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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 48

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 48:1 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.

Ver. 1. Behold, thy father is sick.] And yet it was "Jacob have I loved." So, "Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." [John 11:3] Si amatur, quomodo infirmatur? saith a father. Very well, may we say. The best, before they come to the very gates of death, pass oft through a very strait, long, heavy lane of sickness; and this in mercy, that they may learn more of God and depart with more ease out of the world. Such as must have a member cut off, willingly yield to have it bound, though it be painful; because, when it is mortified and deadened with strait binding, they shall the better endure the cutting of it off: so here, when the body is weakened and wasted with much sickness, that it cannot so bustle, we die more easily. Happy is he, saith a reverend writer, (a) that after due preparation is passed through the gates of death ere he be aware; happy is he that, by the holy use of long sickness, is taught to see the gates of death afar off, and addresseth for a resolute passage. The one dies like Enoch and Elijah; the other like Jacob and Elisha; both blessedly.


Verse 2

Genesis 48:2 And [one] told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed.

Ver. 2. And Israel strengthened himself.] Ipse aspectus viri boni delectat, saith Seneca; sure it is that the sight of a dear friend reviveth the sick. One man, for comfort and counsel, may be an angel to another; nay, as God himself. Such was Nathan to David; Bishop Ridley to King Edward VI and that poor priest to Edward III, who, when all the king’s friends and favourites forsook him in his last agony, leaving his chamber quite empty, called upon him to remember his Saviour, and to ask mercy for his sins. This none before him would do, every one putting him still in hope of life, though they knew death was upon him. But now, stirred up by the voice of this priest, he showed all signs of contrition; and, at his last breath, expresses the name of Jesus. (a)


Verse 3

Genesis 48:3 And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,

Ver. 3. God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz.] The truly thankful keep calendars and catalogues of God’s gracious dealings with them, and delight, to their last, to recount and reckon them up; not in the lump only, and by wholesale, as it were, but by particular enumeration upon every good occasion; setting them forth one by one, as here, and ciphering them up, as David’s word is. { ספר, Psalms 9:1} We should he like civet boxes, which still retain the scent when the civet is taken out of them. See Psalms 145:1-2, Exodus 18:8.


Verse 4

Genesis 48:4 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.

Ver. 4. For an everlasting possession.] This is fully made good to the Israel of God, those heirs of heaven.


Verse 5

Genesis 48:5 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.

Ver. 5. As Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.] God hath in like sort adopted us for his dear children; saying, "I will be a Father unto them, and they shall be my sons and my daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." [2 Corinthians 6:18] This St John calls a royalty or prerogative, {εξουσια, John 1:12} such as he elsewhere stands amazed at. [1 John 3:1] And well he may; for all God’s children are "firstborn," and so "higher than all the kings of the earth." [Psalms 89:27] They "in the fulness of their sufficiency are in straits." [Job 20:22] Whereas the saints, in the fulness of their straits, are in an all-sufficiency.


Verse 6

Genesis 48:6 And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, [and] shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.

Ver. 6. After the name of their brethren.] That is, of Ephraim and Manasseh; as if they were not their brethren, but their sons. Thus Jacob transfers the birthright from Reuben to Joseph. [1 Chronicles 5:1-2]


Verse 7

Genesis 48:7 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.

Ver. 7. And I buried her there.] He could not carry her to the cave of Machpelah; and he would not bury her at Bethdehem among infidels. This he tells Joseph, to teach him and the rest not to set up their rest anywhere but in the land of Canaan.


Verse 8

Genesis 48:8 And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who [are] these?

Ver. 8. Who are these?] Here Jacob, seeing Joseph’s two sons, and now first understanding who they were, breaks off his speech to Joseph, till the two last verses of the chapter, and starts blessing his sons; teaching us to be "ready to every good word and work," [Titus 3:1] laying hold of every hint that God puts into our hands, accounting it a mercy that we may have opportunity.


Verse 9

Genesis 48:9 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.

Ver. 9. They are my sons, whom God, &c.] The Lord Christ in like sort presents us to his heavenly Father with, "Here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me." [Hebrews 2:13] Whereunto the Father replies, as Jacob here, Bring them now unto me, and I will bless them.


Verse 11

Genesis 48:11 And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.

Ver. 11. I had not thought to see thy face.] God delights to outbid the hopes of his people, and to be better to them than their deserts, than their desires, yea, than their faith. [Isaiah 54:2-3; Isaiah 54:12; Isaiah 54:14] As it is storied of a certain emperor, that he delighted in no undertakings so much as in those that his counsellors and captains held impossible: and he seldom miscarried. So God, Exodus 15:11.


Verse 12

Genesis 48:12 And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.

Ver. 12. From between his knees.] That is, From between his father’s knees, that he might place them right to receive the blessing, presenting them again according to their age. This he did for the best; but "God only wise" had otherwise ordered it. We many times think we do well, when it proves much otherwise. "Lean not therefore to thine own understanding," saith the wise man; [Proverbs 3:5] but make out to him that "dwells with prudence." [Proverbs 8:12]


Verse 13

Genesis 48:13 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 unto him.

Ver. 13. Both, Ephraim in his right hand.] The right hand hath the pre-eminence of the left among most people: yet not so among the Turks; their soldiery especially. The right hand they hold uppermost ibr the clergy, and the left for a soldier: because it gives a man possession of his companion’s sword. Thus do both orders converse without the depression of either, saith mine author. (a)


Verse 14

Genesis 48:14 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.

Ver. 14. Guiding his hands wittingly.] Cognoscebat palpando manibus suis, saith Junius: Intelligere fecit manus, saith Patens. An emphatical metaphor; as if he should say, Jacob with his eyes could not distinguish them, but his hands shall therefore do the office of his eyes. Bartolus (a) writes of Dr Gabriel Nele, that by the motion of the lips only, without any utterance, he understood all men; perceived and read in every man’s countenance what was his conceit. But that is far more credible, and no less admirable, that Jerome reports of Didymus of Alexandria; that though he had been blind of a little child, yet he was excellently skilled in all the liberal arts, and had written Commentaries upon the Psalms and Gospels, being at this time, saith he, eighty-three years of age. (b)


Verse 15

Genesis 48:15 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,

Ver. 15. God, beforewhom my fathers did walk.] This is the highest praise that can be given to ancestors; this is the crown of all commendation, to have walked with God as a man walketh with his friend. This is better than a thousand escutcheons.

The God which fed me all my life long.] As a shepherd tends and feeds his sheep. [Psalms 23:1; Psalms 80:1] Jacob looks beyond all second causes, and sees, as once at Bethel, God on the top of the ladder. [Genesis 28:12-15]


Verse 16

Genesis 48:16 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.

Ver. 16. The Angel which redeemed me.] Christ, the Angel of the Covenant, the Mediator of the New Testament, the Redeemer, the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world. "For we were not redeemed with silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ, as of a lamb undefiled." [1 Peter 1:19] Paul by that "freedom" [Acts 22:28] escaped whipping: we, by this, the pain of eternal torment.

And let my name be named on them.] Lest any should think it to be some prejudice to them that they were born in Egypt, and of an Egyptian mother, he adopts them for his own.


Verse 17

Genesis 48:17 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.

Ver. 17. And when Joseph saw that, &c.] So great a prophet and diviner as Joseph was, in this was out in his judgment. He seeth not that man’s dignity is "not by works," or nature, but grace and "election." [Romans 9:7-8; Romans 9:11-12]


Verse 18

Genesis 48:18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this [is] the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

Ver. 18. Not so, my father, &c.] Here are a couple of holy prophets differing in their judgments; yet not about the substance of the blessing, but the circumstance of it. Wonder not though such things still fall out in the true Church, and the doctors be likewise divided in points less material, and that touch not the foundation. Luther interprets those words of Christ, "This is my body," synecdochically; Calvin, metonymically. Hence the Jesuits straight cry out: The Spirit of God dissents not from itself; but these interpretations dissent one from another, therefore they are not of the Spirit. (a) Now it were easy to stop their foul mouths, by telling them of their own far worse differences. But is it not a doleful thing that we should, with those birds, aqnoscere in nostris vulneribus nostras pennas? "Brother goeth to law with brother, and that before infidels." [1 Corinthians 6:6] This is the devil’s malice, to sow tares, &c. Christ came to destroy his works; yet never were so many possessed as about that time.


Verse 19

Genesis 48:19 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.

Ver. 19. And his father refused, and said.] Here are father and son divided in matter of ceremony, as Bishop Babington observeth. This hath been an ancient quarrel, from the very cradle of the Christian Church. The Jewish converts stood hard for a mixture of Christ and Moses. Their rites they called "the rudiments of the world"; [Colossians 2:8] because they held them as needful as the four elements of the world; or as the first letters of the book, to school God’s people. Soon after, what a dispute was there among the primitive Christians, even unto blows and bloodshed, about the time of keeping Easter, and other like trifles and niceties! St Augustine complains, that in his time the Church, which the mercy of God would have to be at liberty, was woefully oppressed with many burdens and bondages this way; so that the condition of the Jews was in this respect more tolerable, for that they were held under by legal injunctions, and not by human presumptions. (a) What would this father have said to the following times, under the rise and reign of Antichrist? wherein the formality of God’s worship had utterly eaten up the reality of it, as Pharaoh’s lean kine did the fatter; and gotten out the very heart of it, as the ivy dealeth by the oak it grows on. Our heroic reformers, Luther, Zuinglius, &c., pruned and pared off these luxuriances for the most part; which caused John Hunt, a Roman Catholic, in his humble appeal to King James, thus to blaspheme: - The God of the Protestants is the most uncivil and ill-mannered God of all those who have borne the name of gods upon the earth; yea, worse than Pan, god of the clowns, which can endure no ceremonies, nor good manners at all. (b) But yet, what a grievous stir was there, about these indifferents, between Luther and Carolostadius, at Wittenberg; between the doctors of Magdeburg and Leipsic, Anno Dom. 1549; (c) and between Calvin (d) and his auditors of Geneva, about wafer cakes at the communion; insomuch as he was compelled to depart the city till he had yielded they should be used, though he never liked them, but could have wished it otherwise. Who knows not what jars and heart burnings were here between Ridley and Hooper, two godly bishops, in King Edward VI’s time, about cap and surplice. They could never agree till they met in prison; and then misery bred unity; then they could heartily bewail their former dissensions about matters of no more moment. Peter Martyr commends it to the care of Queen Elizabeth, (e) that church governors endeavour not to carry the gospel into England upon the cart of needless ceremonies. By his advice, among others, in King Edward VI’s days, some people contending for one image, some for another, the king took down all those Balaam’s blocks. And the very self-same day and hour wherein the Reformation enjoined by Parliament was put ia execution at London by burning of idolatrous images, the English put to flight their enemies in Musselburgh field, as Mr Fox hath well observed. (f)


Verse 20

Genesis 48:20 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.

Ver. 20. And he set Ephraim before.] God many times sets the younger before the elder; makes the last to be first, and the first last; to show the freedom of his grace, and that "he seeth not as man seeth." [1 Samuel 16:7] The maids were first purified and perfmned, before Ahasuerus chose one. But Christ first loves, and then purifies his Church, [Ephesians 5:25-26] and loves, because he loves. [Deuteronomy 7:7-8] "And hath mercy on whom he will have mercy." [Romans 9:18]


Verse 21

Genesis 48:21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.

Ver. 21. Behold, I die.] This was a speech of faith, uttered without the least fear, consternation, or dismayment. As it was no more betwixt God and Moses, but "Go up and die"; so betwixt God and Jacob, but "Behold, I die." Death, he knew, to him should neither be total, but of the body only; nor perpetual of the body, but for a season only. See both these set forth by the apostle, Romans 8:10-11. The Chaldee Paraphrast on this text hath: Behold, I die; and the word of the Lord, i.e., Christ, shall be your help.


Verse 22

Genesis 48:22 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.

Ver. 22. I have given thee one portion.] Joseph had the double portion, as Judah the dignity, from Reuben; who had forfeited both by his incest. And here it appeareth that the right of the firstborn to a double portion was in force and in use before that law; [Deuteronomy 21:17] as was also the Sabbath, circumcision, and the raising up seed to a deceased brother.

With my sword and with my bow.] That is, With the warlike weapons of my sons, Simeon and Levi, whose victory he ascribeth to himself; not as it was wickedly got by his sons, for so he disavows and detests it, [Genesis 49:5] but as by a miracle from heaven, the Canaanites were held in from revenging that slaughter, and made to fear his force and valour. The Chaldee Paraphrast expounds it metaphorically; I took it with my sword and my bow; hoc est, oratione et deprecatione mea, saith he; by my prayer and supplication. Prayers, indeed, are bornbardae et instrumenta bellica Christianorum, saith Luther; a Christian’s best arms and ammunition. The Jesuits pretend and protest that they have no other weapons or ways to work, but preces et lachrymas. Whereas it is too well known that they are the greatest incendiaries and boutefeux of Christendom, and their faction a most agile sharp sword, whose blade is sheathed at pleasure in the bowels of every commonwealth; but the handle reacheth to Rome and Spain.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 48:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-48.html. 1865-1868.

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