Genesis 48:4 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’

Genesis 48:4 is a reference to God’s promises in Genesis 35:

Gen 35:11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.
Gen 35:12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

In Jacob’s recounting, he states that God had promised an “everlasting possession”. This is his summary of God’s promise to give “the land” to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their offspring. Notice the use of language. Either implicit in Genesis 35 is the idea of an eternal promise (with conditions), or implicit in Genesis 48 is the idea that “everlasting” is a general way to sum up God’s statements in Genesis 35. The last alternative is that Jacob is just wrong in his recounting, which is unlikely as this section is written like a “call-back” to stimulate the reader’s memory of previous events.

What this shows is the flexibility of language. “Everlasting” is used in a conditional and broad sense of the term. The language of Genesis 35, likewise suggests an ongoing promise although not explicit in the verse. Because the successive generations are listed, the idea is that this extends onwards. In all, this language is characteristic of how language in the Bible functions.

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