Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
7 As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”
8 When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” 9 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.” 10 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. 11 And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” 12 Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
Jacob prepares to bless Joseph’s two sons. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
(7) Rachel died by me.—Heb., died upon me, or as we should say, “died in my arms.” The mention of Rachel is to account for an act so authoritative as the bestowal of the double portion of the firstborn upon Joseph. Jacob grounds the justification of his act, not upon her being the chief wife, but upon her untimely death, which prevented her bearing other sons. Even now Leah, if we count Levi, had six tribes, each handmaid two, and Rachel three.
The same is Beth-lehem.—A note added subsequently, when the place was famous as the birthplace of David. It would not be called Beth-lehem until corn was cultivated there.
This is an interesting justification. It’s not just that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, or that Joseph suffered slavery and still saved his family, it is that Rachel’s place as “chief wife” merits Joseph receiving a double portion. From The Pulpit Commentaries:
And as for me (literally, and I, the pronoun being emphatic), when I came from Padan,—literally, in my coming, i.e. while on my journey, from Padam, or Padan-aram. This is the only place where the shorter designation is employed (cf. Genesis 25:20)—Rachel—the mention to Joseph of his beloved mother could not fail to kindle emotion in his breast, as obviously it had revived a pang of sorrow in that of the old man—” the remembrance of the never-to-be-forgotten one’ causing a sudden spasm of feeling” (Delitzsch)—died by me—not for me in the sense of sharing with me my toils and perils, and so bringing on herself the deadly travail which cut her off (Lunge), which is too subtle and metaphysical in its refinement; but either upon me, i.e. as an heavy affliction falling on me (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Murphy, et alii); or at my side, i.e. near me (Keil, Wordsworth, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’); or perhaps to me, meaning, This happened to me, or, I saw Rachel die (Kalisch); or possibly with a touch of tender emotion, Rachel to me, i.e. my Rachel died (Tayler Lewis)—in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way—literally, a length of ground; the LXX. add ἱππόδρομος, meaning probably such a distance as a horse can go without being over-worked (vide Genesis 35:16)—to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.
The commentary here does not speculate about Jacob’s motivation for giving Joseph’s line two tribes. It focuses instead on the likely emotion surrounding the mention of Rachel, Joseph’s mother. Continuing with The Pulpit Commentaries:
And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these? The failing sight of the patriarch (Genesis 48:10) probably was the reason why he did not sooner recognize his grandchildren, and the fact that he did not at first discern their presence shows that his adoption of them into the number of the theocratic family was prompted not by the accidental impulse of a natural affection excited through beholding the youths, but by the inward promptings of the Spirit of God.
The commentary assumes here that the question is literal, rather than ceremonial, and the surrounding circumstances could certainly point in the direction of literal. On the same verse, from Ellicott:
(8) Who are these?—This question is asked as the solemn turning of the discourse to the young men who were now to be invested with the patriarchal rank. They were at this time about eighteen or twenty years of age.
Here, though, Ellicott implies that the question may have been – at least in part – ceremonial. It was asked to start the proceedings. Continuing, and back to the Pulpit Commentaries:
And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons (of whom you have just spoken), whom God hath given me in this place. It speaks highly in Joseph’s favor that, after listening to Jacob’s promise regarding Ephraim and Manasseh, he did not seek to draw his aged father’s attention to the young men before him, but quietly waited for Jacob to take the initiative in any further communications of a personal nature that he might wish to address to them. And he (i.e. Jacob) said Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.
Now (literally, and) the eyes of Israel were dim (literally, heavy) for age, so that he could not see. This explains why he did not earlier recognize his grandchildren, and why he asked them to be set close by his bed. And he (their father) brought them near unto him; and he (their old grandfather) kissed them, and embraced them (cf. Isaac’s blessing of Jacob, Genesis 27:26, Genesis 27:27).
And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God (Elohim) hath showed me also thy seed. The first half of Israel’s utterance is rendered by the LXX. “Ιδοὺ τοῦ προσώπου σου οὐκ ἐστερήθην”
Joseph presents his two sons two his father. We see that Jacob – like his father Isaac – became blind in his own age. This is of course not their first meeting. Jacob spent years in Egypt before dying. He may have been able to meet these two sons, much sooner, and he may have done so when his eyes were in better health. We are left in the dark as to this as the reader.
Finally, concluding the section, first with Ellicott:
(12) He bowed himself.—The Samaritan, Syriac, and LXX. Versions regard the Hebrew verb as a contracted plural, and many modern commentators adopt this view. It would thus be Manasseh and Ephraim who stood before Jacob with faces bent towards the ground. The pronoun, however, is in favour of the verb being singular, and the sense it gives is equally satisfactory.
The Pulpit Commentaries explains the verse as follows:
And Joseph brought them out from between his knees (literally, from near his knees, i.e. the knees of his father, who while in the act of embracing had drawn them into that position), and he (viz. Joseph) bowed himself with his face to the earth. The reading “and they bowed themselves,” i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh (Samaritan, Michaelis), and the rendering καὶ προσκύνησαν αὐτῴ (LXX.), are incorrect.
In the next section, Jacob will begin blessing the men who will be the namesakes of tribes.