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by force of arms.* This portion he gave to Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim afterwards possessed it. The hazard at which this portion was obtained would no doubt endear it to Joseph ; for we prize those things which they who were dear to us acquired at a great expense. On this principle we have often been admonished to hold fast our civil liberties. On this principle especially, it becomes us to value our religious advantages, for which so much blood has been shed. And on this principle we are called to prize, more than any thing, the hope of the gospel, to obtain which our Saviour laid down his life!
JACOB'S BLESSINGS ON THE TRIBES.
VER. 1, 2. JACOB, having blessed Joseph's sons, and feeling that he drew near his end, sent for the rest of his children, that be might, in the same prophetic stýle, declare to them what should befall them, and their posterity after them. The solemn manner in which he called them together, and bespoke their attention, shows, that, being under a divine inspiration, he would deliver things of great importance ; and such as, corresponding in many instances, not only with the meaning of their names, but with their personal conduct, would furnish matter for reflection and encouragement.
Ver. 3, 4. Reuben, being his first-born son, is first addressed. He is reminded of his superior advantages. He was the first effect of his might, or the beginning of his strength ; and to him, as such, naturally belonged the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power. But as Esau, and others, forfeited the birthright, so did Reuben: His character did not answer to the dignity of his situation. He is charged with being unstable as water. The word is used I believe, in only three other places in the Old Testament,* and in them it is rendered light, or lightness: denoting, not only a readiness to turn aside for want of solid principles, but that species of levity in particular which belongs to a lascivious mind, and which is ordinarily denominated looseness, or lewdness. Such was the spirit of Reuben, or he could not have
acted as he did towards Bilhah, his fathers wife. The manner in which the patriarch expatiates upon this crime, shows how heinous it was in his eyes. Thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it. Aod to show his abhorrence, be turns away from him, and addressed his other sons, as it were by way of appeal : He went up to my couch! For this lewd behaviour he is told, he shall not excel. It is a brief mode of expression, alluding to the excellency of dignity and of power which pertained to him as the first-boro ; and denotes that all his advantages were reversed by his base conduct, and that which would otherwise bave been a blessing, was turned into a curse. The double portion was taken from him, and given, as we have seen, to Joseph,t the kingdom to Judah, and the priesthood to Levi; and thus the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power, were separated from his tribe, which never sustained any conspicuous character in Israel.
From what is said of Reuben, we may learn the offensive, the debasing, and the dangerous nature of that light-mindedness which indulges in filthiness and foolish talking, jesting and lewd behaviour. Sucb appears to have been the spirit of the false prophets in the times of Jeremiah, whose lies and lightness caused God's people to err. And such, alas, is the character of too many who sustain the name of Christians, and even of Christian ministers, at this day! Assuredly they shall not excel; and without repentance, woe unto them, when God sball call them to account !
Ver. 5.-7. The next in order of years are Simeon and Levi who also in their posterity, shall reap the bitter fruits of their early sins ; and having not only descended from the same parents, but been associated in iniquity, they according to the meaning of the name of the latter, are joined together in receiving the reward of it. At the time when these young men, with equal treachery and cruelty, took each his sword and slew the Shechemites, Jacob expresses his disapprobation of the deed : but now he censures it in the strongest terms. Instruments of cruelty are in their habita. tions; which is saying that they were bloody men. Ainsworth
* Chap. XXXV. 22. + Chap. xlviii. 5-7. $ Jer, xxiii. 32.
renders it, sojourning habitations, which heightens the sin, as being committed in a place where they had no residence, but by the courtesy of the country. O my soul, come not thou into their secret ; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united! What we cannot prevent we must be contented to disavow, having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. These young men took counsel together : they were very careful to conceal their design from Jacob their father, knowing before band that he would be certain to oppose their schemes ; and now Jacob is po less careful to disavow all connexion with them in the horrid deed. Such a disavowal, though it must give the most acute pain to the sons, yet was worthy of the father. A great deal of evil had been wrought in his family: but be it known to all the world, by the dying testimony which he bears against it, that it was altogether contrary to bis mind. And let young people hear and know, that the crimes of youth will sometimes find them out. If they repent, and obtain mercy, as there is reason to believe these
young men did, yet they shall reap the bitter fruits of their sin in the present life : and if they remain impenitent, tribulation and anguish will overtake them in the next.
The crime of these brethren is thus described : In their anger they slew a man, even Hamor, king of the country, as well as Shechem bis son ; and that, not in the open field of contest, but by assassination ! Anger in general is outrageous ; but in young men, whose immature judgment and slender experience afford but little check to it, it is commonly the most mischievous. In their self-will they digged doron a wall, or as some render it, they hough. ed the oxen.* The former would express their breaking into houses to murder the inhabitants, and the latter their cruelty, extending even to the dumb animals. Anger, when accompanied with self-will, rages like fire before the wind. How important is the government of one's own spirit : and considering what human nature is, what a mercy it is that the wrath of man is under the divine control! If Simeon and Levi had not repented of this sin, it is likely that the curse, like that of Noah on Canaan, would bave
* So the LXX, 6v tu tridupir outwn eveUPCHOTT NORV Taipov. But rather, “They exterminated a prince.” See p. 343. Vol. V.
fallen upon their persons ; but as it was, it alights only upon their dispositions and actions : Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce ; and their wrath, for it was cruel! God in mercy forgave them, but took vengeance of their inventions. And with respect to the tribes of which they were the heads, they were to be divided and scattered in Israel. “ The Levites," says
were scattered throughout all the tribes, and Simeon's lot lay not together, and was so strait that many of that tribe were forced to disperse themselves in quest of settlements and subsistence. This curse was afterwards turned into a blessing to the Levites ; but the Simeonites, for Zimri's sin, bad it bound on. (Numb. xxv.) Shameful divisions are the just punishment of sipful unions and confederacies."
Ver. 8-12. From what was said of tbe first three sons, the rest might begin to tremble, lest the whole should be a succession of curses instead of blessings. But in wbat respects Judah, we see a glorious reverse. The blessedness of this tribe principally consists in that blessing which was in it, the Lord Messiah. Judah, saith the patriarch, thou art he whom thy brethren shall PRAISE ; thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies: thy father's children shall bow down before thee. In the first sentence, allusion is had to his name, which signifies praise ; and the meaning of the whole is, that this tribe should be distinguished, first by its victories over the Canaanites, and afterwards by its being the tribe which God would choose, to bear rule in Israel. Hence also it is represented in verse 9, by a lion, the most majestic of animals, and the proper emblem of royalty. Much of this prophecy was doubtless fulfilled in David, and his successors : but all was prefigurative of the Messiah, who, in allusion to this passage, is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In him all that is said of Judah is eminently fulfilled. He is indeed the object of praise, his hand has been in tbe neck of his enemies, and before him bis brethren bave bowed down. Grappling with the powers of darkness, we see him as a lion tearing the prey ; ascending above all beaveus, as a lion going up from tbe prey ; and seated at the right hand of God, as a lion