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I was wondering if having someone on your knees is to be understood as having them sitting on your lap. It seems weird to me that Ephraim and Manasseh would sit on Jacob's lap when they were around 17 years old.

I take that they were around this age because 1) they were born before the famine (Gn 41:50), 2) Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years (Gn 47:28) and 3) Jacob was ill and near his death (Gn 48:1,33) when get to Gn 48:12:

Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground.

Maybe it is a custom I'm not familiar with, like the "putting the hand under someone's thigh" thing?

On the other hand, it really seems that they were children because Joseph "removed them" from Israel's knees, like a father carries their children from here to there. So maybe Jacob is not as near death as I supposed after all?

I don't know, both interpretations have their difficulties.

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The confusion arose in the Greek translation. The original verse should not be translated with "on his knees", but rather "besides/between his knees":

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Young's Literal Translation for example does this correctly:

And Joseph bringeth them out from between his knees, and boweth himself on his face to the earth

LXX Greek version has two main variations on this verse:

καὶ ἐξήγαγεν Ἰωσὴφ αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ τῶν γονάτων αὐτοῦ, καὶ προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ πρόσωπον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

and

καὶ ἐξήγαγεν Ἰωσὴφ αὐτοὺς εκ τῶν γονάτων αὐτοῦ, καὶ προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ πρόσωπον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

γονάτων αὐτοῦ means his (own) knees. One version of the LXX uses ἀπὸ which means "(away) from", while the other uses εκ, which means "out of". The most likely English word choice would depend on which text variant you would use for a translation.

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  • So this would mean the two ~17 years old young men were "between" Joseph's (or Jacob's) knees, and Joseph bringeth them out? – Davi Doro May 8 '20 at 18:48
  • Probably something much simpler, something like the guest sitting on (probably one of the few) chairs and the youngsters sitting on the ground before him listening to their father. – Codosaur May 8 '20 at 18:50
  • I guess I can see that, although for me the phrasing still makes it seems like Joseph's sons were small enough to be "removed" (NIV/ESV). I appreciate your answer, but I'm not ready to accept it just yet. – Davi Doro May 8 '20 at 19:23

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