As Jacob approaches death, he remembers his earlier return to Bethel (Genesis 35:1-15), when he received from God the renewed promise of the “everlasting possession” (Genesis 48:4) that was given to Abraham (Genesis 17:8). The hope of the Promised Land is, therefore, a comforting thought that nurtures his hope as he feels death coming. Jacob turns, then, to Joseph’s two sons, who were born in Egypt, and blesses them, but does so in the context of the future promise regarding his own seed.
Read Genesis 48:1-22. Why did Jacob bless Joseph’s two sons here, and not his other grandsons?
Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, are the only grandsons that Jacob blessed. They are thus elevated from the status of grandsons to the status of sons (Genesis 48:5). Although Jacob’s blessing implies a preeminence of the second (Ephraim) over the first (Manasseh), Jacob’s blessing concerns essentially Joseph (Genesis 48:15).
What we see here is a personal testimony about God’s faithfulness to them in the past and His promise for them in the future. Jacob refers to the God of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 48:15), who had provided food and protection for them. It is the same God who “has redeemed me from all evil” (Genesis 48:16, NKJV). Jacob also has in mind “the God of Bethel” (Genesis 31:13), with whom he wrestled (Genesis 32:29) and who changed his name from Jacob to “Israel” (Genesis 32:26-29).
By referring to all these experiences where God turns the evil into good, Jacob expresses his hope that not only will God take care of the present lives of his grandsons, just as He did for him and Joseph, he also thinks of the future, when his descendants will return to Canaan. This hope is clear from his reference to Shechem (Genesis 48:22), which is not only a piece of land that he had acquired (Genesis 33:19) but also a place where Joseph’s bones will be buried (Joshua 24:32) and where the land will be distributed to the tribes of Israel (Joshua 24:1). Even amid all that has happened, Jacob kept in mind the promises of God, who said that through this family “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, NKJV).