(KJV) Genesis 48:21

21 And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.

Nowhere in Jacob's lifetime did he conquer any Amorite land/city using a sword & bow.

Could Jacob have been referring to a parcel of land which he bought from the children of Hamor(Gen 33:18-20) near Shechem since he speaks in the past or he was speaking prophetically into a future event.

4 Answers 4


Robert Young writes in his concordance entry for 'Amorite' :

Judah, because of her sins, is represented as having an Amorite for a father, a Hittite for a mother, and Samaria and Sodom for sisters. Ezekiel 6: 13, 45

I believe Jacob (Israel) is, here, doing the same, and he is being derogatory in referring to his brother, the Edomite, as an 'Amorite'. This is still done today when the term 'Philistine' is used of someone whose social behaviour is frowned upon.

Then, the sword is a means of close combat and the bow is used in combat at a distance. As the Questioner emphasises, we do not read of such a thing occurring in Jacob's lifetime - or do we ?

From the womb, Jacob's striving was against his elder brother :

. . and the children struggled within her . . . Gen 25:22 [KJV]

Later, Jacob strove, in 'close combat' with Esau, in the tent, trading a bowl of soup for the birthright - and gained the victory; subsequently, with Rebekah's help, he strove in 'combat at a distance' (Esau not present) over the blessing of Isaac - and gained the victory.

This 'portion', in Gen 48:22, is the Hebrew word 'shekem' [Strong 7926] which relates to the place Shechem, as the Questioner points out, and is usually, in KJV, translated 'shoulder'(17 times out of 22).

But to go further with the word shekem, I would be straying from the Question and straying into what might be termed 'theology' so I shall stop at this point.

  • God forbid you stray into theology when commenting on the meaning of the Bible. Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 21:13
  • FYI, Ezek 16.3 is a reference to Abraham being an Amorite and his wife, Sarah, a Hittite.
    – Robert
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 21:38
  • The Amaru ("Westerners" - a name given by Chaldeans) were the people group Abraham came from, and these were also called Amorites in the OT. Abraham and Sarah are being discussed here. But you are free to disagree, but this disagreement should not be mistaken for authoritative, as most commentaries understand this to refer to Abraham and Sarah, and this includes rabbinic tradition. There is obviously room for debate, but you can do your own research if you wish.
    – Robert
    Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 19:42
  • @Robert As has been discussed, I look forward to your own answer to this question. I trust you will message me (in comment) to alert me to it, once it is posted.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 13:50

This is a rather puzzling verse, especially taken on its own, and it has confused many commentators. Jacob himself is never reported as having seized any land at all from any Amorites with his sword and bow; if he did (as, for example, both commentators Matthew Henry and Allen P. Ross infer they did), the events are not recorded in the Bible.

Jacob did purchase some land near Shechem, as we might recall from Gen 33:19-20, but that was hardly taken by sword and bow. But, interestingly, the word for what the KJV has as “portion” (in the NIV, “ridge of land”) here is שְׁכֶם or shechem (“shoulder”). Notice that precisely the same Hebrew word is used for the city which Jacob’s sons—to his discomfort (see Gen 34:30)—seized from the Shechemites after their prince raped (or seduced) Dinah. This suggests, strangely, that Jacob might be bequeathing the land of Shechem to Joseph’s descendants.

We can confirm that this must be what Jacob meant. As it turns out, Shechem is where Joseph’s bones will be buried in Joshua’s day: “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.” (Josh 24:32) The land would thereafter indeed belong to the tribe of Ephraim. And the land is significant not just because of the family’s history in the area, but because it lies between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, where Joshua will renew the covenant with Israel (see Josh 8:30-35). To confirm the matter finally, the bequeathal is confirmed by the apostle John: “Then he [Jesus] come to...Sychar [Shechem], near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” (John 4:5)

In this context, then, it certainly looks as if Jacob is—yes, quite surprisingly—claiming personal responsibility for the capture of Shechem. He seems to be saying that he could spare an extra “portion” (shechem) of his inheritance for Joseph because he captured this land. It is fair enough for Jacob to claim ownership, in any event: whatever his misgivings, and regardless whether he even knew of the attack beforehand, he was the head of the clan when they took the city. But this must not be thought of as approving the attack, because Jacob is about to condemn Simeon and Levi more strenuous than ever for their violence (Gen 49:5-7).

One final interesting note on this: Shechem, while bequeathed to Joseph and made a city of Ephraim, would become a Levite city, “a city of refuge for the slayer” (Josh 21:21). Thus the city would actually be placed in the hands of the descendants of one of the murderous ringleaders of the attack on the more ancient Shechem—and made a place where those responsible for manslaying could flee. As the Levites will have certainly repented from the violent ways of their namesake forefather, Levi, it is oddly appropriate that the city should return to their hands in this roundabout way.

But to return to the Gen 48:22: I think we must conclude that “I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren” is actually an intentional double entendre: it means both an “extra portion” in the sense that the descendants of Joseph’s two sons will receive portions equivalent to Joseph’s brothers, and that they will receive Shechem itself, the place devastated by Jacob’s sons, as Joseph is the only son worthy of taking possession of it. Perhaps this double entendre was meant as a very dry in-joke.


We have to understand various factors about this verse, some of these factors are linguistical (ancient Hebrew), others are logical. But, all of them are to be understood inside the whole-Bible context.

First of all, the words used in Genesis 48:22 (Masoretic Texts) cannot refer to the purchase of the piece of ground at Shechem (Gen 33:19).

In fact, Keil&Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament explain why: “[...] for a purchase could not possibly be called a conquest by sword and bow; and still less to the crime committed by the sons of Jacob against the inhabitants of Shechem, when they plundered the town (Gen 34:25), for Jacob could not possibly have attributed to himself a deed for which he had pronounced a curse upon Simeon and Levi (Gen 49:6-7), not to mention the fact, that the plundering of Shechem was not followed in this instance by the possession of the city, but by the removal of Jacob from the neighbourhood.”

So, having cleared this point (by logic) we have to linger over – briefly - the God’s process of ‘nomenclature’ (in the meaning of ‘giving a name’ [linked to a character’s traits, or linked with future deeds a person will do in the future]). Some of more famous examples of this God’s method was the names He gave to ‘Abram’ and ‘Sarai’, changing these names, along with their meanings, with some new names which did reflect better the new circumstances this two Bible characters lived.

The pivotal point is that Jacob’s name – too – was changed by God.

In fact, when he was about 97 years old, and after the struggle he did with the ‘man’ he did meet, God said (through the angel): “Thy name should be called no more ‘Jacob’ but ‘Israel’: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (KJV).

As we well know, this name was applied to the entire nation coming from his 12 sons.

The last point is linked with linguistics. I believe this short space is not the apt place to speak thoroughly about the linguistic peculiarities of ancient Hebrew language. In synthesis – for a lot of people this would be a shocking statement – the Masoretic Texts (from which we predominantly draw our OT translations) offer us no linguistic hints about the temporal factor to insert into the verba forms. In other words, all the temporal conjugations of us – to the past tenses, present tenses, or future tenses, are inserted in an OT translation only by context. They are added – on the basis of the context – to complete the sense of Bible wording.

To conclude, we may say that the patriarch Jacob (Israel) in this verse embodied himself the en-tire nation of Israel, expressing – through God’s inspiration – some prophetic glances about this nation.

John Gill (Exposition of the Entire Bible) rightly asserted: “[...] Jacob, under a spirit of prophecy, foreseeing and declaring that his sons, and he in his sons in future time, would take it out of the hands of the Amorites, the principal of the Canaanitish nations [...]. [...] by giving to Joseph this portion above his brethren, it appears that the birthright was become his [Joseph], he having the double portion [...].” (the same concept we find in the Keil&Delitzsch’s text abovementioned)

So, a better translation of this verse in question would be:

“And I [Israel] will give to you [Joseph] a shoulder [or, ‘an allotment of land’] more than to your brothers, which I [Israel] will take from the hand [or, ‘the control’] of the Amorites with my sword and my bow.”



From the allegorical interpretation, an "Amorite" the most tolerated and acceptable false beliefs and twisted doctrines. It controls the Laity with these distorted ideals and philosophies. It is an evil spirit, one that prevents the soul from entering the Promised Land.

H567 אֱמֹרִי ‘Emôrı̂y means mountain dwellers; [self-exaltation to possess high places of authority and influence], renowned (popular), they hold [evil] powers.
Amorite means mountain people! Amar in Hebrew means “To utter or to say.” Amori means pride and the need for public approval, it is also called the sayer spirit (rebellion against divine truth is the behaviour exhibited). It represents the top domineering false global beliefs among believers. Evangelistic grace achieves much in the natural but is weak in the spirit realm.

ALEPH-In this context, it is a spiritual ungodly principality or a spiritual dictator.

MEM-In this context, it holds the waters of revelation (defiled and impure mysteries, not Divine knowledge).

RESH-In this context, it divides the mind and turns the mindsets of people against and away from the Lord.

YUD-In this context, it throws a different kind of beliefs in the minds of people.

God told Abram that the iniquity of the Amorite was not yet complete in Genesis 15:16.  So, we can know that the Amorites were a wicked people.

Genesis 15:16

But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

Both the "sword" and "bow" metaphorically represent different aspects of God's Word; authority and power. The "one portion above your brothers" represents dominion-that is; the firstborn's high priestly birthright; 1) multiplication and increase 2) and the complete subduing of evil. (Genesis 1:26-28)
Therefore, Jacob bestows Joseph with "one portion above" his brothers because he was ALWAYS more spiritual than they were. His ten brothers were known to be carnal.

It is also an Old Testament prophecy, alluding to the ministry of Jesus-Christ-complete dominion over all evils and wickednesses.

Finally, through the Divine Covenant with Abram, the Amorite is an evil spirit every Christian believer must get out of their lives and annihilate.

Genesis 15:18-21

In that day, Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the River Phrat, with the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite,  and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim,  and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.'

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