13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.

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

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,

16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

Joseph presented his sons on either side of Jacob, Manasseh aligned with the right hand and Ephraim with the left. Thus, to put his right hand on Ephraim’s head instead, Jacob must have crossed his arms in front of his body, an action that is clearly intentional.

Then he begins his blessing, invoking upon Joseph’s sons the protection and nourishment of the same God that has preserved his grandfather, father, and himself. Previously, God had promised these men that they would be fed and cared for, and that they would become fathers to a great multitude. Now the same blessings are being given to them, passing along the covenant of Abraham as their very own.

I find particularly interesting that Jacob also calls on “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil” to “bless the lads.” Most assume that “the Angel” is another term for Jesus Christ, given how it is mentioned as “redeeming from all evil.” It should be noted that the word used in the original Hebrew is “malak,” which means “a messenger,”” and is almost exclusively used throughout the bible when common emissaries of God, angels, are being described. Obviously in its English translation it is being rendered with a capital “A,” suggesting it is not just “an angel,” but “THE Angel,” as in THE messenger of God’s gospel, the one sent to bring knowledge of and fulfillment of God’s will. The word “malak” does not suggest such a special designation, though, it would seem the capitalization is being used simply to fit the assumption that this is a reference to Christ.

Honestly, it seems a confusing interpretation either way to me, but exactly what Jacob meant by saying “malak” frankly isn’t very important. Perhaps he meant Christ, or perhaps he felt he had a guardian angel. If the latter, perhaps he meant the one who had wrestled with him or had assured him of a safe reunion with Esau, and he wanted the same guardianship to be over these grandsons as well. Regardless of whom exactly Jacob meant, it is clear he intended for these grandsons to be cared for as he had been.

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