A Backward Blessing
A few months later, Joseph was told that his father Jacob was ill, so he went to visit him with his sons Manasseh and Ephraim. 2 When he arrived at Jacob’s house, Jacob was sitting in bed looking pallid and sweaty.
3 Jacob said, ‘When God appeared to me at Luz…’
‘Where’s Luz?’ interrupted Joseph.
4 ‘Bethel,’ sighed Jacob. ‘Anyway, he told me I was going to be fruitful, which was a euphemism for banging four different women.’ Jacob grinned to himself.
Joseph shuddered at the thought.
5 Jacob continued, ‘He promised me the whole land of Canaan. 6 Now, there are going to be twelve tribes of Israelites, and I’ve decided that your sons Ephraim and Manasseh are going to be the progenitors of two of them. 7 You know, when your mother died on the way back from Paddan, I couldn’t be arsed to lug her body back to the Cave of Machpelah, so I just buried her by the side of the road in Ephrath.’
Joseph was shocked. ‘That’s awful. Mum deserved better than that!’
8 Israel looked at Joseph’s sons and yelled, ‘Who the fuck are they?’
9 ‘They’re my sons. You were just talking about them.’
‘Oh, okay,’ replied Israel more calmly. ‘Bring them here so that I can bless them.’
10 At this point, Israel was as blind as a bat, so Joseph picked up his sons and sat them on Israel’s lap even though they were in their 20s and rather heavy. 11 Israel hugged and kissed them, and then he said to him, ‘I never expected to see your face again, and, unfortunately, as I’m blind, I was right!’
12 The boys climbed off Israel’s knee and they and Joseph bowed in front of him. 13 Then Joseph had Ephraim, the elder, stand on Israel’s right and Manasseh, the younger, stand on his left so that they could receive their blessings. 14 However, Israel crossed his arms so that he put his right hand on Manasseh’s head and his left on Ephraim’s.
15 Then Israel blessed them saying:
God walked with my fathers
Isaac and Abraham.
He was their guiding shepherd,
And they were his sheep-men.
16 May God bless your sons, Joe.
How fruitful they will be.
You know that if I’d had a say,
They’d be named after me.
17 Joseph wasn’t too happy about this: the poem or his father blessing the younger before the elder son. 18 He tried to swap his father’s hands over, saying, ‘Listen, you blind old git. This one is the firstborn!’
19 ‘I know,’ replied Israel. ‘But, your younger son is better than the elder.’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘Because, when you placed them on my lap, Manasseh elbowed me in the crotch!’
20 Then he blessed them again saying, ‘I now pronounce you Ephraim and Manasseh. You may kiss each other.’
So, the boys kissed.
21 Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘I’m going to die soon.’
‘Yes, I know,’ sighed Joseph. ‘You’ve been saying this for months now.’
22 ‘I’m going to give you more land than your brothers. I have an extra plot I fought the Amorites for. You can have it.’
And thus, Israel still wasn’t dead.