them. It’s what we saw two of them do (Simeon and Levi) when someone had wronged a family member. 

So they sent messengers to Joseph to say, Before your father died he commanded, saying,Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” (Gen. 50:16-17)

Joseph’s Amazing Reaction

When Joseph hears his brothers confession, he weeps (v. 17). If he had any doubts, he truly realizes his brothers are sorry for their actions. Their confession of sin cuts to his heart.

But when his brothers come before him, bowing down and agreeing to be his servants, he offers one of the most dramatic statements in the entire Bible:

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.'” (Gen. 50:19-20)

Those are stunning words and a remarkable perspective by Joseph. He saw God’s hand at work. He knew God had put him through all those trials for a greater purpose. Now he and his brothers were on the receiving end of the providence of God in their lives.

It’s just a reminder that we are not God and we do not always see the bigger picture as to why we face challenges. But there is a purpose for them that God will reveal in time.

Questions to Consider:

Have you ever had some action come back to haunt you or deprive you of something good later in your life? What do you think about Joseph’s statement to his brothers? Have you ever seen a similar circumstance at work in your own life – where someone meant something evil towards you but God worked it out for good? 

What other points would you want to know about in our Genesis 48-50 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.