Genesis 49


Jacob, about to die, calls his sons together that he may bless them,

or give prophetic declarations concerning their posterity, 1, 2.

Prophetic declaration concerning Reuben, 3, 4.

Concerning Simeon and Levi, 57;

concerning Judah, 8-12;

concerning Zebulun, 13;

concerning Issachar, 14, 15;

concerning Dan, 16-18;

concerning Gad, 19;

concerning Asher, 20;

concerning Naphtali, 21;

concerning Joseph, 22-26;

concerning Benjamin, 27.

Summary concerning the twelve tribes, 28.

Jacob gives directions concerning his being buried in the cave

of Machpelah, 29-32.

Jacob dies, 33.


Verse 1. That which shall befall you in the last days.] It is

evident from this, and indeed from the whole complexion of these

important prophecies, that the twelve sons of Jacob had very

little concern in them, personally considered, as they were to be

fulfilled in the last days, i. e., in times remote from that

period, and consequently to their posterity, and not to

themselves, or to their immediate families. The whole of

these prophetic declarations, from Ge 49:2-27 inclusive, is

delivered in strongly figurative language, and in the poetic form,

which, in every translation, should be preserved as nearly as

possible, rendering the version line for line with the original.

This order I shall pursue in the succeeding notes, always

proposing the verse first, in as literal a translation as

possible, line for line with the Hebrew after the hemistich form,

from which the sense will more readily appear; but to the Hebrew

text and the common version the reader is ultimately referred.

2. Come together and hear, O sons of Jacob!

And hearken unto Israel your father.

Bishop Newton has justly observed that Jacob had received a

double blessing, spiritual and temporal; the promise of being

progenitor of the Messiah, and the promise of the land of

Canaan. The promised land he might divide among his children as

he pleased, but the other must be confined to one of his sons; he

therefore assigns to each son a portion in the land of Canaan, but

limits the descent of the blessed seed to the tribe of Judah. Some

have put themselves to a great deal of trouble and learned labour

to show that it was a general opinion of the ancients that the

soul, a short time previous to its departure from the body,

becomes endued with a certain measure of the prophetic gift or

foresight; and that this was probably the case with Jacob. But

it would be derogatory to the dignity of the prophecies delivered

in this chapter, to suppose that they came by any other means than

direct inspiration, as to their main matter, though certain

circumstances appear to be left to the patriarch himself, in which

he might express his own feelings both as a father and as a judge.

This is strikingly evident, 1. In the case of Reuben, from whom

he had received the grossest insult, however the passage relative

to him may be understood; and, 2. In the case of Joseph, the

tenderly beloved son of his most beloved wife Rachel, in the

prophecy concerning whom he gives full vent to all those tender

and affectionate emotions which, as a father and a husband, do him

endless credit.

3. Reuben, my first-born art thou!

My might, and the prime of my strength,

Excelling in eminence, and excelling in power:

4. Pouring out like the waters:-thou shalt not excel,

For thou wentest up to the bed of thy father,-

Then thou didst defile: to my couch he went up!

Verse 3. Reuben as the first-born had a right to a double

portion of all that the father had; see De 21:17.

The eminence or dignity mentioned here may refer to the

priesthood; the power, to the regal government or kingdom.

In this sense it has been understood by all the ancient

Targumists. The Targum of Onkelos paraphrases it thus: "Thou

shouldst have received three portions, the birthright, the

priesthood, and the kingdom:" and to this the Targums of Jonathan

ben Uzziel and Jerusalem add: "But because thou hast sinned,

the birthright is given to Joseph, the kingdom to Judah,

and the priesthood to Levi." That the birthright was given to the

sons of Joseph we have the fullest proof from 1Ch 5:1.

Verse 4. Pouring out like the waters] This is an obscure

sentence because unfinished. It evidently relates to the

defilement of his father's couch; and the word pachaz, here

translated pouring out, and in our Version unstable, has a bad

meaning in other places of the Scripture, being applied to

dissolute, debauched, and licentious conduct. See

Jud 9:4; Zep 3:4; Jer 23:14, 32; 29:23.

Thou shalt not excel] This tribe never rose to any eminence in

Israel; was not so numerous by one third as either Judah, Joseph,

or Dan, when Moses took the sum of them in the wilderness,

Nu 1:21; and was among the

first that were carried into captivity, 1Ch 5:26.

Then thou didst defile] Another unfinished sentence, similar to

the former, and upon the same subject, passing over a transaction

covertly, which delicacy forbade Jacob to enlarge on. For the

crime of Reuben, See Clarke on Ge 35:22.

5. Simeon and Levi, brethren:

They have accomplished their fraudulent purposes.

6. Into their secret council my soul did not come;

In their confederacy my honour was not united:

For in their anger they slew a man, ( ish, a noble,)

And in their pleasure they murdered a prince.

7. Cursed was their anger, for it was fierce!

And their excessive wrath, for it was inflexible!

I will divide them out in Jacob,

And I will disperse them in Israel.

Verse 5. Simeon and Levi are brethren] Not only springing from

the same parents, but they have the same kind or disposition,

head-strong, deceitful, vindictive, and cruel.

They have accomplished, &c.] Our margin has it, Their swords

are weapons of violence, i. e., Their swords, which they should

have used in defence of their persons or the honourable protection

of their families, they have employed in the base and dastardly

murder of an innocent people.

The Septuagint gives a different turn to this line from our

translation, and confirms the translation given above: συνετελεσαν

αδικιαεξαιρεσεωςαυτων. They have accomplished the iniquity of

their purpose; with which the Samaritan Version agrees. In the

Samaritan text we read [Samaritan] calu, they have accomplished,

instead of the Hebrew keley, weapons or instruments,

which reading most critics prefer: and as to

mecherotheyhem, translated above their fraudulent purposes, and

which our translation on almost no authority renders their

habitations, it must either come from the AEthiopic macar,

he counselled, devised stratagems, &c., (see Castel,) or from

the Arabic [Arabic] macara, he deceived, practised deceit,

plotted, &c., which is nearly of the same import. This gives

not only a consistent but evidently the true sense.

Verse 6. Into their secret council, &c.] Jacob here exculpates

himself from all participation in the guilt of Simeon and Levi in

the murder of the Shechemites. He most solemnly declares that he

knew nothing of the confederacy by which it was executed, nor of

the secret council in which it was plotted.

If it should be said that the words tabo and techad

should be translated in the future tense or in the imperative, as

in our translation, I shall not contend; though it is well known

that the preterite is often used for the future in Hebrew, and

vice versa. Taken thus, the words mark the strong detestation

which this holy man's soul felt for the villany of his sons: "My

soul shall not come into their secret council. My honour shall

not be united to their confederacy.

For in their anger they slew a man] ish, a noble, an

honourable man, viz., Shechem.

And in their pleasure] This marks the highest degree of

wickedness and settled malice, they were delighted with their

deed. A similar spirit Saul of Tarsus possessed previously to his

conversion; speaking of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, St. Luke

says, Ac 8:1: σαυλοςδεηνσυνευδοκωντηαναιρεσειαυτου.

And Saul was gladly consenting to his death. He was with the

others highly delighted with it; and thus the prediction of our

Lord was fulfilled, Joh 16:2:

Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that

he doeth God service. And it is represented as the highest pitch

of profligacy and wickedness, not only to sin, but to delight in

it; see Ro 1:32. As the original word

ratson signifies, in general, pleasure, benevolence, delight, &c.,

it should neither be translated self-will nor wilfulness, as some

have done, but simply as above; and the reasons appear

sufficiently obvious. They murdered a prince-Hamor, the father of

Shechem. Instead of shor, which we have translated a

wall, and others an ox, I read sar, a prince, which makes

a consistent sense; (see Kennicott's first Dissertation, p. 56,

&c.;) as there is no evidence whatever that Simeon and Levi either

dug down a wall or houghed the oxen, as some have translated the

passage; (see the margin;) on the contrary, the text,

Ge 34:28, 29, proves that they had taken for their own use the

sheep, oxen, asses, all their wealth, their wives, and their

little ones.

Verse 7. Cursed was their anger] The first motions of their

violence were savage; and their excessive or overflowing wrath,

ebrah, for it was inflexible-neither the supplications of

the males, nor the entreaties, tears, cries, and shrieks of the

helpless females, could deter them from their murderous purpose;

for this, Ge 49:5, they are said to have


I will divide them out, achallekem, I will make them into

lots, giving a portion of them to one tribe, and a portion to

another; but they shall never attain to any political consequence.

This appears to have been literally fulfilled. Levi had no

inheritance except forty-eight cities, scattered through different

parts of the land of Canaan: and as to the tribe of Simeon, it is

generally believed among the Jews that they became schoolmasters

to the other tribes; and when they entered Canaan they had only a

small portion, a few towns and villages in the worst part of

Judah's lot, Jos 19:1, which afterwards finding too little, they

formed different colonies in districts which they conquered from

the Idumeans and Amalekites, 1Ch 4:39, &c. Thus these two

tribes were not only separated from each other, but even divided

from themselves, according to this prediction of Jacob.

8. Judah! thou! Thy brethren shall praise thee.

Thy hand, in the neck of thine enemies:

The sons of thy father shall bow themselves

to thee.

9. A lion's whelp is Judah:

From the prey, my son, thou hast ascended,

He couched, lying down like a strong lion

And like a lioness; who shall arouse him?

10. From Judah the sceptre shall not depart,

Nor a teacher from his offspring,

Until that SHILOH shall come,

And to him shall be assembled the peoples.

11. Binding his colt to the vine,

And to the choice vine the foals of his ass,

He washed his garments in wine,

His clothes in the blood of the grape.

12. With wine shall his eyes be red,

And his teeth shall be white with milk.

Verse 8. Thy brethren shall praise thee.] As the name Judah

signifies praise, Jacob takes occasion from its meaning to show

that this tribe should be so eminent and glorious, that the rest

of the tribes should praise it; that is, they should acknowledge

its superior dignity, as in its privileges it should be

distinguished beyond all the others. On the prophecy relative to

Judah, Dr. Hales has several judicious remarks, and has left very

little to be farther desired on the subject. Every reader will be

glad to meet with them here.

"The prophecy begins with his name JUDAH, signifying the praise

of the Lord, which was given to him at his birth by his mother

Leah, Ge 29:35. It then describes the warlike character of

this tribe, to which, by the Divine appointment, was assigned the

first lot of the promised land, which was conquered accordingly

by the pious and heroic Caleb; the first who laid hands on the

necks of his enemies, and routed and subdued them,

Jos 14:11; 15:1; Jud 1:1, 2; and led the way for their total

subjugation under David; who, in allusion to this prediction,

praises God, and says: Thou hast given me the necks of mine

enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me, Ps 18:40. In

the different stages of its strength, this tribe is compared to a

lion's whelp, to a full grown lion, and to a nursing lioness,

the fiercest of all. Hence a lion was the standard of Judah;

compare Nu 2:3, Eze 1:10. The city of David, where he reposed

himself after his conquests, secure in the terror of his name,

1Ch 14:17, was called

Ariel, the lion of God, Isa 29:1; and our Lord himself, his

most illustrious descendant, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,

Re 5:5.

"The duration of the power of this famous tribe is next

determined: 'the sceptre of dominion,' as it is understood

Es 8:4; Isa 14:5, &c., or its

civil government, was not to cease or depart from Judah until

the birth or coming of SHILOH, signifying the Apostle, as Christ

is styled, Heb 3:1; nor was the native lawgiver, or

expounder of the law, teacher, or scribe, intimating their

ecclesiastical polity, to cease, until Shiloh should have a

congregation of peoples, or religious followers, attached to him.

And how accurately was this fulfilled in both these respects!

"1. Shortly before the birth of Christ a decree was issued by

Augustus Caesar that all the land of Judea and Galilee should be

enrolled, or a registry of persons taken, in which Christ was

included, Lu 2:1-7; whence Julian the apostate unwittingly

objected to his title of CHRIST or KING, that he was born a

subject of Caesar!' About eleven years after Judea was made a

Roman province, attached to Syria on the deposal and banishment of

Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, for maladministration; and

an assessment of properties or taxing was carried into effect by

Cyrenius, then governor of Syria, the same who before, as the

emperor's procurator, had made the enrolment, Lu 2:2; Ac 5:37;

and thenceforth Judea was governed by a Roman deputy, and the

judicial power of life and death taken away from the Jews,

Joh 18:31.

"2. Their ecclesiastical polity ceased with the destruction of

their city and temple by the Romans, A. D. 70; at which time the

Gospel had been preached through the known world by the apostles,

'his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria,

and unto the uttermost parts of the earth;' Ac 2:8; Ro 10:18.

"Our Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, before his

crucifixion, 'riding on an ass, even a colt the foal of an ass,'

which by his direction his disciples brought to him for this

purpose, ��'Go into the village over against you, and presently ye

shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and

bring them to me,' Mt 21:2-5, remarkably fulfilling the prophecy

of Zechariah, (Zec 9:9) is no less a fulfillment of this prophecy

of Shiloh, 'binding or tying his foal to the vine, even his

ass's colt to the choice vine.' In ancient times to ride upon

white asses or ass-colts was the privilege of persons of high

rank, princes, judges, and prophets, Jud 5:10; 10:4; Nu 22:22.

And as the children of Israel were symbolized by the vine,

Ps 80:8; Ho 10:1, and the men of Judah by 'a (choice)

vine of Sorek,' in the original, both here and in the beautiful

allegory of Isaiah, Isa 5:1-7, adopted by Jeremiah, Jer 2:21,

and by our Lord, Mt 21:33, who styled himself the

true vine, Joh 15:1; so the union of both these images

signified our Lord's assumption, as the promised Shiloh, of the

dignity of the king of the Jews, not in a temporal but in a

spiritual sense, as he declared to Pilate, Joh 18:36, as a

prelude to his second coming in glory 'to restore again the

kingdom to Israel.'

"The vengeance to be then inflicted on all the enemies of his

Church, or congregation of faithful Christians, is expressed by

the symbolical imagery of 'washing his garments in wine, and his

clothes in the blood of grapes;' which to understand literally,

would be incongruous and unusual any where, while it aptly

represents his garments crimsoned in the blood of his foes, and

their immense slaughter; and imagery frequently adopted in the

prophetic scriptures.

"The strength and wholesomeness of Shiloh's doctrine are next

represented by having 'his eyes red with wine, and his teeth white

with milk.' And thus the evangelical prophet, in similar strains,

invites the world to embrace the Gospel:-

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters,

And he that hath no money; come, buy and eat:

Yea, come, buy wine and milk,

Without money and without price. Isa 55:1.

"On the last day of the feast of tabernacles it was customary

among the Jews for the people to bring water from the fountain of

Siloah or Siloam, which they poured on the altar, singing the

words of Isaiah, Isa 12:3:

With joy shall ye draw water from the fountain of salvation;

which the Targum interprets, 'With joy shall ye receive a new

doctrine from the ELECT of the JUST ONE;' and the feast itself was

also called Hosannah, Save, we beseech thee. And Isaiah has also

described the apostasy of the Jews from their tutelar God

IMMANUEL, under the corresponding imagery of their 'rejecting the

gently-flowing waters of Siloah,' Isa 8:6-8.

"Hence our Lord, on the last day of the feast, significantly

invited the Jews to come unto him as the true and living Fountain

of waters, Jer 2:13. 'If any man thirst, let him come to ME and

drink;' Joh 7:37. He also compared his doctrine to

new wine, which required to be put into new bottles, made of

skins strong enough to contain it, Mt 9:17; while the Gospel is

repeatedly represented as affording milk for babes, or the first

principles of the oracles of God for novices in the faith, as well

as strong meat [and strong wine] for masters in Christ or adepts,

Mt 13:11; Heb 5:12-14.

"And our Lord's most significant miracle was wrought at this

fountain, when he gave sight to a man forty years old, who had

been blind from his birth, by sending him, after he had anointed

his eyes with moistened clay, to wash in the pool of Siloam, which

is the Greek pronunciation of the Hebrew Siloah or Siloh,

Isa 8:6, where the

Septuagint version reads σιλωαμ, signifying, according to the

evangelist, απεσταλμενος, sent forth, and consequently derived

from shalach, to send, Joh 9:7. Our Lord thus assuming

to himself his two leading titles of MESSIAH, signifying anointed,

and SHILOH, sent forth or delegated from God; as he had done

before at the opening of his mission: 'The Spirit of the Lord is

upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the

poor; he hath sent me forth (απεσταλκε) to heal the

broken-hearted,' &c.; Lu 4:18.

"And in the course of it he declared, I was not sent forth

(απεσταλην) but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,

Mt 15:24, by a two-fold reference to his character in

Jacob's prophecy of SHILOH and SHEPHERD OF ISRAEL, Ge 49:10-24.

'This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus

Christ whom thou sentest forth,' (απεστειλας,) to instruct and

save mankind, Joh 17:3; and he thus distinguishes his own

superior mission from his commission to his apostles: 'As THE

FATHER hath sent ME, (απεσταλκεμε,) so I send you,' πεμπωυμας,

Joh 20:21. Whence St. Paul expressly styles Jesus Christ 'the

Apostle (οαποστολος) and High Priest of our profession,'

Heb 3:1; and by an elaborate argument shows the superiority of

his mission above that of Moses, and of his priesthood above that

of Aaron, in the sequel of the epistle. His priesthood was

foretold by David to be a royal priesthood, after the order of

Melchizedek, Ps 110:4. But where shall we find his mission or

apostleship foretold, except in Jacob's prophecy of Shiloh? which

was evidently so understood by Moses when God offered to send him

as his ambassador to Pharaoh, and he declined at first the arduous

mission: 'O my Lord, send I pray thee by the hand of Him whom thou

wilt send,' or by the promised Shiloh, Ex 3:10; 4:13; by whom in

his last blessing to the Israelites, parallel to that of Jacob, he

prayed that 'God would bring back Judah to his people,' from

captivity, De 33:7.

"Here then we find the true meaning and derivation of the much

disputed term Shiloh in this prophecy of Jacob, which is

fortunately preserved by the Vulgate, rendering qui mittendus est,

he that is to be sent, and also by a rabbinical comment on

De 22:7: 'If you keep this precept, you hasten the coming of

the Messiah, who is called SENT.'

"This important prophecy concerning Judah intimates, 1. The

warlike character and conquests of this tribe; 2. The cessation

of their civil and religious polity at the first coming of Shiloh;

3. His meek and lowly inauguration at that time, as spiritual King

of the Jews, riding on an ass like the ancient judges and

prophets; 4. His second coming as a warrior to trample on all

his foes; and, 5. To save and instruct his faithful

people."-Hales' Anal., vol. ii., p. 167, &c.

Verse 10. From Judah the sceptre shall not depart] The Jews

have a quibble on the word shebet, which we translate sceptre;

they say it signifies a staff or rod, and that the meaning of it

is, that "afflictions shall not depart from the Jews till the

Messiah comes;" that they are still under affliction and therefore

the Messiah is not come. This is a miserable shift to save a lost

cause. Their chief Targumist, Onkelos, understood and translated

the word nearly as we do; and the same meaning is adopted by the

Jerusalem Targum, and by all the ancient versions, the Arabic

excepted, which has [Arabic] kazeeb, a rod; but in a very ancient

MS. of the Pentateuch in my own possession the word [Arabic] sebet

is used, which signifies a tribe. Judah shall continue a distinct

tribe till the Messiah shall come; and it did so; and after his

coming it was confounded with the others, so that all distinction

has been ever since lost.

Nor a teacher from his offspring] I am sufficiently aware that

the literal meaning of the original mibbeyn raglaiv

is from between his feet, and I am as fully satisfied that it

should never be so translated; from between the feet and out of

the thigh simply mean progeny, natural offspring, for reasons

which surely need not be mentioned. The Targum of Jonathan ben

Uzziel, and the Jerusalem Targum, apply the whole of this

prophecy, in a variety of very minute particulars, to the Messiah,

and give no kind of countenance to the fictions of the modern


13. At the haven of the seas shall Zebulun dwell,

And he shall be a haven for ships.

And his border shall extend unto Sidon.

Verse 13. Zebulun's lot or portion in the division of the

Promised Land extended from the Mediterranean Sea on the west, to

the lake of Gennesareth on the east; see his division, Jos 19:10,

&c. The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel paraphrases the passage

thus: "Zebulun shall be on the coasts of the sea, and he shall

rule over the havens; he shall subdue the provinces of the sea

with his, ships, and his border shall extend unto Sidon.

14. Issachar is a strong ass

Couching between two burdens.

15. And he saw the resting place that it was good,

And the land that it was pleasant;

And he inclined his shoulder to the load,

And he became a servant unto tribute.

Verse 14. Issachar is a strong ass] chamor garem is

properly a strong-limbed ass; couching between two burdens-bearing

patiently, as most understand it, the fatigues of agriculture, and

submitting to exorbitant taxes rather that exert themselves to

drive out the old inhabitants.

The two burdens literally mean the two sacks or panniers, one

on each side of the animal's body; and couching down between these

refers to the well-known propensity of the ass, whenever wearied

or overloaded, to lie down even with its burden on its back.

Verse 15. He saw that rest] The inland portion that was

assigned to him between the other tribes. He inclined his shoulder

to the load; the Chaldee paraphrast gives this a widely different

turn to that given it by most commentators: "He saw his portion

that it was good, and the land that it was fruitful; and he shall

subdue the provinces of the people, and drive out their

inhabitants, and those who are left shall be his servants, and his

tributaries." Grotius understands it nearly in the same way. The

pusillanimity which is generally attributed to this tribe

certainly does not agree with the view in which they are exhibited

in Scripture. In the song of Deborah this tribe is praised for

the powerful assistance which it then afforded, Jud 5:15. And in

1Ch 7:1-5, they are expressly said to have been

valiant men of might in all their families, and in all their

generations; i. e., through every period of their history. It

appears they were a laborious, hardy, valiant tribe, patient in

labour and invincible in war; bearing both these burdens with

great constancy whenever it was necessary. When Tola of this

tribe judged Israel, the land had rest twenty-three years,

Jud 10:1.

16. Dan shall judge his people,

As one of the tribes of Israel.

17. Dan shall be a serpent on the way,

A cerastes upon the track,

Biting the heels of the horse,

And his rider shall fall backwards.

Verse 16. Dan shall judge] Dan, whose name signifies judgment,

was the eldest of Jacob's sons by Bilhah, Rachel's maid, and he is

here promised an equal rule with those tribes that sprang from

either Leah or Rachel, the legal wives of Jacob.

Some Jewish and some Christian writers understand this prophecy

of Samson, who sprang from this tribe, and judged, or as the word

might be translated avenged, the people of Israel twenty years.

See Jud 13:2; 15:20.

Verse 17. Dan shall be a serpent] The original word is

nachash, and we have seen in Clarke's note "Ge 3:1" that this has a

great variety of significations. It is probable that a serpent is here

intended, but of what kind we know not; yet as the principal

reference in the text is to guile, cunning, &c., the same creature

may be intended as in "Clarke's note "Ge 3:1".

A cerastes upon the track] The word shephiphon, which

is nowhere else to be found in the Bible, is thus translated by

the Vulgate, and Bochart approves of the translation. The

cerastes has its name from two little horns upon its head, and

is remarkable for the property here ascribed to the shephiphon.

The word orach, which we translate path, signifies the

track or rut made in the ground by the wheel of a cart, wagon,

&c. And the description that Nicander gives of this serpent in

his Theriaca perfectly agrees with what is here said of the



ηκαιαματροξιησιπαραστιβονενδυκεςανει. v. 262.

It lies under the sand, or in some cart rut by the way.

It is intimated that this tribe should gain the principal part

of its conquests more by cunning and stratagem, than by valour;

and this is seen particularly in their conquest of Laish, Judges

xviii., and even in some of the transactions of Samson, such as

burning the corn of the Philistines, and at last pulling down

their temple, and destroying three thousand at one time, see

Jud 16:26-30.

18. For thy salvation have I waited, O Lord!

This is a remarkable ejaculation, and seems to stand perfectly

unconnected with all that went before and all that follows; though

it is probable that certain prophetic views which Jacob now had,

and which he does not explain, gave rise to it; and by this he at

once expressed both his faith and hope in God. Both Jewish and

Christian commentators have endeavoured to find out the connection

in which these words existed in the mind of the patriarch. The

Targum of Jonathan expresses the whole thus: "When Jacob saw

Gideon the son of Joash, and Samson the son of Manoah, which were

to be saviours in a future age, he said: I do not wait for the

salvation of Gideon, I do not expect the salvation of Samson,

because their salvation is a temporal salvation; but I wait for

and expect thy salvation, O Lord, because thy salvation is

eternal." And the Jerusalem Targum much to the same purpose: "Our

father Jacob said: Wait not, my soul, for the redemption of Gideon

the son of Joash which is temporal, nor the redemption of Samson

which is a created salvation; but for the salvation which thou

hast said by THY WORD should come to thy people the children of

Israel: my soul waits for this thy salvation." Indeed these

Targums understand almost the whole of these prophecies of the

Messiah, and especially what is said about Judah, every word of

which they refer to him. Thus the ancient Jews convict the

moderns of both false interpretations and vain expectations. As

the tribe of Dan was the first that appears to have been seduced

from the true worship of God, (see Jud 18:30,) some have thought

that Jacob refers particularly to this, and sees the end of the

general apostasy only in the redemption by Jesus Christ,

considering the nachash above as the seducer, and the Messiah

the promised seed.

19. Gad, an army shall attack him,

And he shall attack in return.

This is one of the most obscure prophecies in the whole

chapter; and no two interpreters agree in the translation of the

original words, which exhibit a most singular alliteration:-

gad gedud yegudennu;

vehu yagud akeb.

The prophecy seems to refer generally to the frequent

disturbances to which this tribe should be exposed, and their

hostile, warlike disposition, that would always lead them to repel

every aggression. It is likely that the prophecy had an especial

fulfillment when this tribe, in conjunction with that of Reuben

and the half tribe of Manasseh, got a great victory over the

Hagarites, taking captive one hundred thousand men, two thousand

asses, fifty thousand camels, and two hundred and fifty thousand

sheep; see 1Ch 5:18-22. Dr. Durell and others translate the last

word akeb, rear-"He shall invade their rear;" which contains

almost no meaning, as it only seems to state that though the army

that invaded Gad should be successful, yet the Gadites would

harass their rear as they returned: but this could never be a

subject sufficient consequence for a prophecy. The word

ekeb is frequently used as a particle, signifying in

consequence, because of, on account of. After the Gadites had

obtained the victory above mentioned, they continued to possess

the land of their enemies till they were carried away captive. The

Chaldee paraphrasts apply this to the Gadites going armed over

Jordan before their brethren, discomfiting their enemies, and

returning back with much spoil. See Jos 4:12, 13, and

Jos 22:1-2, 8.

20. From Asher his bread shall be fat,

And he shall produce royal dainties.

This refers to the great fertility of the lot that fell to

Asher, and which appears to have corresponded with the name, which

signifies happy or blessed. His great prosperity is described

by Moses in this figurative way: "Let Asher be blessed with

children, let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip

his foot in oil;" De 33:24.

21. Naphtali is a spreading oak,

Producing beautiful branches.

This is Bochart's translation; and perhaps no man who

understands the genius of the Hebrew language will attempt to

dispute its propriety; it is as literal as it is correct. Our own

translation scarcely gives any sense. The fruitfulness of this

tribe in children may be here intended. From his four sons

Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem, which he took down into

Egypt, Ge 46:24, in the course of two hundred and fifteen years

there sprang of effective men 53,400: but as great increase in

this way was not an uncommon case in the descendants of Jacob,

this may refer particularly to the fruitfulness of their soil, and

the especial providential care and blessing of the Almighty; to

which indeed Moses seems particularly to refer, De 33:23:

O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of

the Lord. So that he may be represented under the notion of a

tree planted in a rich soil, growing to a prodigious size,

extending its branches in all directions, and becoming a shade for

men and cattle, and a harbour for the fowls of heaven.

22. The son of a fruitful (vine) is Joseph;

The son of a fruitful (vine) by the fountain:

The daughters (branches) shoot over the wall.

23. They sorely afflicted him and contended with him;

The chief archers had him in hatred.

24. But his bow remained in strength,

And the arms of his hands were made strong

By the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob:

By the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.

25. By the God of thy father, for he helped thee;

And God All-sufficient, he blessed thee,

The blessing of the heavens from above,

And the blessings lying in the deep beneath,

The blessings of the breasts and of the womb

26. The blessings of thy father have prevailed

Over the blessings of the eternal mountains,

And the desirable things of the everlasting hills.

These shall be on the head of Joseph,

And on his crown who was separated from his brethren.

Verse 22. The sum of a fruitful vine] This appears to me to

refer to Jacob himself, who was blessed with such a numerous

posterity that in two hundred and fifteen years after this his own

descendants amounted to upwards of 600,000 effective men; and the

figures here are intended to point out the continual growth and

increase of his posterity. Jacob was a fruitful tree planted by a

fountain, which because it was good would yield good fruit; and

because it was planted near a fountain, from being continually

watered, would be perpetually fruitful. The same is used and

applied to Jacob, De 33:28:

The FOUNTAIN of JACOB shall be upon a land of corn, and wine,


The daughters, banoth, put here for branches, shoot

over or run upon the wall.] Alluding probably to the case of the

vine, which requires to be supported by a wall, trees, &c. Some

commentators have understood this literally, and have applied it

to the Egyptian women, who were so struck with the beauty of

Joseph as to get upon walls, the tops of houses, &c., to see him

as he passed by. This is agreeable to the view taken of the

subject by the Koran. See Clarke on Ge 39:6.

Verse 23. The chief archers] baaley chitstsim, the

masters of arrows-Joseph's brethren, who either used such weapons,

while feeding their flocks in the deserts, for the protection of

themselves and cattle, or for the purpose of hunting; and who

probably excelled in archery. It may however refer to the bitter

speeches and harsh words that they spoke to and of him, for they

hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him, Ge 37:4. Thus

they sorely afflicted him, and were incessantly scolding or

finding fault.

Verse 24. But his bow remained in strength] The more he was

persecuted, either by his brethren or in Egypt, the more

resplendent his uprightness and virtues shone: and the arms��his

extended power and influence, of his hands��plans, designs, and

particular operations of his prudence, judgment, discretion,

&c., were all rendered successful by the hand-the powerful

succour and protection, of the Mighty One of Jacob��that God who

blessed and protected all the counsels and plans of Jacob, and

protected and increased him also when he was in a strange land,

and often under the power of those who sought opportunities to

oppress and defraud him.

By the name of the Shepherd; the Rock of Israel] Jehovah, and

El-Elohey Israel; see Ge 33:20. This appears to me to refer to

the subject of the thirty-second chapter, where Jacob wrestled

with God, had God's name revealed to him, and his own name changed

from Jacob to Israel, in consequence of which he built an altar,

and dedicated it to God, who had appeared to him under the name of

Elohey-Israel, the strong God of Israel; which circumstance led

him to use the term Rock, which, as an emblem of power, is

frequently given to God in the sacred writings, and may here refer

to the stone which Jacob set up. It is very probable that the

word shepherd is intended to apply to our blessed Lord, who is the

Shepherd of Israel, the good Shepherd, Joh 10:11-17; and who,

beyond all controversy, was the person with whom Jacob wrestled.

See Clarke on Ge 16:7 and "Ge 32:24".

Verse 25. The God of thy father] How frequently God is called

the God of Jacob none needs be told who reads the Bible.

God All-sufficient] Instead of ETH Shaddai, THE

Almighty or All-sufficient; I read EL Shaddai, GOD

All-sufficient; which is the reading of the Samaritan,

Septuagint, Syriac, and Coptic, and of three reputable MSS. In

the collections of Kennicott and De Rossi. The copies used by

those ancient versions had evidently EL, God, and not

eth, THE, a mistake produced in later times. On the word

El Shaddai, See Clarke on Ge 17:1.

The blessing of the heavens from above] A generally pure,

clear, serene sky, frequently dropping down fertilizing showers

and dews, so as to make a very fruitful soil and salubrious


Blessings lying in the deep beneath] Whatever riches could be

gained from the sea or rivers, from mines and minerals in the

bowels of the earth, and from abundant springs in different parts

of his inheritance. Our translation of this line is excessively

obscure: Blessings of the deep that lieth under. What is it that

lies under the deep: By connecting bircoth, blessings, with

robetseth, lying, all ambiguity is avoided, and the text

speaks a plain and consistent sense.

The blessings of the breasts and of the womb.] A numerous

offspring, and an abundance of cattle. The progeny of Joseph, by

Ephraim and Manasseh, amounted at the first census or enumeration

(Num. i.) to 75,900 men, which exceeded the sum of any one tribe;

Judah, the greatest of the others, amounting to no more than

74,600. Indeed, Ephraim and Manasseh had multiplied so greatly in

the days of Joshua, that a common lot was not sufficient for them.

See their complaint, Jos 17:14.

Verse 26. The blessing of thy father, &c.] The blessings which

thy father now prays for and pronounces are neither temporal nor

transitory; they shall exceed in their duration the eternal

mountains, and in their value and spiritual nature all the

conveniences, comforts, and delicacies which the everlasting

hills can produce. They shall last when the heavens and the earth

are no more, and shall extend throughout eternity. They are the

blessings which shall be communicated to the world by means of the


The Jerusalem Targum paraphrases the place thus: "The blessing

of this father shall be added unto the blessings wherewith thy

fathers Abraham and Isaac, who are likened to mountains, have

blessed thee; and they shall exceed the blessings of the four

mothers, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, who are likened to the

hills: all these blessings shall be a crown of magnificence on

the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was a

prince and governor in the land of Egypt."

27. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf: In the morning

he shall devour the prey, And in the evening

he shall divide the spoil.

This tribe is very fitly compared to a ravenous wolf, because

of the rude courage and ferocity which they have invariably

displayed, particularly in their war with the other tribes, in

which they killed more men than the whole of their own numbers

amounted to.

"This last tribe," says Dr. Hales, "is compared to a wolf for

its ferocious and martial disposition, such as was evinced by

their contests with the other tribes, in which, after two

victories, they were almost exterminated, Jud 20:18-48." Its

union with the tribe of Judah seems to be intimated in their joint

conquests, expressed nearly in the same terms: "Judah went up from

the prey;" "Benjamin devoured the prey." Moses in his parallel

prophecy, De 33:12, confirms this by signifying that the

sanctuary should be fixed in his lot, and that he should

continue as long as the existence of the temple itself:-

THE BELOVED OF THE LORD shall dwell with him in safety,

And shall cover him all the day long,

And shall dwell between his shoulders.

De 33:12.

In the morning, &c.] These expressions have been variously

understood. The sense given above is that in which the principal

interpreters agree; but Houbigant protests against the prophecy

signifying the continuance of this tribe, as the words, "in the

morning devouring the prey," and "in the evening dividing the

spoil," are supposed to imply; "because," he observes, "after the

return from the Babylonish captivity, this tribe is no more

mentioned." But this may be accounted for from the circumstance

of its being associated with that of Judah, (see

1Ki 12:21-24,) after which it is scarcely ever mentioned

but in that union. Being thus absorbed in the tribe of Judah, it

continued from the morning till the evening of the Jewish

dispensation, and consequently till the Lion of the tribe of Judah

was seen in the wilderness of Israel.

In the morning, according to Mr. Ainsworth, "signifies the first

times; for Ehud of Benjamin was the second judge that saved the

Israelites from the hands of the Moabites, Jud 3:15, &c. Saul

of Benjamin was the first king of Israel; he and his son were

great warriors, making a prey of many enemies,

1Sa 11:6, 7, 11; 14:13, 15, 47, 48. And the

evening, the latter times; for Mordecai and Esther of Benjamin

delivered the Jews from a great destruction, and slew their

enemies, Es 8:7, 9, 11; 9:5, 6, 15, 16."

Verse 28. Every one according to his blessing] That is, guided

by the unerring Spirit of prophecy, Jacob now foretold to each of

his sons all the important events which should take place during

their successive generations, and the predominant characteristic

of each tribe; and, at the same time, made some comparatively

obscure references to the advent of the Messiah, and the

redemption of the world by him.

Verse 29. Bury me with my fathers, &c.] From this it appears

that the cave at Machpelah was a common burying-place for Hebrews

of distinction; and indeed the first public burying-place

mentioned in history. From Ge 49:31 we find that Abraham, Sarah,

Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah, had been already deposited there, and

among them Jacob wished to have his bones laid; and he left his

dying charge with his children to bury him in this place, and this

they conscientiously performed. See Ge 50:13.

Verse 33. He gathered up his feet into the bed] It is very

probable that while delivering these prophetic blessings Jacob sat

upon the side of his bed, leaning upon his staff; and having

finished, he lifted up his feet into the bed, stretched himself

upon it, and expired!

And was gathered unto his people.] The testimony that this

place bears to the immortality of the soul, and to its existence

separate from the body, should not be lightly regarded. In the

same moment in which Jacob is said to have gathered up his feet

into the bed, and to have expired, it is added, and was gathered

unto his people. It is certain that his body was not then

gathered to his people, nor till seven weeks after; and it is

not likely that a circumstance, so distant in point both of time

and place, would have been thus anticipated, and associated with

facts that took place in that moment. I cannot help therefore

considering this an additional evidence for the immateriality of

the soul, and that it was intended by the Holy Spirit to convey

this grand and consolatory sentiment, that when a holy man ceases

to live among his fellows, his soul becomes an inhabitant of

another world, and is joined to the spirits of just men made


1. IT has been conjectured (See Clarke on Ge 37:9) that the

eleven stars that bowed down to Joseph might probably refer to the

signs of the Zodiac, which were very anciently known in Egypt, and

are supposed to have had their origin in Chaldea. On this

supposition Joseph's eleven brethren answered to eleven of these

signs, and himself to the twelfth. General Vallancy has

endeavoured, in his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, vol. vi.,

part. ii., p. 343, to trace out the analogy between the twelve

sons of Jacob and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which Dr. Hales

(Analysis, vol. ii., p. 165) has altered a little, and placed in a

form in which it becomes more generally applicable. As this

scheme is curious, many readers who may not have the opportunity

of consulting the above works will be pleased to find it here.

That there is an allusion to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and

probably to their ancient asterisms, may be readily credited; but

how far the peculiar characteristics of the sons of Jacob were

expressed by the animals in the Zodiac, is a widely different


1. RUBEN-"Unstable (rather pouring out)

as waters"-the sign AQUARIUS, represented

as a man pouring out waters from an urn.

2. SIMEON and LEVI-"The united brethren"

��the sign GEMINI or the Twins.

3. JUDAH-"The strong lion"-the sign LEO.

4. ASHER-"His bread shall be fat"-the sign

VIRGO or the Virgin, generally represented

as holding a full ear of corn.

5. ISSACHAR-"A strong ass" or ox, both used

in husbandry-the sign TAURUS or the Bull.

6. and 7. DAN-"A serpent biting the horse's

heels"-Scorpio, the Scorpion. On the

celestial sphere the Scorpion is actually

represented as biting the heel of the horse

of the archer Sagittarius; and Chelae, "his

claws," originally occupied the space of


8. JOSEPH-"His bow remained in strength"

-the sign SAGITTARIUS, the archer or

bowman; commonly represented, even on

the Asiatic Zodiacs, with his bow bent,

and the arrow drawn up to the head-the

bow in full strength.

9. NAPHTALI-by a play on his name,

taleh, the ram-the sign ARIES, according

to the rabbins.

10. ZEBULUN-"A haven for ships"-denoted

by CANCER, the crab.

11. GAD-"A troop or army"-reversed, dag, a

fish-the sign PISCES.

12. BENJAMIN-"A ravening wolf"-CAPRICORN, which

on the Egyptian sphere was represented by a

goat led by Pan, with a wolf's head.

What likelihood the reader may see in all this, I cannot

pretend to say; but that the twelve signs were at that time known

in Egypt and Chaldea, there can be little doubt.

2. We have now seen the life of Jacob brought to a close; and

have carefully traced it through all its various fortunes, as the

facts presented themselves in the preceding chapters. Isaac his

father was what might properly be called a good man; but in

strength of mind he appears to have fallen far short of his father

Abraham, and his son Jacob. Having left the management of his

domestic concerns to Rebekah his wife, who was an artful and

comparatively irreligious woman, the education of his sons was

either neglected or perverted. The unhappy influence which the

precepts and example of his mother had on the mind of her son we

have seen and deplored. Through the mercy of God Jacob outlived

the shady part of his own character, and his last days were his

brightest and his best. He had many troubles and difficulties in

life, under which an inferior mind must have necessarily sunk; but

being a worker together with the providence of God, his

difficulties only served in general to whet his invention, and

draw out the immense resources of his own mind. He had to do with

an avaricious, procrastinating relative, as destitute of humanity

as he was of justice. Let this plead something in his excuse. He

certainly did outwit his father-in-law; and yet, probably, had no

more than the just recompense of his faithful services in the

successful issue of all his devices. From the time in which God

favoured him with that wonderful manifestation of grace at Peniel,

Ge 32:24-30, he became a new man. He had frequent discoveries

of God before, to encourage him in journeys, secular affairs, &c.;

but none in which the heart-changing power of Divine grace was so

abundantly revealed. Happy he whose last days are his best! We

can scarcely conceive a scene more noble or dignified than that

exhibited at the deathbed of Jacob. This great man was now one

hundred and forty-seven years of age; though his body, by the

waste of time, was greatly enfeebled, yet with a mind in perfect

vigour, and a hope full of immortality, he calls his numerous

family together, all of them in their utmost state of prosperity,

and gives them his last counsels, and his dying blessing. His

declarations show that the secret of the Lord was with him, and

that his candle shone bright upon his tabernacle. Having finished

his work, with perfect possession of all his faculties, and being

determined that while he was able to help himself none should be

called in to assist, (which was one of the grand characteristics

of his life,) he, with that dignity which became a great man and a

man of God stretched himself upon his bed, and rather appears to

have conquered death than to have suffered it. Who, seeing the end

of this illustrious patriarch, can help exclaiming, There is none

like the God of Jeshurun! Let Jacob's God be my God! Let me die

the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!

Reader, God is still the same: and though he may not make thee as

great as was Jacob, yet he is ready to make thee as good; and,

whatever thy past life may have been, to crown thee with

loving-kindness and tender mercies, that thy end also may be


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