Because Joseph had been a special son to Jacob, Joseph's sons were special to their grandfather as well. The NIV study notes on this portion of the text state that Jacob, at his death, adopted Joseph's first two children as his own and in doing that divided Joseph's inheritance in the land of Canaan between them. "Joseph's first two sons would enjoy equal status with Jacob's first two sons [Reuben and Simeon] and in fact would eventually supersede them. Because of an earlier sinful act, Reuben would lose his birthright to Jacob's favorite son, Joseph, and thus to Joseph's sons."
All of this becomes greatly significant later in the history of the nation of Israel, and it makes this last scene with Jacob and his grandsons extremely important.
Perhaps it is my own practical nature, but I see something of great value for us here also. It has to do with how and where Jacob died in contrast to how and where we die. Jacob died on his own bed, at home. Rarely does that occur today. We have fallen upon strange times. Birth has become more and more of a family affair, often with the entire family being present in the "birth suite" when the baby is born. Wonderful change from the way things used to be! On the other hand, death has become relegated more and more to the cold and sometimes uncaring comfort of professionals and the sterile environment of a busy hospital and, later, the funeral home or graveside chapel. Only in recent years have we begun to see the hospice movement growing, where people are allowed to spend their last days at home with those they love alongside to support them and encourage them in their final earthly journey.
Joseph's sons were with their grandfather as he approached those final moments. They felt his hand on their foreheads and heard his tender, wise words of blessing. "May God bless the nation as He blesses you." What a moment! Perhaps Manasseh and Ephraim were kneeling beside their granddad. What a lasting impact for good on the lives of those two young men!
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.