48:1-7 Joseph, accompanied by his two eldest sons, visited Jacob again. Summoning his strength on this last day of his life, Jacob sat up in bed and spoke with Joseph of how God Almighty (El Shaddai; see note at 17:1) gave a second revelation to him at Bethel, more than fifty years earlier (35:9-12). Recounting God’s promise to make him fruitful and numerous, Jacob now became even more fruitful by adopting Manasseh and Ephraim, counting them as his primary heirs (1Ch 5:1). Ephraim and Manasseh would receive the blessings of the first- and second-born, instead of Reuben and Simeon, who had previously dishonored Jacob (Gn 34:25-30).
Any other sons born to Joseph would be recorded under the names of their older brothers, and their inheritance would be split with the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh. All of Jacob’s descendants would receive the land of Canaan as a permanent possession. The mention of Rachel references the events associated with Benjamin’s birth (35:16-20).
48:9-12 Jacob used his last measure of strength to bless his sons, beginning with the two newly adopted ones. Before blessing them, Jacob kissed and embraced them (cp. 27:26-27). Though his eyesight was poor because of old age (cp. 27:1), God let him see once more not only Joseph but also his offspring.
48:13-16 Joseph presented Ephraim (at his right hand side) and Manasseh (at his left hand side) to Jacob in hopes that Jacob would reach out with his right hand and confer the greater blessing to the elder son, Manasseh, who was standing to Joseph’s left. But Jacob crossed his arms and put his right hand . . . on the head of Ephraim, the younger, thus symbolically conferring the greater blessing on him. Jacob then blessed Joseph, but because his two hands were on Joseph’s sons, it was they who received the blessing. Calling on the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac, who had been his shepherd (cp. Ps 23:1; 80:1; Ezk 34:11-12; Jn 10:11) all his life, Jacob’s requests on behalf of Ephraim and Manasseh included that they would be called by the names of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac, that is, that they would identify with God’s covenant people, not with Egyptian culture and religion.
48:17-20 Frustrated because it seemed that his nearly blind father had made a mistake, Joseph took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head. Emboldened by prophetic insight, however, Jacob refused to move his hands because by God’s own hand Ephraim’s blessings were ordained to exceed Manasseh’s. Manasseh would become a tribe, but his younger brother Ephraim would become something more—a populous nation. Even so, both would be blessed so richly that in the future Israel would invoke blessings by asking God to make someone like Ephraim and Manasseh. The placement of Ephraim’s name before Manasseh’s foreshadowed his later superiority. Because of Ephraim’s leading position in later Israelite history, prophets often referred to the entire northern kingdom of Israel as Ephraim (Is 7:5; Jr 31:20; Ezk 37:16; Hs 5:13; Zch 10:7).