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allotted to every several tribe. Benjamin, therefore, is addressed before his elder brother Joseph, because the lot of his inheritance was to lie between the lots of Judah and Joseph, and to border upon each, and this, by consulting the book of Joshua, xviii. 11, you will find was the case. And we shall afterwards find many circumstances concurring to give a distinction and a consequence to Benjamin, among the tribes of Israel. Jebus, that is Jerusalem, fell to them. Of course, the seat of empire and of religion, in process of time, was fixed in the midst of them. Imperial Judah administered the affairs of government in a city belonging to another tribe, and from the day that the temple was built, not only the priests the sons of Levi were called to minister in the order of their course, within the confines of their brother Benjamin ; but all the males of all the tribes were obliged to appear before the Lord in the same place, at the three great stated festivals every year, besides the innumerable occasional visits made to the metropolis of the whole country, as to the centre of civil government and of religious worship.
On comparing the arrangement of the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest, with that of the same number and quality of gems which are represented as constituting the foundation of the new Jerusalem, we find the jasper standing last, with the name of Benjamin engraved upon it, in the breastplate ; but the first in the foundation of the holy city, which is the type of the christian church.
With the aid of Benjamin alone, Judah was enabled to support an independent sovereignty, which considerably outlasted the kingdom of the ten tribes. This, and various other circumstances, in the future history and condition of this tribe, explain the blessing of Moses, which describes him as " the beloved of the Lord," tenderly watched over and protected of Jehovah as the progenitor of this tribe according to the flesh was carefully kept at home, and affectionately cherished by his father Jacob; as “ dwelling in safety by him," that is, in confidence, in security, there being “none to make him afraid, to whom God was so nigh. There is apparently an allusion to this, and a beautiful one, in the 48th Psalm, from verse 1 to 5. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great king. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled ; they were troubled, and basted away." " The Lord shall cover him," adds Moses, “ all day long." “ Cover.” The Seventy translate the word by one that signifies " to overshadow.” The Chaldean paraphrase is, " he shall be a shield over him ;" it denotes a security, covering or protection from evil; and the evangelical prophet, Isaiah, beautifully expands the thought in these remarkable words, descriptive of and applied to the same object. “And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain."* " All day long," or " every day ;" that is continual. ly. “And he shall dwell between his shoulders ;" like the head, the glory of the natural body, rearing itself majestically between and upon “the shoulders," the strength and power of the man. This was the blessing of Benjamin.
Moses seems now to turn to a peculiarly favourite object; he seems to rise above himself, the spirit of dying Jacob seems to revive in him. As if the name of Joseph were the fire put to the train, he kindles, he blazes, he lightens. As if the name of Joseph were the signal to be at once great and sublime, tender and pathetic, approaching his standard, recollecting the history and character of their illustrious progenitor, contemplating their rising greatness and prosperity, he thus breaks out in strains loftier than bard ever sung. “Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dews, for the deep that coucheth beneath ; and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills. And for the precious things of the earth, and fulness thereof; and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren. His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns : with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth ; and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh."* Isaac had but two sons, and found himself exhausted when he had bestowed a blessing upon one of them : Jacob has twelve sons, and yet he has a several blessing for each son. Israel at the death of Moses was increased to an inpumerable multitude, and yet there are blessings enough, and to spare, and yet there is room. And when God shall bave brought back the captivity of Jacob, when God shall have brought his ancient people within the bond of the gospel covenant, together with the fulness of the Gentile nations, the tide of benediction shall rise, and rise, and swell to the number and necessity of all the partakers. Thus the sacred stream which Ezekiel saw in vision, issuing from the threshold of the house, was at first but a little bubbling fountain ; but after a progress of a thousand cubits, became “ a brook of water up to the ancles;" after a thousand more, had risen to the height of the loins; and after a thousand more," the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over."
* Isai. iv. 5, 6,
To go into a detail of the particulars contained in the blessing of Joseph, instead of occupying the place of an evening, might furnish employment for years. I feel myself perfectly at a loss how to represent it to your view; in what light first to consider it, what particular part of it to bring forwardwhether I should at all presume to attempt an illustration of it, or leave it altogether to your private meditation. Never, surely, in the same quantity of words, were exhibited such a multitude and variety of beautiful, striking and sublime ideas. When Joseph is to be blessed, the prophet for him arrays nature in her gayest, richest attire; for him he digs into the mine, and cleaves the flinty rock, and pours jewels and gold at his feet. “For him the roses blow, for him distils the dew.” For him golden harvests wave in the fragrant air, and rivers of milk and oil flow down the mountains and through the vallies. For him the swelling clusters of the vine assume a purple hue, the meadows clothe themselves with verdure, and the cedars of God lift their proud heads to the skies; the sun and moon, and eleven stars, do obeisance to him. Nature is then animated, as it were, to do him honour, to give him protection, to extend his empire, to minister to his delight. The grove becomes vocal, the bullock treads stately through the plain, the unicorn pushes with the horn, nations of enemies melt before him, the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh, cultivate their fertile, peaceful fields, beautify their pleasant villages, fortify their magnificent cities.
With inexhausted strength, with resistless force, the prophet then hurries us out of the sphere of nature, bears us to the awful regions of religion, places our feet on holy grond. It is the blessing of Joseph, and we feel our
selves transported to the wilderness of Horeb, we behold the bush on fire, we hear the voice of God himself from the midst of the flame. But though it speaks from the midst of fire, to the house of Joseph it speaks nothing but love, it is a fire that consumes not, it breathes - good will." Moses having thus as a poet touched every power of imagination, conducted us from one scene of delight to another, and made all Eden rise to view; having as a prophet, unveiled the world of spirits to our astonished sight, and borne us as on eagle's wings up to the throne of God, gently deviates into his character of orator and historian, and sweetly redescends with us into the field of Zoan, and calls forth a tender sigh from our bosom over the hapless youth who was torn from his father's embrace, and sold into slavery. “Let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren."* But " who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge ?”f Moses, my friends, seems reluctant to break off his subject, he is loth to bid Joseph farewell; as he goes he “casts a longing, lingering look behind," and sighs out another blessing, after his tongue is silent. When Jacob speaks to Joseph, and Moses writes and speaks of him, neither of them knows how to leave off.
We soon find the prediction of Moses verified, and the parting benediction falling down, according to the letter of it, in copious showers upon the head of Joseph. For though half the tribe of Manasseh obtained an inheritance beyond Jordan, and a fair and spacious lot had fallen to the rest of the sons of Joseph in Canaan, they are soon under the necessity of applying to Joshua for an addi tional lot to enlarge their border. “And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto? And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood-country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee. And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us : and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel. And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power : thou shalt not have one lot only. But the mountain shall be thine ; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down : and the outgoings of it shall be thine : for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong. "I
The Jewish writers take delight in expatiating upon the beauty and fruitfulness of the providentially allotted portion of this tribe. They represent Canaan as a garden, in comparison to the rest of the world, and Mount Ephraim with its adjacent plains as the garden of Canaan. But we must hasten from it, and attend our departing prophet, as he bids a shorter adieu to the remaining tribes.
As the lots of Zebulun and Issachar were to be contiguous in Canaan ; as they were brothers german, being both sons of Leah, and thereby had a nearer interest and affection among themselves, and their tents were pitched contiguous to each other in the plains of Moab, Moses addresses them as forming one body of people. “And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and Issachar in thy tents.” This is, with little variation, a repetition and confirmation of the blessing pronounced by dying Jacob. Zebulun, the younger of the two brothers, is in both preferred; and in distributing the lots Zebulun has the third lot, Issachar only the fourth. The inheritance of Zebulun was to be of a peculiar quality, and they were to
* Deut. xxxiii. 16.
Job. xxxiii. 2.
Joshua xvii. 14—18.
Deut. xxxiji. 18,
draw their subsistence and wealth from sources very different from those of the rest of Israel: they were to grow great by navigation and trade.
The sea, that unruly element, was to be inade tributary to thein, and through it, a passage opened to them to the vast, populous and wealthy shores of Africa on the south, and of Asia and Europe on the north. “They shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand. They shall call the people unto the mountain, there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness."* The Chaldean applies these words peculiarly to Issachar, and translates them thus : “ Rejoice, Issachar, that is, be thou blessed in thy going to appoint the times of the solema feasts of Israel," which has a reference to what we readof this tribe, 1 Chron. xii. 32. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do : the heads of them were two hundred, and all their brethren were at their commandinent.” This is generally understood of the times and seasons of the year, of the new moons and other appearances of the heavenly bodies, by which the solemn festivals were regulated, and which they of Issachar, by their astronomical observation and skill, calculated for the use of all Israel. Hence they are represented in the blessing of Moses as calling the people "unto Mount Zion, where the temple was.” Thus, we see every tribe had some separate and distinct province, some peculiar benefit and privilege, that in the commonwealth of Israel, as in the natural body, there might be no schism, nor the hand be able to say to the eye or to the foot, "I have no need of thee.”
Moses advances to the tents of Gad with these words upon his tongue. “ Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated : and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgements with Israel.”+ The enlargement of Gad may refer to his inheritance, which God hereby promised to extend, as he did that of Israel in general. “I will enlarge thy border;" or it may be understood of his person, and will thea imply deliverance out of trouble, in which sense the word is used, Psal. iv. 1. “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” If so, the words of Moses refer to the troubles of Gad, prophesied of by his dying father, and the history of the deliverance and enlargement of that tribe, from the hands of their enemies, by Jephtha the Gileadite. We read of Gadites in David's time, who were “ mighty men of valour,” whose faces were like the “ faces of lions," and were " as swift as the roes upon the mountains.” Ilence he is said " to dwell as a lion, and to tear the arm with the crown of the head;" the emblems of sovereignty and strength, intimating that none should be so high or powerful, but the might of Gad should bring him down. The blessing in the 21st verse plainly refers to the provision already made for this tribe in conjunction with Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh, in the kingdoms of Og and Sihon. “And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated: and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgements with Israel.” I
The younger children of a numerous family, are to a stranger so many uninteresting, insignificant names; they have a mere family likeness, they speedily become undistinguishable, we mistake the one for the other. It is not so with the parents ; they have distinguished marks for each, they have a particular affection for every one ; they have something to say to, to say of, every one. Thus Dan and Naphtali and Asher are to us so many words without a meaning ; but in the eyes of Moses all have a special importance,
* Deut. xxxiii. 19.
Deut. xxxiii. 20, 21.
# Deut. xxxiii. 21.
each particular blessing has a special meaning, and the last is not the least in his affection. But as strangers we pass by the rest, and distinct ideas of oply two or three of Judah and Levi, and Benjainin and Joseph, cleare to our memory; these we would know among ten thousand, these we can never forget.
We must now suppose Moses to have finished his round, to have returned to his place; and, closing the solemn scene with taking a general survey of the whole, he rises from the goodly tents of Israel, to the contemplation and acknowledgement of Israel's God, and he finally desists from speaking and acting, in rapturous admiration of Him in whom be lived. moved and breathed; he begins heaven on earth, by pouring out his soul in the bosom of the God of heaven and earth. “There is none like unto the God of Jeshuron, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee, and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone; the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine, also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places."*
-Moses pronounced a blessing which he could not bestow, which has long ago spent itself, the effects of which are no longer visible. Christ led out his disciples as far as to Bethany : " and he lifted up his hands and blessed them.”+ He pronounced a blessing in his power to confer, which has not spent its force, which reaches into eternity : “ Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Heaven and earth shall pass away, but his word shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” “All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth.” What are the kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them? Wbat is now the land which once flowed with milk and honey ? Where are now “ the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh ?" The blessing even of Joseph has failed, and the beauty of Mount Ephraim is no more. But we receive from our greater prophet " a kingdom which cannot be moved : an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away." His benediction embraces a globe ; extends from generation to generation; unites his second to his first coming ; expands a new creation, “ new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness ;" exalts guilty, fallen men to the dignity of the sons of God. Let him bless me, and I shall be blessed. Lord, lift thou upon me the light of thy countenance, and I shall be saved; breathe upon me, and I shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- The blessing of Moses implied succession and change, contention and triumph; exhibited the “ confused poise of the warrior, and garments rolled in blood," the exaltation of one on the depression of another : the blessing of Christ presents stability and permanency, harmony and peace, equality and acquiescence; exhibits only the noble contention of generous and affectionate spirits, the triumphs of benevolence; the spirit of adoption bursting from every lip, Abba, Father; the spirit of brotherly love glowing in every bosom, tuning the tongue to the law of kindness, beaming from the eye in looks of tenderness. A greater than Moses is with us: we "are not under the law, but under grace.”
* Matt. xxviii. 19, 90.