Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Blessing. - Gen 49:1, Gen 49:2. When Jacob had adopted and blessed the two sons of Joseph, he called his twelve sons, to make known to them his spiritual bequest. In an elevated and solemn tone he said, "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you (יקרא for יקרה, as in Gen 42:4, Gen 42:38) at the end of the days! Gather yourselves together and hear, ye sons of Jacob, and hearken unto Israel your father!" The last address of Jacob-Israel to his twelve sons, which these words introduce, is designated by the historian (Gen 49:28) "the blessing," with which "their father blessed them, every one according to his blessing." This blessing is at the same time a prophecy. "Every superior and significant life becomes prophetic at its close" (Ziegler). But this was especially the case with the lives of the patriarchs, which were filled and sustained by the promises and revelations of God. As Isaac in his blessing (Gen 27) pointed out prophetically to his two sons, by virtue of divine illumination, the future history of their families; "so Jacob, while blessing the twelve, pictured in grand outlines the lineamenta of the future history of the future nation" (Ziegler). The groundwork of his prophecy was supplied partly by the natural character of his twelve sons, and partly by the divine promise which had been given by the Lord to him and to his fathers Abraham and Isaac, and that not merely in these two points, the numerous increase of their seed and the possession of Canaan, but in its entire scope, by which Israel had been appointed to be the recipient and medium of salvation for all nations. On this foundation the Spirit of God revealed to the dying patriarch Israel the future history of his seed, so that he discerned in the characters of his sons the future development of the tribes proceeding from them, and with prophetic clearness assigned to each of them its position and importance in the nation into which they were to expand in the promised inheritance. Thus he predicted to the sons what would happen to them "in the last days," lit., "at the end of the days" (ἐπ ̓ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, lxx), and not merely at some future time. אחרית, the opposite of ראשׁית, signifies the end in contrast with the beginning (Deu 11:12; Isa 46:10); hence הימים אחרית in prophetic language denoted, not the future generally, but the last future (see Hengstenberg's History of Balaam, pp. 465-467, transl.), the Messianic age of consummation (Isa 2:2; Eze 38:8, Eze 38:16; Jer 30:24; Jer 48:47; Jer 49:39, etc.: so also Num 24:14; Deu 4:30), like ἐπ ̓ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν (Pe2 3:3; Heb 1:2), or ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις (Act 2:17; Ti2 3:1). But we must not restrict "the end of the days" to the extreme point of the time of completion of the Messianic kingdom; it embraces "the whole history of the completion which underlies the present period of growth," or "the future as bringing the work of God to its ultimate completion, though modified according to the particular stage to which the work of God had advanced in any particular age, the range of vision opened to that age, and the consequent horizon of the prophet, which, though not absolutely dependent upon it, was to a certain extent regulated by it" (Delitzsch).
For the patriarch, who, with his pilgrim-life, had been obliged in the very evening of his days to leave the soil of the promised land and seek a refuge for himself and his house in Egypt, the final future, with its realization of the promises of God, commenced as soon as the promised land was in the possession of the twelve tribes descended from his sons. He had already before his eyes, in his twelve sons with their children and children's children, the first beginnings of the multiplication of his seed into a great nation. Moreover, on his departure from Canaan he had received the promise, that the God of his fathers would make him into a great nation, and lead him up again to Canaan (Gen 46:3-4). The fulfilment of this promise his thoughts and hopes, his longings and wishes, were all directed. This constituted the firm foundation, though by no means the sole and exclusive purport, of his words of blessing. The fact was not, as Baumgarten and Kurtz suppose, that Jacob regarded the time of Joshua as that of the completion; that for him the end was nothing more than the possession of the promised land by his seed as the promised nation, so that all the promises pointed to this, and nothing beyond it was either affirmed or hinted at. Not a single utterance announces the capture of the promised land; not a single one points specially to the time of Joshua. On the contrary, Jacob presupposes not only the increase of his sons into powerful tribes, but also the conquest of Canaan, as already fulfilled; foretells to his sons, whom he sees in spirit as populous tribes, growth and prosperity on the soil in their possession; and dilates upon their relation to one another in Canaan and to the nations round about, even to the time of their final subjection to the peaceful sway of Him, from whom the sceptre of Judah shall never depart. The ultimate future of the patriarchal blessing, therefore, extends to the ultimate fulfilment of the divine promises-that is to say, to the completion of the kingdom of God. The enlightened seer's-eye of the patriarch surveyed, "as though upon a canvas painted without perspective," the entire development of Israel from its first foundation as the nation and kingdom of God till its completion under the rule of the Prince of Peace, whom the nations would serve in willing obedience; and beheld the twelve tribes spreading themselves out, each in his inheritance, successfully resisting their enemies, and finding rest and full satisfaction in the enjoyment of the blessings of Canaan.
It is in this vision of the future condition of his sons as grown into tribes that the prophetic character of the blessing consists; not in the prediction of particular historical events, all of which, on the contrary, with the exception of the prophecy of Shiloh, fall into the background behind the purely ideal portraiture of the peculiarities of the different tribes. The blessing gives, in short sayings full of bold and thoroughly original pictures, only general outlines of a prophetic character, which are to receive their definite concrete form from the historical development of the tribes in the future; and throughout it possesses both in form and substance a certain antique stamp, in which its genuineness is unmistakeably apparent. Every attack upon its genuineness has really proceeded from an a priori denial of all supernatural prophecies, and has been sustained by such misinterpretations as the introduction of special historical allusions, for the purpose of stamping it as a vaticinia ex eventu, and by other untenable assertions and assumptions; such, for example, as that people do not make poetry at so advanced an age or in the immediate prospect of death, or that the transmission of such an oration word for word down to the time of Moses is utterly inconceivable-objections the emptiness of which has been demonstrated in Hengstenberg's Christology i. p. 76 (transl.) by copious citations from the history of the early Arabic poetry.
Reuben, my first-born thou, my might and first-fruit of my strength; pre-eminence in dignity and pre-eminence in power. - As the first-born, the first sprout of the full virile power of Jacob, Reuben, according to natural right, was entitled to the first rank among his brethren, the leadership of the tribes, and a double share of the inheritance (Gen 27:29; Deu 21:17). (שׂאת: elevation, the dignity of the chieftainship; עז, the earlier mode of pronouncing עז, the authority of the first-born.) But Reuben had forfeited this prerogative. "Effervescence like water - thou shalt have no preference; for thou didst ascend thy father's marriage-bed: then hast thou desecrated; my couch has he ascended." פּחז: lit., the boiling over of water, figuratively, the excitement of lust; hence the verb is used in Jdg 9:4; Zep 3:4, for frivolity and insolent pride. With this predicate Jacob describes the moral character of Reuben; and the noun is stronger than the verb פחזת of the Samaritan, and אתרעת or ארתעת efferbuisti, aestuasti of the Sam. Vers., ἐξύβρισας of the lxx, and ὑπερζέσας of Symm. תּותר is to be explained by יתר: have no pre-eminence. His crime was, lying with Bilhah, his father's concubine (Gen 35:22). חלּלתּ is used absolutely: desecrated hast thou, sc., what should have been sacred to thee (cf. Lev 18:8). From this wickedness the injured father turns away with indignation, and passes to the third person as he repeats the words, "my couch he has ascended." By the withdrawal of the rank belonging to the first-born, Reuben lost the leadership in Israel; so that his tribe attained to no position of influence in the nation (compare the blessing of Moses in Deu 33:6). The leadership was transferred to Judah, the double portion to Joseph (Ch1 5:1-2), by which, so far as the inheritance was concerned, the first-born of the beloved Rachel took the place of the first-born of the slighted Leah; not, however, according to the subjective will of the father, which is condemned in Deu 21:15., but according to the leading of God, by which Joseph had been raised above his brethren, but without the chieftainship being accorded to him.
"Simeon and Levi are brethren:" emphatically brethren in the full sense of the word; not merely as having the same parents, but in their modes of thought and action. "Weapons of wickedness are their swords." The ἅπαξ lec. מכרת is rendered by Luther, etc., weapons or swords, from כּוּר = כּרה, to dig, dig through, pierce: not connected with μάχαιρα. L. de Dieu and others follow the Arabic and Aethiopic versions: "plans;" but חמס כּלי, utensils, or instruments, of wickedness, does not accord with this. Such wickedness had the two brothers committed upon the inhabitants of Shechem (Gen 34:25.), that Jacob would have no fellowship with it. "Into their counsel come not, my soul; with their assembly let not my honour unite." סוד, a council, or deliberative consensus. תּחד, imperf. of יחד; כּבודי, like Psa 7:6; Psa 16:9, etc., of the soul as the noblest part of man, the centre of his personality as the image of God. "For in their wrath have they slain men, and in their wantonness houghed oxen." The singular nouns אישׁ and שׁור, in the sense of indefinite generality, are to be regarded as general rather than singular, especially as the plural form of both is rarely met with; of אישׁ, only in Psa 141:4; Pro 8:4, and Isa 53:3; of שׁור־שׁור, only in Hos 12:12. רצון: inclination, here in a bad sense, wantonness. עקּר: νευροκοπεῖν, to sever the houghs (tendons of the hind feet), - a process by which animals were not merely lamed, but rendered useless, since the tendon once severed could never be healed again, whilst as a rule the arteries were not cut so as to cause the animal to bleed to death (cf. Jos 11:6, Jos 11:9; Sa2 8:4). In Gen 34:28 it is merely stated that the cattle of the Shechemites were carried off, not that they were lamed. But the one is so far from excluding the other, that it rather includes it in such a case as this, where the sons of Jacob were more concerned about revenge than booty. Jacob mentions the latter only, because it was this which most strikingly displayed their criminal wantonness. On this reckless revenge Jacob pronounces the curse, "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I shall divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." They had joined together to commit this crime, and as a punishment they should be divided or scattered in the nation of Israel, should form no independent or compact tribes. This sentence of the patriarch was so fulfilled when Canaan was conquered, that on the second numbering under Moses, Simeon had become the weakest of all the tribes (Num 26:14); in Moses' blessing (Deut 33) it was entirely passed over; and it received no separate assignment of territory as an inheritance, but merely a number of cities within the limits of Judah (Jos 19:1-9). Its possessions, therefore, became an insignificant appendage to those of Judah, into which they were eventually absorbed, as most of the families of Simeon increased but little (Ch1 4:27); and those which increased the most emigrated in two detachments, and sought out settlements for themselves and pasture for their cattle outside the limits of the promised land (Ch1 4:38-43). Levi also received no separate inheritance in the land, but merely a number of cities to dwell in, scattered throughout the possessions of his brethren (Josh 21:1-40). But the scattering of Levi in Israel was changed into a blessing for the other tribes through its election to the priesthood. Of this transformation of the curse into a blessing, there is not the slightest intimation in Jacob's address; and in this we have a strong proof of its genuineness. After this honourable change had taken place under Moses, it would never have occurred to any one to cast such a reproach upon the forefather of the Levites. How different is the blessing pronounced by Moses upon Levi (Deu 33:8.)! But though Jacob withdrew the rights of primogeniture from Reuben, and pronounced a curse upon the crime of Simeon and Levi, he deprived none of them of their share in the promised inheritance. They were merely put into the background because of their sins, but they were not excluded from the fellowship and call of Israel, and did not lose the blessing of Abraham, so that their father's utterances with regard to them might still be regarded as the bestowal of a blessing (Gen 49:28).
Judah, the fourth son, was the first to receive a rich and unmixed blessing, the blessing of inalienable supremacy and power. "Judah thou, thee will thy brethren praise! thy hand in the neck of thy foes! to thee will thy father's sons bow down!" אתּה, thou, is placed first as an absolute noun, like אני in Gen 17:4; Gen 24:27; יודוּך is a play upon יהוּדה like אודה in Gen 29:35. Judah, according to Gen 29:35, signifies: he for whom Jehovah is praised, not merely the praised one. "This nomen, the patriarch seized as an omen, and expounded it as a presage of the future history of Judah." Judah should be in truth all that his name implied (cf. Gen 27:36). Judah had already shown to a certain extent a strong and noble character, when he proposed to sell Joseph rather than shed his blood (Gen 37:26.); but still more in the manner in which he offered himself to his father as a pledge for Benjamin, and pleaded with Joseph on his behalf (Gen 43:9-10; Gen 44:16.); and it was apparent even in his conduct towards Thamar. In this manliness and strength there slumbered the germs of the future development of strength in his tribe. Judah would put his enemies to flight, grasp them by the neck, and subdue them (Job 16:12, cf. Exo 23:27; Psa 18:41). Therefore his brethren would do homage to him: not merely the sons of his mother, who are mentioned in other places (Gen 27:29; Jdg 8:19), i.e., the tribes descended from Leah, but the sons of his father-all the tribes of Israel therefore; and this was really the case under David (Sa2 5:1-2, cf. Sa1 18:6-7, and Sa1 18:16). This princely power Judah acquired through his lion-like nature.
"A young lion is Judah; from the prey, my son, art thou gone up: he has lain down; like a lion there he lieth, and like a lioness, who can rouse him up!" Jacob compares Judah to a young, i.e., growing lion, ripening into its full strength, as being the "ancestor of the lion-tribe." But he quickly rises "to a vision of the tribe in the glory of its perfect strength," and describes it as a lion which, after seizing prey, ascends to the mountain forests (cf. Sol 4:8), and there lies in majestic quiet, no one daring to disturb it. To intensify the thought, the figure of a lion is followed by that of the lioness, which is peculiarly fierce in defending its young. The perfects are prophetic; and עלה relates not to the growth or gradual rise of the tribe, but to the ascent of the lion to its lair upon the mountains. "The passage evidently indicates something more than Judah's taking the lead in the desert, and in the wars of the time of the Judges; and points to the position which Judah attained through the warlike successes of David" (Knobel). The correctness of this remark is put beyond question by Gen 49:10, where the figure is carried out still further, but in literal terms. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, till Shiloh come and the willing obedience of the nations be to him." The sceptre is the symbol of regal command, and in its earliest form it was a long staff, which the king held in his hand when speaking in public assemblies (e.g., Agamemnon, Il. 2, 46, 101); and when he sat upon his throne he rested in between his feet, inclining towards himself (see the representation of a Persian king in the ruins of Persepolis, Niebuhr Reisebeschr. ii. 145). מחקק the determining person or thing, hence a commander, legislator, and a commander's or ruler's staff (Num 21:18); here in the latter sense, as the parallels, "sceptre" and "from between his feet," require. Judah - this is the idea - was to rule, to have the chieftainship, till Shiloh came, i.e., for ever. It is evident that the coming of Shiloh is not to be regarded as terminating the rule of Judah, from the last clause of the verse, according to which it was only then that it would attain to dominion over the nations. כּי עד has not an exclusive signification here, but merely abstracts what precedes from what follows the given terminus ad quem, as in Gen 26:13, or like אשׁר עד Gen 28:15; Psa 112:8, or עד Psa 110:1, and ἕως Mat 5:18.
But the more precise determination of the thought contained in Gen 49:10 is dependent upon our explanation of the word Shiloh. It cannot be traced, as the Jerusalem Targum and the Rabbins affirm, to the word שׁיל filius with the suffix ה = ו "his son," since such a noun as שׁיל is never met with in Hebrew, and neither its existence nor the meaning attributed to it can be inferred from שׁליה, afterbirth, in Deu 28:57. Nor can the paraphrases of Onkelos (donec veniat Messias cujus est regnum), of the Greek versions (ἕως ἐὰν ἔλθη τὰ ἀποκείμενα αὐτῷ; or ᾧ ἀπόκειται, as Aquila and Symmachus appear to have rendered it), or of the Syriac, etc., afford any real proof, that the defective form שׁלה, which occurs in 20 MSS, was the original form of the word, and is to be pointed שׁלּה for שׁלּו = לו אשׁר. For apart from the fact, that שׁ for אשׁר would be unmeaning here, and that no such abbreviation can be found in the Pentateuch, it ought in any case to read הוּא שׁלּו "to whom it (the sceptre) is due," since שׁלּו alone could not express this, and an ellipsis of הוּא in such a case would be unparalleled. It only remains therefore to follow Luther, and trace שׁילה to שׁלה, to be quiet, to enjoy rest, security. But from this root Shiloh cannot be explained according to the analogy of such forms כּידור קימשׁ For these forms constitute no peculiar species, but are merely derived from the reduplicated forms, as קמּשׁ, which occurs as well as קימשׁ, clearly shows; moreover they are none of them formed from roots of ה.ל שׁילה points to שׁילון, to the formation of nouns with the termination n, in which the liquids are eliminated, and the remaining vowel ו is expressed by ה (Ew. 84); as for example in the names of places, שׁלה or שׁלו, also שׁילו (Jdg 21:21; Jer 7:12) and גּלה (Jos 15:51), with their derivatives שׁלני (Kg1 11:29; Kg1 12:15) and גּלני (Sa2 15:12), also אבדּה (Pro 27:20) for אבדּון (Pro 15:11, etc.), clearly prove. Hence שׁילון either arose from שׁליון (שׁלה), or was formed directly from שׁוּל = שׁלה, like גּלון from גּיל. But if שׁילון is the original form of the word, שׁילה cannot be an appellative noun in the sense of rest, or a place of rest, but must be a proper name. For the strong termination n loses its n after o only in proper names, like שׁלמה, מגדּו by the side of מגדּון (Zac 12:11) and דּודו (Jdg 10:1). אבדּה forms no exception to this; for when used in Pro 27:20 as a personification of hell, it is really a proper name. An appellative noun like שׁילה, in the sense of rest, or place of rest, "would be unparalleled in the Hebrew thesaurus; the nouns used in this sense are שׁלו, שׁלוה, שׁלום, מנוּחה" For these reasons even Delitzsch pronounces the appellative rendering, "till rest comes," or till "he comes to a place of rest," grammatically impossible. Shiloh or Shilo is a proper name in every other instance in which it is used in the Old Testament, and was in fact the name of a city belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, which stood in the midst of the land of Canaan, upon an eminence above the village of Turmus Aya, in an elevated valley surrounded by hills, where ruins belonging both to ancient and modern times still bear the name of Seiln. In this city the tabernacle was pitched on the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites under Joshua, and there it remained till the time of Eli (Jdg 18:31; Sa1 1:3; Sa1 2:12.), possibly till the early part of Saul's reign.
Some of the Rabbins supposed our Shiloh to refer to the city. This opinion has met with the approval of most of the expositors, from Teller and Eichhorn to Tuch, who regard the blessing as a vaticinium ex eventu, and deny not only its prophetic character, but for the most part its genuineness. Delitzsch has also decided in its favour, because Shiloh or Shilo is the name of a town in every other passage of the Old Testament; and in Sa1 4:12, where the name is written as an accusative of direction, the words are written exactly as they are here. But even if we do not go so far as Hoffmann, and pronounce the rendering "till he (Judah) come to Shiloh" the most impossible of all renderings, we must pronounce it utterly irreconcilable with the prophetic character of the blessing. Even if Shilo existed in Jacob's time (which can neither be affirmed nor denied), it had acquired no importance in relation to the lives of the patriarchs, and is not once referred to in their history; so that Jacob could only have pointed to it as the goal and turning point of Judah's supremacy in consequence of a special revelation from God. But in that case the special prediction would really have been fulfilled: not only would Judah have come to Shiloh, but there he would have found permanent rest, and there would the willing subjection of the nations to his sceptre have actually taken place. Now none of these anticipations and confirmed by history. It is true we read in Jos 18:1, that after the promised land had been conquered by the defeat of the Canaanites in the south and north, and its distribution among the tribes of Israel had commenced, and was so far accomplished, that Judah and the double tribe of Joseph had received their inheritance by lot, the congregation assembled at Shilo, and there erected the tabernacle, and it was not till after this had been done, that the partition of the land was proceeded with and brought to completion. But although this meeting of the whole congregation at Shilo, and the erection of the tabernacle there, was generally of significance as the turning point of the history, it was of equal importance to all the tribes, and not to Judah alone. If it were to this event that Jacob's words pointed, they should be rendered, "till they come to Shiloh," which would be grammatically allowable indeed, but very improbable with the existing context. And even then nothing would be gained. For, in the first place, up to the time of the arrival of the congregation at Shilo, Judah did not possess the promised rule over the tribes. The tribe of Judah took the first place in the camp and on the march (Num 2:3-9; Num 10:14), - formed in fact the van of the army; but it had no rule, did not hold the chief command. The sceptre or command was held by the Levite Moses during the journey through the desert, and by the Ephraimite Joshua at the conquest and division of Canaan. Moreover, Shilo itself was not the point at which the leadership of Judah among the tribes was changed into the command of nations. Even if the assembling of the congregation of Israel at Shiloh (Jos 18:1) formed so far a turning point between two periods in the history of Israel, that the erection of the tabernacle for a permanent continuance at Shilo was a tangible pledge, that Israel had now gained a firm footing in the promised land, had come to rest and peace after a long period of wandering and war, had entered into quiet and peaceful possession of the land and its blessings, so that Shilo, as its name indicates, became the resting-place of Israel; Judah did not acquire the command over the twelve tribes at that time, nor so long as the house of God remained at Shilo, to say nothing of the submission of the nations. It was not till after the rejection of "the abode of Shiloh," at and after the removal of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines (1 Sam 4), with which the "tabernacle of Joseph" as also rejected, that God selected the tribe of Judah and chose David (Psa 78:60-72). Hence it was not till after Shiloh had ceased to be the spiritual centre for the tribes of Israel, over whom Ephraim had exercised a kind of rule so long as the central sanctuary of the nation continued in its inheritance, that by David's election as prince (נגיד) over Israel the sceptre and the government over the tribes of Israel passed over to the tribe of Judah. Had Jacob, therefore, promised to his son Judah the sceptre or ruler's staff over the tribes until he came to Shiloh, he would have uttered no prophecy, but simply a pious wish, which would have remained entirely unfulfilled.
With this result we ought not to rest contented; unless, indeed, it could be maintained that because Shiloh was ordinarily the name of a city, it could have no other signification. But just as many other names of cities are also names of persons, e.g., Enoch (Gen 4:17), and Shechem (Gen 34:2); so Shiloh might also be a personal name, and denote not merely the place of rest, but the man, or bearer, of rest. We regard Shiloh, therefore, as a title of the Messiah, in common with the entire Jewish synagogue and the whole Christian Church, in which, although there may be uncertainty as to the grammatical interpretation of the word, there is perfect agreement as to the fact that the patriarch is here proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. "For no objection can really be sustained against thus regarding it as a personal name, in closest analogy to שׁלמה" (Hoffmann). The assertion that Shiloh cannot be the subject, but must be the object in this sentence, is as unfounded as the historiological axiom, "that the expectation of a personal Messiah was perfectly foreign to the patriarchal age, and must have been foreign from the very nature of that age," with which Kurtz sets aside the only explanation of the word which is grammatically admissible as relating to the personal Messiah, thus deciding, by means of a priori assumptions which completely overthrow the supernaturally unfettered character of prophecy, and from a one-sided view of the patriarchal age and history, how much the patriarch Jacob ought to have been able to prophesy. The expectation of a personal Saviour did not arise for the first time with Moses, Joshua, and David, or first obtain its definite form after one man had risen up as the deliverer and redeemer, the leader and ruler of the whole nation, but was contained in the germ in the promise of the seed of the woman, and in the blessing of Noah upon Shem. It was then still further expanded in the promises of God to the patriarchs. - "I will bless thee; be a blessing, and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed," - by which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (not merely the nation to descend from them) were chosen as the personal bearers of that salvation, which was to be conveyed by them through their seed to all nations. When the patriarchal monad was expanded into a dodekad, and Jacob had before him in his twelve sons the founders of the twelve-tribed nation, the question naturally arose, from which of the twelve tribes would the promised Saviour proceed? Reuben had forfeited the right of primogeniture by his incest, and it could not pass over to either Simeon or Levi on account of their crime against the Shechemites. Consequently the dying patriarch transferred, both by his blessing and prophecy, the chieftainship which belonged to the first-born and the blessing of the promise to his fourth son Judah, having already, by the adoption of Joseph's sons, transferred to Joseph the double inheritance associated with the birthright. Judah was to bear the sceptre with victorious lion-courage, until in the future Shiloh the obedience of the nations came to him, and his rule over the tribes was widened into the peaceful government of the world. It is true that it is not expressly stated that Shiloh was to descend from Judah; but this follows as a matter of course from the context, i.e., from the fact, that after the description of Judah as an invincible lion, the cessation of his rule, or the transference of it to another tribe, could not be imagined as possible, and the thought lies upon the surface, that the dominion of Judah was to be perfected in the appearance of Shiloh.
Thus the personal interpretation of Shiloh stands in the most beautiful harmony with the constant progress of the same revelation. To Shiloh will the nations belong. ולו refers back to שׁילה. יקּהת, which only occurs again in Pro 30:17, from יקהה with dagesh forte euphon., denotes the obedience of a son, willing obedience; and עמּים in this connection cannot refer to the associated tribes, for Judah bears the sceptre over the tribes of Israel before the coming of Shiloh, but to the nations universally. These will render willing obedience to Shiloh, because as a man of rest He brings them rest and peace.
As previous promises prepared the way for our prophecy, so was it still further unfolded by the Messianic prophecies which followed; and this, together with the gradual advance towards fulfilment, places the personal meaning of Shiloh beyond all possible doubt. - In the order of time, the prophecy of Balaam stands next, where not only Jacob's proclamation of the lion-nature of Judah is transferred to Israel as a nation (Num 23:24; Num 24:9), but the figure of the sceptre from Israel, i.e., the ruler or king proceeding from Israel, who will smite all his foes (Gen 24:17), is taken verbatim from Gen 49:9, Gen 49:10 of this address. In the sayings of Balaam, the tribe of Judah recedes behind the unity of the nation. For although, both in the camp and on the march, Judah took the first place among the tribes (Num 2:2-3; Num 7:12; Num 10:14), this rank was no real fulfilment of Jacob's blessing, but a symbol and pledge of its destination to be the champion and ruler over the tribes. As champion, even after the death of Joshua, Judah opened the attack by divine direction upon the Canaanites who were still left in the land (Jdg 1:1.), and also the war against Benjamin (Jdg 20:18). It was also a sign of the future supremacy of Judah, that the first judge and deliverer from the power of their oppressors was raised up to Israel from the tribe of Judah in the person of the Kenizzite Othniel (Jdg 3:9.). From that time forward Judah took no lead among the tribes for several centuries, but rather fell back behind Ephraim, until by the election of David as king over all Israel, Judah was raised to the rank of ruling tribe, and received the sceptre over all the rest (Ch1 28:4). In David, Judah grew strong (Ch1 5:2), and became a conquering lion, whom no one dared to excite. With the courage and strength of a lion, David brought under his sceptre all the enemies of Israel round about. But when God had given him rest, and he desired to build a house to the Lord, he received a promise through the prophet Nathan that Jehovah would raise up his seed after him, and establish the throne of his kingdom for ever (Sa2 7:13.). "Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I (Jehovah) will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for Solomon (i.e., Friederich, Frederick, the peaceful one) shall be his name, and I will give peace and rest unto Israel in his days...and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever." Just as Jacob's prophecy was so far fulfilled in David, that Judah had received the sceptre over the tribes of Israel, and had led them to victory over all their foes; and David upon the basis of this first fulfilment received through Nathan the divine promise, that the sceptre should not depart from his house, and therefore not from Judah;so the commencement of the coming of Shiloh received its first fulfilment in the peaceful sway of Solomon, even if David did not give his son the name Solomon with an allusion to the predicted Shiloh, which one might infer from the sameness in the meaning of שׁלמה and שׁילה when compared with the explanation given of the name Solomon in Ch1 28:9-10. But Solomon was not the true Shiloh. His peaceful sway was transitory, like the repose which Israel enjoyed under Joshua at the erection of the tabernacle at Shiloh (Jos 11:23; Jos 14:15; Jos 21:44); moreover it extended over Israel alone. The willing obedience of the nations he did not secure; Jehovah only gave rest from his enemies round about in his days, i.e., during his life.
But this first imperfect fulfilment furnished a pledge of the complete fulfilment in the future, so that Solomon himself, discerning in spirit the typical character of his peaceful reign, sang of the King's Son who should have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth, before whom all kings should bow, and whom all nations should serve (Ps 72); and the prophets after Solomon prophesied of the Prince of Peace, who should increase government and peace without end upon the throne of David, and of the sprout out of the rod of Jesse, whom the nations should seek (Isa 9:5-6; Isa 11:1-10); and lastly, Ezekiel, when predicting the downfall of the Davidic kingdom, prophesied that this overthrow would last until He should come to whom the right belonged, and to whom Jehovah would give it (Eze 21:27). Since Ezekiel in his words, "till He come to whom the right belongs," takes up, and is generally admitted, our prophecy "till Shiloh come," and expands it still further in harmony with the purpose of his announcement, more especially from Psa 72:1-5, where righteousness and judgment are mentioned as the foundation of the peace which the King's Son would bring; he not only confirms the correctness of the personal and Messianic explanation of the word Shiloh, but shows that Jacob's prophecy of the sceptre not passing from Judah till Shiloh came, did not preclude a temporary loss of power. Thus all prophecies, and all the promises of God, in fact, are so fulfilled, as not to preclude the punishment of the shins of the elect, and yet, notwithstanding that punishment, assuredly and completely attain to their ultimate fulfilment. And thus did the kingdom of Judah arise from its temporary overthrow to a new and imperishable glory in Jesus Christ (Heb 7:14), who conquers all foes as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5), and reigns as the true Prince of Peace, as "our peace" (Eph 1:14), for ever and ever.
In Gen 49:11 and Gen 49:12 Jacob finishes his blessing on Judah by depicting the abundance of his possessions in the promised land. "Binding his she-ass to the vine, and to the choice vine his ass's colt; he washes his garment in wine, and his cloak in the blood of the grape: dull are the eyes with wine, and white the teeth with milk." The participle אסרי has the old connecting vowel, i, before a word with a preposition (like Isa 22:16; Mic 7:14, etc.); and בּני in the construct state, as in Gen 31:39. The subject is not Shiloh, but Judah, to whom the whole blessing applies. The former would only be possible, if the fathers and Luther were right in regarding the whole as an allegorical description of Christ, or if Hoffmann's opinion were correct, that it would be quite unsuitable to describe Judah, the lion-like warrior and ruler, as binding his ass to a vine, coming so peacefully upon his ass, and remaining in his vineyard. But are lion-like courage and strength irreconcilable with a readiness for peace? Besides, the notion that riding upon an ass is an image of a peaceful disposition seems quite unwarranted; and the supposition that the ass is introduced as an animal of peace, in contrast with the war-horse, is founded upon Zac 9:9, and applied to the words of the patriarch in a most unhistorical manner. This contrast did not exist till a much later period, when the Israelites and Canaanites had introduced war-horses, and is not applicable at all to the age and circumstances of the patriarchs, since at that time the only animals there were to ride, beside camels, were asses and she-asses (Gen 22:3 cf. Exo 4:20; Num 22:21); and even in the time of the Judges, and down to David's time, riding upon asses was a distinction of nobility or superior rank (Jdg 1:14; Jdg 10:4; Jdg 12:14; Sa2 19:27). Lastly, even in Gen 49:9, Gen 49:10 Judah is not depicted as a lion eager for prey, or as loving war and engaged in constant strife, but, according to Hoffmann's own words, "as having attained, even before the coming of Shiloh, to a rest acquired by victory over surrounding foes, and as seated in his place with the insignia of his dominion." Now, when Judah's conflicts are over, and he has come to rest, he also may bind his ass to the vine and enjoy in peaceful repose the abundance of his inheritance. Of wine and milk, the most valuable productions of his land, he will have such a superabundance, that, as Jacob hyperbolically expresses it, he may wash his clothes in the blood of the grape, and enjoy them so plentifully, that his eyes shall be inflamed with wine, and his teeth become white with milk.
(Note: Jam de situ regionis loquitur, quae sorte filiis Judae obtigit. Significat autem tantam illic fore vitium copiam, ut passim obviae prostent non secus atque alibi vepres vel infrugifera arbusta. Nam quum ad sepes ligari soleant asini, vites ad hunc contemptibilem usum aeputat. Eodem pertinet quae sequuntur hyperbolicae loquendi formae, quod Judas lavabit vestem suam in vino, et oculis eritrubicundus. Tantam enim vini abundantiam fore intelligit, ut promiscue ad lotiones, perinde ut aqua effundi queat sine magno dispendio; assiduo autem largioreque illius potu rubedinem contracturi sint oculi. Calvin.)
The soil of Judah produced the best wine in Canaan, near Hebron and Engedi (Num 13:23-24; Sol 1:4; Ch2 26:10 cf. Joe 1:7.), and had excellent pasture land in the desert by Tekoah and Carmel, to the south of Hebron (Sa1 25:2; Amo 1:1; Ch2 26:10). סוּתה: contracted from סווּתה, from סוה to envelope, synonymous with מסוה a veil (Exo 34:33).
Zebulun, to the shore of the ocean will he dwell, and indeed (והוּא isque) towards the coast of ships, and his side towards Zidon (directed up to Zidon)." This blessing on Leah's sixth son interprets the name Zebulun (i.e., dwelling) as an omen, not so much to show the tribe its dwelling-place in Canaan, as to point out the blessing which it would receive from the situation of its inheritance (compare Deu 33:19). So far as the territory allotted to the tribe of Zebulun under Joshua can be ascertained from the boundaries and towns mentioned in Jos 19:10-16, it neither reached to the Mediterranean, nor touched directly upon Zidon (see my Comm. on Joshua). It really lay between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean, near to both, but separated from the former by Naphtali, from the latter by Asher. So far was this announcement, therefore, from being a vaticinium ex eventu taken from the geographical position of the tribe, that it contains a decided testimony to the fact that Jacob's blessing was not written after the time of Joshua. ימּים denotes, not the two seas mentioned above, but, as Jdg 5:17 proves, the Mediterranean, as a great ocean (Gen 1:10). "The coast of ships:" i.e., where ships are unloaded, and land the treasures of the distant parts of the world for the inhabitants of the maritime and inland provinces (Deu 33:19). Zidon, as the old capital, stands for Phoenicia itself.
"Issachar is a bony ass, lying between the hurdles. He saw that rest was a good (טוב subst.), and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute." The foundation of this award also lies in the name שׂכר ישּׂא, which is probably interpreted with reference to the character of Issachar, and with an allusion to the relation between שׂכר and שׂכיר, a daily labourer, as an indication of the character and fate of his tribe. "Ease at the cost of liberty will be the characteristic of the tribe of Issachar" (Delitzsch). The simile of a bony, i.e., strongly-built ass, particularly adapted for carrying burdens, pointed to the fact that this tribe would content itself with material good, devote itself to the labour and burden of agriculture, and not strive after political power and rule. The figure also indicated "that Issachar would become a robust, powerful race of men, and receive a pleasant inheritance which would invite to comfortable repose." (According to Jos. de bell. jud. iii. 3, 2, Lower Galilee, with the fruitful table land of Jezreel, was attractive even to τὸν ἥκιστα γῆς φιλόπονον). Hence, even if the simile of a bony ass contained nothing contemptible, it did not contribute to Issachar's glory. Like an idle beast of burden, he would rather submit to the yoke and be forced to do the work of a slave, than risk his possessions and his peace in the struggle for liberty. To bend the shoulder to the yoke, to come down to carrying burdens and become a mere serf, was unworthy of Israel, the nation of God that was called to rule, however it might befit its foes, especially the Canaanites upon whom the curse of slavery rested (Deu 20:11; Jos 16:10; Kg1 9:20-21; Isa 10:27). This was probably also the reason why Issachar was noticed last among the sons of Leah. In the time of the Judges, however, Issachar acquired renown for heroic bravery in connection with Zebulun (Jdg 5:14-15, Jdg 5:18). The sons of Leah are followed by the four sons of the two maids, arranged, not according to their mothers or their ages, but according to the blessing pronounced upon them, so that the two warlike tribes stand first.
"Dan will procure his people justice as one of the tribes of Israel. Let Dan become a serpent by the way, a horned adder in the path, that biteth the horse's heels, so that its rider falls back." Although only the son of a maid-servant, Dan would not be behind the other tribes of Israel, but act according to his name (ידין דּן), and as much as any other of the tribes procure justice to his people (i.e., to the people of Israel; not to his own tribe, as Diestel supposes). There is no allusion in these words to the office of judge which was held by Samson; they merely describe the character of the tribe, although this character came out in the expedition of a portion of the Danites to Laish in the north of Canaan, a description of which is given in Judg 18, as well as in the "romantic chivalry of the brave, gigantic Samson, when the cunning of the serpent he overthrew the mightiest foes" (Del.). שׁפיפן: κεράστης, the very poisonous horned serpent, which is of the colour of the sand, and as it lies upon the ground, merely stretching out its feelers, inflicts a fatal wound upon any who may tread upon it unawares (Diod. Sic. 3, 49; Pliny. 8, 23).
But this manifestation of strength, which Jacob expected from Dan and promised prophetically, presupposed that severe conflicts awaited the Israelites. For these conflicts Jacob furnished his sons with both shield and sword in the ejaculatory prayer, "I wait for Thy salvation, O Jehovah!" which was not a prayer for his own soul and its speedy redemption from all evil, but in which, as Calvin has strikingly shown, he expressed his confidence that his descendants would receive the help of his God. Accordingly, the later Targums (Jerusalem and Jonathan) interpret these words as Messianic, but with a special reference to Samson, and paraphrase Gen 49:18 thus: "Not for the deliverance of Gideon, the son of Joash, does my soul wait, for that is temporary; and not for the redemption of Samson, for that is transitory; and not for the redemption of Samson, for that is transitory; but for the redemption of the Messiah, the Son of David, which Thou through Thy word hast promised to bring to Thy people the children of Israel: for this Thy redemption my soul waits."
(Note: This is the reading according to the text of the Jerusalem Targum, in the London Polyglot as corrected from the extracts of Fagius in the Critt. Sacr., to which the Targum Jonathan also adds, "for Thy redemption, O Jehovah, is an everlasting redemption." But whilst the Targumists and several fathers connect the serpent in the way with Samson, by many others the serpent in the way is supposed to be Antichrist. On this interpretation Luther remarks: Puto Diabolum hujus fabulae auctorem fuisse et finxisse hanc glossam, ut nostras cogitationes a vero et praesente Antichristo abduceret.)
"Gad - a press presses him, but he presses the heel." The name Gad reminds the patriarch of גּוּד to press, and גּדוּד the pressing host, warlike host, which invades the land. The attacks of such hosts Gad will bravely withstand, and press their heel, i.e., put them to flight and bravely pursue them, not smite their rear-guard; for עקב does not signify the rear-guard even in Jos 8:13, but only the reserves (see my commentary on the passage). The blessing, which is formed from a triple alliteration of the name Gad, contains no such special allusions to historical events as to enable us to interpret it historically, although the account in Ch1 5:18. proves that the Gadites displayed, wherever it was needed, the bravery promised them by Jacob. Compare with this Ch1 12:8-15, where the Gadites who come to David are compared to lions, and their swiftness to that of roes.
"Out of Asher (cometh) fat, his bread, and he yieldeth royal dainties." לחמו is in apposition to שׁמנה, and the suffix is to be emphasized: the fat, which comes from him, is his bread, his own food. The saying indicates a very fruitful soil. Asher received as his inheritance the lowlands of Carmel on the Mediterranean as far as the territory of Tyre, one of the most fertile parts of Canaan, abounding in wheat and oil, with which Solomon supplied and household of king Hiram (Kg1 5:11).
"Naphtali is a hind let loose, who giveth goodly words." The hind or gazelle is a simile of a warrior who is skilful and swift in his movements (Sa2 2:18; Ch1 12:8, cf. Psa 18:33; Hab 3:19). שׁלהה here is neither hunted, nor stretched out or grown slim; but let loose, running freely about (Job 39:5). The meaning and allusion are obscure, since nothing further is known of the history of the tribe of Naphtali, than that Naphtali obtained a great victory under Barak in association with Zebulun over the Canaanitish king Jabin, which the prophetess Deborah commemorated in her celebrated song (Judg 4 and 5). If the first half of the verse be understood as referring to the independent possession of a tract of land, upon which Naphtali moved like a hind in perfect freedom, the interpretation of Masius (on Josh 19) is certainly the correct one: "Sicut cervus emissus et liber in herbosa et fertili terra exultim ludit, ita et in sua fertili sorte ludet et excultabit Nephtali." But the second half of the verse can hardly refer to "beautiful sayings and songs, in which the beauty and fertility of their home were displayed." It is far better to keep, as Vatablius does, to the general thought: tribus Naphtali erit fortissima, elegantissima et agillima et erit facundissima.
Turning to Joseph, the patriarch's heart swelled with grateful love, and in the richest words and figures he implored the greatest abundance of blessings upon his head.
"Son of a fruit-tree is Joseph, son of a fruit-tree at the well, daughters run over the wall." Joseph is compared to the branch of a fruit-tree planted by a well (Psa 1:3), which sends it shoots over the wall, and by which, according to Ps 80, we are probably to understand a vine. בּן an unusual form of the construct state for בּן, and פּרת equivalent to פּריּה with the old feminine termination ath, like זמרת, Exo 15:2. - בּנות are the twigs and branches, formed by the young fruit-tree. The singular צעדה is to be regarded as distributive, describing poetically the moving forward, i.e., the rising up of the different branches above the wall (Ges. 146, 4). עלי, a poetical form, as in Gen 49:17.
"Archers provoke him, and shoot and hate him; but his bow abides in strength, and the arms of his hands remain pliant, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, from thence, from the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel." From the simile of the fruit-tree Jacob passed to a warlike figure, and described the mighty and victorious unfolding of the tribe of Joseph in conflict with all its foes, describing with prophetic intuition the future as already come (vid., the perf. consec.). The words are not to be referred to the personal history of Joseph himself, to persecutions received by him from his brethren, or to his sufferings in Egypt; still less to any warlike deeds of his in Egypt (Diestel): they merely pointed to the conflicts awaiting his descendants, in which they would constantly overcome all hostile attacks. מרר: Piel, to embitter, provoke, lacessere. רבּוּ: perf. o from רבב to shoot. בּאיתן: "in a strong, unyielding position" (Del.). פּזז: to be active, flexible; only found here, and in Sa2 6:16 of a brisk movement, skipping or jumping. זרעי: the arms, "without whose elasticity the hands could not hold or direct the arrow." The words which follow, "from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob," are not to be linked to what follows, in opposition to the Masoretic division of the verses; they rather form one sentence with what precedes: "pliant remain the arms of his hands from the hands of God," i.e., through the hands of God supporting them. "The Mighty One of Jacob," He who had proved Himself to be the Mighty One by the powerful defence afforded to Jacob; a title which is copied from this passage in Isa 1:24, etc. "From thence," an emphatic reference to Him, from whom all perfection comes - "from the Shepherd (Gen 48:15) and Stone of Israel." God is called "the Stone," and elsewhere "the Rock" (Deu 32:4, Deu 32:18, etc.), as the immoveable foundation upon which Israel might trust, might stand firm and impregnably secure.
"From the God of thy father, may He help thee, and with the help of the Almighty, may He bless thee, (may there come) blessings of heaven from above, blessings of the deep, that lieth beneath, blessings of the breast and of the womb. The blessing of thy father surpass the blessings of my progenitors to the border of the everlasting hills, may they come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the illustrious among his brethren." From the form of a description the blessing passes in Gen 49:25 into the form of a desire, in which the "from" of the previous clause is still retained. The words "and may He help thee," "may He bless thee," form parentheses, for "who will help and bless thee." ואת is neither to be altered into ואל (and from God), as Ewald suggests, in accordance with the lxx, Sam., Syr., and Vulg., nor into מאת as Knobel proposes; and even the supplying of מן before את from the parallel clause (Ges. 154, 4) is scarcely allowable, since the repetition of מן before another preposition cannot be supported by any analogous case; but את may be understood here, as in Gen 4:1; Gen 5:24, in the sense of helpful communion: "and with," i.e., with (in) the fellowship of, "the Almighty, may He bless thee, let there be (or come) blessings," etc. The verb תּחיין follows in Gen 49:26 after the whole subject, which is formed of many parallel members. The blessings were to come from heaven above and from the earth beneath. From the God of Jacob and by the help of the Almighty should the rain and dew of heaven (Gen 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."
(Note: "Thus is the whole composed in pictorial words. Whatever of man and cattle can be fruitful shall multiply and have enough. Childbearing, and the increase of cattle, and of the corn in the field, are not our affair, but the mercy and blessing of God." - Luther.)
הרים from הרה signifies parentes (Chald., Vulg.); and תּאוה signifies not desiderium from אוה, but boundary from תּאה, Num 34:7-8, = תּוה, Sa1 21:14; Eze 9:4, to mark or bound off, as most of the Rabbins explain it. על גּבר to be strong above, i.e., to surpass. The blessings which the patriarch implored for Joseph were to surpass the blessings which his parents transmitted to him, to the boundary of the everlasting hills, i.e., surpass them as far as the primary mountains tower above the earth, or so that they should reach to the summits of the primeval mountains. There is no allusion to the lofty and magnificent mountain-ranges of Ephraim, Bashan, and Gilead, which fell to the house of Joseph, either here or in Deu 33:15. These blessings were to descend upon the head of Joseph, the נזיר among his brethren, i.e., "the separated one," from נזר separavit. Joseph is so designated, both here and Deu 33:16, not on account of his virtue and the preservation of his chastity and piety in Egypt, but propter dignitatem, qua excellit, ab omnibus sit segregatus (Calv.), on account of the eminence to which he attained in Egypt. For this meaning see Lam 4:7; whereas no example can be found of the transference of the idea of Nasir to the sphere of morality.
"Benjamin - a world, which tears in pieces; in the morning he devours prey, and in the evening he divides spoil." Morning and evening together suggest the idea of incessant and victorious capture of booty (Del.). The warlike character which the patriarch here attributes to Benjamin, was manifested by that tribe, not only in the war which he waged with all the tribes on account of their wickedness in Gibeah (Judg 20), but on other occasions also (Jdg 5:14), in its distinguished archers and slingers (Jdg 20:16; Ch1 8:40, Ch1 8:12; Ch2 14:8; Ch2 17:17), and also in the fact that the judge Ehud (Jdg 3:15.), and Saul, with his heroic son Jonathan, sprang from this tribe (Sa1 11:1-15 and 13; Sa2 1:19.).
The concluding words in Gen 49:28, "All these are the tribes of Israel, twelve," contain the thought, that in his twelve sons Jacob blessed the future tribes. "Every one with that which was his blessing, he blessed them," i.e., every one with his appropriate blessing (אשׁר accus. dependent upon בּרך which is construed with a double accusative); since, as has already been observed, even Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, though put down through their own fault, received a share in the promised blessing.
Death of Jacob. - After the blessing, Jacob again expressed to his twelve sons his desire to be buried in the sepulchre of his fathers (Gen 24), where Isaac and Rebekah and his own wife Leah lay by the side of Abraham and Sarah, which Joseph had already promised on oath to perform (Gen 47:29-31). He then drew his feet into the bed to lie down, for he had been sitting upright while blessing his sons, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered to his people (vid., Gen 25:8). ויּגוע instead of ויּמת indicates that the patriarch departed from this earthly life without a struggle. His age is not given here, because that has already been done at Gen 47:28.