Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph
Rembrandt van Rijn, 1656, oil on canvas, Kassel Museum
Rembrandt, one of the greatest painters in European art, frequently illustrated Biblical scenes. In this painting, he depicts an episode from Genesis 48 which has long puzzled Biblical scholars. When Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, he went counter to tradition by putting his right hand not on the elder son’s head, but on the head of Ephraim, the younger son…and Jacob actually crossed his arms to do so. Here, Rembrandt shows Jacob’s right hand on Ephraim’s head…but Jacob’s left hand is hidden. Ironically, it is Ephraim’s hands that are crossed in the painting!
Art scholars have put forth strong theories about Rembrandt’s reasons for departing from the Biblical text. But until now, Biblical scholars have not come up with a satisfactory answer to the Biblical puzzle: “Why did Jacob cross his arms?” A powerful explanation – which brought the author’s theories to public attention – is put forth in this book.