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her privileges ; her house was left to her desolate ; and the kingdom of God given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. It is remarkable, that from this tribe of Israel there never arose a governor, prince, or prophet ; he never excelled. It is no less worthy of notice, that the inheritance of the Reubenites was on the other side of Jordan ; see Josh. i. 12–15. Judges v. 15, 16. James i. 8.
SIMEON and Levi are here conjoined, because they were united in iniquity, in weapons, and in punishment. Their secret, or rather contract, seems to refer to their contract with the Schechemites, which they basely violated, see Gen. xxxiv. They made this contract an instrument of cruelty. Reflecting with horror on this treacherous and cruel breach, he exclaims, My soul, come not thou into their councils ; my honour, be not thou united with them!' He curses their deeds, yet leaves room for a blessing. The punishment to which both are consigned, is, • I will divide them in Israel ;' that is, they shall be interspersed among the tribes, and have no se. parate inheritance, see Joshua xix. 1. 21. throughout. The curse was ultimately turned to a blessing to Levi, by the establishment of the priesthood, and their honour regained by their zeal in the matter of Baal-Peor.
There is a very singular circumstance noticed by Lightfoot, viz. that the tribe of Simeon were greatly employed in the study of the law. The scribes and doctors were chiefly, if not solely, of the tribe of Simeon ; while the priesthood was confined to that of Levi, He therefore alleges, that this prediction had an express reference to the collusion of the chief priests and scribes in putting to death the Son of God. The idea is not without a seeming foundation ; and he farther alleges, that the frequent repetition of the expression, • that they took council together,' has an express reference to this expression of Jacob, My soul, enter thou not into their council.' For this, says Lightfoot, cannot refer to their council against the Schechemites ; that was long before finished ; but every thought against the Son of Man is entering into their council.
JUDAH, praise or confession. The blessing of Jacob may be considered in a literal sense, as predicting that Judah should be a powerful and warlike tribe, and should thus obtain a superiority over the others. Each tribe had a power of judgment among themselves. By turns several of them gave a ruler to the whole tribes ; but at length Judah prevailed above his brethren in David; and from that time the sceptre and lawgiver of the tribes remained in Judah, even after the captivity into Babylon. In this way his father's children bowed down to him, or acknowledged his superiority. It is farther promised, that Judah shall have asses and vines; that is, his land shall be fertile and rich, which was literally accomplished in the lot of their possession. · There grew the grapes of Eshcol, which the spies brought with them; and to this day, the grapes of Hebron are famous both for size and flavour. If it be asked, why he is said to bind his ass to the vine ? we may remember that the ass, particularly the young ass, was much employed in husbandry, see Isa. xxx. 24. ; and they formed a principal part of the husbandman's stock, 1 Sam.
vii. 16. Hence the ass is used as the emblem or hieroglyphic for labour and husbandry. To bind the ass unto the vine, then, means he shall improve and cultivate the field, as well as the vineyard. He shall “wash his garments in wine ;' his teeth red with wine and white with milk ;' points to the rich abundance with which his table shall be crowned. But the lofty language in which this prophecy is couched, we may readily see, has a respect to a more dignified subject than the temporal riches and fertility of the lot of Judah. Let us therefore attend to it. Judah, in his own person, and still more as head of the ruling tribe, was an eminent type of the Messiah. Christ is • he whom his brethren shall praise. This prophecy is now fulfilling in the heavens; there thousands of thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, of the ransomed brethren of Christ, are rea sounding their praises to Judah, viz. the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who appears in the midst of the throne, worthy to take the book, and loose the seals thereof; for he was slain, and has redeemed them to God by his own blood. Nay, the eternal praises of the whole church of the redeemed, wait for this Judah in Zion. They are his father's children who bow down to him : none worship Judah but they who belong to the Israel of God: the song in which they make confession, and praise him, is a song which no man can learn, but the hundred and forty and four thousand who are redeemed from the earth. His head is in the neck of his enemies.' We have said that Judah was a warlike tribe ; and we read that David subdued all his enemies round about ; yet never did David's victories deserve to be celebrated in such language. But when we see David's Son and David's Lord encountering the great enemy, and baffing the power of the gates of hell, when we see him spoiling principalities and powers, and making a shew of them openly in his cross ; then we behold one to whom the language is fit and applicable. Yet see we not all things put under him; while the enemy and the avenger are yet setting their shafts against the Lord and his Christ ; while death continues to reign over all men, because all have sinned. We see not yet Judah's hand in the neck of his enemies; but when the morning of the resurrection shall dawn, and the last enemy shall be destroyed, when all rule and authority shall be put down, then shall his hand be in the neck of his enemies. In all this great work, he appears as a lion, the most powerful of animals, and the most terrible to his enemies. He is the lion, whose roaring from Zion shall make the hearts of her foe to tremble. Yet when John looked for him, he beheld, and lo! a Lamb, as it had been slain. Jacob, in uttering this prophecy, has the glorious scene as it were depicted before his eyes; he sees his Son, the true Judah, with his garments dyed in the blood of his enemies, returning from Bozrah, after having trampled them in his fury; and he exclaims in his transport, · From the prey, my son, thou art gone up.' He stooped down, he couched down as an old worn-out lion, when he humbled himself, and became obedient to the death ; but when he arose from the dead, clad in the arms of victory and triumph, he travelled in the greatness of his strength, as a young lion. Who shall rouse him up?
The 10th verse of this chapter has been so often expounded, that to call in question the justness of the explication may rather startle ; but we hesitate not to say, that this text is made to express what never can be made out, viz. that the sceptre and lawgiver, taken in a worldly sense as expressing kingly power and government, should be uniformly supported in the tribe of Judah, till Shiloh or Christ came. Now this was by no means the case : kingly power, or the sceptre and lawgiver, by no means remained in Judah all that period. Is it possible to assert, that during their captivity in Babylon, kingly power was maintained ? by no means. Jacob's prophecy has a clear, plain and undeniable fulfilment; and 'if we attend to the spiritual meaning of the phrase, we shall be at no loss to see it. We shall not tease our readers with critical disquisitions on the meaning of the original words translated sceptre and lawgiver ; their import is well under. stood. There was no worldly sceptre in Judah till the days of Saul, nor after the captivity ; but there was a sceptre established in Judah, which was never lost till Shiloh came, to whom it belonged ; and then the gathering of the nations was to him, and under his rod or sceptre of righteousness. When Balaam beheld the tents of Israel as they lay encamped in the wilderness, he exclaimed: The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them ! When God took them by the hand, and led them out of the house of bon. dage, he established them as a kingdom of priests ; it was a spiritual and heavenly kingdom, and this and all its privileges were kept and preserved till Shiloh came. If it be asked, how this can be said of the tribe of Judah, in distinction from the rest ? it will be recollect. ed, that the ten tribes revolted, sunk into idolatry, went into captivi, ty, and never returned. Among them every trace of the sceptre of Christ was obliterate. On the other hand, God promised, and his pro. mises fail not, that there should be a lamp supported to burn before him in Jerusalem continually. Judah suffered much by divine chastisement, but God never forsook her entirely. Often was she chastened with the rod of men, because her children forsook God's law: but he never took
his mercy from her, nor forsook her. When our Lord went up to Jerusalem, he wept over the city ; and it was not till Shiloh had come, and Judah's daughters had filled up the cup of their iniquity, by embruing their hands in the blood of the Mes. siah, that his sceptre was removed. The kingdom of God was then taken from them, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof; then were the people gathered to Shiloh, and the nations brought under his government. In this sense, Jacob's prophecy has a clear and apt application to that tribe ; but in a worldly sense no ingenuity can trace the sceptre to the period promised.
With this view of the sceptre, · Binding the fole unto the vine, washing the garments in wine, the teeth red with wine and white with milk, admit of a simple but striking explication. They point out the rich, exhilarating, nourishing blessings of the kingdom of Je. sus Christ. It is the feast of fat things in the gospel of Christ, which is connected with his righteous sceptre : to them it was first said, “ Eat, О friends ; drink, o drink" abundantly, my beloved.'
When Paul is pointing out the manner in which the people were gathered to Shiloh, he says, the Gentiles “ were made partakers of the root and fatness of the olive.' The Old-Testament Church, God's Judah, was the parent stem of that olive, from which all this fatness of the olive flowed. To point out this, Canaan of old was a land flowing with milk and honey; and every man in Judah sat safely under his vine and fig-tree. This is the wine, which Jotham says
exhi. larateth the Spirit of God in man. It was a vineyard of this kind which Noah planted. When our Lord is explaining to his disciples the cause, why the ordinances of the Old Testament should not be introduced into his New-Testament kingdom, he says,
6 No man putteth new wine into old bottles,' &c. The vine of Judah is oppo. sed to the • grape of Sodom, and that wine was drunk new in Christ's kingdom, when, in place of the paschal cup, the Lord of the kingdom sent forth the blessings of his house on the day of Pentecost. We have been more copious on Judah's blessing than our limits will properly justify, because commentators have long perplexed their readers, hunting after the appearance of a worldly kingdom in that tribe ; whereas the grand object of the promise manifestly is, that the church of Christ, which is his kingdom, with all her privileges, should be continued in Judah, till the appearance of the Messiah.
ZEBULON, dwelling. His lot reached from the sea of Gallilee on the east, to the Mediterranean on the west,-a long stretch of seacoast, abounding with commodious havens for ships, by which means his posterity became famous for commerce. His border reached to Phenicia, the capital of which is Zidon ; so literally just is the description in this prophecy. Zebulon was remarkable as the dwelling of the Messiah ; and there he chiefly exercised his ministry. From Zebulon he collected his apostles. Nazareth, Cana, and Capernaum, were chief cities of this tribe. But the coast of Zebulon is chiefly remarkable among the tribes, as the great medium of intercourse with the nations; and Zebulon in its later history represented that of which the prophet says, The abundance of the seas shall be converted to thee.
ISSACHAR, hire or reward. This prophecy gives a most remarkable character of this tribe. The hieroglyphic of Issachar'is an ass, intimating their being patient under injuries, and such lovers of ease, that they would rather submit to be tributaries to others, than enter into war or any contest with them, to interrupt their beloved repose. The land of Issachar was subject to inroads from enemies, and was the scene of many battles. That tribe became willing tributaries, and served the gods of the nations. The expression, two burdens, however, seems particularly to respect their situation between the Assyrians and Babylonians. After the captivity, they saw the land was pleasant; therefore they planted vineyards, and gave their backs to the burden.
Dan, judgment. While considering the history of Dinah, chapter xxxiv. we have in part considered this prophecy. Dan was one of the most eminent of the tribes, but was the first which fell back into idolatry ; and finally not only relapsed into com. plete heathenism, but was an enticing and envenomed adder to the other tribes. With the dreadful apostacy of this tribe full in his view, Jacob says, “I have waited for thy salvation, O God!' Here is indeed a grand prophetical display of what befel the tribes of Israel in the later days. As among the twelve sons of Jacob, one with his posterity appears devoted to final apostacy ; so among the twelve apostles of the Lamb, is there one, the son of perdition, who with his whole tribe go into perdition. Dan judged among the tribes ; Judas was deacon of the apostles, and betrayed his master with a kiss. But of all the descriptions of Antichrist, which the book of God contains, none are more expressive and exact, than that prefigured by Dan. He appeared literally, as a serpent by the way. All deceivable. ness of unrighteousness, doctrines of demons, and unclean spirits, have characterised the New Testament Dan : with these he bit the horse heels, so that his rider fell backward. The force of every word in this description will carry itself to the mind of the reader conversant in the history of Antichrist.
Gav, a troop or band. • A troop cometh,' said his mother at his birth. This was literally fulfilled when he settled beyond Jordan in the wilderness. As he was much exposed to the ravages of the Arabs and Hagarenes, that tribe kept close together, banded or trooped in warlike posture ; but he overcame at last, 1 Chron. v. 19. 21. Moses prophesied in like manner of them, Deut. xxxiii. 20. Gad seems to exhibit a picture of God's troop, his church. They also, while on the other side Jordan, are much exposed to their enemies : they are kept constantly in a state of warfare, but they shall overcome at last.
Asher, blessing. The blessing of Asher was literally fulfilled in the portion of that tribe ; his land abounded in corn and oil, and produced provision for a royal table. The words literally are, his bread shall be oiled ; and thus Moses says, “ He shall dip his feet in oil. Similar language is used by Job, to point out luxuriant plenty, Job xxix. 6. Asher the blessing, is a fine figure of the church of Christ; and we accordingly find, that the prosperity and happiness of the church is frequently foretold under figures expressly applied to this tribe. We read of her members being fat and flourishing. The Spirit of God is the oil, the great blessing which comes from our A sher; and he fills our table with royal dainties.
NAPHTALI, my writing. There are two versions of the blessing of Naphtali, and both of them were fully verified; the 1st, Naphtali is a well-spread oak, which sendeth out pleasant branches. Now this was certainly the appearance of this tribe in after ages: it was one of the most numerous in Israel. But we are inclined to adhere to our own version, which is supported, both by the literal words, the history of that tribe, and its spiritual tendency. The hind was the emblem of the first breaking dawn of the morning, the messenger and harbinger of day ; so a faithful messenger is compared to a hind. In this manner the Jews paraphrase it : . he is a swift messenger, as a hart on the mountains, bringing good tidings of good.' It is said, that on the high mountains of Naphtali, the jubilee was first proclaimed to Israel, and these were indeed goodly words. In the later