Page images
[ocr errors]

people who lived in the times of Jeremiah are called Rachel's children.* The babes which Herod murdered are also so called ; and she herself, though long since dead, is supposed to rise, as it were, out of her grave, and witness the bloody deed : yea more, to stand upon it, and weep, refusing to be comforted, because they were not !

Ver. 21. It is proper that Jacob, or, as he is now called, Israel, after having interred his beloved Rachel, should remove to some little distance, at least, from her grave.

The tower of Edar near to which he next spread his tent, was in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem. In removing, however, from the scene of one sorrow, he is soon overtaken by another. While dwelling in that land, a criminal intercourse took place between Reuben and Bilhah, his father's wife. It was done in secret ; but Israel heard of it. For this his unnatural wickedness, Reuben was afterwards cursed as a tribe, the heavier on account of his being the first-born of the family.f By his conduct, however, in reference to his brother Joseph, f he seems to have obtained at least a mitigation of his punishment : for Moses, in blessing the tribes, said of him, Let Reuben live, and not die, and let not his men be few. Yet even here, he does but live : no idea is suggested that be should ever excel, and with this the history of his tribe, in after ages, perfectly accords.

Ver. 22.–26. The history will henceforward principally respect the sons of Jacob, as being the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. We bave here, therefore, at the outset, a particular account of them, as descended from the different wives of their father Jacob.

Ver. 27-29. Before the sacred writer, however, proceeds to narrate their history, he finishes two other subjects, that the thread of the story may not be broken. One of them is the conclusion of the life of Isaac ; and the other, which is contained in the thirty

; sixth chapter, a brief sketch of the family and temporal prosperity of Esau. If the first of these events had been introduced in the order of time, it would have fallen in the midst of the history of

[ocr errors]

(* Jer. xxxi, 15.

+ Chap. xlix. 4.

# Chap. xxxvii. 20. 22.



for it occurred about twelve or thirteen years after his being sold into Egypt. There are not many particulars concerning it. Jacob seems to have been sent for just in time to witness his father's decease. By the years of his life, namely, a hundred and

d fourscore, it appears that he must have lived fifty-seven years in a state of blindness and inactivity. This is one of the mysteries of Providence which often strike us : an aged and afflicted person, whose usefulness appears to us at an end, shall have his life prolonged, while a hundred active young people around him shall be cut off. We know not the reason of these things in the present state ; but we may know it hereafter.

Chap. xxxvi. With respect to Esau, he and his brother had been together at their father's funeral, and for aught that appears were on brotherly terms. In the course of this chapter we find them separated ; not however from any difference arising between them, but on account of their great prosperity. Their riches are said to have been more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them, because of their cattle.

The account which is here given of him and his posterity is, however, a kind of leave taken of them : we shall hear no more of Esau, nor of his descendants, but as enemies to the people of God. It is remarkable that three times in this chapter when Esau is spoken of, we meet with the phrase This is Edom, and once, He is Esau, the father. of the Edomites.*

We have seen that the name of Edom was given him on account of his sanguinary disposition ;t and as this was notoriously the character of the Edomites, especially towards Israel, it would seem as if the Holy Spirit would have it well remembered that the bitterest enemies of the church of God descended from this man. He seems to be marked as the father of persecutors, in some such manner as Abaz is marked for his wickedness of another kind, This is that king Ahaz.

Finally : It is remarkable that Esau, though he had despised and lost his birthright, yet was prospered in his lifetime, and for several generations, more than his brother. While the latter was

* Verges 1. 9. 19. 43.

+ Chap. XXV. 24–34.

I Chron. xxviii. 22.

a servant at Padan-aram, he established his dominion in mount Seir ; and while the descendants of the one were groaning under Egyptian bondage, those of the other were formed into an independent kingdom, and bad eight kings in succession, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel. In this manner did God order things, to show, it may be, that the most valuable blessings require the greatest exercise of faith and patience.



Gen. Xxxvii.

We now enter on the very interesting history of Joseph, a history in which I feel not pleasure only, but a portion of dismay ; and this because I have but little hope of doing justice to it. It is a history, perhaps unequalled, for displaying the various workings of the human mind, both good and bad, and the singular providence of God in making use of them for the accomplishment of his purposes.

Ver. 1. Jacob is represented as droelling in the land wherein his father was a stranger. The character of sojourners was common to the patriarchs : it is that which Jacob afterwards confessed before Pharaoh ; on which the Apostle remarks, that they who say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

Ver. 2. The generations of Jacob, seem here to inean his family history : so the word is used of Adam, Chap. v. 1. Aod Joseph being, as we should say, the chief hero of the tale, it begins with him. It was the design of the sacred writer, in the course of his parration, to tell of all the great events of that family: as of their going down into Egypt, remaining there for a number of years, and at last being brought out by the mighty hand of God : at present his object is to lead us to the origin of these events, as to the spring-head of a great river, or to describe the minute circumstances by which they were brought about.

Joseph was distinguished by his early piety. His brethren were most, if not all of them, very wicked ; and he being frequently with them in the field, saw and heard such things as greatly


affected bim. We are not told what they were : the oracles of God have thrown a veil over them till the judgment-day. Suffice it for us to know, that the mind of this godly youth was burt by their conversation and behaviour, and that he could not be easy without disclosing particulars to his father. In this he was to be -commended, for though a child should not indulge, nor be indulged by his parents, in reporting every trivial tale to the disadvantage of his brothers or sisters ; yet where wickedness is acted, it ought not to be concealed. The parents should know it, that they may correct it ; or that cannot be, that they may be enabled to counteract its effects. But that which was commendable in him produced hatred in them. They would perceive that he did not join them when in company, and perhaps the carriage of their father would lead them to suspect that this his favourite son had been their

In this, the outset of Joseph's story, we perceive a striking resemblance between him and our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the world hated, because he testified of it that the works thereof were evil.

Here, therefore, before I proceed any further, I would offer a few words on the question, Whether Joseph is to be considered as a type of Christ ? I am far from thinking that every point of analogy which may be traced by a lively imagination, was designed as such by the Holy Spirit ; yet neither do I think that we are warranted to reject the idea. We have already seen that God prepared the way for the coming of his Son, by a variety of things, in which the great principles of his undertaking were prefigured, and so rendered familiar to the minds of men ;* and he pursued the same object by a variety of persons, in whom the life and character of Christ were in some degree previously manifest. Thus Melchizedek prefigured him as a priest, Moses as a phophet, and David as a king; and I cannot but think that in the history of Joseph there is a portion of designed analogy between them. But to return

Ver. 3, 4. The hatred of Joseph's brethren, on account of his reports, was not diminished, but heightened by his father's

* See the notes on Chap. vi. 18. xvii. 4.

« PreviousContinue »