Lesson 39: Genesis 47–49

“Lesson 39: Genesis 47–49,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 39,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 39

Genesis 47–49


Jacob and his family settled in the land of Goshen in Egypt. Throughout the seven years of famine, Joseph wisely administered the affairs of Egypt. Joseph introduced his father, Jacob, to Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Before Jacob died, he blessed Joseph and his two grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh; Jacob then blessed his other eleven sons.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 47

Pharaoh allows Jacob and his family to dwell in the land of Goshen

Write the following on the board:

My Life:

Education or Training





Invite students to talk in pairs (or you could have them write on a piece of paper) about what they would like to accomplish in each of the categories on the board. After a few minutes, ask one or two students to talk briefly about their goals in each of these areas.

  • If you were to choose between your plan for your life and what Heavenly Father might have planned for your life, which would you choose? Why?

  • In what ways do you think Joseph’s life may have gone differently than he had planned?

Explain that because Joseph lived worthily, the Lord directed his life in a way that would allow Joseph to do much good and even save the lives of his family. Summarize Genesis 47 by explaining that Pharaoh invited Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his family to dwell in Egypt in the land of Goshen. When Joseph introduced his father to Pharaoh, Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Joseph wisely administered the affairs of Egypt during the famine, saving the lives of the people and gathering great wealth for Pharaoh.

Genesis 48

Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons and gives Ephraim the birthright

Explain that when Jacob was old, Joseph brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to visit him. Invite a student to read aloud Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 48:7–10 (in the Bible appendix). Ask the class to follow along and look for what Jacob said about Joseph.

  • What did Jacob say about Joseph?

Invite a student to read Genesis 48:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jacob wanted to do for Manasseh and Ephraim. Ask students to report what they learned.

Ask students to raise their hands if they have received a patriarchal blessing. Explain that the blessings Jacob desired to give Manasseh and Ephraim were similar to patriarchal blessings because they described Manasseh and Ephraim’s future possibilities.

Explain that Jacob was the patriarch of his family, which means he was the father or head of his family. As the prophet and presiding priesthood authority, Jacob was authorized to bestow blessings that were similar to what we know today as patriarchal blessings.

You might want to explain the difference in our day between a father’s blessing given by the patriarch of a family and a patriarchal blessing given by an ordained patriarch. A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may give his children healing blessings or blessings of comfort and counsel at any time. A patriarchal blessing may be given to any worthy member of the Church by a patriarch who has been called and ordained under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. A patriarchal blessing contains a declaration of the recipient’s lineage in the house of Israel as well as guidance to help direct his or her life according to Heavenly Father’s will. Those who wish to receive a patriarchal blessing must be interviewed by their bishop or branch president and receive a recommend.

Invite a student to read Genesis 48:13–14 aloud, and ask the class to identify what happened when Jacob laid his hands on Joseph’s sons.

  • Which hand did Jacob place on Ephraim’s head? (His right hand. You may want to explain that in Jacob’s day, a patriarch’s right hand usually was to be placed on the firstborn son’s head, symbolizing that the birthright blessing belonged to him.)

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Genesis 48:17–20. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Joseph reacted to the placement of Jacob’s hands. Ask students to report what they find.

  • Why did Jacob place his right hand on Ephraim?

  • How do you think Jacob knew that Ephraim was to receive the birthright blessing?

  • What can we learn about patriarchal blessings from Jacob blessing his grandsons? (After students answer, write the following truth on the board: Patriarchal blessings are given through the inspiration of God.)

The promises in a patriarchal blessing are conditional on the recipient’s faithfulness. To illustrate the importance of heeding warnings and following the counsel given in patriarchal blessings, read the following story as told by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:

Eyring, Henry B.

“Once, long ago, when I was serving as a bishop, a young woman in my ward came for an interview. We somehow got around to her telling me her feelings about her patriarchal blessing. She said that it depressed her rather than helped her. I must have looked surprised, because she explained her feelings by telling me this: She said that her blessing warned her about sexual immorality. And, at least by her report, it did little else. It apparently warned her by describing a situation in which she might find herself, and in which, if she yielded to temptation, she would come to great harm and sorrow. She said something about how that hurt her doubly, not only by being about something so depressing when she needed encouragement, but her social life then was so barren that such a situation could never arise. …

“I remember better the interview I had with her less than a year later. She sobbed for a while, sitting in a chair on the other side of my desk in the bishop’s office. And then she blurted out her tragedy and how it happened, exactly as she had told me the patriarch so long before had described. In her little season of doubt that a patriarch could see with inspiration, she had made choices that led to years of sorrow” (“‘And Thus We See’: Helping a Student in a Moment of Doubt” [evening with Elder Henry B. Eyring, Feb. 5, 1993], 1–2;

Invite a student who has received a patriarchal blessing to share how it has blessed his or her life or helped him or her make correct decisions. Caution the student not to share details of the blessing. If none of your students have received their blessings, or if no one wants to share, consider expressing your own feelings.

Encourage students who have not yet received their patriarchal blessings to ponder their own situations and consider what they must do to prepare or to be motivated to receive their blessings. Explain that to receive a patriarchal blessing, they will need to have an interview with their bishop or branch president, who can tell them how to proceed.

Without sharing the specifics of a patriarchal blessing, you may want to testify how you know that patriarchal blessings are given through the inspiration of God.

Note: The Young Women Personal Progress program includes a value experience that encourages young women to learn how to prepare to receive a patriarchal blessing (see Young Women Personal Progress [booklet, 2009], 30).

Genesis 49

Before his death, Jacob blesses his twelve sons

Display the picture Jacob Blessing His Sons (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 12; see also Explain that Genesis 49 recounts the blessings that Jacob gave to each of his twelve sons. You may want to suggest that students scan the chapter and mark the names of Jacob’s sons so they can quickly see where to find each son’s blessing.

Invite a student to read Genesis 49:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what Jacob was planning to tell his sons as he blessed them.

  • What did Jacob say he planned to reveal to his sons? (He planned to reveal what would happen to them, or their posterity, in the last days.)

Tell students that the two most detailed blessings were given to Judah and Joseph. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Judah’s blessing in Genesis 49:8–10. Ask the class to follow along and look for the blessings and prophecies that were given to the tribe of Judah. Explain that the word whelp means “offspring” and the word sceptre has reference to the right or authority to rule.

  • What are some of the blessings you found?

  • What are some of the prophecies you found? (Explain that the reference to “the sceptre” was an indication that kings, such as David and Solomon, would be among Judah’s posterity. In Hebrew, the name Shiloh means “He to whom it belongs” and refers to the Messiah. Joseph Smith affirmed that Shiloh is Jesus Christ, who would be born in the lineage of Judah.)

Ask a few students to take turns reading aloud from Joseph’s blessing in Genesis 49:22–26. Ask the class to follow along and search for blessings and prophecies given to Joseph and his posterity. Explain that the word bough in verse 22 refers to a large, strong branch.

  • What are some of the blessings you found?

  • What are some of the prophecies you found? (Help students understand that the prophecy that Joseph’s “branches [will] run over the wall” refers to the scattering of his posterity throughout the earth, especially across the sea to the Americas [see 1 Nephi 15:12]. Lehi’s family in the Book of Mormon would be “a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph” [Alma 10:3].)

Invite a student to read Genesis 49:28 aloud, and ask the class to look for something a righteous father can do for his family.

  • What can we learn from Jacob about being a righteous father? (Students should point out that a righteous father can bless his children.)

  • What can young men do now to prepare to be ready to bless their families?

Ask students if they have ever received a blessing from their father or from another priesthood holder. You may want to invite a few students to share experiences they have had when they received a priesthood blessing.

  • What are some times in a person’s life when it might be appropriate to receive a blessing from a priesthood holder?

Encourage students to consider asking their fathers or another trusted priesthood holder for a blessing, not just when they are sick but whenever they are in need of comfort or direction. You may want to conclude by sharing your own experience with and testimony of receiving priesthood blessings from your father or another priesthood holder.

Commentary and Background Information

Genesis 48:18–22. Why did Ephraim receive the birthright instead of Manasseh?

“Joseph, son of Jacob, because of his faithfulness and integrity to the purposes of the Lord, was rewarded with the birthright in Israel. It was the custom in early times to bestow upon the firstborn son special privileges and blessings, and these were looked upon as belonging to him by right of birth. Reuben, the first of Jacob’s sons, lost the birthright through transgression, and it was bestowed upon Joseph, who was the most worthy of all the sons of Jacob [1 Chronicles 5:1–2].

“When Jacob blessed Joseph, he gave him a double portion, or an inheritance among his brethren in Palestine and also the blessing of the land of Zion—‘the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.’ He also blessed him with the blessings of heaven above, of the deep which lieth under, and of posterity [Genesis 49:22–26]. Jacob also blessed the two sons of Joseph with the blessings of their father, which they inherited, and he placed Ephraim, the younger, before Manasseh, the elder, and by inspiration of the Lord conferred upon Ephraim the birthright in Israel” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:250–51).

Genesis 49. Patriarchal blessings

President Thomas S. Monson spoke about the uniqueness of each individual’s patriarchal blessing:

“Your patriarchal blessing … may be brief or lengthy, simple or profound. … It is the Spirit that conveys the true meaning. Your blessing is not to be folded neatly and tucked away. It is not to be framed or published. Rather, it is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed. Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers” (“Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 66).

Genesis 49. What is the difference between a father’s blessing and a patriarchal blessing?

“A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may give father’s blessings to his children. These blessings may be especially helpful when children go to school, go on missions, get married, enter military service, or face special challenges. A family may record a father’s blessing for family records, but these blessings are not preserved in Church records. Parents should encourage their children to seek father’s blessings in times of need” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 20.8).

A patriarchal blessing must be given by an ordained patriarch. Before receiving the blessing, the recipient must be interviewed by his or her bishop or branch president to determine worthiness and to receive a patriarchal blessing recommend.

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “A faithful father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may bless his own children, and that would be a patriarchal (father’s) blessing. Such a blessing could be recorded in the family records, but it would not be preserved in the archives of the Church. Every father who is true to this priesthood is a patriarch over his own house. In addition, children may receive a blessing by an ordained patriarch” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:172).

Genesis 49. When will the blessings mentioned in my patriarchal blessing be fulfilled?

President Thomas S. Monson spoke of patriarchal blessings as prophecies concerning our earthly and eternal possibilities:

“A patriarchal blessing literally contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities. I say eternal, for just as life is eternal, so is a patriarchal blessing. What may not come to fulfillment in this life may occur in the next. We do not govern God’s timetable” (“Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 66).

Genesis 49. Why is your lineage so important?

While serving in the Young Women general presidency, Julie B. Beck explained why an individual’s ancestry in the house of Israel identifies him or her to be of noble birthright:

“In your [patriarchal] blessing, you are told about your ancestry in the house of Israel. That’s your family line and your family line is sometimes called a tribe. All of the tribes go back to the great patriarch Abraham. Your lineage is important. It means that you are included in the promises given to Abraham that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed [see Genesis 26:4; Abraham 2:9].

“Your lineage is a ‘blood relationship’ [Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (1954–56), 3:248–49]. That makes you literally ‘children of the prophets’ [3 Nephi 20:25] with a noble birthright. That is why we often say that you are ‘youth of the noble birthright’ [“Carry On,” Hymns, no. 255] and belong to a royal, ‘chosen generation’ [1 Peter 2:9]” (“You Have a Noble Birthright,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 106).