And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
Verse 1. - And Jacob (having closed his interview with Joseph and his two sons) called (by means of messengers) unto his sons (i.e. the others who were then absent), and said, Gather yourselves together, - the prophet's last utterance must be a public one - that I may tell you - literally, and I will tell you - that which shall befall you - קָרָא, in the sense of happening or occurring to any one, is here equivalent to קָרָה (cf. Genesis 42:4, 38) - in the last days - literally, in the end of the days, not simply in future time (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), or in the times intervening between the speaker and the end of the human race (Murphy), but in the last age, the closing period of time, the era of fulfillment (Kurtz, Hengstenberg), which era, however, must be judged from the standpoint of the speaker (Baumgarten). Hence the period must not be restricted to exclusively Messianic times (Rabbi Nachmanides), ἐπ ἐσχάτῶν τῶν ἡμερῶν (LXX.), in diebus novissimis (Vulgate), but must commence with what to Jacob was the era of consummation, the days of the conquest (Baumgarten, Hengstenberg); while, on the other hand, it can as little be limited to these, but must be held as extending over totum tempus ab exitu AEgypti ad Christi regnum (Calvin), and even as reaching, though unconsciously to Jacob, to the very terminus of human history (Keil, Lange).
Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
Verse 2. - Gather yourselves together, - the repetition indicates at once the elevation of the speaker's soul, and the importance, in his mind, of the impending revelation - and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. The two clauses form a synthetic or synonymous parallel, numerous illustrations of which are to be found in the succeeding verses.
Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
Verses 3, 4. - Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: - Jacob's patriarchal benediction takes the form of an elevated poem, or sublime religious hymn, exhibiting the well-known classes of parallelism, the synthetic the antithetic, and the synonymous, not alone in its separate clauses, but sometimes also in its stanzas or verses. As was perhaps to be expected, it begins with Reuben, who is characterized by a threefold designation, viz.,
(1) by his position in the family, as Jacob's firstborn;
(2) by his relation to Jacob, as the patriarch's "might," כּחַ, or robur virile, and "the beginning" of his "strength," not "of his sorrow" (Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus), though און might be so translated (cf. Genesis 35:18), and the sense would sufficiently accord with the allusion of ver. 4, but, as required by the parallelism, "of his vigor," און being here equivalent to כּחַ (Rosenmuller, Kalisch, Keil, 'Speaker's Commentary,' et alii); and
(3) by the natural prominence which as Jacob's eldest son belonged to him, "the excellency of dignity" or "elevation," i.e. the dignity of the chieftainship, and "the excellency of power," or authority, which the first born claimed and received as his prerogative. Yet the natural advantages enjoyed by Reuben as Jacob's firstborn were to be taken from him, as the patriarch proceeded to announce - Unstable as water, - literally, boiling over like water, the import of which is not effusus es sicut aqua (Vulgate), but either ἐξύβρισας ὡς ὑδωρ (LXX.), or lasciviousness (sc. was to thee) as the boiling of water (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, &c.), the same root in Arabic conveying the notion of pride, and in Syriac that of wantonness - thou shalt not excel; - literally, thou shalt not have the ישׂנךללךשׂצך רו יֶרֶת (ver. 3), i.e. the pre-eminence belonging to the firstborn, a sense which the versions have more or less successfully expressed: μὴ περισσεύσης (Aquila), οὐκ ἔση περισσότερος (Symmachus), μὴ ἐκζέσης (LXX.), non crescas (Vulgate) - because thou wentest up to thy father's bed (vide Genesis 35:22; 1 Chronicles 5:1); then defiledst thou it: - the verb is used absolutely, as meaning that Reuben had desecrated what ought to have been regarded by him as sacred (cf. Deuteronomy 27:20) - he went up to my couch - literally, my couch he ascends; the order of the words and the change from the second to the third person helping to give expression to the horror and indignation with which, even at that distance of time, the venerable patriarch contemplated the shameful deed.
Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.
Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
Verses 5-7. - Simeon and Levi are brethren (not in parentage alone, but also in their deeds; e.g. their massacre of the Shechemites (Genesis 34:25), to which undoubtedly the next words allude); instruments of cruelty are in their habitations - literally, instruments of violence their מְכֵדֹת, a ἅπαξ λεγόμ. which has been variously rendered
(1) their dwellings, or habitations (Kimchi, A. V., Calvin, Ainsworth), in the land of their sojourning (Onkelos), for which, however, there does not seem to be much authority;
(2) their machinations or wicked counsels, deriving from מָכַר, to string together, to take in a net, to ensnare (Nahum 3:4), the cognate Arabic root signifying to deceive or practice stratagems (De Dieu, Schultens, Castelli, Tayler Lewis, and others);
(3) their betrothals, or compacts of marriage, connecting with the same root as the preceding in the sense of "binding together" (Dathius, Clericus, Michaelis, Knobel, Furst, et alii);
(4) their rage, as suggested by the unused root כִּיד, to boil or seethe (Kalisch);
(5) their swords, from כּוּר = כָּרָה to dig or pierce through, cf. μάχαιρα (Vulgate, Luther, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy, and others). The preponderance of authority appears to be in favor of this last. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; literally, into their council or assembly (סוד, from יָסַד, to set or sit) come not, my soul, or my soul shall not come (cf. Proverbs 1:15, 16) - unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: - literally, with or in their assembly or congregation (קָהֵל from קָהַל, to call together: cf. Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 48:4), mine honor or glory (i.e. the soul as being the noblest part of man: Psalm 16:9; Psalm 57:9; Psalm 108:2 - the term כְּבֹדִי is parallel with the preceding נַפְשִׁי), do not join (Keil), or shall not join (Kalisch) - for in their anger they slew a man, - literally, man, a collective, singular for "men," the plural form of XXX occurring rarely; only in Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 8:4; and Isaiah 53:3 - and in their self will they digged down a wall - literally, they houghed ox (LXX., Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Gerlach, T. Lewis, Murphy, &c., &e.), the singular שׁור, the plural of which is only found once, in Hosea 12:12, being retained here to correspond with אִישׁ. The received rendering, which is not without sanction (Onkelos, Targnm of Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Aquila, Symmachus, Vulgate, Dathius, Calvin), reads שׁוּר instead of שׁור, and takes עָקַרin the primary sense of destruere, evertexe. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: - the second synonym "wrath," literally, outpourings, indicates the fullness and intensity of the tide of fury which by Simeon and Levi was let loose upon the unsuspecting Shechemites - I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. While for the sin (the deed, not the doers) Jacob has a curse, for the sinners themselves he has a well-merited chastisement. They had been confederate in their wickedness, they should in future, when returning to occupy their God. assigned inheritance, be disjoined. That this prediction was exactly fulfilled Scripture testifies. At the second census in the wilderness, shortly before the conquest, the tribe of Simeon had become so reduced in its numbers (reckoning only 22,000 as against 76,500 in Judah) as to be the smallest of the twelve (Numbers 26:14); to be passed over entirely in the last blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33.); to be accorded no independent allotment of territory in Canaan on the completion of the conquest, having only a few cities granted to it within the borders of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9); and to be ultimately absorbed in the more powerful and distinguished tribe under whose protection and tutelage, so to speak, it had been placed (1 Chronicles 4:27). The tribe of Levi also was deprived of a separate inheritance, receiving only a number of cities scattered here and there among the possessions of their brethren (Joshua 21:1, 40); and, though by its election to the priesthood the curse may be said to have been turned into a blessing, yet of this signal honor which was waiting Levi Jacob was completely silent, showing both that no prophecy was of any private interpretation (the seer seeing no further than the Holy Spirit helped him), and that Jacob spoke before the days of Moses. It is almost incredible that a late writer would have omitted to forecast the latter-day glory of the tribe of Levi; and this opinion is confirmed by observing the very different strain in which, after Levi s calling had been revealed, the benediction of Moses himself proceeds (Deuteronomy 33:8-11).
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.
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.
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee.
Verses 8-12. - Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise - literally, Judah thou, will praise thee thy brethren, the word יְהוּדָה being a palpable play on יודוך (cf. Genesis 29:35). Leah praised Jehovah for his birth, and his brethren should extol him for his nobility of character, which even in his acts of sin could not be entirely obscured (Genesis 37:26; Genesis 38:26), and certainly in his later days (Genesis 43:8; Genesis 44:18-34) shone out with undiminished luster. Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies (i.e. putting his foes to flight, Judah should grasp them by the neck, a prediction remarkably accomplished in the victories of David and Solomon); thy father's children shall bow down before thee. Fulfilled in the elevation of the house of Judah to the throne, which owned as its subjects not simply Judah's mother's children, i.e. the tribes descended from Leah, but also his father's, i.e. all the tribes of Israel Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched down as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? By a bold and striking figure Judah is compared to a young lion, ripening into its full strength and ferocity, roaming through the forests in search of prey, repairing to his mountain den (ἐκ βλάστοῦ ἀνέβης, LXX.) when his booty has been devoured, and there in quiet majesty, full of dignified repose, lying down or crouching in his lair, and calmly resisting all attempts to disturb his leonine serenity. The effect of the picture is also heightened by the alternative image of a lioness, which is particularly fierce in defending its cubs, and which no one would venture to assail when so employed. The use of such figures to describe a strong and invincible hero is by no means infrequent in Scripture (vide Psalm 7:3; Psalm 57:5; Isaiah 5:29; Ezekiel 19:2-9). The scepter shall not depart from Judah, - literally, a scepter (i.e. an emblem of regal command, hence dominion or sovereignty; ἅρχων, LXX., Theodotion; ἐξουσία, Symmachus) shall not depart from Judah - nor a lawgiver from between his feet - literally, and a legislator (sc. shall not depart)from between his feet; מְחֹקֵק, the poel part of חָקַק, to cut, to cut into, hence to decree, to ordain, having the sense of one who decrees; hence leader, as in Judges 5:44, dux (Vulgate), ἠγούμενος (LXX.), or lawgiver, as m Deuteronomy 33:21 and Isaiah 33:22 (Calvin, Dathius, Ainsworth, Rosenmüller, Murphy, Wordsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary'). In view, however, of what appears the requirement of the parallelism, מְחֹקֵק is regarded as not the person, but the thing, that determines or rules, and hence as equivalent to the ruler's staff, or marshal's baton (Gesenius, Furst, Keil, Lange, Bleek, Tuch, Kalisch, and others), in support of which is claimed the phrase "from between his feet," which is supposed to point to the Oriental custom, as depicted on the monuments, of monarchs, when sitting upon their thrones, resting their staves between their feet (cf. Agamemnon, 'Iliad,' 2:46, 101; Layard s 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 195). But the words may likewise signify "from among his descendants," "from among his children's children" (Onkelos), ἐκ τῶν μηρῶν αὐτοῦ (LXX.). Until Shiloh come. This difficult clause has been very variously rendered. 1. Taking Shiloh as the name of a place, viz., Shiloh in Ephraim (Joshua 18:1, 8, 9, 10; Joshua 19:51; Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 1:3, 9, 24; 1 Samuel 2:14, &c.), the sense has been explained as meaning that the leadership of Judah over the other tribes of Israel should not cease until he came to Shiloh (Rabbi Lipmann, Teller, Eichhorn, Bleek, Furst, Tuch, Delitzsch). But though וַיָּבלֺא שִׁלה, and they came to Shiloh, a similar phrase, is found in 1 Samuel 4:12, yet against this interpretation maybe urged
(1) the improbability of so obscure a locality, whose existence at the time is also problematical, being mentioned by Jacob, Zidon, the only other name occurring in the prophecy, having been, even before the days of Jacob, a city of renown (Genesis 10:19); and
(2) the inaccuracy of the historical statement which would thus be made, since the supremacy of Judah was in no way affected, and certainly not diminished, by the setting up of the tabernacle in Shiloh; to obviate which objection Kalisch proposes to read סא עַד כִּי "even if," or "even when," and to understand the prediction as intimating that even though a new empire should be established at Shiloh, as was eventually done, Judah should not forfeit her royal name and prerogative - only this sense of עַד כִּי is not clearly recognized by the best grammarians (Gesenius, Furst), and is not successfully supported by the passages referred to (Genesis 28:15; Psalm 110:1; Psalm 112:8), in every one of which the received rendering "until" is distinctly preferable.
2. Regarding Shiloh as an abstract noun, from שָׁלָה to be safe, like גִּלה from גָּלָה, the import of the prophecy has been expressed as asserting that the scepter should not depart from Judah, either until he (Judah) should attain to rest (Hofmann, Kurtz), or until tranquility should come, i.e. until Judah s enemies should be subdued (Gesenius), an interpretation which Rosenmüller properly characterises as "languidum et paine frigidum." Hence -
3. Believing Shiloh to be the name of a person, the majority of commentators, both Jewish and Christian, and ancient as well as modern, agree that the Messiah is the person referred to, and understand Jacob as fore-announcing that the time of his appearance would not be till the staff of regal power had dropped from the hands of Judah; only, the widest possible diversity exists among those who discover a Messianic reference in the prediction as to the exact significance of the term Shiloh. Some render it his son, or progeny, or (great) descendant, from an imaginary root, שִׁל, which, after Chaldee and Arabic analogies, is supposed to mean "offspring" (Targum of Jonathan, Kimchi, Calvin, Ainsworth, and others); others, deriving it from שָׁלַח, to send, compare it with Siloam (John 9:7) and Shiloah (Isaiah 8:6), and interpret it as qui mittendus eat (Vulgate, Pererius, A Lapide, Grotius); a third class of expositors, connecting it with שָׁלָה, to be safe or at rest, view it us a nomen appellatum, signifying the Pacificator, the Rest-giver, the Tranquillizer, the Peace (Luther, Venema, Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Keil, Gerlach, Murphy, &c.); while a fourth resolve it into אֲשֶׁר לו, and conjecture it to signify, he to whom it (sc. the scepter or the kingdom) belongs, or he whose right it is, as in Ezekiel 21:27 (LXX., ἕως ἐὰν ἔλθῃ τα ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ; Aquila and Symmachus, ῷ ἀπόκειται; Onkelos, Syriac, Saadias, Targum of Jerusalem, et alii). It seems indisputable that the preponderance of authority is in favor of the last two interpretations, and if שִׁילֹה be the correct reading, instead of שִׁלֹה ( = שֶׁלֹּה = אֲשֶׁר לו), as the majority of MSS. attest, it will be difficult to withhold from the former, "the Tranquillizer," the palm of superiority. The translations of Dathius (quamdiu prolem habebit, ei genres obedient), who professes to follow Guleher, who understands the words as a prophecy of the perpetuity of Judah's kingdom, fulfilled in David (2 Samuel 7.), and of Lange ("until he himself comes home as the Shiloh or Rest-bringer"), who also discerns in Judah a typical foreshadowing of the Messiah, may be mentioned as examples of ingenious, but scarcely convincing, exposition. And unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Not "καὶ αὐτὸς προσδοκία ἐθνῶν (LXX.), ipse erit expectatio gentium (Vulgate), with which also agrees the Syriac, or "to him nations will flock" (Samaritan), σύστημα λαῶν (Aquila), but to him, i.e. Shiloh, will be not aggregatio populorum (Calvin), but the submission or willing obedience (a word occurring elsewhere only in Proverbs 30:17) of nations or peoples (Onkelos, Targum of Jonathan, Kimchi, Aben Ezra, Dathius, Rosenmuller, Keil, Kalisch, Gerlach, Murphy, Tayler Lewis, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Binding his foal unto the vine, i.e. not Shiloh, but Judah. The verb אֹסְרִי has the archaic י appended, as in Genesis 31:39; Deuteronomy 33:16; Zechariah 11:17 - and his ass's colt unto the choice vine. The שׂרֵקַה (fem. of שׂרֵק) was a nobler kind of vine which grew in Syria, with small berries, roundish and of a dark color, with soft and hardly perceptible stones (Gesenius, p. 796). בְּנִי is an archaic form of the construct stats which occurs only here. He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes. The word סוּת is a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and is either put by aphaeresis for כּסוּת which occurs in the Samaritan Version, or is derived from סָוָה, an uncertain root, signifying to cover (Gesenius, Kalisch). His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. Otherwise rendered "redder than wine," and "whiter than milk" (LXX., Vulgate, Targum of Jerusalem, et alii), as a description of Judah's person, which scarcely seems so appropriate as the received translation (Calvin, Rosenmuller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Lange, and others), which, completes the preceding picture of Judah s prosperity. Not only would Judah s soil be so fertile that its vines should be employed for trying asses and colts to their branches, but the grapes of those vines should be so plentiful and luscious as to make wine run like the water in which he washed his clothes, while the wine and milk should be so exhilarating and invigorating as to imp-art a sparkling brilliance to the eyes and a charming whiteness to the teeth. The aged prophet, it has been appropriately remarked, has here no thought of debauchery, but only paints before the mind's eye a picture of the richest and most ornate enjoyment (Lange). Minime consentaneum esse videtur profusam intemperiem et projectionem in benedictione censeri (Calvin).
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.
Verse 13. - Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; - not παρ ὅρμον πλοίων (LXX.), in statione navium (Vulgate), but to, or at, or beside, the. shore (from the idea of being washed by the waters of the ocean) of the waters, i.e. of the Galilean and Mediterranean seas - and he shall be for an haven of ships; - literally, and he to, at, or on, a shore of ships, i.e. a shore where ships are unloaded (so. shall dwell), the words being a repetition of the previous thought, with only the expansion, suggested by the term ships, that Zebulun's calling should be in the direction of commerce; - and his border shall be unto Zidon - literally, and his side, or hinder part (sc. shall be, or extend), towards, rather than unto, - usque ad (Vulgate), ἕως (LXX.), - Zidon, since the territory subsequently allotted to Zebulun neither actually touched the Mediterranean, nor reached to Zidon - a circumstance that may be noted as an indirect hint that this prophecy was not spoken, or even first written, after the occupation of the land.
Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:
Verses 14, 15. - Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens - literally, an ass of bone - hence a strong, powerful animal, asinus fortis (Vulgate), asinus walidi corporis (Gesenius), asinus robustus (Rosenmuller) - lying down between the folds, or cattle-pens, which received and protected the flocks by night, the dual being used probably because such pens were divided into two parts for different kinds of cattle (Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, 'Speaker s Commentary,' &c.), though the word mishpetaim has been also rendered ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν κλήρων (LXX.), inter terminos (Vulgate, Rosenmüller), "within their own boundaries" (Onkelos, Targums of Jerusalem and Jonathan), "between two burdens" (A. V., Lange, Murphy, &c.). And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant. Issachar was to manifest a keen appreciation of the land or portion of territory that should be assigned to him, and to renounce the warlike spirit and military enterprises of his brethren for the indolent and luxurious repose of his fat pastures, crouching between his sheep-folds, or rejoicing within his tents, like a lazy ass, capable indeed of mighty efforts, but too self-satisfied to put forth much exertion, devoting himself to agriculture and pastoral pursuits, and preferring rather to pay tribute to his brethren, in order to secure their protection, than to leave his ploughshare and cast aside his shepherd's crook to follow them into the tented field of war, as the patriarch next describes. And bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute - or a tributary servant. The phrase מַס־עֹבֵד, though sometimes used of servitude under a foreign sovereignty (Deuteronomy 20:11; Joshua 16:10), commonly refers to tribute rendered by labor (1 Kings 9:21; 2 Chronicles 8:8), and is correctly rendered ἄνθρωπος εἴς φόρον δουλεύων (Aquila), factusque est tributo serviens (Vulgate). The translation καὶ ἐγενήθη ἀνὴο γεωργος (LXX.) discovers in the clause an allusion to Issachar's agricultural pursuits.
And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.
Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
Verses 16-18. - Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. With a play upon his name, the firstborn son of Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah, is described as one who should occupy an important place and exercise highly beneficial functions in the future commonwealth, enjoying independence and self-government as one of the tribes of Israel (Herder, and others), and performing the office of an administrator among the People not of his own tribe merely, but also of all Israel, a prediction pointing perhaps to the transient supremacy enjoyed by Dan over the other tribes in the days of Samson (Onkelos, et alii). 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. The שְׁפִיפון, from the Syriac שֶׁפַפ, to glide (Gesenins), from שׁוּפ, to sting (Kalisch), שָׁפַפ, to bite (Furst), was the horned serpent, cerastes, of the color of sand, and marked with white and black spots, which was exceedingly dangerous to passers-by, its bite being poisonous and fatal. The allusion has been almost unanimously explained as pointing to Samson (Judges 16:28), but the tribe in general appears not to have been entirely destitute of the treacherous and formidable characteristics here depicted (Judges 18:27). "It is certainly observable that the first introduction of idolatry in Israel is ascribed to the tribe of Dan (Judges 18.), and that in the numbering of the tribes in Revelation 7. the name of Dan is omitted. From these or other causes many of the Fathers (Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine, Theodoret) were led to believe that Antichrist should spring from the tribe of Dan" ('Speaker's Commentary'). I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord. To discover in this beautiful and tender ejaculation of the dying patriarch an apprehensive sigh lest his strength should be exhausted before his benediction was completed (Tuch), or a prayer that God might speedily effect his painless dissolution (Hengstenberg), or a device for dividing his benedictions, and separating the group of Judah from that of Joseph (Lange), is surely to fail in seizing its hidden spirit. It is doubtful if even the usual interpretation, that Jacob here expresses his hope and expectation that God would help and succor his descendants (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, and others), exhausts its rich significance. That, speaking in their name, he does anticipate the deliverance of Jehovah" In thy help do I hope, O Jehovah! - is apparent; but nothing surely can be more natural than to suppose that the dying patriarch, at the moment when he was formally transmitting to his children the theocratic blessing, had his thoughts lifted up towards that great salvation, of which all these material and temporal benedictions pronounced upon his sons were but the shadows and the types, and of which perhaps he had been incidentally reminded by the mention of the biting serpent, to which he had just likened Dan ('Speaker's Commentary'). It is noticeable that this is the first occurrence of the term salvation (יְשׁוּעָח, from the root יָשַׁע, unused in Kal, to be roomy or spacious, hence in the Hiphil to set free or deliver).
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.
I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.
Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.
Verse 19. - Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last. The threefold alliteration of the original, which is lost in the received translation, may be thus expressed: "Gad - a press presses him, but he presses the heel' (Keil); or, "troops shall troop on him, but he shall troop on their retreat' ('Speaker's Commentary'). The language refers to attacks of nomadic tribes which would harass and annoy the Gadites, but which they would successfully repel.
Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.
Verse 20. - Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties - literally, dainties of, or for, the king. The first clause may be otherwise rendered: Of Asher the bread shall be fat (Kalisch); fat shall be his bread (Murphy); Out of Asher (cometh) fat his bread (Keil). The import of the blessing is that Asher should possess a specially productive soil
Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.
Verse 21. - Naphtaii is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. The LXX., followed by Dathe, Michaelis, Ewald, Bohlen, and others, read, Naphtali is a tall terebinth, that putteth forth beautiful boughs; but the word אַיָלָה signifies a hind or gazelle, and is here employed, along with the qualifying epithet שְּׁלֻחָה, let loose, running freely (Keil), or graceful (Kalisch), to depict Naphtali as a beautiful and agile warrior. In the appended clause he is represented as possessing in addition the capacity of "giving words of beauty," in which may be detected an allusion to the development in eloquence and song which afterwards took place in that northern tribe (Judges 4:6-9; Judges 5:1-31).
Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
Verses 22-26. - Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall - literally, son of a fruit tree, Joseph; son o/a fruit tree at the well; daughters run (each one of them: vide Gesenius, 'Grammar,' § 146, 4) over the wall. The structure of the clauses, the order of the words, the repetition of the thoughts, supply a glimpse into the fond emotion with which the aged prophet approached the blessing of his beloved son Joseph. Under the image of a fruit tree, probably a vine, as in Psalm 80, planted by a well, whence it draws forth necessary moisture, and, sending forth its young twigs or offshoots over the supporting walls, he pictures the fruitfulness and prosperity which should afterwards attend the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, as the twofold representative of Joseph, with perhaps a backward glance at the service which Joseph had performed in Egypt by gathering up and dispensing the produce of the land for the salvation of his family and people. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him - literally, they provoked him, and shot at, and laid snares for him, masters of arrows, though Kalisch translates וָרֹבוּ, and they assembled in multitudes, which yields a sense sufficiently clear. It is sometimes alleged (Keil, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary') that the words contain no allusion to the personal history of Joseph, but solely to the later fortunes of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh; but even if they do point to the subsequent hostilities which Joseph's descendants should incur (Joshua 17:16-18; Judges 12:4-6), it is almost morally certain that the image of the shooting archers which he selects to depict their adversaries was suggested to his mind by the early lot of his beloved son (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Gerlach, Murphy, and others). But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. Notwithstanding the multitudinous and fierce assaults which had been made on Joseph, he had risen superior to his adversaries; his bow had continued firm and unbroken (cf. 1 Samuel 2:4; Job 12:19; Job 33:19), and his arms had been rendered active and flexible - neither ἐξελύθη τὰ νεῦρα βραχιόνων χειρὸς αὐτῶν, (LXX.), dissoluta sunt vincula brachiorum et manuum (Vulgate), as if Joseph s enemies were the subjects referred to; nor, "Therefore gold was placed upon his arms (Onkelos, Raehi, and others), referring to the gift of Pharaoh's ring - by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, i.e. God, who had proved himself to be Jacob's Mighty One by the powerful protection vouchsafed to his servant The title here ascribed to God occurs afterwards in Isaiah 1:24. From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel. If the clause is parenthetical, it may signify either that from the time of Joseph's exaltation he became the shepherd (who sustained) and the stone of (i.e. the rock which supported) Israel (Oleaster); or that from God, the Mighty One of Jacob, Joseph received strength to become the shepherd and stone of Israel (Pererius, Ainsworth, Lawson, Patrick, and others), in which capacity he served as a prefiguration of the Good Shepherd who was also to become the Rock or Foundation of his Church (Calvin, Pererius, Candiish, &c.); but if the clause is rather co-ordinate with that which precedes and that which follows, as the introductory particle מִן appears to suggest, then the words "shepherd and stone of Israel" will apply to God, and the sentiment will be that the hands of Joseph were made strong from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, from there (i.e. from there where is, or from him who is) the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Gerlach, Lange, et alii). Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee (literally, from the (led of thy father, and he shall help thee, i.e. who shall help thee); and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee - literally, and with (sc. the aid of) the Almighty, and he shall bless thee. It is unnecessary to change וְאֵת. into וְאֵל (LXX., Vulgate, Samaritan, Syriac, Ewald), or to insert מִן before אֵת, as thus, מֵאֵת (Knobel, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), since אֵת may be understood here, as in Genesis 4:1; Genesis 5:24, in the sense of helpful communion (Keil) - with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb. "From the God of Jacob, and by the help of the Almighty, should the rain and dew of heaven (Genesis 27:28), and fountains and brooks which spring from the great deep or the abyss of the earth, pour their fertilizing waters over Joseph's land, so that everything that had womb and breast should become pregnant, bring forth and suckle" (Keil). The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. The meaning is, according to this rendering, which some adopt (the Targums, Vulgate, Syriac, Saadias, Rosenmüller, Lange, Murphy, et alii), that the blessings which Jacob pronounced upon Joseph surpassed those which he himself had received from Abraham and Isaac, either as far as the primary mountains towered above the earth (Keil, Murphy), or, while exceeding the benedictions of his ancestors, those now delivered by himself would last while the hills endured (Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary'). But the words may be otherwise rendered: "The blessings of thy father prevail over, are mightier than the blessings of the mountains of eternity, the delight, or glory, or loveliness of the hills of eternity (LXX., Dathe, Michaelis, Gesenius, Bohlen, Kalisch, Gerlach, and others); and in favor of this may be adduced the beautiful parallelism between the last two clauses, which the received translation overlooks. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren - literally, of him, the separated (from nazar, to separate) from his brethren (Onkelos, Rashi, Rosenmüller, Keil, and others), though by some different renderings are preferred, as, e.g., the crowned among his brethren (LXX. Syriac, Targum of Jerusalem, Kimchi, Kalisch, Gerlach), taking nazir to signify he who wears the nezer, or royal diadem.
The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
But his bow abode in strength, and 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 blessings of thy father have 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 brethren.
Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.
Verse 27. - Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf (literally, a wolf, he shall tear in pieces): in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil. The prediction alludes to the warlike character of the tribe of Benjamin, which was manifested in Ehud the judge (Judges 3:15), and Saul the king of Israel (1 Samuel 11:6-11; 1 Samuel 14:13, 15, 47, 48), who both sprang from Rachel's younger son.
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
Verse 28. - All these are the twelve tribes of Israel (the underlying thought is that in blessing his sons Jacob was really blessing the future tribes): and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them (i.e. every one received his own appropriate benediction).
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,
Verses 29, 30. - And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people (vide on Genesis 15:15): bury me with my fathers - thus laying on them the injunction he had previously, with the super-added solemnity of an oath, laid on Joseph (Genesis 47:29-31) - 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 Mature, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying-place (vide Genesis 23:16-20). Jacob had learnt from his father and had carefully preserved all the details relating to the purchase of their family sepulcher. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. From this it would appear that Leah had not descended into Egypt.
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.
Verse 32. - The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth. Kalisch connects the present verse with the 30th, and reads ver. 31 as a parenthesis.
And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.
Verse 33. - And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed (having on the arrival of Joseph strengthened himself and sat up upon the bed, probably with his feet overhanging its edge), and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people (vide on Genesis 25:8; 35:29).
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