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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 49

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 49:1 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.

Ver. 1. Gather yourselves together.] This is Jacob’s swan-like song, (a) his last bequeath, his farewell to the world; and it is a most heavenly one. The wine of God’s Spirit is usually strongest and best at last in the hearts of his people: his motions, quickest when natural motions are slowest; most sensible when the body begins to be senseless most lively when holy men are dying. Look how the sun shines most amiably toward the descent and rivers, the nearer they draw to the sea, the sooner they are met by the tide: so it is with the saints when nigh to death; when grace is changing into glory, they deliver themselves usually to the standers-by most sweetly. So, besides Jacob, did Moses, Joshua, Paul, and he in whose one example is a globe of precepts, our Lord Jesus Christ, in that last heavenly sermon and prayer of his, John 14:1-31; John 15:1-27; John 16:1-33; John 17:1-26 Whereunto let me add that faithful martyr, John Diazius, who was cruelly butchered by his own brother Alphonsus Diazius, and that merely for his religion. {See Trapp on "Genesis 4:8"} I remember, saith Senarclaeus, his friend and bedfellow, who wrote the history of his death, when he and I were at Newburg, the very night before he was murdered, he prayed before he went to bed more ardently than ordinary, and for a longer time together. After which he spent a good part of the night in discoursing of the great works of God, and exhorting me to the practice of true piety. And truly I felt myself so inflamed and quickened by his words, that when I heard him discoursing, I thought I heard the Spirit of God speaking unto me. This, and much more, Senarclaeus writes to Bucer, (b) who at that time had employed Diazius to overlook the correct printing of a book of his that was then in the press.

That I may tell you that which shall befall you.] But how knew Moses this last speech of Jacob, being born so long after? Partly by revelation, and partly also by tradition. For the words of dying men are living oracles, and their last speeches are long remembered. And the accomplishment of all these prophecies in their due time, as the following scriptures show, adds much to the authority of Moses’s writings, and confirms them to be "faithful and true," as he saith, John 21:24.


Verse 2

Genesis 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

Ver. 2. Hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken.] Draw up the ears of your souls to the ears of your bodies, that one sound may pierce both at once. "Let him that hath an ear to hear, hear": not only with that outward gristle that grows upon his head, but with his utmost intention of mind, attention of body, and retention of memory, and of practice also, He that hears the word of God, must hear as ff he did, for so he doth, hear for life and death; he must, as Jacob bids his sons, "hear and hearken."


Verse 3

Genesis 49:3 Reuben, thou [art] my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

Ver. 3. My might, and beginning of my strength.] Nate meae vires … The word here used signifieth the straining of the body forcibly to effect a thing much desired: such as was that of St Paul, {επεκτεινομενος, Philippians 3:14} and that of Elijah, [1 Kings 18:42] when he prayed and prayed, as St James hath it, that is, with utmost intention of affection ( προσευχη προσνυξατο, James 5:17).

The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.] That is, saith the Chaldee Paraphrast, Excellens principatu et sacerdotio. Both these he forfeited and fell from; so cannot Christians. [Revelation 1:6]


Verse 4

Genesis 49:4 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.

Ver. 4. Unstable as water.] Easily drawn to sin, and suddenly down from his dignity. Reuben, for a short sinful pleasure, lost great privileges and blessings. So do all epicures that lose heaven for a base lust, their souls for their sin. As Ambrose reports of one Theotinus, that having a diseased body, and told by the physician that unless he lived temperately he would lose his eyes; Vale lumen amicum, said he; if my eyes will not away with my lusts, they are no eyes for me. So here; men will have their swing in sin, whatever come of it. They may so, and for a time, hear no more of it; as Reuben did not for almost forty years after his incest was committed. But, quod defertur non statim aufertur. The heathen historian could see, and say, That, sooner or later, great sins will have great punishments from God. (a) Deus horrenda peccata horrendis poenis immutabiliter vindicat, saith Pareus on this text.

He went up to my couch.] The fact was so odious to Jacob, that, "abhorring" [Romans 12:9, αποστυγουντες] the very thought of it, he turneth his speech from Reuben to the rest. Hate as hell that which is evil, saith Paul. And, as for "fornication, and all uncleanness, let it not be once named amongst you." [Ephesians 5:3] Spit it out of your mouths, as the devil’s drivel.


Verse 5

Genesis 49:5 Simeon and Levi [are] brethren; instruments of cruelty [are in] their habitations.

Ver. 5. Simeon and Levi are brethren.] Nobile par fratrum (a) not more in nature than in iniquity. Here Moses blancheth not over the blemishes of his progenitors, but wrote as he was inspired by the impartial Spirit of truth. If it could be said of Suetonius, (b) that in writing the lives of the twelve Caesars, he took the same liberty to set down their faults that they took to commit them; how much more truly may this be said of the holy penmen, they spared not themselves, much less their friends. See my "True Treasure," page 21.

Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.] Or, Are their swords. (c) Barbarous and brutish peraons they were; skilful to destroy. [Ezekiel 21:31] Such a one was Drusus, the son of Tiberius the Emperor; so set upon bloodshed that the sharpest swords were from him called in Rome, Drusians. (d) The Spaniards are said to try the goodness of their swords upon the bodies of the poor Indians: and they suppose, saith Sir Francis Drake, (e) that they show the wretches great favour, when they do not, for their pleasure, whip them with cords; and day by day drop their naked bodies with burning bacon, which is one of their least cruelties.


Verse 6

Genesis 49:6 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.

Ver. 6. O my soul, come not thou, &c.] Jacob here meaneth that neither should any, neither would he approve of their perfidy, saith an interpreter. And yet Thuanus writes that the Pope caused the massacre of Paris to be painted in his palace. Another of them highly extolled in his consistory the noble act of Clement the monk, that killed the king of France, comparing it with the work of creation, incarnation, &c. Friar Garnet, our chief gunpowder plotter, had his picture set among the rest of their saints, in the Jesuits’ Church at Rome. And Cornel. a Lapide, upon Apoc. vii. 3, crowns this traitor with fresh encomiastics. (a)

In their anger they slew a man.] Yea, many innocents; and then cried out, O rem regiam! as Valesius did when he had slain three hundred. O pulchrum spectaculum! as Hannibal, when he saw a pit full of man’s blood. Quam bonus est odor hostis mortui! as Charles IX, in the massacre of Paris; where they poisoned the Queen of Navarre; pistoled the Prince of Conde; murdered the most part of the peerless peers of France, their wives and children; with a great sort of the common people, in various parts of the realm, - thirty thousand in one month, three hundred thousand in the space of a year! Mohammed I, Emperor of the Turks, was thought, in his time, to have been the death of eighty thousand men. Selymus II, in revenge of the loss he had received at the battle of Lepanto, would have put to death all the Christians in his dominion, in number infinite. Mithridates, king of Pontus, with one letter, slew eighty thousand citizens of Rome in Asia, that were scattered up and down the country for traffic’s sake. It was the cruel manner of Uladus, prince of Wallachia, together with the offenders, to execute the whole family; yea, sometimes the whole kindred. (b) Did not these two brethren in sin do so, and worse?


Verse 7

Genesis 49:7 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.

Ver. 7. Cursed be their anger.] Of the mischief of rash anger, and means to repress it. {See Trapp on "Genesis 34:7"} See my "Commonplace of Anger."

I will divide them in Jacob.] A punishment suitable to their sin: they conspired to do mischief, and are therefore divided in Jacob. Of Simeon, Judas Iscariot is said to have come; who tumbled as a stone till he came to his place. Levi had his habitation among the other tribes; and this curse was afterwards turned to a blessing, when they were consecrated as priests, to preserve and present knowledge to their brethren, to "teach Jacob God’s judgments, and Israel his laws." [Deuteronomy 33:9-10]


Verse 8

Genesis 49:8 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.

Ver. 8. Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren.] All this is chiefly verified in Christ, and of him to be understood. In him is beauty, bounty, goodness, greatness, and whatsoever else is praiseworthy. He goeth forth riding on his white horse, "conquering and to conquer." [Revelation 6:2] St Paul, his chief herald, proclaims his victory with a world of solemnity and triumph, [1 Corinthians 15:55-57] and calls upon all his brethren to bow down before him, [Philippians 2:10] as they do, [Revelation 12:10] casting down their crowns at his feet, [Revelation 4:10] and setting the crown upon his head, - as the manner was among the Romans, that the saved should crown their saviours, and honour them as their fathers all their lives long, being wholly at their service. (a) It was not without mystery that David did reverence to his son Solomon, when he was newly crowned; what would he have done, think we, to his Lord, as he calls Christ, [Psalms 110:1] had he been there in his royalty?


Verse 9

Genesis 49:9 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?

Ver. 9. Judah is a lion’s whelp.] Many lionlike Lysimachusses came of this tribe, that, as Samson and David, first fought with lions, and then with their enemies; all which were types of that "Lion of the tribe of Judah," Revelation 5:5. The devil is a roaring lion, Leo ωρυομενος, lies in wait (a) for the Church: but Christ, her invincible champion, is ever at hand for her help, (b) who is also Leo ο ρυομενος, as St Paul hath it, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, "that delivereth us from the wrath to come." [1 Thessalonians 1:10] And when this lion roareth, all creatures tremble. [Amos 3:8] St Ambrose tells us that when the lion puts forth his voice, many creatures that could outrun him are so astonished at the terror of his roars, that they are not able to stir from the place. And Isidore writeth, that the lion’s whelp, for the first three days after it comes into the world, lieth as it were asleep, and is afterwards roused and raised by the old lions’ roaring, which makes the very den to shake. Christ, at the last day, shall come with the voice of the archangel, and trump of God, &c. And then shall they "that sleep in the dust of death awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting horror and amazement." [Daniel 12:2]


Verse 10

Genesis 49:10 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].

Ver. 10. Until Shiloh come.] Shiloh is by some expounded, the son of his secundines. (a) The Hebrew word implies His son, and, Her son; that is, the son of the Virgin, that came of the line Judah. Secundines are proper to women. He therefore, whom Secundines alone brought forth, without help of man, is Christ alone, the promised seed. Others render Shiloh, Tranquillator, Salvator, the Safe maker, the Peace maker, the Prosperer. (b) This Prince of Peace was born in a time of peace, (c) not long after that Pompey had subdued Judea to the Roman government, and reduced it into a province. Then was the sceptre newly departed from Judah; and Herod, an Edomite, made king of the country.

And unto him shall the gathering of the people be.] As unto the standard bearer, [Song of Solomon 5:10, marg.} the carcass, {Matthew 24:28] the desire of all nations (Haggai 2:7, with Hebrews 12:25). Totus ipse desideria, saith the Church. [Song of Solomon 5:16] And, "When I am lifted up," saith he, "I will draw all men after me." [John 12:32] They follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth; as the hop and the heliotrope do the sun.


Verse 11

Genesis 49:11 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:

Ver. 11. Binding his foal unto the vine.] Vines shall be so plentiful, that as countrymen tie their asses to briers and shrubs, so shall Judah to the vines, that shall grow thick everywhere. Where Christ is set up in the power and purity of his ordinances, there is usually a confluence of all inward and outward comforts and contentments. He is the Cornucopia of both to his Church and chosen.


Verse 12

Genesis 49:12 His eyes [shall be] red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Ver. 12. His eyes shall be red, &c.] Wine and milk are used to signify plenty of spiritual blessings in heavenly things. [Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 25:6]


Verse 13

Genesis 49:13 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.

Ver. 13. Zebulun shall dwell, &c.] It is God that "appoints us the bounds of our habitations." [Acts 17:26] Be content therefore; and although we have not all things to our minds, yet having God for our portion, let us cry out with David, "The lines are fallen unto me in a fair place," &c. Zebulun is placed by the sea side. Now shoremen are said to be horridi, immanes, latrociniis dediti, omnium denique pessimi. Hence the proverb, Maritimi mores. And hence, haply, that rash and harsh character, that Scaliger (a) gives of us, Angli perfidi, inflati, feri, contemptores, stolidi, amentes, inertes, inhospitales, immanes. His bolt, you see, saith one, (b) is soon shot; and so you may haply guess at the quality of the archer. Be it that our ancestors were such, yet the gospel hath civilised us at least, whatever the more be. Christ left Nazareth, and came and dwelt at Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. Ever since which, "the people which sat in darkness have seen a great light," &c. [Matthew 4:13; Matthew 4:16] And when "Gilead abode beyond Jordan," and "came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty," Reuben was busy about his sheep, Dan about his "ships," Asher about "his breaches," &c. Zebulun and Naphtali are much commended for "a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field," [ 5:16-18] that studied and promoted the public, more than their own particular interests. Oh, it is a brave thing to be of a public spirit, and to study God’s ends more than our own. Surely if God saw us to be such, we might have what we would, and God even think himseff beholden to us. Shall a heathen say, Non nobis solum nati sumus? &c. (c) And again, Mihi non minoris curae est, qualis resp. post meam mortem futura sit, quam qualis hodie sit? And shall Christians be all for themselves, looking only to their own things, and not to the things of one another, the common good of all especially? St Chrysostom upon those words "Not seeking mine own profit," &c., [1 Corinthians 10:33] saith, that to seek the public good of the Church, and to prefer the salvation of others before his own safety and commodity, is the most perfect canon of Christianity, the highest pitch of perfection, the very top gallant of religion. (d) And, I could not but love the man, saith Theodosius the Emperor concerning Ambrose, who, when he died, Magis de Ecclesiarum statu, quam de suis periculis angebater, was more troubled for the Church’s troubles than for his own dangers. This made the same good emperor say that he knew none that deserved to be called a bishop but Ambrose. (e) He was called "the walls of Italy," whilst he lived: as when he died, Stilico the earl said, that his death did threaten the destruction of that whole country.

At the haven of the sea.] Zebulun and Issachar dwelling so conveniently for the purpose, and being for a haven of ships, as it here followeth, did "call the people" (foreigners) "to the mountain" of God. [Deuteronomy 33:18-19] So, one of the Sibyls, Augustine (f) hopeth, might belong to the city of God: and so might direct others thither.


Verse 14

Genesis 49:14 Issachar [is] a strong ass couching down between two burdens:

Ver. 14. Issachar is a strong ass, &c.] He so commends his strength, that, with it, he condemns his dulness. This Christ can so little abide, that he said even to Judas, "That thou doest, do quickly." God utterly refused an ass in sacrifice. The firstling of an ass must either be redeemed, or have his neck broke. Bellarmine gives the reason, and it is a very good one, quia tardum et pigrum animal, because it is a slow sluggish creature, segnis quasi seignls, without fire; slow to action, which God, who is himself a pure act [spirit?], cannot abide.


Verse 15

Genesis 49:15 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.

Ver. 15. And he saw that rest was good.] He submitted to any burdens and hard conditions for a quiet life. This was a low poor spirit; and his posterity were, for the general, very unworthy and vile. For Issachar’s lot fell in Galilee. [Joshua 19:18, &c.} Now, doth "any good come out of Galilee?" The best that we read of them was that they "had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do," {1 Chronicles 12:32] and were therefore in great account with David. But for action, it seems they were heavy-spirited, dull-mettled men; much like those "potters," mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:23, "that dwelt among plants and hedges"; the base brood of their degenerated forefathers in Babylon. "He, he, come forth, and flee from the land of the north," said the Lord unto them. [Zechariah 2:6] Cyrus also had proclaimed liberty to all that would, to return to Jerusalem. But these dull drones, because they got a poor living by making pots for the king of Babylon, thought themselves well as they were, and chose rather to stay under the hedges of Babylon. These are res obsoletae, so Junius renders the text there; things worn out and forgotten; and indeed they deserve to be forgotten.


Verse 16

Genesis 49:16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.

Ver. 16. Dan shall judge.] Here is an allusion to his name in the original; q.d., the Judger shall judge. This is a high honour, to sit in the seat of judicature, and no less a burden: Fructus honos oneris, fructus honoris onus. They that are called to this office must neither spare the great for might, nor the mean for misery; as they must have nothing to lose, so nothing to get neither; they must be above all price or sale; and straining out all self-affections, see to it that "justice, justice" - as Moses speaks, Deuteronomy 16:20, marg.; that is, pure justice, without mud - run down as a mighty torrent.


Verse 17

Genesis 49:17 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.

Ver. 17. Dan shall be a serpent by the way.] He shall subtly set upon his enemies, and suddenly surprise them: as they did the men of Laish; and as Samson, of this tribe, did the Philistines. Moses saith, "Dan is a lion’s whelp." [Deuteronomy 33:22] But when his lion’s hide would not serve his turn, he could piece it out with his fox skin or serpent’s slough; (a) he could, if not outfight his enemies, outwit them: and -

“ … dolus, an virtus, quis in hoste requirat?” - Virg.

Of Decebalus, king of Dacians, it is reported, to his singular commendation, that he could, optime insidias facere, proelium committere, optime uti victoria, et acceptam cladem ferre moderate. (b) All which were the parts and points of an excellent warrior.


Verse 18

Genesis 49:18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.

Ver. 18. I have waited for thy salvation.] A sudden and sweet ejaculation; either, as, feeling himself faint and spent with speaking, he desires to be dissolved, and so to be freed from all infirmities; or else, foreseeing the defection of this tribe to idolatry, and their many miseries thereupon, he darts up this holy desire to God for them, and himself in them. Good Nehemiah is much in these heavenly ejaculation: and the ancient Christians of Egypt were wont to use very short and frequent prayers, saith Augustine; (a) lest, in longer, their fervour of affection should suffer diminution. "Why criest thou unto me?" saith God to Moses. [Exodus 14:15] This was but a sudden desire darted up.


Verse 19

Genesis 49:19 Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.

Ver. 19. Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but.] This is every good Christian’s case in the spiritual warfare; he conquers, [John 16:33] but comes to it through many conflicts and counter buffs. He "made war upon the saints, and overcame them": [Revelation 13:7] for a season it may be, according to human conceit howsoever. But "they conquered and overcame him," according to the truth of the thing, "by the blood of the Lamb," [Revelation 12:11] in whom they do overcome, and "are more than conquerors." [Romans 8:37] This was fulfilled in the tribe of Gad. [1 Chronicles 5:18-20]


Verse 20

Genesis 49:20 Out of Asher his bread [shall be] fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.

Ver. 20. Out of Asher his bread shall be fat.] The "heart of the wheat," as the psalmist hath it. [Psalms 81:16] Or, choicest bread corn. Moses expoundeth this; Asher shall "dip his foot in oil." [Deuteronomy 33:24] That is, he shall dwell in "the horn of the son of oil," as the expression is. {Isaiah 5:1, marg.} Or in a very fruitful corn country, which was a singular blessing, according to his name, which signifieth bliss and happiness.

He shall yield dainties for a king.] Kings use to feed of the finest. (a) Yet of Augustus we read, that he was never elaborate in his diet; but content with ordinary and common food. He never drank but thrice at one meal, and lived near fourscore years. Queen Elizabeth of England did seldom eat but one sort of meat, rose ever with an appetite, and lived about seventy years: King Edward VI called her by no other name than his "sweet sister Temperance." Contrarily, Sulla the Roman dictator, by surfeiting and banqueting, at last got a most miserable disease, and died full of lice. Surfeiters either dig their graves with their own teeth (the Grecians called the intemperate, ασωτους quasi ασωστους, as wanting health), or else they come to some untimely end, by the just judgment of God; as those monstrous epicures, Caligula, Heliogabalus, Geta the Emperor, who was served in with dainties by the alphabet. One while he would have anserem, anatem, aprum; another time he would have phasianum, farra, ficus; sometime again, pullum, pavonem, perdicem, porcellum, piscem, perham, &c. This was one of those Caesars who got nothing by their honour, but ut citius interficerentur.


Verse 21

Genesis 49:21 Naphtali [is] a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.

Ver. 21. Naphtali is a hind let loose.] Swift of foot; and which, when it flieth, looketh behind it, saith the Chaldee Paraphrast on Song of Solomon 8:14. This was fulfilled in Barak of this tribe, who "went up on his feet" against Sisera’s iron chariots, [ 4:6; 4:10; 4:15-16] which were first a terror, and afterwards a scorn, as Vegetius (a) saith of chariots, armed with scythes and hooks. Origen observes, that in all the victories God gave his people in Canaan, he never used the help of horses. The adversaries, both Egyptians and Canaanites, had chariots and horses: not so Israel. A horse is a warlike creature, full of terror, [Job 39:19 Proverbs 21:31] so swift, that the Persians, as Pausanias (b) hath it, dedicates him to their god the sun; as the swiftest creature, to the swiftest god. But what saith David? "A horse is a vain thing for safety." [Psalms 33:17] And to the same purpose, Solomon: "A horse is prepared for the day of battle; but," when all is done, "salvation is of the Lord." [Proverbs 21:31] This, Barak, with his friend Deborah, found, and celebrated in that famous song. [ 5:1-31]

He giveth goodly words.] In the aforesaid song, Christ also began to utter his words of grace in the land of Naphtali. [Matthew 4:13] And this is the reason, that as, of the children by Leah’s side, Judah obtained the first place among those that were sealed, [Revelation 7:5] because Christ sprang of him; so, of those on Rachel’s side, Naphtali is first named, because there he dwelt at Capernaum where he had hired a house and preached, ut ubique superemineat Christi praerogativa, saith a learned interpreter, (c) Compare with this text Deuteronomy 33:23, and then observe, that good words do ingratiate with God and men.


Verse 22

Genesis 49:22 Joseph [is] a fruitful bough, [even] a fruitful bough by a well; [whose] branches run over the wall:

Ver. 22. Joseph is a fruitful bough.] Of the vine, saith the Chaldee Paraphrast. But it may be, Jacob meant it of the Egyptian fig tree, whereof Solinus reporteth that it beareth fruit seven times in the year; pull one fig, and another presently puts forth, saith he. (a)


Verse 23

Genesis 49:23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot [at him], and hated him:

Ver. 23. The archers have sorely grieved him.] These were his barbarous brethren, that sold him; his adulterous mistress, that, harlot-like, hunted for his precious life; his injurious master, that, without any desert of his, imprisoned him; the tumultuating Egyptians, that, pined with hunger, perhaps, "spoke of stoning him," as 1 Samuel 30:6; and the envious courtiers and enchanters, that spoke evil of him before Pharaoh, to bring him out of favour, as the Jerusalemy Targum addeth. All these "arrow masters," as the Hebrew here hath it, set against Joseph, and shot at him as their butt-mark; willing to have abused him, but that God’s grace, providence, and unchangeable decree (called here Joseph’s "bow" and "strength," Genesis 49:24) would not permit them; as those cruel Turks did one John de Chabas, a Frenchman, at the taking of Tripolis in Barbary. They brought him into the town; and when they had cut off his hands and nose, put him alive into the ground, up to the waist, and there, for their pleasure, shot at him with their arrows, and afterwards cut his throat. (a)


Verse 24

Genesis 49:24 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:)

Ver. 24. But his bow abode in strength.] He "gave not place to them by subjection, no, not for an hour." [Galatians 2:5] "If thou faint in adversity, thy strength is small," saith Solomon. [Proverbs 24:10] Joseph did not; but, as it was said of old Rome, Roma cladibus animosior; and as of Mithridates, (a) he never wanted courage or counsel, when he was at the worst; so neither did Joseph. Virtus lecythos habet in malis. The sound heart stands firm under greatest pressures. [2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:12] Whereas, if a bone be broke, or but the skin rubbed up and raw, the lighest load will be troublesome. Hang heavy weights upon rotten boughs, they presently break. But Joseph’s were green, and had sap.

By the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.] It was said of Achilles, that he was Styge armatus; but Joseph was Deo forti armatus, and thence his safety. He used lfis bow against his adversaries, as David did his sling against Goliath. He slung, saith Bucholcer, perinde ac si fundae suae tunicis non lapillum, sed Deum ipsum induisset ac implicuisset, as if he had wrapped up God in his sling.


Verse 25

Genesis 49:25 [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:

Ver. 25. Who shall help thee.] God hath, God shall, - is an ordinary way of arguing; it is a demonstration of Scripture logic, as Psalms 85:1-4, 2 Corinthians 1:10. Every former favour is a pledge of a future.

With blessings of heaven above, &c.] God "shall hear the heaven, the heaven shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, wine, and oil": the genealogy of all which is resolved into God. [Hosea 2:21-22]

With blessings of the breasts, and of the womb.] Yet rather than "Ephraim shall bring forth children to the murderer," the prophet prays God to give them, as a blessing, as some think, "a miscarrying womb, and dry breasts." [Hosea 9:13-14] And our Saviour saith, "Woe be to such as are with child, and give suck in those days" of war and trouble. [Matthew 24:19]


Verse 26

Genesis 49:26 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.

Ver. 26. Above the blessings of my progenitors.] Chiefly because Jacob pointed them out the particular tribe whereof, and the very time wherein, Shiloh should come. This mystery was made known to the Church, not all at once, but by degrees. Adam was told "the seed of the woman should break," &c.; but whether Jew or Gentile, he heard not a word. Abraham, the Hebrew, long after was certified that "in his seed all nations should be blessed"; but of what tribe Christ should come, till now, the world never heard. After this, David was made to know that Christ should be a male; but that he should be born of a virgin was not known till Isaiah’s time. Thus God crumbles his mercies to mankind; and we have his blessings by retail, saith one, to maintain trading and communion betwixt him and us. So the cloud empties not itself at a sudden burst, but dissolves upon the earth, drop after drop.

Unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.] "Spiritual blessings in heavenly things," [Ephesians 1:3] whereof those temporals afore promised were but types and pledges. Whence David doubts not to argue from temporals to spirituals. [Psalms 23:5-6] God in the Church’s infancy fed them and led them along by earthly to heavenly blessing, speaking unto them as they could hear.


Verse 27

Genesis 49:27 Benjamin shall ravin [as] a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.

Ver. 27. Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf.] There are that think that this ought to be applied to St Paul the Benjamite; (a) who while he was Saul, not content to consent to St Stephen’s death, - though it be all one to hold the sack, and to fill it; to do evil, and to consent unto it, - "he made havoc of the Church," like a ravening wolf; "entering into houses also, and haling men and women to prison." Yea, he lies "breathing out threatenings and slaughter," [Acts 9:1] panting and windless, as a tired wolf: and, having recovered himself, is marching toward Damascus for more prey, but, met by the chief Shepherd, of a wolf, he is made a lamb, [Isaiah 11:6] not once opening his mouth, unless it were to crave direction; "What wilt thou have me to do Lord?" After which time, he never persecuted the saints so fast, as now he pursues and "presses" hard {διωκω, Philippians 3:14} "toward the high prize"; and as mad every whit he is thought to be for Christ, as ever he was against him. [2 Corinthians 5:13 Acts 26:11] The Papists, some of them, have censured him for a hot-headed person, and said that there was no great reckoning to be made of his assertions. Is this blasphemy in the first or second table, say you? Porphyry, the philosopher, could say, that it was pity such a man as Paul was cast away upon our religion. And the monarch of Morocco told the English ambassador in King John’s time, that he had lately read Paul’s Epistles, which he liked so well, that were he now to choose his religion, he would, before any other, embrace Christianity. But every one ought, said he, to die in his own religion: and the leaving of the faith wherein he was born, was the only thing that he disliked in that apostle. (b)


Verse 28

Genesis 49:28 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.

Ver. 28. Blessed them; every one according, &c.] These hard blessings, to some of them especially, hindered not the covenant. Still they were patriarchs, and heirs of the promises. Afflictions, how sharp soever, show us not to be castaways. If a man should be baited, and used as a dog or a bear, yet so long as he hath human shape and a reasonable soul, he will not believe he is either dog or bear. Let not crosses cause us to take up hard thoughts of God, or heavy thoughts of ourselves, as if out of his favour; but account it a mercy rather, that we may scape so; and be "judged" here "of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." [1 Corinthians 11:32] Jacob is here said to have blessed all his sons. He rather seemed to curse some of them. And for his well-beloved Benjamin, Parum auspicata et honorifica videtur haec prophetia, saith Pareus. But because they were not rejected from being among God’s people, - as Ishmael and Esau were, for less faults perhaps, - though they were to undergo great and sore afflictions, they are said to be blessed, yea, and they shall be blessed, as Isaac said to his whining son, Esau.


Verse 29

Genesis 49:29 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,

Ver. 29. I am to be gathered, &c.] That is, I am now going to heaven; whereof being so well assured, what wonder though he were so willing to die? "I know that my Redeemer liveth," saith Job; "I know whom I have trusted," saith Paul. And what shall become of my soul when I die, let him see to it, who laid down his life for it, saith Luther. (a) Death may kill me, but cannot hurt me, said another. (b) This assurance of heaven is, as Mr Latimer calls it, the deserts of the feast of a good conscience. There are other dainty dishes in this feast, but this is the banquet.


Verse 30

Genesis 49:30 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.

Ver. 30. In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah.] Mercer thinketh that this cave is here so copiously described by Jacob, lest, after so many years’ absence in Egypt, any of them should have forgotten it. As also, lest they should doubt or fear that any one would claim it from them, or not permit them quiet possession thereof.


Verse 31

Genesis 49:31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.

Ver. 31. There they buried Abraham and Sarah, &c.] It is observed by an interpreter, that these here mentioned, and Jacob himself the sixth, buried in one grove, the first letters of all their names are contained in that one name, Israel. Whether these here buried were those that rose with our Saviour Christ, were seen in the holy city, and accompanied him to heaven at his ascension, I have not to say, though some have held it.


Verse 32

Genesis 49:32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that [is] therein [was] from the children of Heth.

Ver. 32. The purchase of the field, &c.] {See Trapp on "Genesis 49:30"}


Verse 33

Genesis 49:33 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.

Ver. 33. He gathered up his feet.] He quietly composed himself, as it were, to sleep in Jesus. He had stretched out himself before, saith Musculus, as well as he could, for reverence to the word of God, which he delivered, &c.

And was gathered unto his people.] To "the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven." [Hebrews 12:23] In Jerusalem, records were kept of the names of all the citizens. [Psalms 87:5] So is it in heaven, where Jacob is now a denizen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 49:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-49.html. 1865-1868.

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