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27. JACOB'S LAST ADDRESS TO HIS CHILDREN.
[GENES. XLIX. 1-28.] And now, as the long life of the patriarch Jacob was drawing to its close, his whole mind seemed to expand with visions of the future. His sons, some of them old, grey-headed men, left their flocks, and their herds, and their fields, and gathered reverentially round his deathbed. He then addressed them with these prophetic words, which comprise a large epoch of Hebrew history :
Assemble that I may tell you what will befall you in later days. Gather yourselves and listen, ye sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your
SIMEON and LEVI are brethren,
JUDAH, thee thy brethren shall praise ;
Judah is a lion's whelp;
ZEBULUN will dwell on the coast of seas; Indeed he will dwell on the coast of ships, And his side will extend to Zidon.
ISSACHAR is a strong ass,
DAN will judge his people
GAD, a host will oppress him;
Of ASHER the bread will be fat,
NAPHTALI is a graceful hind; He uttereth words of beauty.
JOSEPH is a fruitful bough,
BENJAMIN is a wolf that teareth to pieces :
The predictions of Jacob were fulfilled, not speedily in the land of Goshen, nor all of them in the time of the Judges, nor in the days of the first and the mightiest kings. They clearly reach down to the period of the divided empire. We cannot stop to examine in detail each verse of this prophetic address; but we will insert a few general remarks taken from a recent Commentary :
· The principal question which 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 feet."
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.
“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.”
64. It can therefore only apply to the time of the divided empire, with the earlier period of which the whole spirit and every single trait completely agree. It portrays 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 ; Judah and Joseph alone, 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.''
28. DEATH AND BURIAL OF JACOB, AND
DEATH OF JOSEPH.
[GENES. XLIX. 29–L. 26.] Jacob, shrinking from the idea of being buried in unhallowed Egyptian soil, said to his sons: "I am to be gathered to my people : bury me with my fathers in the cave which is in the field of Ephron the Hittite; in the cave which is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought
· Kalisch, Commentary on Genesis, pp. 722—724.
with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying place (there they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife ; and there I buried Leah), as a purchase of the field and of the cave which is therein, from the children of Heth. And when Jacob had finished charging his sons, he gathered his feet into the bed, and expired, and was gathered to his people.'
The last sad office was now all that remained for Joseph to perform for his father. In accordance with Egyptian customs, to which Joseph invariably conformed, he caused Jacob's body to be embalmed, and mourned for him during seventy days together with his household. Then, eager to fulfil his father's last request, he asked Pharaoh for permission to go to Hebron for that purpose. Pharaoh of course readily complied, and Joseph set out immediately. His caravan was that of a mighty prince; for he was accompanied not only by his whole household, and his brothers and their dependents, but by all the servants or elders of Pharaoh's house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt; and there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and the procession was very great. They halted once at the threshing-place of Atad, in the west of the Jordan, within the territory of the Canaanites, and here another seven days' mourning was held. Then they journeyed on, till they came to the field of Machpelah, where Jacob was buried. Thus Joseph beheld once more the country of his ancestors and his descendants; but he knew that he must end his life in the home of his adoption, far away from the sacred boundaries of Palestine. He returned to the king, to whom he was indispensable as friend and counsellor.
But his brothers, still mindful of their crime and cruelty, trembled to think that his goodwill toward them might cease with Jacob's life. They were afraid, and