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Chapter II

CHAPTER II.

THE PROPHETIC BENEDICTIONS OF THE DYING PATRIARCHS. § 8. Jacob's artful Procurement of the Blessing of the

ICERO says:1 Appropinquante morte [animus-]

^ multo est divinior. It is an experimental fact that precisely through the approach of the night of death the most intense effulgence flashes through the human spirit, which has sprung from the being of God; and it is in connection with this psychological natural phenomenon that the patriarchs just before their death become seers, and utter testamentary words of a prophetic character concerning their children. Their blessings are not merely wishes, whose effect is coextensive with the granting of the prayer of faith, but they are at the same time predictions, which proceed from the divinely-mediated view into the future, as it has been decreed. Of such a sort is the blessing of the first-born, which Isaac utters regarding his second son, since Divine Providence frustrated that which his natural will intended. It arose from the divine promise which had already gone

First-Born.

1 De Divinatione, lib. i. § 63.

forth, which Isaac had grasped in faith (Heb. xi. 20), and had further unfolded in the spirit of prophecy. This blessing of the first-born consists of four parts (xxvii. 27-29). It promises the one whom it concerns: (1) The possession of the land of Canaan under the divine benediction (vers. 27b, 28):

See, the smell of my son

Is as the smell of a field which

Yah weh hath blessed.

And God will give thee of the dew of heaven,
And of the fat fields of the earth,
And plenty of corn and must.

(2) The subjection of the nations, and indeed without limitation, in such general terms, that the limitation to the nations of Canaan, perhaps including the neighbouring countries, is contrary to the words of the text (ver. 29a):

Peoples shall serve thee,

And nations bow down to thee.

(3) The primacy over his brothers, that is, the tribes of Israel, and over those blood relations who were outside the posterity of the line of promise (ver. 29b):

Be Lord over thy brethren,

And thy mother's sons shall bow down to thee.

(4) So high a position in redemptive history, that

blessings and curses are conditioned by the attitude

which men take to him who has received the blessing

(ver. 29c):

Cursed be every one that curseth thee,
And blessed be every one that blesseth thee.

When Esau, weeping bitterly, also begs for a blessing, he has for him, too, some promises, but of such a sort that they bring a dimness into the pure light of the blessing of Jacob, which is deserved through his artifice; but Isaac cannot recall any of the promises made to Jacob, for he knows that God has spoken through him, and that, against his own will, he has become God's instrument. It is the blessing of Abraham that Isaac, as if passing by himself, lays upon Jacob, for he promises him the possession of Canaan (cf. xii. 7) and victorious power (cf. xxii. 17); also the addition: "I will bless those that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse," was already spoken to Abraham (xii. 3). The blessing and the curse of men are to be determined by the relation which they take to the one who has been blessed by God,—a determination which must have a deep moral ground, since the God of revelation is the holy One, who, as such, neither gives the preference in a partizan way nor promotes worldly pride of rank. Whoever blesses the patriarchs evinces thereby—as, for example, the blessing of Abram through Melchisedek shows (xiv. 19)— his belief in God, whose confessors they are. The salvation, which is finally to find its complete historical representation in the person of Jesus the Christ, has now, according to the measure of its stage of preparation, the patriarchs, His ancestors, as possessors and bearers.

D

§ 9. The Designation of Judah as Royal and
Messianic Tribe.

After the three patriarchs had been enlarged from Jacob to twelve heads of tribes, the question arises, from which of the twelve tribes the promised salvation shall go forth. Jacob's prophetic blessing (Gen. xlix.) answers this question. Eeuben, through his incest with Bilhah, had forfeited the right of primogeniture. It could not be transmitted to Simeon and Levi, on account of their outrage on the inhabitants of Shechem. Hence Jacob, in view of his near death, transfers the double inheritance (the rrp^, in the narrower meaning of an inheritance), which is connected with the right of primogeniture, to Joseph, his favourite son, but primacy and the world-position in the history of salvation, to Judah, his fourth son (1 Chron. v. 1 f.). Jacob promises him the leadership of the tribes of his people as an inalienable right, won through his lion-like courage, until, on his coming to Shiloh, his dominion of the tribes should be enlarged to a dominion over the world:

8 Judah thee, thee shall thy brethren praise!
Thy hand is on the necks of thine enemies,
The sons of thy father shall bow down to thee.

9 Judah is a young lion,

From the prey, my son, thou art gone up:
He lies down, he couches as a lion, and as a lioness,
Who dares to wake him up 1
10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the leader's staff from between his feet,
Until he comes to Shiloh;
And to him will be the obedience of the peoples.

We understand N3' in the sense which it has elsewhere; fW signifies to come to Shiloh (Josh, xviii. 9; 1 Sam. iv. 12), as !"6b> N'an signifies to bring to Shiloh (Judg. xxi. 12; 1 Sam. i. 24); also, after and rbtf, rbv, is used to indicate the place whither. It is also certain that n^B* is not a proper name, since, in vers. 11, 12, Judah is the subject, who, after he has fought his way through, rejoices in prosperous, happy peace in a land richly blessed with wine and milk, so that Judah also in ver. 10 must be the subject, without the interposition of another. And that which Jacob promised Judah actually came to pass. For as Israel, at whose head was the tribe of Judah, pitched the tent of the testimony in Shiloh, between Shechem and Bethel, hence in the heart of Canaan, the land, as is said in Josh, xviii. 1, was subdued before them: the conquest had made progress in a direction which, with persistent, similar energy, bore in itself the pledge of completion. But, furthermore, Judah really became the royal tribe.in Israel, which, in David and Solomon, had command, not over the tribes of Israel alone, but also over the neighbouring peoples. The weakening and the breaking through of the power and permanence of the kingdom of Judah are relatively unimportant elements for the prophet. But since the Chaldean catastrophe made an end of the Davidic kingdom,—which arose in Zerubbabel after the exile only in a shadowy way and for a short time,—the fulfilment of the blessing concerning Judah would certainly lack its crown if the divinely-anointed One, to whom the Lord (Ps. ii. 8) gives the heathen for His inheritance, and the ends of the earth for His possession, had not arisen out of Judah. But it is evident, says the Epistle to the Hebrews (vii. 14), that our Lord sprang from Judah; and the Apocalypse, since it calls Him the Lion from the tribe of Judah (v. 5), points back to this blessing of Jacob. Hence the prediction concerning Judah remains Messianic, even when we understand Shiloh as the name of a place. Since Jacob names the tribe of Judah as the royal tribe of Israel, the preliminary history of the Messiah has advanced so far, that now Judah is chosen as the place for the appearance of the future One.

Remark 1.—When nW is understood as indicating a place, only the rendering preferred by Hitzig need be considered in connection with the one given above: "so long as they come to Shiloh," that is, from the standpoint of the speaker forever, since (according to this interpretation) he does not know any other central place of worship. But this supposition is contrary to history (Ps. lxxviii. 60 ff.), the generalizing of the subject of disturbs [the connection], the explanation of IV through "as long as" (equivalent to ny) is contrary to the dominant idiom, which knows '3 1J? only in the signification of donee or adeo ut (Gen. xxvi. 13; 2 Sam. xxiii. 10; 2 Chron. xxvi. 15), and this expedient in order to arrive at [the meaning] "forever" is unnecessary, since [the expression] "until that" frequently indicates {e.g. Gen. xxviii. 15) a climax and a culmination, beyond which that which is said does not cease, but continues, or even, as in the preceding case, is heightened. It is surprising that none of the ancient translators and intrepreters thought of Tfyp as the city of Shiloh. This interpretation of the word first became current after Herder, who adopted it from W. G. Teller (1766). But we have a similar example in Lamech's Song of the Sword (Gen. iv. 23 f.). The significance of the blasphemous praise of the iron weapon was first perceived by Herder and Hamann.

Remark 2. — The ancient translators, who presuppose the reading rbw (without ', as in the Samaritan Pentateuch), take this r6tJ> in the sense of bf, and understand it either of a fact: "until that come which belongs to him" (to Judah), ra. airoicelfieva avrm (Septuagint, Theodotion), namely, the dominion over the world ; or personally: "until he comes, to whom it (the sceptre or the rule) belongs, eS anroicenai (Aquila, Symmachus, Onkelos, second Jerusalem Targum, Syrian). Perhaps Ezekiel (Ezek. xxi. 32) presupposes this interpretation of nbtJ', since he names the future ideal king asBran b iB>K; in the Septuagint OBB'Bn is omitted, as it is simply rendered « icadtficet. But the following reasons may be urged against the meaning which has been incorporated with the word, as the one originally intended:—1. The abbreviation v for "iE>K is foreign to the prose style of ancient Hebrew; there are only two uncertain references in support of it: (1) the combination of particles D?Ba (Gen. vi. 3, provided this reading is to be preferred to the dominant one (2) the name of the Levite bwPn (Ex. vi. 22, provided it signifies, like its synonym "who is like God ?"). 2. Although the writing n'3 occurs once for i3 (Jer. xvii. 24), r6 is never found for ii>. Moreover, the Massoretic reading excludes the supposition that B' is equivalent to "IB*N. In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 98&, it is read thus: for the pupils of Eabbi Shila (n^bo remark in honour of their teacher, that nVi' which sounds similarly is the name of the Messiah. We do not know how they interpreted it.1

It is a proof of the power of fashion even in exegesis, that several of the most recent exegetes have again taken up r6B' as equivalent to iW, which was heretofore considered as worthy of mention only as a matter of history. Driver and Briggs interpret according to the Septuagint: "until his own [that which belongs to Judah] shall come;" von Orelli: "until he [Judah] come into his own [the land of his inheritance],—an explanation which has not hitherto been set forth by any one, according to which rii>E> is equivalent to i^'T^piN; Wellhausen expunges &|, and translates: "until he come to whom the obedience of the people belongs." Stade2 goes still further than "Wellhausen, as he expunges the entire tenth verse as a post-exilic addition; Kautzsch and Socin translate W, but under the impression of this modern confusion treat as untranslatable. And so it goes : the best and truest has the fortune gradually to become old, and people hasten after that which is new, until this also becomes old and they return to the old. The old [interpretation], which will ever reappear, is in the

1 See G. H. Dalman, Der leidende und der sterbende Messias der Synagoge, 1888, p. 37. The word I^ie? occurs in the Talniudic proverb as the name of a man: XD^TICD WITH NDn l^'Ci Shilo has sinned and Johana must suffer for it.

2 Geschichte Israels, Leipzig, 1887, vol. i. p. 160.

present case the understanding of nVe> in Josh, xviii. 9, and in other places where it occurs, in a geographical signification.

The name of the place (rbf, iW), defectively written r6e> (b&), is formed from ^V, rby, to hang down in a flabby way, to be unstrung, to rest, and hence, as the gentile shows, contracted from

; it indicates stretching out, relaxation, recreation, rest,—certainly a fitting name of a place, and one which recommends itself. The form has the character of a proper name, as the name of a man, nb?B'J and the name of a place, r63, Josh. xv. 51; also n-!'?^, Prov. xxvii. 20, is the indication of Hades as a proper name, hence it cannot be translated, as Kurtz maintains, as an appelative: until he (Judah) comes to rest. We might rather consider nV^, like nb6B>, as the name of a person, so that the Messiah can be called the bodily nj?>B> (Ps. cxxii. 7), as the One in Himself full of rest, and as the One producing rest from Himself. This view commends itself not a little, and we could consider the prediction as a prediction concerning Solomon,—like the Samaritan translator of the Pentateuch into Arabic,—and beyond Solomon of his antitype. But vers. 11, 12 contradict this view, for in them Judah is the subject; the images appertain to the tribe which comes to Shiloh, and which rests from conflict in peace, not to the person of a single prince of peace.

Remark 3. — The polemic against the Jews has carried on a traditional misuse, which extends back to Justin's Dialogue with Trypho. According to this prophecy the subjugation of the Jewish people under heathen dominion is regarded as a preliminary sign of the coming of the Messiah; and the conclusion is drawn that since the people is in exile ("ie> pW t]bp pN, "without a prince and without a king," Hos. iii. 4), the Messiah must have come long since. This explanation of the prophecy is even for this reason inadmissible, because the prediction in this blessing, that Judah should at length lose dominion, would bring a gloom for which there would be no occasion. Isaac Troki, in his raDK pltn, i. 14, is quite right, where he contends against this interpretation with its consequences. He is quite right when he maintains that "i? does not indicate that when the given turning-point shall come Judah shall lose the dominion, but that then Judah's dominion shall be extended to world dominion (the so-called fen "ij;, see Levy, Ncuhebraisches Worterhuch, iii. 6196); and also because this interpretation is in contradiction with the Christian faith, since Jesus sprung from Judah, and is called the King of the Jews; and also after He came the sceptre remained with the tribe of Judah. But we do not agree with him in giving pnpp a personal interpretation, as in Deut. xxxiii. 21, as referring to the legislators, to those who handle the law, the chiefs of the people, which involves our understanding p3o in the indecent signification of Deut. xxviii. 57; nor do we agree with him when he combines with in the same

passage of Deuteronomy, and, according to the Targum of Onkelos on this passage, understands "iyr of the youngest, that is, of the final Son of Judah, while has also through the Mishna, Talmud, and Syriac, rather the assured signification of after-birth (secundinae). But in the main point he is quite right, that according to the prophecy concerning Shiloh the kingdom of God from Judah, through the Messiah, will overcome all the kingdoms of this world, hence that the dominion of Judah without diminution will become extended to world dominion.

Remark 4.—Kurtz rejects the personal interpretation of ifaw for this reason, because the promise of a king, and, indeed, of one ruling the world, hence of the Messiah, here at the end of the patriarchal period is an anachronism. And, indeed, although along with the prediction concerning the blessing of the people in the seed of the patriarchs the prediction is connected, that the patriarchs shall be tribal ancestors of many peoples, and kings of peoples (Gen. xvii. 6, 16, xxxv. 11), the preliminary conditions for the future image of a king of Israel are not yet in existence: the tribes of Israel are only first in process of becoming a people; the theocratic relation of God begins first with the legislation, and the patriarchal house is not yet involved in wars, which press for a demand for one leadership. It is true that the promise respecting Judah has a royal sound; for 035? is the usual designation of honour for a king, but it does not have to do with a person, but with a tribe, and in such a way that from the standpoint of the further development, and especially of the fulfilment, one is the goal. As in the protevangel Nin is mankind, and one is the centre; as in the promise concerning the blessing on the peoples 'lO3 is the family of the patriarchs, and one is the centre: so here fnyp is the tribe, and one is the centre. If we compare the prophecy concerning Shiloh with the protevangel there appears to be rather retrogression than progression, but it is only apparent. The proclamation of salvation in its beginning was with reference to victory over the evil, and this beginning is the impelling germ of the following development until its utmost limit. A blessing on the nations is the contents of the proclamation of salvation in its second stage,—the development goes forward from this point, but departing from the allcomprehensive ideal placed in the beginning, as the plant, before it attains its ultimate end in the fruit which is preformed in germ, goes out in root, stem, and branches. The nationalizing of the proclamation of salvation is the root through which it is fastened, and the trunk which is to bear the fruit. With the blessing of Judah the nationalizing begins, after the way has already been prepared through the promise of the blessing of the nations in the seed of the patriarchs.