And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.
And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
Having arranged that, Jacob’s next concern appears to be for Joseph:
And it came to pass after these things, that [one] told Joseph, Behold, thy father [is] sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
It seems like he wants to pass on the blessing (barak) and promise of God which received:
And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee [for] an everlasting possession.
But not just to Joseph, but also to Joseph’s children:
And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, [are] mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
An interesting example of generation-skipping; I wonder how common or shocking such a practice was back then. Then an odd personal note:
And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet [there was] but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same [is] Bethlehem.
Its tempting to consider this non sequitur the ramblings of an old man. Then again, maybe the reason he wants to count these two children is because Rachel died early, and he was cheated of having more children by her.
With all that, Joseph must be worried a little about Jacob’s mind, as well as his eyes:
And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who [are] these?
At least, I assume Jacob had seen them during his seventeen-plus years, and often enough to recognize them despite any growth spurts. It certainly sounds like the lack of recognition was due to visual problems rather than mental:
And Joseph said unto his father, They [are] my sons, whom God hath given me in this [place]. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, [so that] he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them.
Jacob’s nearly overwhelmed by the privilege of being able to bless his grandchildren:
And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.
Joseph is also sensible of the honor:
And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
as well as the proprieties:
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 unto him.
Jacob, however, deliberately (sakal) breaks with convention:
And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid [it] upon Ephraim’s head, who [was] the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh [was] the firstborn.
Though, he gives a traditional blessing, in the name of the God (‘elohiym) of his ancestors:
And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,
The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
A nice even blessing. Still, the mixup must have convinced Joseph that the old man’s mind is really going:
And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.
He tries to straighten him out (literally):
And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this [is] the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
But Jacob is having none (ma’en) of that:
And his father refused, and said, I know [it], my son, I know [it]: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
At least Jacob does better than this father, in making sure both children have at least some blessing to inherit, even if the younger overtakes the older.
And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.
He ends with a final encouragement to Joseph, that his son will receive the same honor that Jacob asked for:
And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.
Plus, one last gift — relatively small, perhaps, yet personal:
Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.
Perhaps there is no greater honor, than to know that your father would count your work worthy to be his, and you yourself worthy to inherit his handiwork.
God, I feel like you’re trying to teach me what it means to be a man and to bless my family. Father, remind me of the promises I have received, and may You be the Father to my children, that they may inherit Your blessing through me. May my seed be counted worthy of You, and may I be counted worthy of dwelling in the Promised Land you won for me. Amen.
About the Title:
This pun on the biblical phrase “sins of the fathers” embraces the shifting relations among the four generations of Isaac and his descendants.