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Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. 18. And Joseph said to his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. 19. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become an abundance of people. 20. And he blessed them on that day, saying, By thee shall Israel bless, say
his own sons, and appointing them as the chiefs over their younger brothers (vers. 5, 6). Thus Joseph obtained from his father even more than he had intended to solicit. It can scarcely be doubted, that this great partiality in favour of Joseph is in our narrative understood as an acknowledgment of his eminent services for his family, of his noble character, and of his unchanged piety in spite of the temptations of a brilliant position: but it cannot be conceived as a “substitution of the prerogatives of merit for those of nature”; for, as we have remarked, the transaction recorded in our chapter does not imply a change in the primogeniture, which,according to the Mosaic law, could not be transferred from the firstborn of the less beloved to the firstborn of the more favoured wife (Deut. xxi. 15–17). Yet it
that Jacob was rejoiced at the opportunity of distinguishing the eldest son of Rachel, whom, after the lapse of so many years, he still loved with undiminished affection. He felt that he honoured her memory by the peculiar privilege which he granted to Joseph If these were his sentiments, it was but natural that he should, on that occasion, mention Rachel; and as his thoughts had long since wandered to his eternal rest, and he had shown such deep anxiety with regard to the place of his own burial, he, in sorrowful terms, reminded Joseph that his mother had been interred in a forlorn spot; and he described it with all possible distinctness, that he might help to protect it against oblivion (ver. 7; comp. xxxv. 16—20). The allusion, therefore, to Rachel's grave, forms an essential part of the patriarch's last instructions.
Only after he had, of his own accord, fulfilled the secret wish of Joseph, he noticed the presence of Manasseh and Ephraim; for his eyes were dim with old age; and breaking forth in spontaneons expressions of gratitude to God who had so marvellously guided Joseph and himself, he intimated his intention of blessing his grand-sons (vers. 8–12). Joseph is not represented as endowed with the gift of prophecy, or as favoured with direct Divine inspirations (see p. 411). He expected, therefore, that the greater blessing would be bestowed upon his firstborn son, Manasseh. But Jacob, capable of penetrating with his mental eye into unborn ages, gave the preference to Ephraim, because he knew, that though the younger son, he would found the more powerful tribe. He designedly laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraini, and his left upon the head of Manasseh (vers. 13, 14). The imposition of hands, an old symbol of conferring certain powers or blessings, and forming a part of the sacrificial ritual also, became later, both in the Synagogue and the Church, a usual mode of initiation into sacred offices, but was discontinued among the Jews about the year 350 of the vulgar era, in the time of the patriarch Hillel II. The right hand was naturally regarded as superior to the left; and in auguries, it was considered as auspicious, while the left was generally held ominous.-Jacob pronounced the benediction in measured language, and with threefold invo. cation. As he viewed the religious truth, understood and cherished by his ancestors, as the source of all true blessings, he
ing, May God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh : and he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 21. And Israel said to Joseph, Behold, I die: but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22. And I give to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I take out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with VI. — JACOB'S LAST ADDRESS, DEATH, AND
began by commending the happiness of his grand-sons to the God of Abraham and of Isaac: but gratefully remembering that the same Deity, through His visible aid and agency, had beneficently watched over his own checquered career, both by satisfying his material wants, and his moral cravings, leading him from poverty to wealth, from dangers to safety, and from sin to peace and harmony of mind; he concluded with two corresponding supplications to “ God the shepherd” who “had brought him to green pastures and to waters of rest, who had dispelled his fears even when threatened with the shadow of death, and who had guided him in the path of righteousness for His name's sake" (Ps. xxiii. 1-4; lxxx. 2). After so much mercy, he might well indulge in the hope, that his house would grow into a numerous and flourishing community; and he might think himself entitled to expect the glorification of his family, in an eminent degree, from the descendants of that favourite son who, by his wisdom and his virtues, had made the Hebrew name illustrious over the whole globe (vers. 15, 16). Joseph might well wonder at the marked preference given to the younger son (vers. 17, 18). What had Ephraim done to deserve the distinction ? and what had Manasseh committed to forfeit it? We have, indeed, on more than one previous occasion seen the superiority transferred from the elder to the younger brother; as in the instance of Cain and Abel, of Ishmael and Isaac, and of Esau and Jacob; but in all these cases there existed some obvious reason to justify the change; it was base jealousy which rendered Cain unworthy of the Divine favour; Ishmael, the son of a bond-woman, pre
ferred the life of the marauding archer in the desert to the peaceful pursuits of the nomad; and Esau showed a most blameable indifference to the higher or spiritual privileges of his family. But no reproach whatever attaches to Manasseh, whom, indeed, Joseph seems to have loved fondly, and whose prerogatives he was anxious to protect. If, therefore, the transaction related in our chapter were simply a personal occurrence in the house of Jacob, the preference accorded to Ephraim would be arbitrary partiality, which could but vaguely be palliated by the idea that it was an election by the grace of God, and as such not subject to the ordinary standard of human justice and the test of human reason. But this defect in the composition loses its weight if it is remembered that our narrative is designed to embody, in a transparently prophetic form, the undeniable historical facts which we have above developed. When, therefore, Joseph desired to redress what he believed to be a serious and untoward mistake on the part of Jacob, the latter repeated in emphatic words what he had before but generally expressed by a symbol, and added another formal blessing, which later became proverbial in Israel, and in which he advisedly mentioned the younger before the elder brother.- As he thus had adopted Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons (comp. ver. 5), it might appear that he intended Joseph to form three tribes; but as this was not the case, he found it necessary to add, that Joseph should receive one portion more than his brothers in the land which he was certain would, after severe and protracted warfare, be conquered from the Canaanites.
BURIAL; JOSEPH'S LAST INJUNCTIONS.
CHAPTERS XLIX AND L.
THE LAST ADDRESS OF JACOB, VERs. 1-28.
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. A belief prevailed among nearly all ancient nations, that the human mind, at the approaching hour of death, is capable of penetrating into the mysteries of the future, and of distinctly revealing them in prophetic speech. We are on this point not restricted to obscure inferences. We find the idea clearly and explicitly stated by more than one classical author. Cicero observes: “When death is near, the mind assumes a much more divine character; and at such times, easily predicts the future.” Socrates, when defending himself in the capital charge preferred against him, and foreseeing a condemnatory verdict, is recorded to have reminded the judges, that with death before his eyes, he was in that state which enables men to utter prophecies. Xenophon relates, in his “ Institution of Cyrus,” that this prince, when feeling his impending dissolution, summoned his sons and friends to his death-bed; and, in order to impress upon them the doctrine of immortality, used the following argument: “Nothing resembles death more closely than sleep; but it is in sleep that the soul of man appears most divine, and it is then that it foresees something of the future; for then, as it seems, it is most free.” In a perfectly analogous manner, Pythagoras and other philo. sophers, according to Diodorus Siculus, considered it a natural consequence of the belief in immortality, that the soul, in the moment of death, becomes conscious of future events. In harmony with these views, Greek and Roman writers not unfrequently introduce persons in the last stage of their existence predicting the destinies of those survivors who at that time particularly absorb their attention. Patroclus, mortally wounded, foretells, in Homer's Iliad, the immediate death of Hector, from the hand of Achilles; and when this prophecy was literally verified, Hector, in his last moments, angurs that A pollo and Paris would, at the Scæan gate, soon destroy Achilles, who, convinced of the truth and reality of such forebodings, exclaims: “ I shall accept my fate whenever Jupiter and the other immortal gods choose to inflict it.” In the Æneid of Virgil, the expiring Dido prophesies not only the chief incidents in the future life of Æneas, his laborious and exhausting wars with Turnus, the Rutulians, and the Latins; his separation from his beloved son, Iulus, when imploring assistance in Etruria; and his early death, unhonoured by the sacred rites of sepulture: but she alludes to the inextinguishable hatred and the sanguinary enmity that would rage between the Romans and the Carthaginians, and to Hannibal himself, who would avenge her sufferings, and as a fearful scourge of war, desolate the beautiful plains of Italy. In the same epic poem, Orodes, before closing his eyes in death, threatens his victorious antagonist, Mezentius, that he would not long enjoy his triumph, but would soon also be hurled into the lower regions: which menace, indeed, Mezentius baughtily scorns; but recognising the possibility of its fulfilment, he laughs “with mixed wrath.” Posidonius makes mention of a man of Rhodes, who not long before his demise, stated theexact order in which six of his friends would successively die. When Alexander the Great, at the termination of his days, was asked, whom he appointed his successor, he replied “the best; for I foresee that great funeral games will be celebrated for me by my friends:" and this remark is adduced by Diodorus as an example of the astonishing realisation of prophecies pronounced shortly before death. And Cicero, extending the same power of presentiment to perfectly uncivilised tribes, mentions the uneducated Indian Calanus, who, when about to burn himself, predicted the almost immediate death of the Macedonian monarch.
Similar notions, entertained by the Hebrews also, particularly recommended the insertion of a comprehensive prophecy, addressed by Jacob to his assembled children, when on the verge of his grave. It is true, that we have, in the preceding parts of Genesis, met with more than one passage where later historical facts are unmistakeably represented in the form of prophecy, a mode of writing naturally chosen with pre-dilection by epic authors of all nations; indeed the forty-eighth chapter, with its clearly defined history of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, is alone entirely sufficient to illustrate the manner in which the Pentateuch, by obvious anticipation, transfers posterior events into the lives of the patriarchs: but it will readily be conceded that the deep-rooted belief just adverted to enhances the propriety, and may have formed an additional motive, for introducing this prophetic blessing; just as, in later times, Moses, Joshua, David, and others, are related, at the approach of their death, to have blessed and exhorted the people or their children.'
Hence the fact, that not individuals, but the twelve tribes of Israel are here addressed, has been mistaken by few; and it is distinctly enough stated in the text. Some, indeed, entirely denying that the poem is intended as a prophecy, find in it nothing but occurrences which happened in the land of Goshen or in the lives of the patriarchs; while others maintain that some of the predictions have never been realized; that especially the tribe of Levi was at no period so hopelessly scattered through the land; and that, therefore, the song dates from a time " when the clerical office of the tribe of Levi was not at all expected nor even thought of.” But the first verse of the chapter clearly proves that the poem is designed as a prophecy, “I shall tell you what will befall you in later days”; and the homeless dispersion of the Levites, during many generations, can be substantiated by indisputable historical evidence. Many consider a revelation of the future altogether dangerous, since it would tend to call forth the predicted events. But the poem discloses its character strikingly enough in several passages, where facts happening after the conquest of Canaan, are plainly mentioned as past events: “And Issachar saw the rest, that it was good, and the land, that it was pleasant; and he bent his shoulder to bear, and became a tributary servant.”' And we are certain, no one will seriously contend that Hebrew writers never employed the form of real prophecy, that is, of announcement of later events; so absurd an assertion would be disclaimed and refuted by a large portion of the Old Testament.
The principal question, therefore, which now arises, is: To what period of the history of the Israelites does this portion refer? or the political condition of what age does it describe? It appears to us manifest :
1. That it does not apply to a time anterior to Saul; for it contains unequivocal allusions to the royal dignity in the words, “the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his fect."S
2. It does not refer to Saul's reign, since the tribe of Benjamin, from which the monarch had sprung, is but very briefly and almost passingly noticed (ver. 27).
3. It cannot relate to the reigns of David and Solomon, since the tribe of Joseph is so delineated as to appear the powerful rival of Judah, and is, besides, also called “ the crowned of his brethren."6
i Deut. xxxii.; xxxiii.; Josh, xxiii.; 1 Ki.ii. 1-6.
Vers, 16, 28. 3 See notes on vers. 5-7.
* Ver. 15; comp. vers. 23, 24.
4. It can, therefore, only refer to the time of the divided empire, with the earlier period of which the whole spirit and every single trait completely agree, as we shall endeavour to prove in the following notes. It pourtrays a time, when the tribes had individually ceased to possess a prominent history, or individually to achieve memorable deeds, such as they doubtless performed at the period of the conquest and the subsequent wars; only Judah and Joseph ruling over, if not absorbing, the other clans of Israel, were then still playing active and conspicuous parts; and hence they are alone treated with greater copiousness and almost ardent interest, while the others are introduced very briefly, and in some instances obscurely and almost abruptly.
1. And Jacob called his sons, and said, Assemble, that I may tell you what will befall you in later days. 2. Gather yourselves and listen, ye sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel
father. 3. REUBEN, thou art my firstborn, ,
My strength and the firstling of my vigour,
Superiority of dignity and superiority of power: 4. Ebullition like water
Thou shalt not be superior;
My couch he hath ascended.
An instrument of violence is their burning rage. 6. Into their council my soul shall not come;
In their assembly my glory shall not join:
And in their self-will they hamstrung oxen. 7. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce,
And their wrath, for it is cruel:
And scatter them in Israel.
Thy hand is on the neck of thy enemies;
From the prey, my son, thou ascendest: