Hebrews 11:21

21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.

Hebrews 11:21 Meaning and Commentary

Hebrews 11:21

By faith Jacob, when he was a dying
Which was the usual time of blessing with the patriarchs; and the reason of it was, that what was said might be more attended to and regarded, and more strongly impressed upon the mind; and this is a proof that it was done in faith by Jacob, when there was no appearance of the fulfilment of these things, and it was not likely that he should see them; and this shows the truth of what the apostle says in ( Hebrews 11:1 Hebrews 11:13 ) , blessed both the sons of Joseph; whose names were Ephraim and Manasseh; the form of blessing them is recorded in ( Genesis 48:15 Genesis 48:16 ) and which was done in faith, and under the direction and inspiration of the Spirit of God, as appears by his setting Ephraim before Manasseh, ( Genesis 48:13 Genesis 48:14 Genesis 48:17-19 ) and when he delivered the blessing he firmly believed it would be fulfilled, though they were then in a strange land:

and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff;
not that he "worshipped the top of his staff", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it, either his own, or Joseph's, or any little image upon the top of it; which would be an instance of idolatry, and not faith, contrary to the scope of the apostle; nor is there any need to interpret this of civil worship and respect paid to Joseph, as a fulfilment of his dream, and with a peculiar regard to Christ, of whom Joseph was a type; whereas, on the contrary, Joseph at this time bowed to his father, as was most natural and proper, ( Genesis 48:12 ) nor is there any necessity of supposing a different punctuation of ( Genesis 47:31 ) and that the true reading is not "mittah", a bed, but "matteh"; a staff, contrary to all the Targums F6, and the Talmud {g}, which read "mittah", a bed, seeing it is not that place the apostle cites or refers to; for that was before the blessing of the sons of Joseph, but this was at the same time; and the apostle relates what is nowhere recorded in Genesis, but what he had either from tradition, or immediate revelation; or else he concludes it from the general account in ( Genesis 48:1-12 ) and the sense is, that Jacob, having blessed the two sons of Joseph, being sat upon his bed, and weak, he leaned upon the top of his staff, and worshipped God, and gave praise and glory to him, that he had lived to see not only his son Joseph, but his seed also, see ( Genesis 48:2 Genesis 48:11 Genesis 48:20 ) .


F6 Onkelos, Jonathan & Jerusalem in Gen. xlvii. 31.
F7 T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 16. 2.

Hebrews 11:21 In-Context

19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.
21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.
22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.
23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.
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