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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 49

Verses 1-33

Genesis 49:2. Gather yourselves together. This phrase implies that they should come purified, and prepared for instruction.

Genesis 49:3-4 . Reuben. Jacob here seems to enumerate the excellencies of Reuben, the more deeply to detest his crime; and after affirming that he should not excel in posterity, he turns towards his brethren, and adds, because he went up to my couch. But Dr. Lightfoot rather softens this translation. Reuben shall have a remnant of dignity, and a remnant of strength; for he was to lead the field in the wars of Canaan, and to vanquish the Hagarians. Joshua 4:12. 1 Chronicles 5:10. Unstable as water in affecting the priesthood, Numbers 16:1-2; Numbers 32:1; but his father advises him not to suffer his instability to remain.

Genesis 49:6. They slew a man. The Hebrew ish always signifies a person of rank or respectability. It here refers to the prince and people of Shechem, whom Simeon and Levi had perfidiously murdered. Blood has a voice which reaches heaven, and soon or late shall be followed by visitations on the guilty. They digged down a wall. Margin, They hough oxen. Why then curse them for killing an ox? The princes are compared to strong bulls of Bashan. Psalms 22:0. The reference has a figurative bearing on the fall of the father and the son, princes of Shechem. In Hebrew, שׁור schor slightly varied, it is likely, in the pronunciation, is a bull, and a wall; the LXX, it would seem, have mistaken the sense, because we have no account that Simeon and Levi dismantled the walls of Shechem.

Genesis 49:7. I will divide them. The Levites and the priests were divided all over Israel; and Simeon’s lot was almost in the centre of Judah. The curse of Levi seems to have been in part removed because of the services and zeal of his children, when the Israelites made the calf. Reuben’s chastisement seems also to have been removed by Moses’ prayer. Deuteronomy 33:6. Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.

Genesis 49:8. Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise. The whole of Jacob’s blessings have in view principally the posterity of those patriarchs, and the events of future years. Judah, while in Egypt, was eclipsed by Joseph’s glory; but after David had ascended the throne, the prophets have celebrated his victories, and the church in all ages has very much delighted to worship God in his words. But these words receive their real accomplishment in Christ; all the children bow down to him, and having received the spirit of adoption they glorify his name.

Genesis 49:9. Judah is a lion’s whelp. Alluding to his generosity. Genesis 37:26. But others, and with more propriety, think it alludes to his vast growth in strength above the other tribes. David as a lion vanquished all his foes, and then couched in Solomon’s peaceful reign. But the words refer to the lion of the tribe of Judah, who having vanquished and ultimately destroyed all his foes, entered on his peaceful and everlasting kingdom.

Genesis 49:10. The Sceptre. This word is sometimes translated rod; but it implies civil authority. Isaiah 14:5. The rod or sceptre of the rulers. Secondly, Judah’s successors, or the reigning family should never want a son, or young lawgiver between their feet. God remarkably kept his eye upon this promise; for instance, when Athaliah had killed all the royal seed, as she thought, Joash, an infant son was preserved in the temple. Until Shiloh come. The power or government was not to depart from Judah until he came, for whom it was reserved, or to whom it did belong; that is, the kingdom. The Messiah is called Shiloh in reference to his quiet and peaceful reign; or in reference to his being the sent of God with divine power. John 9:7. The ancient Jews are all agreed that Shiloh here means the Messiah. The Jews gave four names to the Messiah; Shiloh, Jinnon, Chaninah, and Menahem. The last, designating consolation, Luke 2:25, was a favourite name. He had other names of hope and glory.

This text is a striking and convincing proof, that the Messiah is already come, and that all the efforts of modern Jews to evade its force, do but discover the enmity of their hearts. Who could have thought that they should call Nebuchadnezzar the Shiloh, merely because he took away their regal power! The text has a most evident reference to David, the tenth from Judah, of whose line twenty three kings reigned in Jerusalem. And even after Zedekiah, the last of those kings, was carried with a large remnant of his nation to Chaldea, the civil power did not depart from Judah. Daniel, who was so long distinguished in that empire, was of the seed royal. Daniel 1:3. Zerubbabel, the builder of the second temple, was of the same line. The grand Sanhedrim, or council of seventy members, was composed chiefly of the tribe of Judah. Some of Benjamin, of Levi, and stragglers of the ten tribes, were indeed associated with them; but Judah had the majority; the ten tribes having nearly perished in exile for their sins. Their princes, or captain-generals, were also of this tribe. Hence Judah had the pre-eminence, and the power of life and death until the time of Herod, an Idumean, whom the Romans invested with regal power. But the Sanhedrim opposed his power, and did not fully relinquish their claim till the last year of his reign. This power was indeed gone when they confessed to Pilate, a Roman, that they had not the power to put any man to death. John 18:31. Even their civil power was not entirely taken away, till the destruction of their city. And then the gathering of the people was unto the Messiah; for great multitudes both of Jews and Gentiles were converted unto him in most parts of the empire. And this gathering of the people corresponds also very strikingly with all that the prophets have said respecting the conversion of the isles and nations of the gentiles. Hence there is no man who attentively studies this text with its accomplishment, but must own that it is one striking proof that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah.

Genesis 49:11. Binding his foal to the vine. Sir John Chardin reports, that at Bahia in Persia, he found vines so large that he could scarcely grasp them with both his arms, so that it was easy to tie a horse to a vine. The same oriental traveller adds, that after gathering the grapes, they turn their cattle into the vineyards. Jacob here augurs affluence to Judah, which was literally fulfilled.

Genesis 49:13. Zebulun’s lot extended from Zidon, a port in the Levant, to the lake of Gennesareth; the riches of Galilee, and the abundance of the sea were his portion.

Genesis 49:14. Issachar’s lot was hard labour in husbandry, as a strong ass bearing a burden on each side.

Genesis 49:16. Dan, by Samson, judged Israel. And surely he bit the heel of the Philistine horse, and was a figure of Jesus Christ, slaying his enemies by his death. And Jacob having long waited for God’s salvation, groans here in the spirit for the salvation of his posterity, and of the church of Christ when she shall be delivered from all her enemies; and when he should see, with his fathers, his Redeemer face to face.

Genesis 49:19. Gad’s lot was beyond the Jordan, where he was much assailed with Hagar’s race, and other foes; but he vanquished them by the aid of his brethren. 1 Chronicles 5:0. So is the church of Christ assailed, so also the believer; but they shall overcome at last through the strength of our God.

Genesis 49:20. Asher is promised by Jacob, and by Moses, the riches of the earth. Deuteronomy 33:24. But let all men look for the higher portion, even for God, who satisfieth the soul.

Genesis 49:21. Naphtali was to enjoy happiness and liberty as a hind in the pastures; and the goodly words refer to his acquaintance with the law, and with devotion.

Genesis 49:22. Joseph’s two sons were to be fruitful as the vine, and blessed with peace and affluence. His daughters went unto the enemy, when he gave wives to Benjamin. Judges 21:0.

Genesis 49:27. Benjamin was to have a warlike posterity, as appears realized from sacred history, and the character of Saul. How remarkably does Jacob express the character of his sons by beasts, by a serpent, and a vine: and happy if the fine endowments of nature had been a figure of the nobler and more excellent ornaments of the mind. Then their coat of arms would have been worthy of the heavenly court and society.

Genesis 49:28. Blessed them every one. Yea, but he blessed some of them with hard rebukes for past sins.

REFLECTIONS.

We now come to the close of Jacob’s chequered life, and it is a happy close. It is one of the most instructive scenes which the sacred writings afford. This patriarch, full of wisdom, full of days, and full of grace, had for the last seventeen years seen every dark cloud cleared up, and an evening sun smiling on all his toils, and promising the greatest blessings to his posterity. He had seen Abraham and Isaac close their eyes, and now he saw himself surrounded with twelve patriarchs, promising him a posterity numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sand on the seashore. His soul, viewing the Messiah, and anticipating every good, filled with ecstasy of vision, uttered itself in the rapturous effusions of discourse and song. All his sons arranged in his presence, stood with amazement, and heard futurity unveiled. God grant that we may learn of him, not to be so solicitous to lay up riches and lands for our children, as the treasures of wisdom and righteousness, that we may bless and instruct them in old age, with all the weight of wisdom and of good example. We may hence also remark the divine characters of inspiration. This is the highest gift of heaven, and therefore sparingly conferred. It was first given to these fathers, the proper guardians and best friends of their offspring; and not frequently to them. The style in which it flowed was superior to all fear of man, and even to parental partiality. Mark how he reproaches, yet with blessings, Reuben, Simeon and Levi. Mark how he blesses Judah above Joseph, whom he loved most for what was he, that he could withstand God? The whole of his address to his sons has a character all divine. Mark farther, how sacredly these writings have been preserved from any gross corruption. The priests and levites were the depositaries of the law; the men of Simeon were among the principal scribes and teachers scattered in Israel; yet both these tribes, though so severely branded in these writings, had not the power, or they did not dare to erase their curse from the sacred records! Hence we should read this volume as though God himself was speaking to us, and through the purest channels in which truth can be conveyed to man.

But the manner in which Jacob closed his pilgrimage, viewed altogether, is bright and encouraging in the highest degree. Having long waited for the salvation of God, and blessed his sons under the highest influence of the prophetic spirit, he directed his body to be interred in Machpelah, as a pledge that his seed should inherit the land, and he yielded up his spirit to God, to be associated in the divine presence, with Abraham and Isaac his fathers. Shrink not then, oh my soul, at the troubles of life, for they shall all work together for good. They shall instruct thee in the ways of providence, make thee perfect in every passive virtue, and accompanied with a thousand blessings, ripen thee for everlasting felicity, and the society of the blessed who are gone before.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 49". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-49.html. 1835.