With bitterness archers attacked him;
For this blessing, I think that I will discuss things verse by verse, or at least phrase by phrase:
v.22: Jacob describes his son Joseph as a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. In this verse alone, Jacob says twice that Joseph will be fruitful. This is also a wordplay on Joseph's son Ephraim's name, which sounds like the Hebrew for 'twice fruitful'.
Remember back to when Joseph had interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, and revealed that there would be seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of famine? Joseph's wife bore him two sons (Manasseh and Ephraim) during the seven years of abundance. Remember, too, that Jacob had predicted that the younger son, Ephraim, would be preeminent. Perhaps, in an indirect way, Jacob is reminding Joseph about this fact, even as he foresees fruitfulness for this tribe in general.
As for the image of this fruitful vine climbing over a wall, the tribe was so fruitful that in later years some members complained to Joshua that the territory assigned to the tribe was not big enough. I love Joshua's reply to their complaints (Joshua 17:14-18). Joshua basically told them to go clear themselves some more land in the forested hill country! When the same people complained further that their neighboring Canaanites had iron chariots, Joshua reminded both Ephraim and Manasseh that they were a very numerous and powerful people and would certainly be able to clear the forested hill country and drive out the Canaanites, even if they did have iron chariots. No whining allowed, just go clear yourselves some space!
v.23 This is the only place [as far as I am aware] where Jacob makes mention of the strife which had once occurred between the other brothers and Joseph. He correctly discerns that bitterness had been at the root of that conflict. Jacob also knows that great hostility had been directed towards Joseph, yet God had delivered him.
v.24-26 Jacob reminds Joseph that he had remained steady and strong in the midst of his troubles because he was helped by God. Notice the titles Jacob uses for God:
'the Mighty One of Jacob',
'the Rock of Israel',
'your father's God',
I believe that Jacob emphasizes God's power and faithfulness so that Joseph would continue to look to Him for help in the future. God is also the one 'who blesses you', and Jacob outlines all the ways in which this will be true for the tribe of Joseph (that is, for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh):
- blessings of the heavens above (abundant rainfall)
- blessings of the deep that lies below (abundance from the sea, perhaps also lands watered by streams and subterranean springs)
- blessings of the breast and womb (fertility -- probably of people and animals)
- Jacob notes that his own blessings have been greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains and the age-old hills (riches of precious metals, maybe oil as well?). Since Jacob's blessings are being passed on to Joseph, I assume that these are also part of it. In fact Jacob ends his blessing by saying that 'all these' blessings should rest upon Joseph's head (v.26).
- Jacob also names Joseph as the one who will be over his brothers. (v.26)
I hope that you found this overview of Jacob's blessing upon Joseph (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) as interesting as I did. I think it only scratches the surface, though, which is the same thought that I have about all of the other tribes which I've covered. I hope to update these articles with any new information which I discover. Feel free to contribute any interesting sources and facts of your own to the comment section below each post.