My Sons (Genesis 48:1-7)

Over the last few months Annie and I have been making end of life arrangements.  Nothing sobers you up and makes you feel grown up like planning for your death.  What will I do if Annie dies?  What will she do after I die? (After celebrating of course!)  What will happen to all the kids if we both pass?  What do we want to happen to our bodies?  Who will manage our assets for the kids?  Who will carry out our wishes?  There is a lot of planning.  

While nowhere near as old as Jacob, and not looking death in the eye, I can feel on some level what he feels in wanting to make all the arrangements for his death.  From the end of chapter 47 all the way til the end of chapter 49 we see the different end of life tasks Jacob is tending to:  we saw his burial plans last week, this week we see him adopt Joseph’s sons, in the following 2-3 weeks we’ll study the blessings he gives to all of his sons.  

There is a symmetry in Jacob’s relationship with Joseph.  Jacob had Joseph for the first 17 years of his son’s life.  Then Jacob had Joseph again for the last 17 years of his own life. 

The sermon title is “My Boys.”  In our passage we’re going to see a very old Jacob, somewhere between 130 and 147 years old, have another meeting with his beloved son Joseph.  Last week we saw he made plans for his burial. In this meeting, Jacob will remind Joseph of God’s promises to him, adopt Joseph’s two oldest sons, and then reflect on his dead wife Rachel. 

Let us go today under 4 headings:  1) Jacob Rallies For Joseph, 2) Jacob Remembers God’s Promises, 3) Jacob Adopts Joseph’s Sons, 4) Jacob Remembers Rachel


First we see Jacob rallies.  Read verses 1-2

The aged Jacob falls ill and his son, Joseph goes to see him.  And he does something very wise and kind:  he brings his sons:  Manasseh (“forget”) and Ephraim (“twice fruitful”).  His sons at this point are probably somewhere in their teens – around the same age as Joseph when he disappeared.  You could imagine how Jacob would’ve felt looking at them – especially if they looked like their father Joseph when he was a teenager.  

I say it was wise and kind for Joseph to bring them because there is something about youth that invigorates the aged, isn’t there?  Look at verse 2 and how it says Jacob “rallied his strength and sat up in bed.”  I think one reason is because he had important things to say to Joseph, as we’ll see.  But I also think it was the unfading joy of seeing his son and young grandsons.

APPLICATION:  Honor the aged by bringing your youth around them.  Give them the joy of your presence. Let’s teach our youth to honor the aged by bringing them around.    

I’ve brought my kids to nursing homes to visit before and people just light up when those little buggers come in.  I’m fussing over their manners and sitting still but the more rambunctious they were the more the residents loved it.  So I started pumping ‘em full of candy and dropping ‘em off!  

In his book “How To Grow Old” Cicero says, “What indeed could be more pleasant than an old age surrounded by the enthusiasm of youth?”  I’m sure the joy of seeing Joseph never diminished those 17 years.  Imagine the joy he felt as a grandpa everytime he was around Joseph’s boys.


So Joseph comes in with Manasseh and Ephraim, and Jacob is all ready for them, sitting up, having rallied his strength.  The first thing Jacob wants to talk to Joseph about was remembering God’s Word to him.  Notice verses 3-4. 

What Jacob is doing is recounting the word of God to him.  You’ll notice the details that Jacob mentions include a very familiar promise we’ve been seeing repeated since Genesis 12:  numerous descendents and possessing the land of Canaan forever.  God made these promises originally to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather.  Then they passed to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and God repeated those same promises to Isaac. Then those promises passed to Jacob, Isaac’s son, and God came to him as well repeating his promise to give him many descendents and an eternal possession of the land of Canaan.  This is why God used the formula for the rest of the Bible “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” or “I am the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  

APPLICATION:  God’s plans for me are far bigger than the scope of my short little life here on earth.  As personally blessed by God as they were, what God was doing with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was much bigger than any one of them.  Though they were foundational, God’s plans in using them went far beyond their lifespans and far beyond them personally.  Shall we not also bear in mind that what God does or does not do in our lives is all part of something much bigger than just us?  Can’t we expect that what goes in during our lives will have ramifications beyond our lives?  Yes, I think we can and I think we should.   

APPLICATION:  Let your mind dwell on God’s Word when you’re old and/or when you’re sick.  Jacob was both old and in this moment ill.  But where were his thoughts?  On the things God had said.  “On my bed I remember you” Psalm 63 says, “I think of you through the watches of the night.”  Or Psalm 119, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.”  Elderly:  show us who are younger what it looks like to be delightful centered on the words of God.  Show us what it looks like when an aging mind forgets other things it still remembers God’s words.

APPLICATION:  Do the children of EFC have parents and grandparents who talk with them about God’s Word?  Look at how freely and eagerly here Jacob talks with his son and his grandsons about what God has said.  As parents and grandparents are we that free and that eager?  

Do you know that biblically it is moms and dads who are to be talking the most with their kids about God’s word.  Not we pastors, not youth pastors, not Christian school teachers, not coaches, not their friends.  But parents.  Like Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “Impress [God’s commands] on your children.  Talk about them…”  Turn to Proverbs 1 with me.  

What stands out to me is that Proverbs is written from the perspective of a father to his sons.  Godly wisdom, which comes from God’s word, is communicated to kids from their parents.  Look at verse 8….then 2:1….then 3:1….then see 4:1-4 is a father says that his father taught him godly wisdom and now he is teaching his son that wisdom….it goes on through the entire prologue up to chapter 10….4:10-11, 20….5:1, 7, 20….6:1, 3, 20….7:1, 2….then the actual sayings begin in chapter 10 and the very first one is “A wise son brings joy to his father!”  Nine chapters emphasizing a parent investing in the wisdom

Do the children of EFC have parents and grandparents who talk with them about the word of God?  Are moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas sources of godly wisdom for kids?

Understand that the reason Jacob is recounting all this to Joseph in that moment is because Jacob believed God’s Word to him.  Second Corinthians 4:13 says, “I believed therefore I have spoken.”  He is talking about God’s word because he believes God’s word.  

APPLICATION:  When we believe God’s word, and we love God’s word, we will talk about God’s word.  If nowhere else, let us talk about it in the home, as Deuteronomy 6 says, “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  What you love you will talk about.  If you want to know what you love most just pay attention to what you talk about most.  Let God’s Word be what we talk about.


Thirdly we see Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons.  Follow along in verses 5 and 6 with me…

Jacob says that Joseph’s first two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, will be reckoned as his own.  Actually in the Hebrew Jacob says it even more bluntly, “They are mine.”  What it means is that even though they are his grandsons they will be regarded as his own sons.  (First we saw Jacob “take” his brother Esau’s blessing and now we have him “taking” his son’s sons!)

This significance of Jacob adopting the two boys is related to the land inheritance.  In the future when the Israelites took possession of the land that God was giving them, it would be divided among the 12 sons of Israel.  You can see this is where Jacob is going in verse 6 when he says, “Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers.”  What that means is Ephraim and Manasseh will be treated like Jacob’s actual sons and have their own division of land – just like the other 10 sons of Israel getting land.  Any other sons born to Joseph would get land in Canaan – but it would come from dividing up the land that would be called Ephraim and Manasseh.

This is a HUGE promotion for Joseph’s sons and a huge honor to Joseph.  When the Isrealites took possession of the land of Canaan and the land was divided up among the 12 sons of Israel, the sons of Joseph would be among them.  If you look at the maps in the back of your bible you’ll notice the land was divided up into 12 sections and each section had one of Jacob’s son’s names.  You’ll also notice that two of those sections of land had the names:  Manasseh and Ephraim.  No other grandson of Jacob had that honor.  But both of Joseph’s sons were elevated in that way.  

If you’re like me you might be trying to do the math:  “If we add 2 to 12 that makes 14.  So how can there only be 12 sections of land in Israel if the land is going to be divided among 14 and not 12?”  The answer is because 2 actual sons of Jacob won’t be getting their own land.  So if you start with the twelve sons and subtract Levi and Joseph, you have ten.  Then add in Joseph’s sons and you have 12 again.  The Levites would end up not receiving any land because they were the priests and Joseph’s two sons received land on his behalf.

Now we see a connection between Jacob recounting God’s promises and Jacob adopting the two boys.  God promised the land to Jacob’s descendents, and the great honor of being a son of Jacob was that you would not only possess the land but get a section of that land named after you.  And here Jacob is making the unique move of adopting two grandsons so that they can have two sections of that promised land named after them as well.  Their inheritance was not as sons of Joseph, but as sons of Israel.  

There is more to it here though.  Let me point out two more big-picture points this adoption relates to.

First, Since Joseph was given the rights of the firstborn he was to receive a double portion of his father’s inheritance.  A double portion.  So rather than Joseph receiving one portion in his name, what was going to happen was two of his sons would each receive a portion of land.  A double portion for Joseph.

Second, Jacob adopting these two sons is a divine provision for future national need.  As mentioned earlier, not all of the 12 sons of Jacob would receive land.  The tribe of Levi would become the priestly tribe and as such they would not receive an inheritance of land.  So with Joseph and Levi not receiving any land the two sons of Joseph would become two “sons” to Jacob who would bring the number back to twelve for the land inheritance.  That whole situation would not come about for another several hundred years.  But God was providing for it now through Jacob adopting Joseph’s two sons. 


Finally we see Jacob remembering Rachel.  Verse 7…

It seems like an out of left field rambling from Jacob at first.  Then on second thought, it seems to make sense he would think of her at that moment and talk about her.  

First, because she was Joseph’s mother, and he was talking to Joseph.  Looking at Joseph probably reminded him of her.  Looking at her grandsons probably reminded him of her.  Who would Jacob have been most inclined to talk to about Rachel?  Who would’ve been most interested in hearing about her?  Joseph, her son.  And Manasseh and Ephraim her grandsons.  

Second, because Jacob’s focus in the previous verse was the land of Canaan and someday going back.  He was discussing the land his grandsons would inherit along with the rest of his sons.  His mind was on the land.  It was in that land that Jacob buried Rachel.  In a way, it may have made him miss her even more.  He wasn’t near her anymore now that she was dead, but he was no longer near her anymore in another sense since he wasn’t in the land he buried her in.  

We notice the providence of God in the burial of Jacob’s wives.  Leah was Jacob’s first wife.  The wife he didn’t love.  She was the older sister of Rachel.  She is the one who would be buried with Jacob (49:31).  This is more appropriate.  Even though Jacob loved Rachel more, it was more fitting for the first wife of Jacob to be buried with Jacob. So as God had it, Rachel died in their travels and was buried in Bethlehem (35:19)  


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