8 And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these? 9 And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. 10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. 11 And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed. 12 And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.
At first, I wondered whether this was a senile moment from Jacob, not recognizing his own grandsons, but then he says: “I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed.” This suggests that this was his first time meeting the boys.
Joseph already had his own responsibilities and circle of life established in Egypt. He is responsible for the lives of countless souls, and it is not too difficult to imagine that he has been very preoccupied since he welcomed his father to the land.
Thus, it seems that this is both Ephraim and Manasseh’s first time meeting the patriarch and the last. What a strange experience that must have been. This man is top of the trunk of their family tree, but he is from a land and a people that they have never known. Though their father, Joseph, has presumably kept them within the traditions of their people, all the world around them has been the customs of the Egyptians.
Jacob adopting them into his inheritance might also be seen as adopting them back into the fold of their heritage. This is an opportunity to refresh in their hearts their true country and master: the promised land and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
And as for Jacob, this final moment to meet his grandsons brings out sweet declarations. Returning to his statement, “I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed,” I hear a great sense of fatherly contentment. He had thought that he had lost Joseph, but now he has his son restored, and also has been able to live long enough to see him as a grown man with children of his own, a man like unto himself. A branch that Jacob thought he had lost had been returned, abundant and fruitful.