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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Anger; Company; Death; Fellowship; Hamor; Jacob; Levi; Parents; Self-Will; Simeon; Thompson Chain Reference - Hamor; Murder; Murderers; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Alliance and Society with the Enemies of God; Anger; Children; Patriarchal Government; Self-Will and Stubbornness; Simeon, the Tribe of; Tribes of Israel, the; Walls;
Verse Genesis 49:6. Into their secret council, c.] Jacob here exculpates himself from all participation in the guilt of Simeon and Levi in the murder of the Shechemites. He most solemnly declares that he knew nothing of the confederacy by which it was executed, nor of the secret council in which it was plotted.
If it should be said that the words תבא tabo and תחד techad should be translated in the future tense or in the imperative, as in our translation, I shall not contend though it is well known that the preterite is often used for the future in Hebrew, and vice versa. Taken thus, the words mark the strong detestation which this holy man's soul felt for the villany of his sons: "My soul shall not come into their secret council. My honour shall not be united to their confederacy.
For in their anger they slew a man — איש ish, a noble, an honourable man, viz., Shechem.
And in their pleasure — This marks the highest degree of wickedness and settled malice, they were delighted with their deed. A similar spirit Saul of Tarsus possessed previously to his conversion; speaking of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, St. Luke says, Acts 8:1: Σαυλος δε ην συνευδοκων τῃ αναιρεσει αυτου· And Saul was gladly consenting to his death. He was with the others highly delighted with it; and thus the prediction of our Lord was fulfilled, John 16:2: Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And it is represented as the highest pitch of profligacy and wickedness, not only to sin, but to delight in it; see Romans 1:32. As the original word רצון ratson signifies, in general, pleasure, benevolence, delight, c., it should neither be translated self-will nor wilfulness, as some have done, but simply as above and the reasons appear sufficiently obvious. They murdered a prince - Hamor, the father of Shechem. Instead of שור shor, which we have translated a wall, and others an ox, I read שר sar, a prince, which makes a consistent sense; (see Kennicott's first Dissertation, p. 56, c.) as there is no evidence whatever that Simeon and Levi either dug down a wall or houghed the oxen, as some have translated the passage; (see the margin;) on the contrary, the text, Genesis 34:28-29, proves that they had taken for their own use the sheep, oxen, asses, all their wealth, their wives, and their little ones.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/genesis-49.html. 1832.
Blessings on Jacob’s twelve sons (49:1-28)
The last words of Jacob to his sons found their fulfilment in the history of Israel’s twelve tribes (49:1-2). First Jacob dealt with the six sons of Leah (see v. 3-15), then with the four sons of the minor wives (see v. 16-21), and finally with the two sons of Rachel (see v. 22-27).
Reuben should have been strong, but through lack of self-control he lost the leadership of the nation (3-4; cf. 35:22). Simeon and Levi had been violent, and their tribes were scattered in Israel (5-7; cf. 34:25-26). Simeon lost its separate tribal identity and was absorbed into Judah (Joshua 19:1,Joshua 19:9). Levi, however, had a more honourable scattering because of its zeal against idolatry. It had no separate tribal inheritance of its own, but was given cities in all the other tribes (Exodus 32:26-29; Numbers 35:2-8).
Judah was the leading tribe, fierce and powerful in conquering its enemies and ruling over the other tribes. From this tribe came the royal family of David, whose greatest king, the Messiah, would rule universally in an age of unimaginable prosperity (8-12; cf. Judges 1:2; 2 Samuel 7:16; 2 Samuel 7:16; Revelation 5:5).
The tribe of Zebulun, which settled near the Mediterranean coast, was enriched through the trade that passed through its territory to the sea (13; cf. Deuteronomy 33:18-19). Issachar gained some prosperity from the good farming country it inhabited, but too often it submitted to the powerful Canaanites who controlled much of the region (14-15).
Though pushed out of its original territory on the coast, Dan believed it had the same right to exist as any other tribe. It gained a new dwelling place in the far north, but only by treachery and cruelty (16-18; cf. Judges 18:1-31). Gad, on the east of Jordan, was more open to attack than the western tribes, but its men were fierce fighters who drove back the invaders (19; cf. Deuteronomy 33:20).
Asher, bordering the northern coast, lived in rich farming lands whose olive orchards produced the best oil in Palestine (20; cf. Deuteronomy 33:24). The neighbouring tribe of Naphtali spread across the highland pasture lands to the Sea of Galilee (21; cf. Deuteronomy 33:23).
At the time of Jacob’s prophecy, Joseph was at the height of his power. He may have been treacherously attacked in the past, but God had strengthened and blessed him (22-24). The two tribes descended from Joseph were likewise blessed. They were large in number, and the regions they occupied were among the best in the land (25-26; cf. Joshua 17:17-18). The final tribe, Benjamin, was too warlike for its own good, and brought such trouble upon itself that it was almost wiped out (27-28; cf. Judges 19:1-21:25).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/genesis-49.html. 2005.
"Simeon and Levi are brethren. Weapons of violence are their swords. O my soul, come not thou into their council. Unto their assembly, my glory, be not thou united; For in their anger they slew a man, And in their self-will they hocked an ox. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce. And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel."
The background of this prophecy is the shameful conduct of these two brothers in the events hinging upon the rape of their sister Dinah; but a careful reading of that passage in Genesis 34 has nothing about their "hocking an ox." "This verse, therefore, provides a detail omitted in the previous reference." This is a common practice in the Holy Scriptures. Another example is the additional detail that Jonah told the mariners (when he boarded with them) that he was fleeing from Jehovah (Jonah 1:10). There are numerous other examples throughout the Bible, and the foolish notion that every such detail worked into later references to an event is sure proof of some "other document's contradictory account" is merely an outstanding evidence of blindness to the Biblical method.
"Scatter them in Israel ..." Since the cooperation of these brothers had produced some very shameful results, God would divide them. Jacob's prophecy was fulfilled in the most remarkable manner.
At the time of the conquest of Canaan, Simeon had become the smallest of the tribes of Israel (Numbers 26:14). The tribe was passed over in the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33). It received no separate assignment of territory, but merely a few cities within the limits of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9). Those were absorbed into Judah, and those who remained emigrated in two detachments, and sought out settlements for themselves outside the limits of Canaan (1 Chronicles 4:27-43).
These circumstances meet with the usual critical prejudice that assigns this prophecy of the separation and scattering to a period "after the events," and thus they presume to date the prophecy after the conquest of Canaan. Well, if that is the way this prophecy came about, why did not the pseudonymous imposter throw in an account of the future glory of the Levites in the time of Moses? As Keil wisely observed, "Here is strong proof of the genuineness of the prophecy." This prophetic "scattering of Levi" occurred all right, but the implied curse was changed into a great blessing in their election to the priesthood, concerning which there is not the slightest hint in the words of Jacob. "It is totally incredible that any later writer would have omitted to forecast the future glory of the Levites."
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/genesis-49.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
- Jacob Blesses His Sons
5. מכרה mekêrāh, “weapon;” related: כיר kārar or כרה kārāh dig. “Device, design?” related: מכר mākar “sell,” in Arabic “take counsel. Habitation.”
10. מחקק mechoqēq, “lawgiver, judge, dispenser of laws.” This word occurs in six other places - Numbers 21:18; Deuteronomy 33:21; Jud. Deuteronomy 5:14; Psalms 60:9; Psalms 108:9; Isaiah 33:22; in five of which it clearly denotes ruler, or judge. The meaning “sceptre” is therefore doubtful. שׁילה shı̂ylôh, Shiloh, a softened form of שׁילון shı̂ylôn, a derivative of שׁל shol, the ultimate root of שׁלה shālâh, שׁלם shālam, and possibly שׁלט shālaṭ, and hence, denoting “the peacemaker, the prince of peace.” It is not employed as an appellative noun. But it is used afterward as the name of a town, now identified as Seilun. This town probably had its name, like many other ancient places from a person of the same name who built or possessed it.
From the special conference with Joseph we now pass to the parting address of Jacob to his assembled sons. This is at the same time prophetic and benedictory. Like all prophecy, it starts from present things, and in its widest expanse penetrates into the remotest future of the present course of nature.
And Jacob called his sons - This is done by messengers going to their various dwellings and pasture-grounds, and summoning them to his presence. And he said. These words introduce his dying address. “Gather yourselves together.” Though there is to be a special address to each, yet it is to be in the audience of all the rest, for the instruction of the whole family. “That which shall befall you in the after days.” The after days are the times intervening between the speaker and the end of the human race. The beginning of man was at the sixth day of the last creation. The end of his race will be at the dissolution of the heavens and the earth then called into being, and the new creation which we are taught will be consequent thereupon. To this interval prophecy has reference in general, though it occasionally penetrates beyond the veil that separates the present from the future creation.
The prophet has his mind filled with the objects and events of the present and the past, and from these he must draw his images for the future, and express them in the current language of his day. To interpret his words, therefore, we must ascend to his day, examine his usage of speech, distinguish the transient forms in which truth may appear, and hold fast by the constant essence which belongs to all ages. “Hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken to Israel your father.” This is a specimen of the synthetic or synonymous parallel. It affords a good example of the equivalence, and at the same time the distinction, of Jacob and Israel. They both apply to the same person, and to the race of which he is the head. The one refers to the natural, the other to the spiritual. The distinction is similar to that between Elohim and Yahweh: the former of which designates the eternal God, antecedent to all creation, and therefore, equally related to the whole universe; the latter, the self-existent God, subsequent to the creation of intelligent beings, and especially related to them, as the moral Governor, the Keeper of covenant, and the Performer of promise.
Reuben, as the first-born by nature, has the first place in the benedictory address. My might. In times and places in which a man’s right depends on his might, a large family of sons is the source of strength and safety. “The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power” - the rank and authority which belong to the first-born. “Boiling over as water.” That which boils over perishes at the same time that it is pernicious. This is here transferred in a figure to the passionate nature of Reuben. “Thou shalt not excel.” There is here an allusion to the excellency of dignity and power. By the boiling over of his unhallowed passions Reuben lost all the excellence that primogeniture confers. By the dispensation of Providence the double portion went to Joseph, the first-born of Rachel; the chieftainship to Judah; and the priesthood to Levi. The cause of this forfeiture is then assigned. In the last sentence the patriarch in a spirit of indignant sorrow passes from the direct address to the indirect narrative. “To my couch he went up.” The doom here pronounced upon Reuben is still a blessing, as he is not excluded from a tribe’s share in the promised land. But, as in the case of the others, this blessing is abated and modified by his past conduct. His tribe has its seat on the east of the Jordan, and never comes to any eminence in the commonwealth of Israel.
“Simon and Levi are brethren,” by temper as well as by birth. Their weapons. This word is rendered plans, devices, by some. But the present rendering agrees best with the context. Weapons may be properly called instruments of violence; but not so plots. “Habitations” requires the preposition in before it, which is not in the original, and is not to be supplied without necessity. “Into their counsel.” This refers to the plot they formed for the destruction of the inhabitants of Shekem. “They houghed an ox.” The singular of the original is to be understood as a plural denoting the kind of acts to which they were prompted in their passion for revenge. Jacob pronounces a curse upon their anger, not because indignation against sin is unwarrantable in itself, but because their wrath was marked by deeds of fierceness and cruelty. “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” He does not cut them off from any part in the promised inheritance; but he divides and scatters them.
Accordingly they are divided from one another in their after history, the tribe of Simon being settled in the southwest corner of the territory of Judah, and Levi having no connected territory, but occupying certain cities and their suburbs which were assigned to his descendants in the various provinces of the land. They were also scattered in Israel. For Simon is the weakest of all the tribes at the close of their sojourn in the wilderness Numbers 26:14; he is altogether omitted in the blessing of Moses Deuteronomy 33:0, and hence, obtains no distinct territory, but only a part of that of Judah Joshua 19:1-9; and he subsequently sends out two colonies, which are separated from the parent stock, and from one another 1 Chronicles 4:24-43. And Levi received forty-eight towns in the various districts of the land, in which his descendants dwelt, far separated from one another. This prediction was therefore, fulfilled to the letter in the history of these brothers. Their classification under one head is a hint that they will yet count but as one tribe.
Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, comes in for the supremacy after the three former have been set aside. His personal prowess, the perpetuity of his dominion, and the luxuriance of his soil are then described. “Thee shall thy brethren praise.” This is an allusion to his name, which signifies praise Genesis 29:35. As his mother praised the Lord for her fourth son, so shall his brethren praise him for his personal excellence. Ardor of temperament, decision of character, and frankness of acknowledgment are conspicuous even in the blemishes of his early life. Tenderness of conscience, promptitude in resolve, capacity for business, and force of eloquence come out in his riper years. These are qualities that win popular esteem. “Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies.” They shall flee before him, but shall not escape his powerful grasp. They shall be compelled to yield to his overwhelming power. “Thy father’s sons shall bow down to thee.” Not only his enemies, but his friends, shall acknowledge his sway. The similar prediction concerning Joseph Genesis 37:6-8 was of a personal nature, and referred to a special occasion, not to a permanent state of affairs. It had already received its main fulfillment, and would altogether terminate with the lifetime of Joseph. The present announcement refers to Judah not as an individual, but as the head of a tribe in Israel, and will therefore, correspond in duration with that commonwealth.
A lion’s whelp is Judah. - In physical strength Judah is compared to the lion, the king of beasts. At first he is the lion’s whelp, the young lion, giving promise of future vigor; then the full-grown lion, exulting in his irresistible force, seizing and overmastering the prey, and after reaping the fruits of his victory, ascending to his mountain lair and reposing in undisturbed security. The lioness is brought into the comparison with propriety, as in defense of her cubs she is even more dangerous than the male to the unwary assailant. After being satiated with prey, the lion, reposing in his majesty, will not disturb the passer-by; but who shall rouse him up and escape?
From his physical force we now pass to his moral supremacy. “The sceptre,” the staff of authority. “Shall not depart from Judah.” The tribe scepter did not leave Judah so long as there was a remnant of the commonwealth of Israel. Long after the other tribes had lost their individuality, Judah lingered in existence and in some measure of independence; and from the return his name supplanted that of Israel or Jacob, as the common designation of the people. “Nor the lawgiven from between his feet.” This is otherwise rendered, “nor the judicial staff from between his feet;” and it is argued that this rendering corresponds best with the phrase “between his feet” and with the parallel clause which precedes. It is not worth while contending for one against the other, as the meaning of both is precisely the same. But we have retained the English version, as the term מחקק mechoqēq has only one clear meaning; “between the feet” may mean among his descendants or in his tribe; and the synthetic parallelism of the clauses is satisfied by the identity of meaning.
Lawgiver is to be understood as judge, dispenser or administrator of law. Judah had the forerank among the tribes in the wilderness, and never altogether lost it. Nahshon the son of Amminadab, the prince of his tribe, was the ancestor of David, who was anointed as the rightful sovereign of all Israel, and in whom the throne became hereditary. The revolt of the ten tribes curtailed, but did not abolish the actual sovereignty of Rehoboam and his successors, who continued the acknowledged sovereigns until some time after the return from the captivity. From that date the whole nation was virtually absorbed in Judah, and whatever trace of self-government remained belonged to him until the birth of Jesus, who was the lineal descendant of the royal line of David and of Judah, and was the Messiah, the anointed of heaven to be king of Zion and of Israel in a far higher sense than before. “Until Shiloh come.”
This is otherwise translated, “until he come to Shiloh,” the place so called. This is explained of the time when “the whole assembly of the children of Israel was convened at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there” Joshua 18:1. We hold by the former translation:
1. Because Shiloh has not yet been named as a known locality in the land of promise.
2. Judah did not come to Shiloh in any exclusive sense.
3. His coming thither with his fellows had no bearing whatever on his supremacy.
4. He did not come to Shiloh as the seat of his government or any part of his territory; and
5. The real sovereignty of Judah took place after this convention at Shiloh, and not before it.
After the rejection of the second translation on these grounds, the former is accepted as the only tenable alternative.
6. Besides, it is the natural rendering of the words.
7. Before the coming of Shiloh, the Prince of Peace, the highest pitch of Judah’s supremacy in its primary form has to be attained.
8. On the coming of Shiloh the last remnant of that supremacy was removed, only to be replaced by the higher form of pre-eminence which the Prince of Peace inaugurates.
And unto him be the obedience of the peoples. - “Unto him” means naturally unto Shiloh. “The obedience” describes the willing submission to the new form of sovereignty which is ushered in by Shiloh. The word is otherwise rendered “gathering;” but this does not suit the usage in Proverbs 30:17. “The obedience” intimates that the supremacy of Judah does not cease at the coming of Shiloh, but only assumes a grander form.
Of the peoples. - Not only the sons of Israel, but all the descendants of Adam will ultimately bow down to the Prince of Peace. This is the seed of the woman, who shall bruise the serpent’s head, the seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed, presented now under the new aspect of the peacemaker, whom all the nations of the earth shall eventually obey as the Prince of Peace. He is therefore, now revealed as the Destroyer of the works of evil, the Dispenser of the blessings of grace, and the King of peace. The coming of Shiloh and the obedience of the nations to him will cover a long period of time, the close of which will coincide with the limit here set to Judah’s earthly supremacy in its wider and loftier stage. This prediction therefore, truly penetrates to the latter days.
The exuberant fertility of Judah’s province is now depicted. We now behold him peacefully settled in the land of promise, and the striking objects of rural plenty and prosperity around him. The quiet ass on which he perambulates is tied to the vine, the juice of whose grapes is as copious as the water in which his robes are washed. The last sentence is capable of being rendered, “Red are his eyes above wine, and white his teeth above milk.” But a connection as well as a comparison seems to be implied in the original. Judea is justly described as abounding in the best of wine and milk. This fine picture of Judah’s earthly abode is a fitting emblem of the better country where Shiloh reigns.
Zebulun means “dwelling,” to which there is an allusion in the first clause of the verse. “At the haven of seas.” This tribe touched upon the coast of the sea of Kinnereth and of the Mediterranean. It probably possessed some havens for shipping near the promontory of Karmel: and its northwestern boundary touched upon Phoenicia, the territory of Zidon. He is placed before Issakar, who was older, because the latter sank into a subordinate position.
“An ass of bone,” and therefore, of strength. “Couching between the hurdles” - the pens or stalls in which the cattle were lodged. Rest in a pleasant land he felt to be good; and hence, rather than undertake the struggle for liberty and independence, he became like the strong ass a bearer of burdens, and a payer of tribute. He is thus a hireling by disposition as well as by name Genesis 30:18.
The sons of the handmaids follow those of Leah. “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.” He will maintain his position as a tribe in the state. When threatened by overwhelming power he will put forth his native force for the discomfiture of the foe. The adder is the cerastes or horned serpent, of the color of the sand, and therefore, not easily recognized, that inflicts a fatal wound on him that unwarily treads on it. The few facts in the history of Dan afterward given correspond well with the character here drawn. Some of its features are conspicuous in Samson Judg. 13–16. “For thy salvation have I waited, O Lord.” The patriarch, contemplating the power of the adversaries of his future people, breaks forth into the expression of his longing desire and hope of that salvation of the Almighty by which alone they can be delivered. That salvation is commensurate with the utmost extent and diversity of these adversaries.
Gad also shall be subject to the assaults of the enemy. But he shall resist the foe and harass his rear. This brief character agrees with his after history. He is reckoned among the valiant men in Scripture 1 Chronicles 5:18.
Asher shall have a soil abounding in wheat and oil. He occupies the low lands along the coast north of Karmel. Hence, the products of his country are fit to furnish the table of kings. Gad and Asher are placed before Naphtali, the second son of Bilhah. We cannot tell whether they were older, or for what other reason they occupy this place. It may be that Naphtali was of a less decisive or self-reliant character.
Naphtali is a hind let loose. The hind or “gazelle” is agile and nimble. When free on its native hills, it roams with instinctive confidence and delight. It is timid and irresolute in confinement. This is probably the character of Naphtali. “He giveth goodly words.” Here we pass from the figure to the reality. Eloquence in prose and verse was characteristic of this particular tribe. The only important historical event in which they are concerned is the defeat of Jabin’s host, which is celebrated in the song of Deborah and Barak Judges 4:5. In this passage we may study the character of the tribe.
Jacob had doubtless been made acquainted with the history of his beloved son Joseph from the time of his disappearance until he met him on the borders of Egypt. It had been the meditation and the wonder of his last seventeen years. When he comes to Joseph, therefore, the mingled emotions of affection and gratitude burst forth from his heart in language that cannot be restrained by the ordinary rules of speech. The first thing connected with Joseph in the patriarch’s mind is fruitfulness. The image is vivid and striking. “Son of a fruitful tree.” A branch or rather a shoot transplanted from the parent stem. “By a well;” from which it may draw the water of life. “Whose daughters” - luxuriant branches. Run over a wall - transcend all the usual boundaries of a well-enclosed garden. This fruitfulness attaches to Joseph in two respects. First, he is the prudent gatherer and the inexhaustible dispenser of the produce of Egypt, by which the lives of his father and brethren were preserved. And then he is in prospect the twofold tribe, that bursts the bounds assigned to a twelfth of the chosen people, and overspreads the area of two tribes.
The memory then reverts to the past history of Joseph. A new figure is now called up. A champion is assailed by a host of archers. They vex him, shoot at him, and in every way act the part of an enemy. But his bow continues elastic, and his arms are enabled to bend it, because he receives strength from the God of his fathers, “the Might of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel.” Such is the rich and copious imagery that flows from the lips of Jacob. “The Might,” the exalted upholder; “the Shepherd, the Stone,” the fostering guardian as well as the solid foundation of his being. His great hands upheld Joseph against the brother and the stranger. “From him.” This seems the free rendering of the word requisite to bring the two members of the parallel into harmony.
These two thoughts - the peaceful abundance of his old age, which he owed to Joseph, and the persecutions his beloved son had endured - stir the fountains of his affections until they overflow with blessings. “From the God of thy father” - the Eternal One who is the source of all blessing. “And the Almighty,” who is able to control all adverse influences. “Blessings of heaven above” - the air, the rain, and the sun. “Blessings of the deep” - the springs and streams, as well as the fertile soil. “Blessings of the breasts and the womb” - the children of the home and the young of the flocks and herds. “Have prevailed.” The benedictions of Jacob pronounced upon Joseph exceed those that came upon Jacob himself from his fathers. To Joseph is given a double portion, with a double measure of affection from a father’s heart. “Unto the bound of the perpetual hills.” Like an overflowing flood they have risen to the very summits of the perpetual hills in the conceptions of the venerable patriarch. “Of him who was distinguished from his brethren;” not only by a long period of persecution and humiliation, but by a subsequent elevation to extraordinary dignity and pre-eminence.
It is to be noted that this benediction, when fairly interpreted, though it breathes all the fondness of a father’s heart, yet contains no intimation that the supremacy or the priesthood were to belong to Joseph, or that the Messiah was to spring from him. At the same time Joseph was in many events of his history a remarkable type of the Messiah, and by intermarriage he, as well as many foreigners, was no doubt among the ancestors of the Messiah 2 Kings 8:18, 2 Kings 8:26.
Benjamin is described as a wolf who is engaged morning and evening, that is, all day long, in hunting after prey. He was warlike by character and conduct Judg. 20–21, and among his descendants are Ehud, Saul, and Jonathan.
After the benediction Jacob gives directions concerning his burial. “All these are the twelve tribes”. This implies that the benedictions refer not to the heads only, but to the whole tribes. “Each according to his blessing.” All are blessed, but the form of the blessing is suited to the character of the individual “Bury me with my fathers” - with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah. This dying command he now lays on the twelve, as he had before bound Joseph by oath to its performance. “Gathered up his feet into the bed.” He had been sitting upright while pronouncing the benedictory address and giving his last directions. He now lies down and calmly breathes his last.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/genesis-49.html. 1870.
And Jacob called his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days ( Genesis 49:1 ).
This is probably the grandest hour of the old man Jacob. He had had some pretty rough hours. Life had been hard. As he said to the Pharaoh, "My days had been a hundred and thirty years and few and evil are the days of my pilgrim". They had been tough years. But he rose to the grandest hour in the hour of his death. Gathering his sons together just before he dies in order that he might prophesy to them and of them that which should befall them in the years to come.
Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken to Israel your father. Reuben ( Genesis 49:2-3 ),
The boys, now standing around the bed, probably in order of their birth. "Reuben,"
thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power ( Genesis 49:3 ):
It should have been Reuben, the firstborn. And yet you're as,
Unstable as water, you will not excel ( Genesis 49:4 );
And it is true that none from the tribe of Reuben ever did excel in anything. Just wasn't there. Later on Reuben desired to receive his portion and his inheritance really outside of the land. And he never did excel; the tribe never did excel.
because you went to your father's bed; then you defiled it: you went up to my couch ( Genesis 49:4 ).
Actually you remember that earlier in the story it tells how that Reuben went to his father's concubine Bilhah. And so Jacob didn't say much about it then, here at his death he brings it up and points out this characteristic of weakness, which will be a mark and a trait of Reuben, "unstable as water", keeping him from excelling.
Simeon and Levi are brothers; they are instruments of cruelty in their house. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; into their assembly, my honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they killed a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall ( Genesis 49:5-6 ).
It is also translated in the Revised; "They hamstrung an ox".
Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel ( Genesis 49:7 ).
So the tribes of Simeon and Levi were not to dwell together. They were brothers; they seem to be closer than any of the other brothers. These two seem to pair off together, but the common bond between them wasn't a good bond. It was the fact that they were both ill tempered, violent tempers. "Cursed be their anger" and their self-will. But that seemed to bind them together, but when you come into the land, you're going to be scattered. The tribe of Simeon was really scattered through the land. And of course, Levi never did receive any inheritance within the land but dwelt in the forty-eight cities that were appointed unto Levi. And so the prophecy was fulfilled.
Now, and he gets to Judah.
Judah, thou art he whom your brothers shall praise ( Genesis 49:8 ):
The word "Judah" does mean praise.
thy hand shall be at the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee ( Genesis 49:8 ).
So he's now prophesying really that from the tribe of Judah shall come the kingly reign. "Your father's brothers will bow down before you." Evidently with Judah there was a real change of character.
Now when Joseph's brothers were thinking about killing him and just leaving him in the pit to die, when they saw the caravan coming towards Egypt, it was Judah that suggested that they sell him to the people in the caravan. Probably not knowing Reuben's plan to come back and get him out of the pit and knowing the brothers' full intention to just kill him, figured to save his life by selling him and at least he'll be alive. He can be sold as a slave to Egypt but at least he'll be alive, and the suggestion of Jacob was probably to spare the life of Joseph. But even over this he no doubt had remorse and later on, when Jacob said, "I won't let Benjamin go down", Judah said, "Dad, I'll be the surety for him. I'll hold me responsible". And he was probably the most responsible of the sons.
Now when they came to Egypt and Joseph put his silver cup in Benjamin's sack and when they came and they unloaded the sacks and they saw the cup and they said, "We don't want you all, we'll just take this kid back and let him be the slave. Judah came back and he said, "Look", he said, "I'll give myself for my brother. I'll become your slave, let him go back to his dad." And Judah became the spokesman and he stepped up and showed really a lot of courage, a lot of real metal at this point.
So that this is beginning to develop in Judah and now Jacob carries it on in the prophecy and begins to prophecy the fact that Judah shall actually become a ruling tribe. The father's children will bow down before thee.
Judah is a lion's whelp: and from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up ( Genesis 49:9 )?
And so Judah became really-the symbol of Judah was the lion and there began then to be the prophecy of the Lion of the tribe of Judah that would come. Of course, it was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be ( Genesis 49:10 ).
Now this prophecy was fulfilled. Shiloh indicating or bespeaking of the Messiah that was to come, the Savior. The word Shiloh came from the root of peace, shalom. "And until peace comes", and the peace, the Prince of Peace, of course, Jesus Christ. Now the sceptre did not depart from Judah until the coming of the Lord but thirty years after Jesus was crucified or forty years after, the sceptre departed from Judah. So that means that the Messiah would have to have come sometime before 70 A.D. in order that this prophecy of Jacob be truly fulfilled, otherwise, the whole prophetic thing is off.
So we know that Shiloh did come, the peace of Israel did come, even Jesus Christ. And when He came, He said, "If you only knew the things that belong to your peace in this thy day but they are hid from your eyes". The day of His coming as the Messiah, the official day of His coming as the Messiah. His proclamation as the disciples were crying, "Hosanna, Hosanna", as He came to the city of Jerusalem. Looking over the city that day, weeping over the city, He cried, "If you only knew the things that belong to your peace, shalom, until the Shiloh, shalom, come. And so unto him shall the gathering of the people be." Actually He will be the ruler. Binding his foal unto him, that is Shiloh, Christ, the gathering of the people.
Binding his foal into the vine, and his ass's colt in the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. Zebulun [the next] shall dwell at the haven of the sea [or towards the sea]; and shall be a haven of ships; and his borders shall be unto Zidon ( Genesis 49:11-13 ).
So Zebulun was given that area in the northern part of Israel, portion of which is now Lebanon. However, he never did take the full portion that was promised.
Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest was good, and the land it was pleasant; and he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute ( Genesis 49:14-15 ).
In other words, he's strong as an ox but he's lazy. And thus, a characteristic of the tribe of Issachar was though they were strong, yet they were lazy. And thus became a servant to tribute.
Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel ( Genesis 49:16 ).
The word Dan means judge.
Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse's heels, so that his rider shall fall backwards ( Genesis 49:17 ).
Now Dan, of course, inherited the northernmost part of the land in the area just at the base of Mount Hermon in the area which is today the Hula Valley, which lies between the mountains of Lebanon and the Golan Heights. This valley of the upper Jordan upwards from the Sea of Galilee in this area of Upper Jordan was the area where the tribe of Dan settled clear on up. Let's see, the ruins of the city of Dan is just about four or five miles from the base of Mount Hermon. So you're clear up on the upper end of the valley, and Dan was a tough tribe and did protect the nation Israel from the attacks of nations coming down from the north.
Now here in the midst of the whole thing, verse eighteen, not related to any of the prophecies to his sons, Jacob cried.
I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD ( Genesis 49:18 ).
The word "salvation, O LORD", or translated "salvation, O LORD", is actually Yashua or the name Jesus. I have waited for "Jesus, Yashua", or the "Lord's salvation" or "Jehovah's salvation". And so it's very interesting this is the first mention of the word salvation in the Bible. And its mention is just in the prophecy of Jacob as he cries out now in the midst of his prophesying over his sons; "I have waited for Yashua." "I've waited for Jesus" or later, "Joshua" but "Yashua" is the Hebrew word here. And it's translated "Thy salvation, O LORD."
The tribe of Gad, [Gad means a troop but] a troop shall overcome him: and he shall overcome at the last ( Genesis 49:19 ).
Gad again with the Reubenites took up inheritance outside of the land of Israel and they were overcome early but yet the prophecy is in the end they will overcome.
Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties ( Genesis 49:20 ).
And so the baker tribe, those that would go into the baking industry yielding royal dainties, great pastries. And some of the tribe of Asher are no doubt over there today because man, some of the greatest bread and pastries you've ever eaten in your life.
Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessing of thy father hath prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers ( Genesis 49:21-26 ).
Joseph separate from his brothers, a beautiful individual; so the great blessing that was pronounced upon him. He's a fruitful bough. He would be a fruitful person. Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh became great and fruitful tribes. "A bough whose branches run over the wall." So not only being blessed but becoming a blessing to others. And though he was to go through great trials and did endure great trials. "The archers have sorely grieved him, shot at him, hated him".
All of those arrows of hatred and bitterness and jealousy and envy and temptation and false imprisonment and lies shot at him and yet his bough abode in strength. No retaliation. No striking back. Willing to commit judgment to God to whom judgment belongs. Turning the other cheek. His bough abode in strength and the secret of his strength was that his hand, the hand of his arms was strengthened by the mighty hand of Jehovah. God was holding his hand. God was giving him the capacity to restrain. His capacity was not a natural capacity. It was a supernatural capacity. He was being held by God in restraint.
And God can hold us in restraint. I think that we as Christians too often are willing to excuse the demonstrations of our old nature saying, "That's just me". Yes, that's just you, curse you! God wants to make a new you. God wants to help you. God wants to strengthen you. And we're not to just live in a peaceful co-existence with our old nature and with our old man. We by the Spirit are to mortify the deeds of the flesh. And we just can't pass things off as, "Well, that's just the way I was born".
That's the way you were born in corruption from your parents, but you've been born now by incorruptible seed. You're supposed to be different. And if you're not different, something's wrong with you or wrong with your experience with God. Because anyone who is truly born of God is going to manifest a changed life and a changed nature.
The purpose of being born again is that you might have a new nature-a nature now after the Spirit, no longer after the flesh. "That which was born of the flesh is flesh," ( John 3:6 ). Crucify it. Renounce it. Learn to hate it, in order that we might live and walk now after the new nature, the nature of Christ. Born of His incorruptible seed, I now have a new nature. "For if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; everything is become new" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ). And if you're still going around manifesting the old nature all the time, and giving way to the old nature and giving place to the old nature, something is definitely wrong with your relationship with God and you need to repent and reckon that old man to be dead.
Don't cuddle it. So many people are proud of their nasty temperaments, proud of their ability to tell people off. And they've given away so many pieces of their mind, there's very little left. Nothing to be proud of. It's something to be ashamed of. "God forgive me". I reckon that old man, that old nature to be dead. I don't want him. I don't want any part of him. I desire that new nature after Christ. That nature of love and tenderness and forgiving and kindness and compassion. I desire that Christ be formed in me and His likeness within me, and thus give no place to the flesh. Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its desires.
And as Christians, unfortunately, too many are making provision for the flesh to fulfill its desires. And you're not really walking after the newness of life in Christ Jesus, walking after the Spirit; and thus, you are a monstrosity. You're still a spiritual infant. Though maybe you trace your born-again experience back some fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years, you have never developed spiritually. You still don't know how to talk. You still can't walk. You're still there rattling your crib and demanding that people bow and acquiesce to your wishes and your demands. Feed you when you're hungry. Rock you when you're upset and just to take care of you as a little infant. And you've never grown. You've never developed. And that's all right for a stage of your Christian experience when you're first coming into Christ and all. That's fine that you be cuddled and taken care of and be fed and all. But it's time that you grow up. But spiritual immaturity is a great tragedy.
And as the scriptures said, At the time when you should be actually able to eat meat, you still have need of milk because you've not been able to take meat up till now and even now, he said, you're not able to bear it. So I still have to feed you with the milk of the Word. But at the beginning you are to "desire the sincere milk of the word, that you might grow" ( 1 Peter 2:2 ). But there comes a time when we grow beyond the bottle itself and we need nourishment other than just the bottle. You need to grow up. You need to renounce the old nature and the old man. We need to begin to seek that nature of Christ to be perfected in us that we might be what God wants us to be.
And so Joseph, the secret of his strength was God was holding him. God will hold you. God will help you. God will give you control. You don't have to be Simeon and Reuben or Simeon and Levi. You can have the control of God. And Joseph blessed, special blessings. "The blessings of your father have prevailed. Blessings of the progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they'll be on the head of Joseph."
Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he will divide the spoil ( Genesis 49:27 ).
Benjamin was tough. It was one of the most toughest tribes in Israel. They were the greatest fighter. Their career was marked by disaster. They were almost eliminated at one time as a tribe in Israel because of wickedness. All of the tribes of Israel gathered against Benjamin and were scarcely able to defeat them. They were so tough. From Benjamin came the first king of Israel, even Saul. From Benjamin came the great apostle Paul. Tough characters indeed, able to endure just far beyond the normal enduring capacity of a person. Tribe of Benjamin.
And these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spoke unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them. And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth. And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into his bed, and he yielded up his spirit, and was gathered to his people ( Genesis 49:28-33 ).
So this is his dying act: this pronouncement of the future of his sons. And then even as he had told Joseph, "Swear to me you'll bury me not in Egypt but back in my own land", and Joseph sworn. Now he's demanding the same thing from his sons. "Now, look, bury me back there in the cave that Abraham bought, where I buried Leah. I want to be buried by her. Put me back there." It is interesting that the love that he had for Rachel, that he didn't desire to be buried in the tomb of Rachel that still existed near Bethlehem. "But bury me next to Leah actually there in the cave of Machpelah."
Having said this, the old man pulled his legs back up into bed and that was it. He was gone.
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/genesis-49.html. 2014.
14. Jacob’s blessing of his sons 49:1-28
Having blessed Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7-10) and Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:15-20), Jacob next blessed all 12 of his sons and foretold what would become of each of them and their descendants. He disqualified Reuben, Simeon, and Levi from leadership and gave that blessing to Judah. He granted the double portion to Joseph. This chapter is the last one in Genesis that gives the destinies of the family members of Abraham’s chosen line. It contains blessings, curses, judgments, and promises, all of which are prominent in Genesis.
"These chapters, then, take the story from the first mention of Abram in Genesis 11:26 to the first mention of Israel as a people, a people blessed by God with a special blessing." [Note: Whybray, p. 4.]
The writer of Genesis called this section Jacob’s blessing (Genesis 49:28). Isaac had prophetically outlined the future of his two sons’ families (ch. 27). Earlier Noah had prophesied the future of Canaan’s descendants (Genesis 9:25-27). Likewise Jacob by divine inspiration foretold major characteristics of each of the twelve tribes that would issue from his twelve sons (Genesis 49:1). Each blessing contains at least one of these elements: 1) a synopsis of the son’s personality, 2) a hint as to his potential, and 3) a prophecy of his future.
"Jacob predicted how things would turn out for each of his sons and their descendants, should they continue to display the character they had displayed thus far." [Note: Joel D. Heck, "A History of Interpretation of Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33," Bibliotheca Sacra 147:585 (January-March l990):20. See also Stigers, p. 325.]
This is the first long poem in the Bible.
"This chapter, in that it is poetry, seems to be intended to be a high point of the toledot ya’aqob (i.e., chaps. 37-50), if not the whole book of Genesis." [Note: R. E. Longacre, Joseph: A Story of Divine Providence, p. 23.]
This blessing rested on God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Each son learned how his branch of the family would benefit from and be a channel of blessing relative to the patriarchal promises. The natural character of each son and the consequences of that character would have their outcome in the future of the Israelites. The choices and consequently the characters of the patriarchs affected their descendants for generations to come, as is usually true.
"The Spirit of God revealed to the dying patriarch Israel the future history of his seed, so that he discovered in the character of his sons the future development of the tribes proceeding from them, and with prophetic clearness assigned to each of them its position and importance in the nation into which they were to expand in the promised inheritance." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:387.]
"It is fitting that the Book of Genesis, which opened with the creative power of the divine word, closes with the notion of the effective power of the inspired predictive word of the patriarch." [Note: Sarna, Understanding Genesis, p. 331.]
Jacob assumed in his blessing that his family would increase and possess the land of Canaan. This optimism reveals his faith.
"God gave His people this prophecy to bear them through the dismal barrenness of their experiences and to show them that He planned all the future. For Jacob’s family, the future lay beyond the bondage of Egypt in the land of promise. But the enjoyment of the blessings of that hope would depend on the participants’ faithfulness. So from the solemnity of his deathbed Jacob evaluated his sons one by one, and carried his evaluation forward to the future tribes." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 98.]
The scope of his prophecy extends into the millennial age. God did not fulfill these prophecies completely during the lifetime of Jacob’s sons. He did not do so during Israel’s years in the land beginning with the conquest of Joshua and ending with the captivities either. Moreover, He has not done so since then.
"Jacob’s last words to his sons have become the occasion for a final statement of the book’s major theme: God’s plan to restore the lost blessing [lost in the Fall] through the offspring of Abraham.
"By framing Jacob’s last words between Genesis 49:1 and Genesis 49:28, the writer shows where his interests lie. Jacob’s words look to the future-’in days to come’-and draw on the past, viz., God’s blessing of mankind. It is within that context we are to read and understand Jacob’s words in this chapter." [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," pp. 274, 275.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/genesis-49.html. 2012.
Simeon and Levi. These two were brothers not only by blood but also in disposition. They were violent, wicked men (Genesis 34:25-31). Because of their wickedness they would have no independent tribal territory, but their descendants would live scattered among the other tribes. By the second census, just before the Israelites entered Canaan, the Simeonites had become the smallest tribe (Numbers 26). Moses passed over the Simeonites in his blessing of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 33). This tribe received only a few cities within the allotment of Judah rather than a separate geographical territory (Joshua 19:1-9). The Simeonites eventually lost their tribal identity and lived among the other tribes, especially Judah (cf. 1 Chronicles 4:27; 1 Chronicles 4:38-43).
The Levites also received no large land grant, but Joshua gave them several cities in which they lived among the other tribes (Joshua 21:1-42). The Levites gained a special blessing at Mt. Sinai by siding with Moses when the other Israelites apostatized (Exodus 32:26-28; Numbers 3:5-13; Numbers 18:6-32). This resulted in their becoming a tribe of priests in Israel.
Even though these first three tribes suffered punishment for their sins, Jacob’s prophecies about them were still a blessing. They retained a place in the chosen family and enjoyed the benefits of the patriarchal promises as Jacob’s heirs.
"By demoting Reuben for his turbulence and uncontrolled sex drive, Jacob saves Israel from reckless leadership. Likewise, by cursing the cruelty of Simeon and Levi, he restricts their cruel rashness from dominating." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 603.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/genesis-49.html. 2012.
O my soul, come not thou into their secret,.... Their cabinet counsels, combinations and conspiracies; this Jacob said, as abhorring the wicked counsel they had took of slaying the Shechemites; and lest any should think he was concerned in it, or connived at it, he expressed a detestation of the fact on his dying bed: the future tense may be put for the past; and so Onkelos renders it, "my soul was not in their secret"; and so the other two Targums paraphrase it, that when they got and consulted together, his soul was not pleased and delighted with their counsel, but abhorred it; or "my soul shall not come", which Jarchi thinks prophetical refers to the case of Zimri, the son of Salu, of the tribe of Simeon, as the following clause to the affair of Korah, of the tribe of Levi, as foreseeing and disapproving them, and desiring they might not be called by his name, or his name called upon them, Numbers 25:14
unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united; the same thing expressed in different words; by his "honour or glory" he means his soul, the more honourable part of man, or his tongue, with which man glorifies God; and hereby Jacob intimates, that he did not in thought, and much less in express words, give any consent unto, and approbation of the deed of those two sons of his, and that he never was, nor never desired to be with them in their meetings and consultations:
for in their anger they slew a man; Hamor or Shechem, together with all the males of the city; and so "man" may be put for "men", the singular for the plural, as is frequent. The Targum of Jonathan is, a king and his governor; and the Targum of Jerusalem, kings with governors:
and in their selfwill they digged down a wall; not the wall of the city of Shechem, which does not appear to be walled, by their easy access into it; and if it was, they do not seem to have had proper instruments for such an undertaking, nor a sufficient number for such work, and which would have required longer time than they used, unless it was a poor wall indeed: rather the wall of Shechem's house, or the court before it, which they dug down, or broke through to get in and slay Hamor and Shechem, and take away their sister; though the word, as here pointed, always signifies an ox; and so the Samaritan and Septuagint versions render it, they hamstringed a bull, or houghed an ox, just in like manner as horses are said to be houghed,
Joshua 11:6 and which some understand l figuratively of a prince or ruler; so great personages are called bulls of Bashan,
Psalms 22:12 and interpret it either of Hamor or of Shechem, who was a prince among his people, and furious in his lust towards Dinah, and so this clause is much the same with the former: and besides, him they enervated by circumcision, and took the advantage of this his condition at the worst, and slew him, which seems to be the true sense of the text, agreeably to Genesis 34:25 but the Jerusalem Targum paraphrases it of Joseph, whom his brethren sold, who was like unto an ox; and so Jarchi interprets it of him, whom they designed to slay, see Deuteronomy 33:17 but it is better to take the words in a literal sense, either of the oxen that Simeon and Levi took from the Shechemites, which they plucked or drove away from their mangers, as some render the words m; and some of them they might hough or hamstring, that they might not get away from them, see Genesis 34:28 or rather of Shechem himself, who was שר, "a prince", a word which has some likeness and affinity to this in the text.
l R. Jacob Ben Eleazer in Ben Melech, in loc. m עקרו שור "avulserunt boves", Junius Tremellius, Piscator others, "enervarunt bovem", Schmidt; so Ainsworth.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis-49.html. 1999.
5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. 6 O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
These were next in age to Reuben, and they also had been a grief and shame to Jacob, when they treacherously and barbarously destroyed the Shechemites, which he here remembers against them. Children should be afraid of incurring their parents' just displeasure, lest they fare the worse for it long afterwards, and, when they would inherit the blessing, be rejected. Observe, 1. The character of Simeon and Levi: they were brethren in disposition; but, unlike their father, they were passionate and revengeful, fierce and uncontrollable; their swords, which should have been only weapons of defence, were (as the margin reads it, Genesis 49:5; Genesis 49:5) weapons of violence, to do wrong to others, not to save themselves from wrong. Note, It is no new thing for the temper of children to differ very much from that of their parents. We need not think this strange: it was so in Jacob's family. It is not in the power of parents, no, not by education, to form the dispositions of their children; Jacob bred his sons to every thing that was mild and quiet, and yet they proved to be thus furious. 2. A proof of this is the murder of the Shechemites, which Jacob deeply resented at the time (Genesis 34:30; Genesis 34:30) and still continued to resent. They slew a man, Shechem himself, and many others; and, to effect that, they digged down a wall, broke the houses, to plunder them, and murder the inhabitants. Note, The best governors cannot always restrain those under their charge from committing the worst villanies. And when two in a family are mischievous they commonly make one another so much the worse, and it were wisdom to part them. Simeon and Levi, it is probable, were most active in the wrong done to Joseph, to which some think Jacob has here some reference; for in their anger they would have slain that man. Observe what a mischievous thing self-will is in young people: Simeon and Levi would not be advised by their aged and experienced father; no, they would be governed by their own passion rather than by his prudence. Young people would better consult their own interests if they would less indulge their own will. 3. Jacob's protestation against this barbarous act of theirs: O my soul, come not thou into their secret. Hereby he professes not only his abhorrence of such practices in general, but his innocence particularly in that matter. Perhaps he had been suspected as, under-hand, aiding and abetting; he therefore thus solemnly expresses his detestation of the fact, that he might not die under that suspicion. Note, Our soul is our honour; by its powers and faculties we are distinguished from, and dignified above, the beasts that perish. Note, further, We ought, from our hearts, to detest and abhor all society and confederacy with bloody and mischievous men. We must not be ambitious of coming into their secret, or knowing the depths of Satan. 4. His abhorrence of those brutish lusts that led them to this wickedness: Cursed be their anger. He does not curse their persons, but their lusts. Note, (1.) Anger is the cause and original of a great deal of sin, and exposes us to the curse of God, and his judgment, Matthew 5:22. (2.) We ought always, in the expressions of our zeal, carefully to distinguish between the sinner and the sin, so as not to love nor bless the sin for the sake of the person, nor to hate nor curse the person for the sake of the sin. 5. A token of displeasure which he foretels their posterity should lie under for this: I will divide them. The Levites were scattered throughout all the tribes, and Simeon's lot lay not together, and was so strait that many of the tribe were forced to disperse themselves in quest of settlements and subsistence. This curse was afterwards turned into a blessing to the Levites; but the Simeonites, for Zimri's sin (Numbers 25:14), had it bound on. Note, Shameful dispersions are the just punishment of sinful unions and confederacies.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Genesis 49:6". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/genesis-49.html. 1706.
Having already shown the position of Isaac, I resume briefly with the remark that he stands before us clearly as the representative of the Son, and this too as dead, risen, and in heaven. All will understand it who remember that we have had His death and resurrection parabolically in Genesis 22:1-24; and then, after the passing away of her who was the figure of the new covenant, come the entirely novel dealings of God in the call of the bride for the Son here carefully and exclusively connected with the type of heaven. The bearing of this on the great mystery of the heavenly Christ and the church, His body and bride, does not need to be further insisted on now.
We have here, before pursuing the history of Isaac to the end, an episode which brings before us the birth of the two sons of Isaac and Rebecca. God had already affirmed the principle of His choice in the son of the free woman Sarah, when the child of the flesh was set aside. But there was this difference. It only in a preparatory way set out the great principle of God's sovereignty. There was a difference in the mother, if not in the father. There was a need, in the wisdom of God, that the sovereignty should be affirmed still more expressly. And so it was now; for Esau was the son of the same father and of the same mother as Jacob, and in fact they were twins. It was therefore impossible to find a closer parity between any than in these two sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Nevertheless, from the first, entirely apart from any grounds such as to determine a preference, God shows that He will be sovereign. He can show mercy to the uttermost, and He does; but He is God, and as such He reserves to Himself His right of choice. Why even a man does so; and God would be inferior to man if He did not. But He claims His choice and makes it, setting it forth in the most distinct manner, which is reasoned on, as we know, in the power of the Spirit of God, in the Epistle to the Romans, and alluded to elsewhere in the Bible. I only refer to it passingly to show how clearly it is brought out in the circumstances.
At the same time there is another thing to be weighed. The after history illustrates the two men and their posterity; for whatever may be said of the failure of Jacob, it is perfectly clear that not Jacob but Esau was profane, despising God and consequently his birthright. This is brought out in the same chapter. But the choice of God was before anything of the sort, and God made it unambiguous. I would only add one other word, that although scripture is abundantly plain that He chose him apart from anything to fix that choice, it is never said nor insinuated in any part of the word of God, that the prophet's solemn expression "Esau have I hated" was applicable from the first. The choice was true, but not the hatred. In fact, so far is it from the truth that we see the plainest facts in opposition to such a thought. In the first book of the Bible the choice of Jacob, and not Esau, is made plain; in the last book of the Bible, the prophecy of Malachi, the hatred of Esau is for the first time clearly affirmed. How admirable the word of God is in this! Let us delight first that God should have His choice; secondly, that God, far from pronouncing His hatred then, waited till there was that which manifestly deserved it waited, as we see, to the very last. To confound two things so distinguished, to mix up the choice at the beginning with the hatred at the end, seems nothing but the narrow folly of man's mind. The truth is that all the good is on God's part, all the evil on man's. He is sovereign; but every condemned soul will himself own the absolute justice of it.
In Genesis 26:1-35, which follows, Isaac's history is resumed. Let us bear in mind that it is the account of the risen Son. Hence mark the difference when Jehovah appears to Isaac. I call your attention to it as an interesting fact, as well as an instance of the profoundly typical character of the Scriptures. He appears as Almighty God (El-Shaddai) to Abraham: so He is also revealed as the Almighty to Jacob; but I am not aware that He is ever represented as formally proclaiming Himself in this way to Isaac. The reason is manifest. While surely included in fact like his father and son in such a revelation of El-Shaddai, Isaac has an altogether peculiar place in the record, not connected in the same way with the dispensations of God as either Abraham on the one hand, or Jacob on the other. Here we have God either in His own abstract majesty as Elohim, or in special relationship as Jehovah the two forms in which God is spoken of. These are used, but not "the Almighty." Isaac indeed speaks of Him as the Almighty when he blesses Jacob; but when God appears, Scripture describes Him simply as Elohim or as Jehovah. The reason is clear: we are upon the ground where God meant us to appreciate the very peculiar dealings with him who sets forth the Bridegroom of the church. Consequently what was merely of an earthly, passing, or dispensational nature is not brought forward.
Again, when God does appear to Isaac, He says, "Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of." Isaac is always a dweller in the heavenly land. How admirably this suits the position of Christ as the risen Bridegroom will be too plain to call for further proof. "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee and will bless thee; for unto thee and unto thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father. And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven." Not a word about the sand of the sea. He is as ever exclusively connected with what is heavenly as far as the figure goes. In the case of Abraham appears the double figure: the children were to be as the stars of the sky, but also as the sands of the sea. Isaac has the peculiar place. Abraham takes in both; as we know, he is connected with that which is heavenly, but also with what is earthly. For Isaac we find the heavenly places, a relationship past resurrection as far as this could be set forth in type. But it was only the shadow, not the very image; and so alas! we find that he who was but the type denies his relationship, which Christ never does. Isaac failed like Abraham before. Unswerving fidelity is true of One only.
At the same time we have the never-failing faithfulness of God. Immediately afterwards he is blessed and blessed a hundred-fold. What is not the goodness of God? And Abimelech seeks his favour too; but Isaac remains always in the emblematic heavenly land, the type of Christ's present position.
The next chapter (Genesis 27:1-46) lets us into the sight of circumstances which searched the heart of all concerned. We see the nature which left room for the mingled character which so evidently belonged to Jacob. He was a believer; but a believer in whom flesh was little judged, and not in him only, but in Rebecca also Between them there is much to pain; and although Isaac might not be without feebleness and fault, there was deceit in both the mother and the son. As to Esau, there was nothing of God, and consequently no ground of complaint on that score. At the same time there was positive unrighteousness, of which God never makes light in any soul. Hence we find that though the blessing was wrested fraudulently from Isaac, he is astonished to find where he had been drifting through yielding to nature; for indeed flesh wrought in Isaac, but for the time it ruled, I may say, in Rebecca and in Jacob. Shocked at himself, but restored in soul, he finds himself through his affections in danger of fighting against the purpose of God. Spite of all the faults of Rebecca and of Jacob, they at least did hold fast the word of God. On the whole it is a humiliating spectacle: God alone shines throughout it all as ever. Isaac therefore, awakened to feel whence he was fallen, affirms the certainty of the purpose of God, and pronounces in the most emphatic terms that, spite of the manner in which Jacob had possessed himself of his blessing, he shall be blessed of God.
In Genesis 28:1-22 we have Jacob called by Isaac, and sent to Padan-Aram for a wife, with El-Shaddai's blessing on him. Now the governmental dealings of God begin to appear, and Jacob is the standing type of the people of God not walking in communion with God like Abraham, and consequently the first type of a pilgrim and of a worshipper too; not as the son, risen from the dead and in the heavenly land, but an outcast; forced to be, if a pilgrim, a pilgrim against his will in the government of God, and consequently the most apt possible type of Israel, for unfaithfulness expelled from their own land, passing under corrective discipline, but blessed at last with rest and joy here below. This is what Jacob represents none more suitable to be such a type, as we shall find by the very name which God gives him. So "Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban, thy mother's brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee."
Jacob accordingly goes out on his lonely way, and went to Padan-aram, and there it is that he dreams; and he beheld standing above the ladder Jehovah, who proclaims Himself to Jacob as the God of his fathers. "I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth." Mark again the consistency of the word of God. Not a word here about the stars of the sky. Abraham had both; Isaac had the heavenly part alone, and Jacob the earthly alone. And He says, "Behold I am with thee, I will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." Jacob awakes; but, as is always the case when a person is simply under the government of God without being founded in His grace, there is alarm. The presence of God is more or less an object of dread to the soul, as indeed he expressed it. "He was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Many of us may be astonished to think of such a conjunction, that the house of God should be associated with terror. But so it must always be where the heart is not established in grace; and Jacob's heart was far from it. He was the object of grace, but in no way established in grace. Nevertheless there is no doubt of God's grace towards him, little as he might as yet appreciate its fulness. Jacob then rises up early, and takes the stone that be had put for his pillow, and sets it up, calling the name of the place Bethel, and vowing a vow; for all here is of a Jewish savour: "If God* will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on" his demands were by no means large, legalism is of necessity contracted "so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then shall Jehovah be my God; and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." He was in no way a man delivered from self or from the earth. It is as nearly as possible the picture of a man under law. How appropriate, therefore, for the type of the Jew driven out through his own fault, but under the mighty hand of God for government, but for good in His mercy at the end! This is precisely what Jacob himself has to prove, as we may see.
*There is no real difficulty in understanding the propriety of the various divine names in these chapters according to the motive which governs. Thus El-Shaddai is the peculiar patriarchal name of guaranteed protector; Jehovah of special relationship for covenant blessings of Israel according to promise; but then Jehovah is Elohim in His own majesty, or He would be a merely national deity, Compare Genesis 17:1-27, where it is expressly Jehovah that appears and calls Himself El-Shaddai, yet immediately after talks as Elohim with Abram. See also Genesis 22:1; Genesis 22:8-9; Genesis 22:12; Genesis 22:11; Genesis 22:14-16, where the various document-system is manifestly disproved. Esau in Genesis 27:1-46, has neither covenant nor divine name of any sort.
Thus he goes on his journey; and among the children of the east ensues a characteristic scene, which need not be entered into in a detailed manner the providential introduction to his experiences with Laban and his family. (Genesis 29:1-35)
Now experiences are admirable in their own way as a school for the heart in the soul's finding its way to God; but experiences completely melt away in the presence of God. This and the grace known there in Him who died and rose again alone can give fully either the end of self or communion with God. Experiences may be needed and wholesome; but they are chiefly wholesome as a part of the road while on our way to Him. Before what God is to us in Christ they disappear I do not mean the results, but the processes. So we shall find it was with Jacob. He is a man evidently cared for by God. He shows us much that was exceeding sweet and lovely. No doubt he had often to suffer from Laban's deceit; but was there not a memorial here of the deceit in which he had acted himself? He is deceived about his wife, deceived about his wages, deceived about everything; but how had he dealt with his father, not to speak of his brother? Deceit must meet with deceit under the retributive hands of God. Wonder not overmuch at the tale of .Jacob; but bless with all your heart the God who shows Himself caring for His servant, and, after he had suffered awhile, giving him although slowly yet surely to prosper. At his setting out he was by no means a young man, being somewhere about eighty years of age when he reached Laban. There he receives, not willingly, two wives instead of one. Leah he did not want, Rachel he did. But in his chequered course, as we know, their maids were given as concubines, with many a child and many a sorrow.* And spite of Laban abundance was his in herds and flocks. (Genesis 30:1-43)
*Can it be doubted that this part of Genesis is typical like what goes before and after? Surely Jacob's love for Rachel first, for whom nevertheless he must wait and fulfil the week afresh after Leah had been given him, is not without evident bearing on the Lord's relation to Israel first loved, for whom meanwhile the slighted Gentile has been substituted with rich results in His grace. Rachel is at length remembered by God, who takes away her reproach by adding to her a son (Joseph) type of One glorified among the Gentiles and delivering His Jewish brethren after suffering among both Jews and Gentiles So her history closes in the death of her Benoni and Jacob's Benjamin son of the mother's sorrow and of the father's right hand, as the people of God will prove in the end. I take this opportunity Of noticing the beauty of Scripture in the use of the divine names in these chapters, the best answer to the superficial folly which attributes them to different writers and documents. In the case of Leah (Genesis 29:1-35), who was hated compared with Rachel, Jehovah as such interposed with His special regard to her sorrow, and this was expressed in the name of her first-born son, Reuben; and His hearing in her second, Simeon. At Levi's birth she does not go farther than the hope of her husband's being joined to her; but Jehovah has praise when she bore Judah. In Rachael's case (Genesis 30:1-43) there is no such expression at first of confidence in Jehovah's compassionate interest; but in disappointment of heart she gives Jacob her maid; and, when Dan was born, she accepts it as the judgment of Elohim, and at Naphtali's birth speaks of His wrestlings. Leah, following her example, gains through Zilpah Gad and Asher, but makes no acknowledgment of the divine name in either form. After this comes the incident of using mandrakes for hire, when Elohim acts for Leah in sovereign power and she owns Him as such when Issachar was born, and in Zebulun on the pledge of her husband's dwelling with her. In the same power did Elohim remember Rachael, who not only confesses that the God of creation had taken away her reproach, but calls her son Joseph saying, Jehovah shall add to me another son. This is the more striking because it is an instance of the combined use of these names admirably illustrating both sides of the truth, and irreconcilable with the double-document hypothesis. Rachel rose from the thought of His power to the recognition of His ways with His own. And even Laban (verse 39) is obliged to confess that Jacob enjoyed the blessing of One who was in special relationship with him of Jehovah.
At length, when Laban's sons murmur and their father's countenance was not toward Jacob as before, Jehovah bids him return to the land of his fathers. (Genesis 31:3) His mind is at once made up. He gives a touching explanation to Rachel and Leah, and sets out secretly; for there was no such confidence in God with a pure conscience as divested himself of fear. There was the unseen hand of God; but the power and the honour of God could not be righteously found in such a course. Grace would give these another day: they could not rightly be as yet. He steals away therefore timidly, pursued as if he were a thief by his father-in-law, whom however God takes gravely in hand, coming to him in a dream by night. The Syrian (Laban) is warned to beware what he says or does to Jacob, and even obliged to confess it himself. While Jacob lays his remonstrance before him, Laban after all cannot but seek his aid, and enters into a special covenant with the very man he had overtaken in his flight.
After this we find the angels of God meeting Jacob. (Genesis 32:1-32) "And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host." They were the witnesses of the full providential care of God; but no such intervention can ever set the heats or conscience right with God. This was proved immediately afterwards. The messengers whom Jacob sent to propitiate Esau returned, saying, that the dreaded chief of Seir was coming to meet him with four hundred men. God's host then gave no comfort to Jacob against the host of Esau. He is alarmed more than ever. He sets to work in his own way. He makes his plan-and then he makes his prayer; but after all he is not at ease. He devised with considerable skill; feeble was his faith, and where even generous self-sacrificing love for the family? All bears the stamp of anxiety as well as address, if not craft. This was his natural character; for though eminently a man of God, still it is not God who is prominent to his eyes, and leant on, but his own human resources. Ill at ease, he sends over I am sorry to say himself last of all! That which he valued most came latest. Jacob was not among the first! His flocks, herds and camels set first, wives and children next, Jacob last. The various bands in order were meant to serve as a breakwater between the offended brother Esau and trembling Jacob. But at length, when all were taken or sent over the ford Jabbok, comes another whom Jacob did not expect when left alone. A man struggled with him that night till break of day.
But it is well to remark, though it has been often noticed, that it is not set forth to the honour of Jacob that he wrestled with the man, for it was rather the man, or God Himself, who wrestled with him. There was still not a little in him with which God had a controversy for Jacob's good, not without his humiliation. In short God was dealing with and putting down His servant's dependence on his own strength, devices, and resources in any and every way. Hence, as the symbol of this, what was touched and shrank was the known sign of man's strength. The sinew of: the thigh was caused to wither away. But the very hand which touched the seat of natural strength imparted a strength from above; and Jacob on this occasion has a new name given to him. "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." He asked the name of God, but this could not, consistently with His character, be revealed yet. God keeps His name in secret now. Jacob struggles all night that he might be blessed. It was no question of peaceful fellowship, still less of earnest intercession for others. It was indeed most significant of divine mercy; but of God's mercy in the dark, where there could not yet be communion. Thus nothing could more truly answer to the state of Jacob. He was no doubt strengthened of God, but it was compassionate mercy strengthening him to profit by a needful and permanent putting down of all his own strength love that must wither it up, but would nevertheless sustain himself.
In the next chapter (Genesis 33:1-20) the meeting takes place. Esau receives him with every appearance of generous affection, refusing but at length receiving his gifts. At the same time Jacob proves that his confidence was far from being restored. He is uneasy at the presence of Esau: his conscience was not good. Esau proffers his protection. There was nothing farther from the desire of Jacob. Is it too much to say that the excuse was not thoroughly truthful? Can one believe that Jacob meant to visit him at mount Seir? Certain it is that, directly Esau's back is turned, he goes another way. "He journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth And Jacob came to Shalem,* a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent.... And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel." Thus, it seems to me evident, that although there was unquestionably progress in Jacob's soul, he was far from being brought to that which we find in Abraham from the very beginning. He is still wandering still under corrective government. All that which hindered the enjoyment of grace was not yet removed. There was earthliness of mind enough to quit the pilgrim's tent and build a house, as well as to buy a piece of ground. What did he want it for? He erected no doubt an altar. There is progress unquestionably; but he does not in this go beyond the thought of God as connected with himself. It was in no way the homage of one who regarded God according to His own being and majesty. Now there never can be the spirit of worship till we delight in God for what He is Himself, not merely for what He has been to you or me. I grant you that it is all right to feel what He has done for us; but it is rather the preparation for worship, or at most worship in its most elementary form. It is more thanksgiving than the proper adoration of God, and in fact a circumscribing of God to our own circumstances. I admit fully that the grace of God does minister to our wants; but then it is to raise us above them and the sense of them, in order that we may freely and fully enjoy what God is, and not merely feel what He has done for us. Jacob had not reached that yet; for him God the God of Israel is all he can say. Shechem is not Bethel.
*Probably, instead of "to Shalem," etc., we should translate it "in peace to," etc. Compare Genesis 28:21, Genesis 34:21.
This conclusion, as to the then state of Jacob, seems to be confirmed by the chapter which follows The settling down in the city ere long became a sorrowful story for Jacob, who proved it in one that was near and dear to him. It was the occasion of his daughter Dinah's shame, as well as of her brother's cruel and deceitful vengeance, that brought trouble on Jacob, and caused him to stink among the inhabitants of the land, as Jacob so sorely confessed. (Genesis 34:1-31)
Once more God said to Jacob, Arise; but now it is to "go to Bethel, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother." Here he is not met by a host of angels, nor does the mysterious stranger wrestle in the darkness of the night, crippling him in the might of nature, and making the weak to be strong. It is a more open call in Genesis 35:1-29.
Now it is singular to hear, that Jacob says to his household and all that are with him, "Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments." "Strange gods "? Yes, there they were, and he knew it all along, but he never before felt the seriousness of it till summoned to go to Bethel. His conscience is now awake to what previously made no impression on his mind. We easily forget what our bears does not judge as it is before God; but as He knows how to rouse the conscience adequately, so it is a sorrowful thing on the other hand when a saint forgets what ought to be the permanent object of his soul, still more solemn when his conscience is not sensitive to that which utterly sullies the glory of God. Manifestly it was the case with Jacob; but now the presence of God, not providential power, not disciplinary dealings with him, but the call to Bethel, brings light into his soul, and the false gods must be put away. Jacob will have the household in unison with an altar at Bethel. "Be clean, and change your garments, and go to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went." What in his ways can be conceived more blessed than the patient faithfulness of God? Now at length Jacob is alive to his responsibility toward God. "And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. And they journeyed."
But was it a flight now? "And the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob." All was changed from this point. "So Jacob came to Luz which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel. And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el (the God of Bethel)." There Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried. There God appeared again; and while He repeats the name of Israel instead of Jacob, He reveals Himself as God Almighty, El-Shaddai. "And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and He called his name Israel,"* blotting out in one sense all the history from the day when that name was first conferred on him. It is a sorrowful reflection for the heart when time past is, so to speak, time lost. It is not that God cannot turn it to purpose when grace is at work, but there must be merited self-reproach as we may too well know.
*Dr. Davidson (Introd. O. T. pp. 65, 66), in his arguments against unity of authorship on the score of diversities, confusedness, and contradictions, alleges this: "In like manner Jacob's name was changed to Israel, when he wrestled with a supernatural being in human form all night before he met his brother Esau, on his return from Mesopotamia (Genesis 32:28); whereas according toGenesis 35:10; Genesis 35:10 he received the name on another occasion at Bethel, not Penuel, as the first passage states. It is a mere subterfuge to assert that, because no reason is assigned for the change of name in 35: 10, it relates no more than a solemn confirmation of what had been done already. A reason for the change does not necessarily accompany its record. The words are explicit: 'And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob; thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name.' If his name were Israel before, the words plainly assert the contrary. The passages are junior Elohistic, and Elohistic respectively. An analogous example is Bethel, formerly Luz, which was so named by Jacob on his journey to Mesopotamia (Genesis 28:19, Genesis 30:13), but according to Genesis 35:15, on his return. Identical names of places are not imposed twice." It is evident that the rationalist approaches Scripture, not as a believer and learner, but as a judge, and that his criticism is captious, to say nothing of irreverence. There is nothing to hinder a repetition in giving names either to persons or places. Let those who are affected by such petty cavils weigh our Lord's giving Simon the name of Peter twice (John 1:42, Matthew 16:18), and the second time with yet more emphasis than the first. It is the more absurd in the case of Jacob changed to Israel and then confirmed, because the usual plea of Jehovah and Elohim does not apply here. In both cases it is Elohim. Hence the need of inventing a junior Elohist in order to maintain their illusion. Again, the first verse of Genesis 35:1-29. furnishes the most direct and conclusive proof that identical names of places may be imposed twice, for God is represented on this second occasion as bidding Jacob go up to Bethel (not Luz) before he calls the place for the second time Bethel. What is the value of Dr. D.'s denial of what Scripture positively affirms?
Not only then does Jacob receive afresh his new name, but God shrouds His name no longer in secrecy. Now he has not to ask, "What is thy name?" any more than He who wrestled once had to ask him wherefore he asked it. He was not then in the condition to profit by that name; nor was it consistent with God's own honour that He should make it known. Now God can reveal Himself to His servant, saying, "I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins. And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land." And not unlike what was said of Abraham, so on an occasion of singular nearness it is said of Jacob, great honour for one after such an experience, that "God went up from him in the place where he talked with him." If it was a glorious moment in Abraham's history, it was especially gracious in God's ways with Jacob. "And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone, and he poured a drink-offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon, and called the name of the place where God spake with him Beth-el." Afterwards comes the passing away of Rachel at a moment of deep interest already noticed, the birth of her second son, and her burial near Bethlehem. And on the journey there the aged father has a fresh sorrow and shame in the foul sin of his first-born.
Then follows the genealogy of Jacob's sons; and the long-delayed last sight of Isaac at Hebron, where he dies at the age of 180 years, and was buried by his sons Esau and Jacob.
But there is another genealogy (Genesis 36:1-43), and strikingly introduced in this place. The Edomite interrupts the course of the line of God's dealings. We discern at once what remarkable maturity there was here. It is always so first that which is natural, afterwards that which is spiritual. Even then we find a rapid development of power in the family of Esau. They were all great people, to be sure duke this and duke that, to the end of the chapter even kings, as we are told, reigned before there were any such in Israel. I have no doubt that this is given us as an important element to mark how rapidly what is not of God shoots up. Growth according to God is slower, but then it is more permanent.
Genesis 37:1-36 introduces to us a new and altogether different range of events the very attractive account of Joseph. It is not now a fugitive from the land under the righteous hand of God, but a sufferer who is going to be exalted in due time. These are the two main outlines of Joseph's history a more than usually meet type of Christ, in that he shone above all his fellows for unsullied integrity of heart under-the several trials. There is no patriarch on whom the Spirit of God dwells with greater delight; and among those who preceded Christ our Lord it may be questioned where one can find such a sufferer. And his suffering too was not merely outside: he suffered quite as keenly from his brethren. Wherever he lived, in Palestine or in Egypt, he was a sufferer, and this in astonishing grace, never higher morally than when lying under the basest reproach. He was one who had true understanding; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Such was Joseph's great distinctive trait. Thus we find it brings him, first of all, into collision with his father's house. Jacob indeed felt very differently. It was impossible for one that valued holiness to bring a good report of his brethren. But his father loved him, and when his brethren saw their father's estimate of him, they could so much the less endure Joseph. "They hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him." The wisdom that follows fidelity and I believe it is always so as a rule is furnished and exercised in the communications of God; for if He forms a heart for what is of Himself, He gives the supply of what it craves. He ministers to Joseph dreams that shew the gracious purposes that were before Himself. For first the sheaves pay obeisance, and he with the utmost simplicity of heart tells all to his brethren; for he never thought of himself, and therefore could speak with candour. But they with instinctive dislike and jealousy of what gave glory to their brother did not fail to make the detested application of his dreams. Even the father finds it trying, much as he loved him; for Joseph has another dream, in which the sun and moon, as well as eleven stars, made obeisance to him; and Jacob felt but observed the saying.
The story proceeds: Joseph is sent to see the peace of his brethren, follows them to Dothan, and there the last errand of love brings out their deepest hatred. They determine to get rid of him. They will have this dreamer no more. Reuben sets himself against their murderous intention; but the result is that at Judah's proposal he is cast into the pit, given up for death, yet taken out of it and sold to the Midianites a wonderful type of a greater than Joseph. It was bad to sell him for twenty pieces of silver, but this was not the full extent of the wrong; for the same cruel hearts which thus disposed of a holy and loving brother did not scruple to inflict the deadliest wound on their aged father. Sin against the brother, and sin against the father such is the sorrowful conclusion of this chapter of Joseph's story.
Here again, we have another interruption; but never allow for a moment that anything is not perfect in the word of God. It is right that we should see what the leader in this wickedness was; it is well that we should know what the character and conduct of Judah was, whom we afterwards see the object of wondrous counsels on God's part. The answer lies in the shameful account of Judah, his sons, and his daughter-in-law, and himself. (Genesis 38:1-30) Yet of that very line was He born, with her name specified too, which points to the most painfully humiliating tale that we find perhaps anywhere in the book of Genesis. But what humiliation was He not willing to undergo who had love as well as glory incomparably greater than Joseph's!
In Genesis 39:1-23 Joseph is seen in the land of Egypt, for there the Midianites sold him. He is in slavery, first of all in the house of Potiphar, captain of the guard; but "Jehovah was with Joseph; and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian." Here again he comes into suffering; here again most unworthily is he misrepresented and maligned, and hastily cast into the dungeon. But Jehovah was with Joseph in the prison, just as much as in Potiphar's house. In verse 2, it is written, He was with Joseph; in verse 21, He was with Joseph, "and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand." It mattered little where he was, since Jehovah was with him. What a difference it makes when God is with us God too in His special known relationship, which is implied in the use of "Jehovah" here as everywhere. "He looked not to anything that was under his hand, because Jehovah was with him; and that which he did Jehovah made it to prosper."
But God works for Joseph, and in the prison puts him in contact with the chief butler and the chief baker of the king of Egypt. (Genesis 40:1-23) They too have their dreams to tell. Joseph willingly listens, and interprets according to the wisdom of God that was given him. His interpretation was soon verified. With the remarkable prudence which marks his character, he had begged not to be forgotten. But "his soul came into iron" a little longer. The word of Jehovah tried him. God would work in His own way. If the chief butler forgot Joseph in his prosperity, God did not.
Pharaoh now had a dream; but there was none to interpret. (Genesis 41:1-57) It was two years after a long while to wait, especially in a dungeon; but the chief butler, remembering his faults, and confessing them, tells his master of the young Hebrew in the prison, servant to the captain of the guard, who had interpreted so truly.
"Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon," and presented him duly before the king. His interpretation carried its own light and evidence along with it; and Pharaoh recognized the wisdom of God not only in this but also in the counsel that Joseph gave. And what wiser man than Joseph could take in hand the critical case of Egypt, to husband its resources during the seven years of plenty, and to administer the stores during the seven years of famine that would surely follow? So the king felt at once, and his servants too in spite of the usual jealousy of a court. Joseph was the man to carry out what he had seen beforehand from God; and Joseph accordingly becomes ruler next to Pharaoh over all the land of Egypt.
"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt. And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number. And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bare unto him. And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands."
Then comes another wonderful working of God. The sheaves had not yet stood and bowed; the sun, moon, and stars had not paid obeisance yet; but all was to follow not long after. The famine pressed upon the land where Jacob sojourned, while Joseph was in Egypt with a new family, children of the bride that was given him by the king, evidently corresponding with the place of Christ cast out by Israel, sold by the Gentiles, but exalted in a new place and glory altogether, where He too can say during His rejection and separation from Israel, "Behold I and the children whom Jehovah hath given me." Nothing can be more transparent than the application of the type.
But there is more in the type than that we have just seen. The brethren that remained with Israel have yet to be accounted for; and the pressure of the famine is upon them. It is so with Israel now, a famine indeed, and in the deepest sense. But. ten of the brethren come down to buy corn in Egypt; and there it is that God works marvellously by Joseph. He recognizes his brethren. His heart is towards them when they are altogether ignorant who he was that enjoyed the glory of Egypt. The result is that Joseph puts in execution a most solemn searching of the heart and conscience of his brethren. It is exactly what the Lord from a better glory will do ere long with His Jewish brethren. He is now outside in a new position quite unlooked for by them: they know Him not. But He too will cause the pinch of famine to press upon them. He too will work in their hearts in consequence, that He may be made righteously known to them in due time. (Genesis 42:1-38)
We find, accordingly, that first of all one of the brethren is taken, Simeon; and the charge is given that, above all, Benjamin should be brought down. There can be no restoration, no reconciliation, relief it is true, but no deliverance for Israel till Joseph and Benjamin are united. He that was separated from his brethren, but now in glory, must have the son of his father's right hand. It is Christ rejected but exalted on high, and taking the character also of the man of power for dealing with the earth. Such is the meaning of the combined types of Jacob's sons, Joseph and Benjamin Christ has nothing to do with the latter yet; He admirably answers to the type of Joseph, but not yet of Benjamin. As long as He is simply filling up the type of Joseph, there is no knowledge of Himself on the part of his brethren. Hence, therefore, this became the great question how to bring down Benjamin how to put him into connection with Joseph. But the truth is, there was another moral necessity which must be met how to get their hearts and their consciences set right all round. This part of the beautiful tale is typical of the dealings of the Lord Jesus, long severed and exalted in another sphere, first with the remnant, and then with the whole house of Israel. There are various portions. We have Reuben and Simeon; and then others come forward, Judah more particularly at the close, and Benjamin.
The famine still pressing (Genesis 43:1-34), Jacob sorely against his will is obliged to part with Benjamin; and here it is that we find affections altogether unheard of before in the brethren of Joseph. We might have thought them incapable of anything that was good; and it is very evident that their hearts were now strewn to be under a most mighty power which forced them anew, as far as, of course, the type was concerned. More particularly we see how the very ones who had so shamefully failed are now distinctly brought into communion with God's mind about their ways. Reuben is quick to feel, recalls the truth as far as he knew it about Joseph, and shows right feelings towards his father. Yet we know what he had been. Judah is even more prominent, and clearly knew yet deeper searchings of the heart, and particularly too in the way of right affections about both their father and their brother. These, as is plain, were just the points in which they had broken down before. On these they must be divinely corrected now; and so they were.
The issue of all is this, that at last Judah and his brethren return to Joseph's house. (Genesis 44:1-34) Judah speaks. Here indeed we have a most earnest pleading, and full of touching affection. "O my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother?" There we have evidently a heart that has been brought right, exactly where the sin lay. "We said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man." Ah, there was no lacerating of his heart now! "And a child of his old age, a little one." How little they thought of that once! "And his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him." Do we not feel how far the hearts of all his brethren were from hating Joseph now because of Jacob's love to him! "And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more. And it came to pass, when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, Go again and buy us a little food. And we said, We cannot go down. If our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us. And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons, and the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces, and I saw him not since; and if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us, seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life, it shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die; and thy servants shall bring down the grey hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave; for thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. Now, therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father." The moral restoration was complete.
In the following chapter follows the unveiling of the typical stranger, the glorified man, to his brethren, who up to this were wholly ignorant of him. "Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me; and there stood no man with him while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud; and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard; and Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph. Doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him, for they were troubled at his presence. And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you; and they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years in the which there shall be neither earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. Haste ye, and go up to my father." (Genesis 45:1-9) And so they do. Benjamin then is embraced by Joseph; and now there is no let to the accomplishment of the purpose of God for the restoration of Israel for this complete blessing where the reality comes under Christ and the new covenant.
Jacob comes down at length, and on his way God speaks to Israel "in the visions of the night; and said, Jacob, Jacob; and he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes." (Genesis 46:2-4)
Then after the genealogies of the chapter,* we have the meeting between Jacob and Joseph. Not this only; for some of Joseph's brethren are presented to Pharaoh; and Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. (Genesis 47:1-31) It was a fine sight spiritually (the more so, because unconsciously, without a definite thought, I presume, on his own part) that "the less is blessed of the greater." But so it is. A poor pilgrim blesses the monarch of the mightiest realm of that day; but the greatest of earth is little in comparison with the blessed of God. Jacob now is not merely blessed, but a blesser. He knows God well enough to be assured that nothing Pharaoh teas could really enrich him, and that there is very much which God could give, on which Jacob could count from God even for Pharaoh.
*It may be worth while to observe in this and other genealogies not often the object of infidel attack, that the differences between Genesis, Numbers' and Chronicles in their form are due to the motive for their introduction in each particular connection ; that the difficulties clearly spring from the design, in no way from error in the writer, but in fact because of ignorance in ouch readers as misapprehend them; and that both the difference and the difficulties are the strongest evidence of their truth and inspired character, for nothing would have been easier than to have assimilated their various forms and to have eliminated that which sounds strange to western ears.
This table enumerates 32 of Leah, 16 of Zilpah, 11 of Rachel, 7 of Bilhah=66. But the head also goes with his house; and so with the larger list of Leah's children we see Jacob counted (verse 8), which is confirmed by the fact of 33 attributed to Leah, whereas no more than 32 literally are named, reckoning Dinah, and excluding Er and Onan who died in Canaan as we are expressly told. Objectors have failed to take into account the peculiarity in the mention of Hezron and Hamul in verse 12. It is merely said (and said only in their case) that the sons of Pharez "were" Hezron and Hamul, not that they were born in Canaan, where those had died for whom they were substitutes; next, that the Hebrew of verse 26 does not go so far as to say with the Authorised Version, "came with Jacob into Egypt," but of, i.e. belonging to, Jacob. It should be borne in mind that there is no reason, but rather the contrary from scriptural usage for construing "at that time," of an isolated point of time, but rather of a general period, consisting as here of a number of events, the last and not the first of which might synchronize with the event recorded just before. It seems clear that Stephen (Acts 7:14) cites the LXX. where 76 are given, as the Greek version (Genesis 46:20) adds five sons and grandsons of Manasseh and Ephraim. Is it not monstrous for a man professing Christianity and ostensibly in the position of bishop, to neglect elements so necessary to a judgment of the question, and to pronounce the Biblical account "certainly incredible," mainly on the assumption that Pharez's sons were born in Canaan, which is nowhere said but rather room left for the inference that it was not so in the exceptional form of Genesis 46:12? Yet after citing this verse we are told, "It appears to me certain (!) that the writer here means to say that Hezron and Hamul were born in the land of Canaan." Is scepticism only certain that its own dreams are true, and that scripture is false? There was a natural and weighty motive for selecting two grandsons of Judah, though no other of Jacob's great- grandsons are mentioned in the list. For they only were substitutional, as the very verse in which they occur implies. And it was of the deeper interest too, as one of them (Hezron) stands in the direct line of the Messiah, which was, as it appears to me, one chief reason for introducing the details of Judah's history and its shame in Genesis 38:1-30.. It is vain to quote Numbers 3:17 to set aside the peculiar force of the allusion to the sons of Pharez in Genesis 46:12, with which there is no real analogy.
In Genesis 48:1-22 tidings of Jacob's sickness brings Joseph and his two sons to the bed of the patriarch. The closing scene of Jacob approaches, and I scarcely know a more affecting thing in the Bible. It is a thorough moral restoration. Not merely is there that which typifies it for Israel by and by, but Jacob's own soul is as it never was before. There is no such bright moment in his past life as in the circumstances of his death-bed. I grant that so it ought to be in a believer; and that it is really so in fact where the soul rests simply on the Lord. But whatever we may see in some instances and fear in others, in Jacob's case the light of God's presence was evident. It is striking that here was the only occasion on which the brightness of Joseph's vision was not so apparent. All flesh is grass. The believer is exposed to any evil when he ceases to be dependent, or yields to his own thoughts which are not of faith. Jesus is the only "Faithful Witness." Failure is found in the most blessed servant of God. So fact, so scripture teaches. Joseph, ignorant of the purpose of God about his sons, allows his natural desires to govern him, and arranges the elder before the right hand of his dying father, the younger before his left. So Joseph would have had it; but not so Jacob. His eyes were dim with age, but he was in this clearer-sighted than Joseph after all. There never was a man who saw more brightly than Joseph; but Jacob, dying, sees the future with steadier and fuller gaze than the most famous interpreter of dreams and visions since the world began.
And what thoughts and feelings must have rushed through the old man's heart as he looked back on his own early days! Did he fail to discern then how easily God could have crossed the hands of his father Isaac against his own will? Certainly God would have infallibly maintained His own truth; and as He had promised the better blessing to Jacob, not to Esau, so, spite of Esau and the fruits of his success in hunting, he would have proved that it was not to him that willed like Isaac, nor to him that ran like Esau. All turns on God, who shows mercy and keeps His word.
On this occasion, then, Jacob pronounces the blessing the superior blessing on the younger of the two boys; and this too in terms which one may safely say, were equal to so extraordinary a conjuncture, in terms which none but the Spirit of God could have enabled any mouth to utter.
In Genesis 49:1-33 we find the general prophetic blessing of Jacob's sons. Here one may convey the scope without ceasing to be brief. As the blessings allude to the history of the twelve heads of the nation, so naturally we have the future that awaits the tribes of Israel. But as this is a matter of tolerably wide-spread knowledge amongst Christians, there is no need for much to be said about it.
Reuben is the starting-point, and alas! it is, like man always, corruption. It was the first mark of evil in the creature. The second is no better, rather worse it may be in some respects, violence. Simeon and Levi were as remarkable for the latter, as Reuben for the former a sorrowful vision for Jacob's heart to feel that this not only had been but was going to be; for undoubtedly he knew, as he says, that what he then uttered would sweep onward and befall the people "in the last days." This did not hinder his beginning with the history of Israel from his own days. Corruption and violence, as they had been the two fatal characteristics of his three eldest sons, so would stamp the people in their early history. Israel under law broke the law, and was ever leaving Jehovah for Baalim; yet the sons would be no better, rather worse, than the father; but the grace of God would interfere for the generations to come as it had for their father Jacob, and the last day would be bright for them as in truth for him.
Then Judah comes before us. It might be thought, that surely there will be full blessing now. ''Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.* Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: his eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon."
*The real difficulty inGenesis 49:10; Genesis 49:10 is neither so much the unusual application of the word Shiloh, nor doctrinal zeal, as the desire to get rid of a prophecy. Unbelief sets out with the foregone conclusion that there is and can be no such thing. Hence the effort to destroy its only just and worthy sense. "The Deity (says Dr. D., Introd. O. T. i. 198) did not see fit, as far as we can judge, to impart to any man like Jacob the foreknowledge of future and distant events. Had He done so, He would not have left him in darkness respecting the immortality of the soul (!) and a future state of rewards and punishments (!) He would not have left him to speak on his deathbed, like an Arab chief, of no higher blessings to his sons than rapine and murder, without the least reference to another and better state of existence on which he believed he should enter, and in relation to which he might counsel his sons to act continually. The true way of dealing with the prophecy is simply to ascertain by internal evidence the time in which it was written, on the only tenable and philosophical ground of its having been put into the mouth of the dying patriarch by a succeeding writer. It has the form of a prediction; but it is a vaticinium post eventum. We believe that the time of the prophetic lyric falls under the kings. The tribes are referred to as dwelling in the localities which they obtained in Joshua's time. The announcement respecting Judah's pre-eminence brings down the composition much later than Joshua, since he is represented as taking the leadership of the tribes in subduing the neighbouring nations. We explain the tenth verse in such a manner as to imply that David was king over the tribes, and had humbled their enemies." The proper translation according to this sceptic is:
"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the stuff of power from between his feet,
Until he come to Shiloh,
And to him the obedience of the peoples be"
But, first, the ruling position of Judah was not till but after he came to Shiloh. That any one, therefore, during the kings would falsify the events in a pretended prophecy put into dying Jacob's lips is too much for the credulity of any one but a rationalist. Secondly, one who speaks of others so scornfully as this writer ought not to have exposed himself to the charge of such ignorance as confounding "the peoples" or nations with the people or tribes of Israel. I believe, therefore, with the amplest authority in Hebrew, that as the language admits of our taking Shiloh as the subject, not object, so the sense in the context demands that we render it "until Shiloh (i.e. Peace, or the Man of Peace' the Messiah) come."
Yes, Jacob speaks of Shiloh. But Shiloh was presented to the responsibility of the Jew first; and consequently all seemed to break down, and in one sense all really did. "To him shall the gathering of the peoples be;" and so certainly it will be, but not yet. Shiloh came; but Israel were not ready, and refused Him. Consequently the gathering (or the obedience) of the peoples, however sure, is yet in the future. The counsel of God seemed to be abortive, but was really established in the blood of the cross, which unbelief deems its ruin. It is postponed, not lost.
Zebulun gives us the next picture of the history of Israel. Now that they have had Shiloh presented but have refused Him, the Jews find their comforts in intercourse with the Gentiles. This is what they do now seeking to make themselves happy, when, if they weigh their own prophets, they must suspect fatal error somewhere in their history. They have lost their Messiah, and they court the world. "Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for a haven of ships, and his border shall be unto Zidon."
The consequence is that the Jews sink under the burden, falling completely under the influence of the nations. This is shown by Issachar "a strong ass crouching down between two burdens."
Then we come to the crisis of sorrows for the Jew. In Dan we hear of that which is far more dreadful than burdens inflicted by the Gentiles, and their own subjection, instead of cleaving to their proper and distinctive hopes. In the case of Dan there is set forth the power of Satan (ver. 17). "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward." We see here the enemy in the serpent that bites, and the consequent disaster to the horseman. It is the moment of total ruin among the Jews, but exactly the point of change for blessing. It is then accordingly we hear the cry coming forth, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Jehovah." It is the sudden change from the energy of Satan to the heart looking up and out to Jehovah Himself.
From that point all is changed. "Gad, a troop shall overcome him; but he shall overcome at the last." Now we have victory on the side of Israel.
This is not all. There is abundance too. "Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties."
Again, there will be liberty unknown under law, impossible when merely dealt with under the governing hand of God because of their faults. "Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words." What a difference from him who was bearing like an ass two burdens!
But, more than that, we have Joseph. Now we have the glory in connection with Israel; and finally power in the earth: Joseph and Benjamin are now as it were found together. What was realised in the facts of the history at last terminates in the blessedness the predicted blessedness of Israel.
The last chapter (Genesis 50:1-26) gives us the conclusion of the book, the burial of Jacob, the reappearance of his sons left with Joseph, and at last Joseph's own death, as lovely as had been his life. He who stood on the highest pinnacle in the land next to the throne, type of Him who will hold the kingdom unto the glory of God the Father, that single-eyed saint now breathes forth his soul to God. "By faith Joseph when he died made mention of the departing of the children of Israel, and gave commandment concerning his bones." His heart is out of the scene where it enjoyed but a transient and at best typical glory. In hope he goes onward to that which would be lasting and true unto God's glory, when Israel should be in Emmanuel's land, and he himself be in a yet better condition even resurrection. He had been exalted in Egypt, but he solemnly took an oath of the sons of Israel, that when God visits them, as He surely will, they will carry up his bones hence. He had served God in Egypt, but to him it was ever the strange land. Though he dwelt there, ruled there, there had a family, and there died fuller of honours than of years, an hundred and ten years old, he feels that Egypt is not the land of God, and knows that He will redeem His people from it, and bring them into Canaan. It was beautiful fruit in its season: no change of circumstances interfered with the promises of God to the fathers. Joseph waited as Abraham, Isaac. and Jacob. Earthly honours did not settle him down in Egypt.
On another day we may see how this oath was kept when God brought about the accomplishment of Israel's deliverance, the type of its ultimate fulfilment.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Genesis 49:6". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/genesis-49.html. 1860-1890.
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