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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Genesis 49

 

 

Verses 1-33

EXPOSITION

Genesis 49:1

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 youthat which shall befall youקָרָא, in the sense of happening or occurring to any one, is here equivalent to קָרָה (cf. Genesis 42:4, Genesis 42:38)—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).

Genesis 49:2

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.

Genesis 49:3, Genesis 49:4

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.,

Genesis 49:5-7

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

Genesis 49:8-12

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 יודוךָ (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 Psalms 7:3; Psalms 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 5:1-31 :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. 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, Joshua 18:8, Joshua 18:9, Joshua 18:10; Joshua 19:51; 18:31; 1 Samuel 1:3, 1 Samuel 1:9, 1 Samuel 1:24; 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 וַיָּבאֹ שִׁלה, and they came to Shiloh, a similar phrase, is found in 1 Samuel 4:12, yet against this interpretation maybe urged

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 לוֹ, 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 לוֹ), 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 7:1-29.), 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 11:17and 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. 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).

Genesis 49:13

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.

Genesis 49:14, Genesis 49:15

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.

Genesis 49:16-18

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 שְׁפִיפוֹן, from the Syriac שֶׁפַף, to glide (Gesenins), from שׁוּף, to sting (Kalisch), שָׁפַף, 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 ( 16:28 ), but the tribe in general appears not to have been entirely destitute of the treacherous and formidable characteristics here depicted ( 18:27). "It is certainly observable that the first introduction of idolatry in Israel is ascribed to the tribe of Dan ( 18:1-31.), and that in the numbering of the tribes in Revelation 7:1-17 the name of Dan is omitted. From these or other causes many of the Fathers 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 ( noit, from the root יָשַׁע, unused in Kal, to be roomy or spacious, hence in the Hiphil to set free or deliver).

Genesis 49:19

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.

Genesis 49:20

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

Genesis 49:21

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 ( 4:6-9 ; 5:1-31).

Genesis 49:22-26

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 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 Psalms 80:1-19; 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 ; 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 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.

Genesis 49:27

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 ( 3:15), and Saul the king of Israel (1 Samuel 11:6-11; 1 Samuel 14:13, 1 Samuel 14:15, 1 Samuel 14:47, 1 Samuel 14:48), who both sprang from Rachel's younger son.

Genesis 49:28

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).

Genesis 49:29, Genesis 49:30

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.

Genesis 49:32

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 Genesis 49:31 as a parenthesis.

Genesis 49:33

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; Genesis 35:29).

HOMILETICS

Genesis 49:1-33

The patriarchal blessing, or the last words of Jacob,

I. THE SONS OF LEAH.

1. The blessing on Reuben.

2. The blessings on Simeon and Levi. It is only by a species of irony that the words pronounced on the authors of the Shechem massacre can be styled a blessing.

3. The blessing upon Judah. Recalling probably the part which his fourth son had played with reference to Benjamin, Jacob fervently declares that Judah should be—

4. The blessing on Zebulun. With allusion to the import or ms name, Jacob prophesies that Leah's sixth son should be the ancestor of a flourishing community devoted to commercial pursuits, with a territory reaching towards the sea-coast, where ships should come to load and unload their cargoes of merchandise.

5. The blessing on Issachar. The last mentioned son of Leah, though the fifth in the order of birth, the patriarch predicts should develop into a powerful and sagacious tribe, capable of great exertion and warlike achievements, but addicted to pastoral pursuits, and so fond of luxuriant repose, that for the sake of resting among his sheepfolds and in his fat meadows he should be willing to fulfill the mute anticipation of his name, and render tribute to his more heroic brethren.

II. THE SONS OF THE CONCUBINES.

1. The blessing on Dan. Dan was the firstborn of Bilhah, the maid of Rachel; and concerning him the patriarch announces—"That though the child of a secondary wife, his descendants should attain to the position of an independent and self-governing tribe"—"Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel"

2. The blessing on Gad. The firstborn of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid, obtains the next place in the order of the sons, and concerning him it is declared with a threefold play upon his name, which signifies a troop, that—

3. The blessing on Aslant. The happy one should he the occupier of a territory exceeding fertile, and capable of yielding rich and dainty fruits for royal tables.

4. The blessing on Naphtali. Naphtali was Bilhah's child, which Rachel named in honor of her triumphant wrestling or contending with her sister; and for him were reserved the gifts of a graceful exterior, agile movements, and attractive speech both in eloquence and song.

III. THE SONS OF RACHEL.

1. The blessing on Joseph. With a fullness and tenderness of paternal emotion like that with which already he had spoken of Judah, the expiring patriarch declares the fortunes of Joseph, setting forth—

2. The blessing on Benjamin. Though latest born of Jacob's family, he should not be the least important,, but should show himself possessed of a warlike and adventurous disposition, causing him with eagerness and animation to take the field against the foe, and to desist not from battle till he could lead back his legions as rejoicing conquerors, enriched with the spoils of glorious victory.

Learn—

1. That God is the great arbiter of human destiny.

2. That each man's sphere in life, as well as each nation's place on earth, is adapted to his or its peculiar character.

3. That though fore-appointed and fore-known, the destinies of men and nations are freely wrought out by themselves. And—

4. That in Providence as well as Grace, it often happens that the first becomes last, and the last first.

HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD

Genesis 49:1-33

Last words.

Jacob's benediction on his sons was a prophetic treasure, to be kept in store by future generations, and a foundation on which much faith could afterwards be built.. It has been called "the last full bloom of patriarchal prophecy and theocratic promise." The central point, the blessing on the royal tribe of Judah. The corresponding eminence being given to Joseph. The Israel blessing to the one, the Jacob blessing to the other. In each case we distinguish—

1. The earthly basis of the blessing in the tribe itself.

2. The nearest fulfillments of it in the temporal history.

3. The symbolical import pointing to a remoter fulfillment.

We may compare the many dying scenes of the Bible with this; as the last words of Isaac, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Simeon, Stephen, Paul, Peter, and the apocalyptic visions of John. Compare especially the song of Moses, and the prophecy of Balaam. It seems possible that the beautiful exclamation, verse 18, I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord," was intended to form a kind of middle point, separating the groups of blessings into one of seven, and another of five. The first group has a Messianic character, the second a wider, cosmopolitan. In the first, Judah, the royal tribe, represents the theocracy. In the second, Joseph, the link of connection between Israel and Egypt, represents the kingdom of Christ becoming the universal kingdom, from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel. The whole is a typical representation of "Israel" in the higher sense.

1. It comes out of sinful human nature.

2. It is developed by the grace of God in human history.

3. It stands upon the Divine order of the twelve tribes, the revealed truth, and the Divinely sanctioned religions life and institutions.

4. The essential dement in the history, is the Messiah coming out o/Judah, the shepherd of Israel, the stone of help out of Joseph, the Nazarite, the tried man, the blessed one.

5. The kingdom of Christ is the universal blessedness of the world. When Jacob has handed on his blessing to his heirs, he gathers up his feet into the bed, yields up the ghost, and is gathered to his people. When the carnal Israel is done with, the spiritual Israel remains. When the promises of God shall be fulfilled, then there shall be no more concern with the earthly pilgrimage. "The blessings prevail unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills."—R.

HOMILIES BY F. HASTINGS

Genesis 49:8-12

Judah's portion.

"Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise," etc. This dying vision and the utterances of the dying patriarch seem in harmony with all the surroundings in this part of the sacred record. The aged Jacob is dying. He has passed through such changes, such trials and successes, has had such seasons of depression and of exultation, but now his soul is filled with rapture at what will be the future of his children. He saw how he would live in his children, A man should not be indifferent to his name dying out. Some are, but only such as are not of intense nature. As a man nearing the close of life, great importance was attached, by his son, to his utterances. On a farewell festive occasion, Isaac partook of venison before giving his blessing to Jacob and Esau. Jacob called all his sons together, as he was dying, and seems to have had supernatural strength given to utter so many and distinct prophecies. He knew the individual character of his sons, and so could better foretell, almost apart from Divine inspiration, what would be their future. The words uttered on the borders of the other land seemed necessarily inspired. Such a man as Jacob would no more pass away, if possible, without such utterances, than would a millionaire think of dying without a will. No mere offspring of a disordered brain, or over-excited imagination, were these words. They were actual prophecies. Jacob was not only a patriarch, but a prophet. He speaks under the influence of the God of his fathers (Genesis 48:15), and the future bore out what he had foretold. We wish to consider chiefly the utterances concerning one tribe, Judah.

I. A PROPHECY OF POWER. His enemies were "to flee before him," &c. As victor he lays his hands on their necks, that they may be subject and yet live. His brethren were to acknowledge his power. He is to be as a young lion in agility, and as an old lion with the strength of years remaining, whom none will dare to anger. All this seems to be the glorification of mere physical power. Spiritual power is to be desired above the physical. And this we have in Christ.

II. A PROPHECY OF PRECEDENCY. Jacob seems to have come at last upon the one for whom he was seeking. He speaks of Judah as one whom his brethren shall praise. This is said to be "a play upon the name, Judah, as meaning one who is celebrated." And the name of Judah was accepted afterwards by the whole nation. We should have thought that if the firstborn, Reuben, had not been placed first, Joseph would have been. Judah's character, however, was more noble in some things even than that of Joseph. He did not delight in the wrong-doing of the brethren. Jacob may in his mind have blamed Joseph, in that he had not sought to know whether his father was alive before circumstances of death drove aim to know of his still being alive. Judah was always ever ready to sacrifice himself, to be bound for his brother. There seems to have been much that was noble in him. Hence, we can understand, in a measure, the precedency accorded to him. Precedency is not to be sought for its own sake. It is then only another form of vanity. When precedency is forced on men, it is because their worth and their usefulness to others is recognized by others, although not by themselves. How remarkable it is that God often selected the younger before the elder, e.g. Abel, Jacob, Moses, David. Judah is taken before Reuben. A lesson evidently taught in this, viz; that God is no respecter of persons, that he seeth not as man seeth, that the course of spiritual feeling does not always follow the line of birth.

III. PROPHECY OF PERMANENCY. This permanency was comparative in one sense and actual in another. Judah lasted longer than any of the tribes as a distinct power, and, since Christ came of that tribe, may be said to be permanent still. Who thinks of Naphtali, or Zebulun, or Issachar? but Judah is a name most familiar. The "scepter" is the sheik's staff, which, like a marshal's baton, indicates his right to lead. Judah was to lead, and to give the law until Shiloh came; and he did. Shiloh evidently points to the Messiah. It is a mystic name (comp. Genesis 48:16; Psalms 9:6; Psalms 11:1). Some render this passage, "Until he [Judah] comes as the rest-giver;" others, "until he comes to whom it belongs." Christ is the only rightful rest-giver, and to him alone belongs all honor and praise. We see that the aim of God with respect to the descendants of Jacob was to provide a race which should keep alive a knowledge of God in the world until the Messiah should come. When that race had fulfilled this mission, it dropped into line with the rest of the nations. It is no longer to lead. We see that as ten tribes were broken off by Jeroboam from Judah, they were carried captive by the Assyrians, and with that nation swallowed up in oblivion, never, probably, to be known of again. And so with the Jews; they no longer lead. Although still retaining much that is distinctive, they will gradually, we believe, assimilate with other nations, and, accepting Christ, be one with other Christians in that one fold of mercy he has provided. Christ unites us to God and to others, breaks clown middle walls of partition, gives to us also "life eternal," so that when this life shall fail, we shall be received into "everlasting habitations," and know as real a permanency as that of Judah.

IV. PROPHECY OF PROSPERITY. In the eleventh verse, Jacob indicates the sort of territory Judah will have,—one rich in vineyards and olive yards. He foretells his prosperity during the period intervening between the prophecy and the advent of Shiloh. The twelfth verse means, that "his eyes should be redder than wine," i.e. brilliant with joy. The words "white as milk" refer to purity as well as prosperity. Both are found in Christ. True joy and purity shall draw souls to Christ. "Unto him shall the gathering of the people be." His truth has "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." How much that is foretold of Judah is only typical of Jesus. He is the true conqueror, ruler, object of praise. He is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5), the "desire of all nations" (Haggai 2:7), the one who if lifted up would draw all unto him (John 12:32), the one in whom all the children of God are to be gathered in one (John 11:52).

Learn—

1. We find much to confirm faith in the way in which the prophecy of Jacob was fulfilled.

2. We find much to lead us to seek to be in Christ, through whom Judah obtained such blessings antecedently.

3. We find something to lead us to ask as to whether we have grown in purity, power, and whether our souls prosper and are in health.—H.

HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY

Genesis 49:10

The coming of Shiloh.

Remarkable agreement of ancient interpreters, Jewish as well as Christian, to consider this a prophecy of Messiah. The former of special value, as being before the event. The Targum of Onkelos renders the passage, "until Messiah comes, whose is the kingdom." Many others equally distinct. Some have observed that the words, "Shiloh shall come," make in Hebrew the same number as the name "Messiah." Ancient Christian writers all take the same view. The name Shiloh expresses rest or peace. Observe how this answers the need of man. Sin brought the curse of labor (Genesis ill 17-19), and unrest (Isaiah 57:20, Isaiah 57:21), and want of peace. Hence the frequent mention of rest, which, however, was only typical and temporary (Hebrews 4:8). Hence the common salutation, "Peace be unto you." And rest and peace are ours through the coming of Christ (Matthew 11:28; John 10:28; Romans 8:38).

I. THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL A PREPARATION FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST, The moral law convincing of sin (Galatians 3:24). The ceremonial law foreshadowing restoration (Hebrews 10:1).; the prophets declaring God's purpose, arid the person and work of Christ; the dispersion by the captivity, bringing the people into contact with other nations, and thus preparing for a universal Church; their sufferings and state of subjection after their return, keeping alive the expectation of "Messiah, the prince."

II. THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD A PREPARATION FOE CHRIST. The colonizing instinct of the Greeks making their language almost universal; the contact of Greek and Jewish learning at Alexandria and elsewhere, by which the heathen language was made capable of expressing Divine truth; the widespread power and organization of the Romans, by which in so many ways the fulfillment of prophecy was brought about (Luke 2:1; John 19:36, John 19:37).

III. FOR WHAT SHILOH SHOULD COME. To gather all nations unto himself (Isaiah 2:2, Isaiah 2:3; John 11:52; John 12:32). To redeem mankind, both Jews and Gentiles (Psalms 49:15; Isaiah 35:4-10; John 10:16; Galatians 4:5). To bear the sins of mankind (Isaiah 35:1-10 :11, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Peter 2:24). To teach his people the way of life (Deuteronomy 18:15; Matthew 11:27; John 4:25). To reign over his people (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15). To give them victory (Psalms 44:5; 1 John 5:4; Revelation 12:11).

IV. LESSON OF ENCOURAGEMENT. Why doubt God's acceptance of thee? or his readiness to help? Mark his desire that all should be saved (Ezekiel 18:1-32 :82; 1 Timothy 2:4). Mark how this is the ruling principle running through the whole Bible. The work of Christ was no newly devised thing, but "that which was from the beginning" (1 Peter 1:20). All our imperfections, all our weakness of faith is known to God, yet such as we are, he bids us trust in Christ's work. Judah himself was a very imperfect character. His descendants not less so. Yet of them the text was spoken. 66 Be not afraid, only believe."—M.

HOMILIES BY W. ROBERTS

Genesis 49:18

God's salvation.

I. WHAT IT IS. Deliverance from evil, succor against foes, victory over sin and death.

II. WHENCE IT COMES. The primal fountain is Jehovah, the covenant God of the believer. The salvation of the gospel is God's in its original conception and proclamation, in its subsequent procurement and donation, in its ultimate development and consummation.

III. HOW IT IS OBTAINED. Not by merit, or by works, but by believing, and waiting, and hoping. "He that believeth shall be saved." "The Lord loveth them that hope in his mercy." "It is good for a man both to hope, and to quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."—W.

Genesis 49:18

A dying saint's exercise.

I. ADORATION. "O Lord!" Jehovah the God of redemption, the supreme object of worship.

II. MEDITATION. "Thy salvation!" What a theme for the thoughts to dwell on God's salvation in its origin, in its greatness, in its freeness, &c.

III. EXPECTATION. "For thy salvation do I hope." Hope is the expectation of fixture good, and presupposes faith as its ground-work and support.—W.

Genesis 49:26

The separated one, or Joseph a type of Christ.

Joseph was separated from his brethren—

I. IN HIS FATHER'S AFFECTIONS. Jacob loved him more than any of his other sons. So was Christ the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of the Father.

II. IN HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER. Joseph brought unto Jacob the evil report that he heard circulating about his brethren, thus proving that he had no sympathy with their wicked ways. So Christ was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from Sinners."

III. IN HIS HEAVENLY COMMUNICATIONS. Joseph was favored above his brethren in being made the recipient of dreams, and the depositary, as it were, of Divine secrets. And Christ received not the Spirit by measure, so that of him it could be said, No man knoweth the Father but the Son.

IV. IN HIS EVIL FORTUNES. Joseph was hated, sold, and practically given over to death by his brethren. So was Christ not only despised and rejected by his brethren, but separated from all mankind in the character of his sufferings and death.

V. IN HIS FUTURE EXALTATION. Joseph became the governor of Egypt, and the savior of his family. And Christ after his resurrection was exalted to be a Prince, and a Savior for mankind.—W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 49:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/genesis-49.html. 1897.

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