Genesis 48:14
And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it on Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.
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(14) Guiding his hands wittingly.—The LXX., Syriac, and Vulg. translate, “placing his hands crosswise;” but the Targum of Onkelos favours the translation of our version. There is some amount of philological support for the rendering of the three chief versions; but it must mainly rest upon their own authority, which is, however, very great.

48:8-22 The two good men own God in their comforts. Joseph says, They are my sons whom God has given me. Jacob says, God hath showed me thy seed. Comforts are doubly sweet to us when we see them coming from God's hand. He not only prevents our fears, but exceeds our hopes. Jacob mentions the care the Divine providence had taken of him all his days. A great deal of hardship he had known in his time, but God kept him from the evil of his troubles. Now he was dying, he looked upon himself as redeemed from all sin and sorrow for ever. Christ, the Angel of the covenant, redeems from all evil. Deliverances from misery and dangers, by the Divine power, coming through the ransom of the blood of Christ, in Scripture are often called redemption. In blessing Joseph's sons, Jacob crossed hands. Joseph was willing to support his first-born, and would have removed his father's hands. But Jacob acted neither by mistake, nor from a partial affection to one more than the other; but from a spirit of prophecy, and by the Divine counsel. God, in bestowing blessings upon his people, gives more to some than to others, more gifts, graces, and comforts, and more of the good things of this life. He often gives most to those that are least likely. He chooses the weak things of the world; he raises the poor out of the dust. Grace observes not the order of nature, nor does God prefer those whom we think fittest to be preferred, but as it pleases him. How poor are they who have no riches but those of this world! How miserable is a death-bed to those who have no well-grounded hope of good, but dreadful apprehensions of evil, and nothing but evil for ever!He now observes and proceeds to bless the two sons of Joseph. "Who are these?" The sight and the observant faculties of the patriarch were now failing. "Bring them now unto me, and I will bless them." Jacob is seated on the couch, and the young men approach him. He kisses and folds his arms around them. The comforts of his old age come up before his mind. He had not expected to see Joseph again in the flesh, and now God had showed him his seed. After these expressions of parental fondness, Joseph drew them back from between his knees, that he might present them in the way that was distinctive of their age. He then bowed with his face to the earth, in reverential acknowledgment of the act of worship about to be performed. Joseph expected the blessing to be regulated by the age of his sons, and is therefore, careful to present them so that the right hand of his dim-sighted parent may, without any effort, rest on the head of his first-born. But the venerable patriarch, guided by the Spirit of him who doth according to his own will, designedly lays his right hand on the head of the younger, and thereby attributes to him the greater blessing.

The imposition of the hand is a primitive custom which here for the first time comes into notice. It is the natural mode of marking out the object of the benediction, signifying its conveyance to the individual, and implying that it is laid upon him as the destiny of his life. It may be done by either hand; but when each is laid on a different object, as in the present case, it may denote that the higher blessing is conveyed by the right hand. The laying on of both hands on one person may express the fulness of the blessing conveyed, or the fullness of the desire with which it is conveyed.

13. Joseph took them both—The very act of pronouncing the blessing was remarkable, showing that Jacob's bosom was animated by the spirit of prophecy. The

right hand was more honourable both in Scripture account, and amongst the Gentiles.

Laid it upon Ephraim’s head; which was a rite used often, and in divers cases, as in the conferring of offices either sacred or civil, as Numbers 8:10 Deu 34:9 Acts 6:6 13:3; and among other things, in giving benedictions, as Matthew 19:13.

Guiding his hands wittingly; this proceeded not from chance, or the mistake and weakness of his eyes, but from design, and the wisdom of his hands. Heb. He disposed his hands prudently, or, he dealt wisely with his hands. Here was a double wisdom showed.

1. Human, by which he gathered that Manasseh was the eldest, because Joseph placed him towards his right hand.

2. Divine and prophetical, by which he foresaw Ephraim’s advantage above Manasseh, and wisely suited the ceremony to the substance, giving the greater sign of honour to him, to whom God designed the thing. And Israel stretched out his right hand,.... Not directly forward, but across, or otherwise it would have been laid on Manasseh, as Joseph designed it should by the position he placed him in:

and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, the right hand being the strongest and most in use, as it was reckoned most honourable to sit at it, so to have it imposed, as being significative of the greater blessing:

and his left hand upon Manasseh's head; who was the older:

guiding his hands wittingly; this was not done accidentally, but on purpose: or made his "hands to understand" (q), they acted as if they understood what he would have done, as Aben Ezra; as if they were conscious of what should be, or would be; though he could not see clearly and distinctly, yet he knew, by the position of them before him, which was the elder and which was the younger: he knew that Joseph would set the firstborn in such a position before him as naturally to put his right hand on him, and the younger in such a position as that it would be readiest for him to put his left hand on him; and therefore, being under a divine impulse and spirit of prophecy, by which he discerned that the younger was to have the greater blessing, he crossed his bands, or changed them, and put his right hand on Ephraim, and his left hand on Manasseh:

for Manasseh was the firstborn; or rather, though (r) he was the firstborn, as Aben Ezra.

(q) "intelligere fecit suas manus", Paguinus, Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Cartwright. (r) "tametsi", Tigurine version; "quamvis", Piscator; so some in Fagius.

And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon {d} Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

(d) God's judgments are often contrary to man's and he prefers what man despises.

14. guiding his hands wittingly] Better, as R.V. marg., crossing his hands. So LXX ἐναλλὰξ τὰς χεῖρας = “the hands crosswise”; Lat. commutans manus.

The aged Jacob is moved by a supernatural impulse to cross his hands as he blesses the two boys; and their destinies are determined accordingly.Verse 14. - And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, - the first instance of the imposition of hands being used as a symbol of blessing. Though not necessarily connected with the form of benediction, it is not without a natural fitness to suggest the transmission of spiritual benefit. Accordingly it afterwards became the recognized mode of conveying to another some supernatural power or gift, and was employed in the Old Testament Church in the dedication of priests (Numbers 27:18, 23; Deuteronomy 34:9), and in the New in the ordination of Christian office-bearers (Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), as well as by the Savior and his apostles in the performance of many of their miracles (Matthew 19:13; Mark 8:23, 25; Acts 9:17; Acts 19:6; Acts 28:8) - who was the younger (literally, and he the little one, i.e. the younger), and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly; - literally, he placed his hands, prudently, i.e. of set purpose, the piel of שָׂכַל, to look at, conveying the intensive signification of acting with prudence and deliberation (Gesenius, Furst); intelligere fecit manus suas hoc est, docte, scite, et petite imposuit eis manus (Vatablus, vide Glass. 'Phil Tract.,' p. 761); a rendering of the words which has been adopted by the best scholars (Calvin, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Taylor Lewis, and others), though the translation, "he crossed his hands," which regards שִׂכֵּל as the pile of an unused root signifying to intertwine, ἐναλλὰξ τὰς χεῖρας (LXX.), commutans marius (Vulgate), is not entirely destitute of learned supporters (Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, Pererius, Knobel, Delitzsch, Gerlach, and others) - for Manasseh was the firstborn. The Blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh. - Genesis 48:8. Jacob now for the first time caught sight of Joseph's sons, who had come with him, and inquired who they were; for "the eyes of Israel were heavy (dim) with age, so that he could not see well" (Genesis 48:10). The feeble old man, too, may not have seen the youths for some years, so that he did not recognise them again. On Joseph's answering, "My sons whom God hath given he mere," he replied, "Bring them to me then (קחם־נא), that I may bless them;" and he kissed and embraced them, when Joseph had brought them near, expressing his joy, that whereas he never expected to see Joseph's face again, God had permitted him to see his seed. ראה for ראות, like עשׂו (Genesis 31:28). עלּל: to decide; here, to judge, to think.
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