Bible studies with Don Isaac Abravanel’s commentary (also spelled Abarbanel) has withstood the test of
time. For over five centuries, Abravanel has delighted – and enlightened – clergy and layman alike,
offering enduring interpretations of the Bible.
Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. Chapter 48 brings Bible students closer to Jacob’s final days. The patriarch summoned
Joseph, as our chapter recounts. The blind patriarch revealed to Joseph divine secrets about the future,
a destiny that Heaven laid bare before him in Luz, decades earlier.
“And Jacob said unto Joseph: God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in
the land of Canaan, and blessed me. And said unto me: Behold, I will
make you fruitful…. And I will make of you a company of peoples, and
will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession.
And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said: Who are these? And Joseph
said unto his father: They are my sons, Whom God has given me
here…Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not
Abravanel zeroes in on the father-son dialogue. Jacob, as stated, revealed to Joseph that which the
Creator had foretold in Luz. Mysteries galore. Now, as he lies dying, the hoary patriarch could make out
shadows of two men within earshot, hearing Jacob’s divine secrets. It prompted Jacob to ask: “Who are
these?” Answering, Joseph responded: “They are my sons, Whom God has given me here.”
Abravanel asks concerning Joseph’s answer: Why did Joseph tell his father that God had given him two
sons in Egypt? Jacob, of course, knew that when Joseph went to Egypt, he was single and had no
Abravanel clarifies what Joseph meant. Jacob realized that his private conversation with Joseph, was,
well, not private. Two others had been present, eliciting the visually-impaired patriarch’s curiosity:
“Who are these?” Joseph had been listening intently, as his father revealed the future, things he had
heard in Luz. “They are my sons, Whom God has given me here,” Joseph replies.
Joseph wanted to show Jacob that he understood God’s prescient message, uttered in Luz. “Here” does
not refer to location – Egypt. The fact that Ephraim and Manasseh were not born in Canaan was
abundantly clear. Instead, Joseph conveyed the reason behind his fathering two sons in Egypt. “They are
my sons, Whom God has given me here.” That is, as Joseph processed and internalized what God had
foretold to Jacob in Luz.
“And said unto me: Behold, I will make you fruitful…And I will make of you a company of peoples…”
Because of that prophecy spoken in Luz, Joseph comprehended that he had been blessed by Above with
these two sons. Put differently, Joseph realized that elements of the Luz communication materialized. As
a consequence of God’s promise, he had fathered Ephraim and Manasseh in Egypt.