Of those who correctly consider Japheth to be the subject, several (J. D. Michaelis, Vater, Gesenius, Winer, Knobel) give the translation: "and he shall dwell in renowned habitations." But it is quite evident that this sense is admissible only as a secondary one: as such, we must indeed admit it in a context in which the appellative signification of the proper names is never lost sight of. That [Hebrew: wM] is here, however, primarily a proper name, is shown by the preceding verse.
The translation, "Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem," is, then, the correct one. But now the question is,—How are these words to be understood? According to the views of many interpreters, it is intimated by Japheth's dwelling in the tents of Shem, that the true religion would be preserved among the posterity of Shem, and would pass over from them to the descendants of Japheth, who should be received into the community [Pg 43] of the worshippers of the true God. So Jonathan explained its meaning: "The Lord shall make glorious the end of Japheth; his sons shall be proselytes, and shall dwell in the schools of Shem." So also Jerome: "Since it is said, And he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, this is a prophecy concerning us, who, after the rejection of Israel, enjoy the instruction and knowledge of the Scriptures." Augustine also (c. Faustum xii. 24) understands by the tents of Shem, "the churches which the apostles, the sons of the prophets, have built up."
But although this explanation be, in the main, correct, it cannot, per se, satisfy us. It must be reconciled with that other explanation given by Bochart (Phaleg. iii. 1 c. 147 sqq.), Calmet, Clericus, and others, according to which the passage is to be understood literally, as foretelling that the posterity of Japheth should, at some future time, gain possession of the country belonging to the descendants of Shem, and should reduce them to subjection.
The phrase, "and they dwelt in their tents," is, in 1 Chron. v. 10, used to express the relation of conquerors and conquered. There is no parallel passage which could indubitably prove that "dwelling in the tents of some one" could ever, by itself, denote spiritual communion with him. If Shem had come to Japheth with the announcement of salvation only, it is not likely that a dwelling of Japheth in the tents of Shem would have been spoken of. Even the last clause of the verse—"and Canaan shall be a servant to them"—when compared with the preceding verse, according to which Canaan is, in the first place, to be Shem's servant only, supposes that Japheth will step beyond his borders, and will invade the territory naturally belonging to Shem. If Japheth assume the dominion of Shem over Canaan, he must then dwell in the tents of Shem in a sense different from the merely spiritual one. Finally—Even in other passages of the Pentateuch, an invasion of Shem's territory by Japheth is foretold. In Num. xxiv. 24, Balaam says: "And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish." "We have here (compare my monography on Balaam) the announcement of a future conquest of the Asiatic kingdoms by nations from Europe, such as was historically realized in the Asiatic dominion of the Greeks and Romans."
On the other hand, however, it must not by any means be supposed that Noah should, in favour of Japheth, have weakened the power of the brilliant promise given to Shem by the announcement of such a sad event; for it is evidently his intention to exalt Shem above his brethren, as highly as he had excelled them both in his piety towards his father.
The difficulties which stand in the way of either explanation are easily removed by the following consideration. The occupation of the land of Shem by Japheth is the condition of Japheth's dwelling in the tents of Shem. Why this dwelling is a blessing to Japheth—"God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell," etc.—appears from what precedes, according to which, God reveals Himself to Shem as Jehovah, and becomes his God. To be received into the fellowship of Jehovah—to find Him in the tents of Shem—constitutes the blessing promised to Japheth. But if such be the case, there can be no more room for speaking of an announcement of any event adverse to Shem. Underneath the adversity, joy is hidden. It will here be fulfilled in its highest sense, that the conquered give laws to the conquerors.
"And Canaan shall be a servant to them." The servitude of Canaan was completed by Japheth, among whose sons (Gen. x. 2) Madai also appears; so that even the Medo-Persian kingdom is one of Japheth's. Ph[oe]nicia was completely overthrown by him. Haughty Tyrus fell to the ground. Zech. ix. 3, 4, when announcing the Greek dominion (compare ver. 13), says: "And Tyrus did build herself a stronghold, and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and He will smite her power in the sea, and she shall be devoured with fire."
The objection raised by Tuch and Hofmann, that the Greeks and Romans made Shem also their servant, is, after what has been remarked, destitute of all weight, inasmuch as the servitude then had reference only to the lower territory. Shem and Judah were not injured in that which, in ver. 26, had been pointed at as their chief and peculiar good. On the contrary, it shone out, on that occasion, in its highest glory. Canaan, however, lost that upon which he set the highest value. In the case of Canaan, the servitude was the consequence of the curse; but in the case of Shem, the outward servitude was a consequence of [Pg 45] the blessing, the most emphatic verification of the words: "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem."
It must indeed fill us with adoring wonder when we see how clearly and distinctly the outlines of the world's history, as well as of the history of Salvation, are here traced. "This," says Calvin, "is indeed a support to our faith of no common strength, that the calling of the Gentiles was not only predestined in God's eternal decree, but also publicly proclaimed by the mouth of the Patriarch; so that we are not required to believe that by a sudden and fortuitous event merely, the inheritance of eternal life was proclaimed to all men in common."
It is not a matter of chance that this prophecy was given immediately after the deluge, which stands out as so great an event in the history of the fallen human race,—the first event, indeed, subsequent to the fall, with which the Protevangelium was connected. A new period begins with the calling of Abraham, and in it we obtain another link in the chain of the prophecies,—a link which fits as exactly into that which is now under consideration, as did this into the Protevangelium. The import of this prophecy is: "The kingdom of God shall be established in Shem, and Japheth shall be received into its community."—The meaning of the prophecy which is now to engage our attention is: "By the posterity of the Patriarchs all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." The promise to the Patriarchs differs, however, from the prophecy upon which we have just commented, not only in the natural progress—that from among the descendants of Shem a narrower circle is separated—but in this circumstance also, that in the former the blessing is extended to all the nations of the earth, while in the latter Ham is passed over in silence. This difference, however, has its main foundation in the historical circumstances of the latter prophecy; although, it is true, the complete silence which is observed regarding him, calls forth apprehensions about his being less susceptible of salvation, or, at least, of his not occupying any prominent position in the development of the kingdom of God. Here, where the object was to punish Ham for his wickedness, not the prosperous, but the adverse events impending upon him in his posterity, are brought prominently out; while, on the other hand, to Shem and Japheth blessings alone are foretold.
Footnote 1: The object of this event, as pointed out by Calvin, viz., that God intended to give to all coming ages, in the person of Noah, a warning and an exhortation to temperance, would likewise be frustrated by this unwarrantable apology.
Footnote 2: The reverse is the case with reference to Aram, which is essentially a lowland, while these critics would have us to believe that it means "highland." (Compare Baur on Amos, S. 229.)
Footnote 3: Bochart remarks: "He cursed the guilty one in his own person, because the source and nourishment of evil is in man himself. But, rejoiced at Shem's piety, he rather blessed the Lord, because he knew that God is the Author of everything which is good."
Footnote 4: With reference to the difference between these two names, compare the disquisitions in the author's "Genuineness of the Pent.," vol. i. p. 213 ff.
Footnote 5: Our English authorized version translates the first clause of this verse thus: "And Leah said, A troop cometh,"—a rendering which cannot be objected to on etymological grounds, and which receives some support from Gen. xlix. 19. The ancient versions, however, are quite unanimous in assigning to the [Hebrew: gd] in [Hebrew: bgd] the signification of "fortune," "good luck;" and render it either: "in or for good luck;" "luckily," "happily" (so the LXX. et Vulg.), or, following Onkelos and the Mazorets: "good luck has come."—(Tr.)
THE PROMISE TO THE PATRIARCHS.
A great epoch is, in Genesis, ushered in with the history of the time of the Patriarchs. Luther says: "This is the third period in which Holy Scripture begins the history of the Church with a new family." In a befitting manner, the representation is opened in Gen. xii. 1-3 by an account of the first revelation of God, given to Abraham at Haran, in which the way is opened up for all that follows, and in which the dispensations of God are brought before us in a rapid survey. Abraham is to forsake everything, and then God will give him everything.
Gen. xii. 1. "And the Lord said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy hone, and from thy father's house, into a land that I will show thee. Ver. 2. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. Ver. 3. And I will bless them that bless thee, and him who curseth thee I will curse: and in thee all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
"Into a land that I will show thee." From what follows, it appears that, in the very same revelation, the country was afterwards more definitely pointed out; for Abraham, without having received any new revelation, goes to Canaan, For the sake of brevity, the writer gives the details only afterwards, when he has occasion to report how they were carried out. The land which God will show to Abraham, stands contrasted with that in which he is at home,—in which he and his whole being had taken root. This contrast points out the greatness of the sacrifice which God demands of Abraham. With a like intent we have the accumulation of expressions—"out of thy land," etc.—corresponding to a similar one when the command was given to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. xxii. 2), and forming the condition of the promise which follows. This promise is intended to make the sacrifice a light thing to Abraham, by pointing out what he is to receive if he give up everything which stands in the way of his living to God. A similar call comes to all who feel impelled to renounce the world in order to serve God. This call to Abraham is peculiar only as to its form; as to its essence, it is ever repeating itself. This will appear the more distinctly, when we inquire into the true reason of the outward separation here demanded of [Pg 47] Abraham. It can be Intended only as a means of the internal separation. In the circle in which he lived, sin had already made a mighty progress, as appears from Josh. xxiv. 2,—a passage which shows us that idolatry had already made its way into the family of Abraham. In order to withdraw him from the influences of this corruption, Abraham is removed from the circle in which he had grown up, and in which he had hitherto moved. That the special thing here demanded is only the result of the general duty of renunciation and self-denial, which is here, in Abraham, laid upon the whole Church, appears from the circumstance, that the promise was renewed at a subsequent period, when, with a willing heart, he had offered up his son Isaac as a spiritual sacrifice to his God. The carnal, ungodly love to Isaac is thus placed on a level with the attachment to the land, etc., which came betwixt him and his God. The general idea, that self-renunciation lies at the foundation, is brought out in Psalm xlv. 11.
The words, "And thou shalt be a blessing," imply more than the words, "I will bless thee:" they are intentionally placed in the centre of the whole promise. Abraham shall, as it were, be an embodied blessing—himself blessed, and the cause of blessing to all those who bless him—to all the generations of the earth who shall, at some future period, enter into this loving and grateful relation to him. On the ground of Abraham's self-denial, and unreserved surrender, blessing is poured out upon him, blessing also on his account and through him. The blessing connected with him begins with himself, and extends over all the families of the earth.
"And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee I will curse. The blessing is based upon the turning to Him who has appointed Abraham for a blessing, as we may learn from the example of Melchizedek, Gen. xiv. 19. They who bless are themselves not far from the kingdom of God; blessing, therefore, is the preparatory step towards being blessed. (Compare Matt. x. 40-42.)
"And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Luther says: "Now there follows the right promise, which ought to be written in golden letters, and proclaimed in all lands, and for which we ought to praise and glorify."
The promise stands here in close connection with the Mosaic [Pg 48] history of the creation. According to that, man, as such, bears upon him the impress of the divine image. Gen. i. 26, and is the depository of the divine breath. Gen. ii. 7. From such a beginning, we cannot conceive of any limitation of salvation which is not, at the same time, a means of its universal extension. It must therefore be in entire accordance with the nature of the thing, that even here, where the setting apart of a particular chosen race takes its rise, there should be an intimation of its universally comprehensive object. There is, in the circumstance of families being spoken of, a distinct reference to the history of creation; [Hebrew: mwpHh] everywhere corresponds exactly with our word "family." It is everywhere used only of the subdivisions in the greater body of the nation or tribe. The expression, then, points to the higher unity of the whole human race, as it has its foundation in the fact that all partake in common of the divine image.
The announcement of the blessing in this passage leads us back to the curse pronounced in consequence of sin, Gen. iii. 17: "Cursed is the ground (Adamah) for thy sake." (Compare Gen. v. 29.) This curse is, at some future time, to be abolished by Abraham. We can account for the mention of the families of the "Adamah" only by supposing that a reference to this passage was fully intended; for it was just the "Adamah" (primarily, "land") which had there been designated as the object of the curse.
In announcing that all the families shall be blessed in Abraham, the writer refers also to the judgment described in Gen. xi., by which the family of mankind,—which, according to the intention of God, ought to have been united,—was dispersed and separated. When viewed in this connection, we expect that the blessing will manifest itself in the healing of the deep wound inflicted upon mankind, in the re-establishment of the lost unity, and in the gathering again of the scattered human race around Abraham as their centre.
Beyond this, no other disclosure about the nature of this salvation is given. But that it consisted essentially in the union with God accomplished through the medium of Abraham, and that everything else could be viewed as emanating only from this source, was implied simply in the circumstance, that all the blessing which Abraham enjoyed for himself had its origin in [Pg 49] this, that he could call God his God; just as, in Gen. ix., it had been declared as the blessing of Shem, that Jehovah should be his God, and as the blessing of Japheth, that he was called to become a partaker of this blessing. The blessings which were either bestowed upon or promised to the Patriarchs and their descendants, had for their object the advancement of knowledge and the practice of true religion, and had been bestowed or promised only under this condition (compare Gen. xvii. 1, xvii. 17-19, xxii. 16-18, xxvi. 5); they could not hence expect anything else than that their posterity would, in so far, be the cause of the salvation of the heathen nations, that the latter should, by means of the former, be made partakers of the blessings of true religion.
With regard to the manner in which this blessing was to come to the Gentiles, no intimation was given by the words themselves. The person of the Redeemer is not yet brought before us in them; the indication of that was reserved for a later stage in the progress of revelation.
The last clause of ver. 3 cannot, by any means, take away from the import of the preceding one; the announcement of the blessing which, through Abraham, is to come upon all the families of the earth, does not repeal the foregoing one, according to which all shall be cursed who curse him. This view is confirmed by an allusion to this announcement in Zech. xiv. 16-19, where the words, "the families of the earth," must be regarded as a quotation. In ver. 16, the prophet says that all the Gentiles shall go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles; but then, in vers. 17-19, he intimates the punishment of those who should refuse to go up. Luther says: "If you wish to [Pg 50] comprehend in a few words the history of the Church from the time of Abraham down to our days, then consider diligently these four verses. For in them you will find the blessing; but you will see also, that those who curse the Church are cursed, in turn, by God; so that they must perish, while the eternal seed of the Church stands unmoved and unshaken. For which reason, this text agrees with the first promise given in Paradise, concerning the seed which is to bruise the serpent's head. For the Church is not without enemies, but is assailed and harassed so that she groans under it; but yet, by this seed, she is invincible, and shall at length be victorious, and triumphant over all her enemies, in eternity."
References to this fundamental prophecy are found in other parts of the Old Testament, besides the passage just quoted from Zechariah. In the 28th verse of Ps. xxii., which was written by David, it is said: "All the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the families of the Gentiles shall worship before Thee." The realization of the blessing announced in Genesis, to all the families of the earth, appears in this psalm as being connected with the wonderful deliverance of the just. Another reference is in Ps. lxxii., which was written by Solomon. In ver. 17 of this psalm it is said of Solomon's great Antitype: "And they shall bless themselves in Him, all nations shall bless Him." In these words the realization of the Abrahamitic blessing is distinctly connected with the person of the Redeemer.
Among the New Testament references, the most remarkable is in John viii. There, in ver. 53, the Jews say to Christ: "Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? Whom makest thou thyself?" Jesus, in ver. 56, answers: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad," In ver. 57 the Jews reply: "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" In ver. 58 Jesus thus says to them: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."
Let us here, in the first place, consider only the declaration of Jesus, that Abraham rejoiced to see His day, and was glad. It is altogether out of the question to think of any such explanation of this as the one given by Luecke, after the example of Lampe namely: "that Abraham, in the heavenly life, as a blessed [Pg 51] spirit with God, saw the day of the Lord, and in heaven rejoiced in the fulfilment." For it is the custom of Jesus to argue with the Jews from Scripture; and He cannot, therefore, here be appealing to an assumed fact which could not be proved from it. The answer of the Jews, in ver. 57, is likewise opposed to such an explanation, inasmuch as it proceeds from a supposition which Jesus had acknowledged to be true, namely, that the question at issue was a meeting of Christ with Abraham not mentioned in history; and in ver. 58 Christ sets aside their argument, "Thou art not yet fifty years old." But Luecke must himself bear testimony against his own interpretation, inasmuch as, according to it, he is obliged to speak of "the very foolish question of the adversaries."
Jesus saw Abraham, and Abraham saw Jesus. Not the person, but the day of Christ, was future to Abraham. And this can be explained only by Jesus' being concealed behind Jehovah who appeared to him, and gave him the promise, that in him and his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. This blessing of all the families of the earth is the day of Jehovah,—the day when He will be glorified on the earth.
The key to the right understanding of this is furnished by the doctrine of the Angel of the Lord, which meets us as early as in Genesis. From the passages in which, at the appearances and revelations of Jehovah, the mediation of the Angel is expressly mentioned, we infer that it (the mediation) took place even when Jehovah by Himself is spoken of; and the more so, since, even in the former series of passages, the simple name of Jehovah is commonly varied by that of the Angel of Jehovah. The Evangelist John's whole doctrine of the Logos points to the personal identity of Jesus with the Angel of the Lord. Not less so does the passage, John xii. 41; and there is unquestionably a purpose which cannot be misunderstood in the fact, that, throughout the discourses of Jesus, as reported by John, the declaration that God sent Him occurs with such frequency and regularity. But we can scarcely conceive of any other purpose than that of marking out Jesus as the Angel or Messenger of Jehovah spoken of in the writings of the Old Testament. Compare, e.g., xii. 44, [Pg 52] 45: "Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me; and he that seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me." So also iv. 34, v. 23, 24, 30, 37, vi. 38-40, vii. 16, 28, 33, viii. 16, 18, 26, 29, ix. 4, xii. 49, xiii. 20, xiv. 24, xv. 21, xvi. 5.
Let us now, in addition, turn to the words, "Abraham rejoiced to see (literally, that he might see) My day." It cannot be liable to any doubt, that these words express the heartfelt, joyful desire of Abraham to see that day, and that Bengel correctly explains it by the words: gestivit cum desiderio. It is true, [Greek: agalliaomai] signifies, by itself, only "to rejoice;" but it has added to it the idea of joyful desire by its being connected with [Greek: hina]. The words now under consideration are expressive of Abraham's joy and longing in the spirit for the manifestation of the day of Jehovah and of Christ, while those in the last clause of the verse express the gratification of this longing, which was produced by his receiving the promise that all the families of the earth should be blessed.
The ardent desire of Abraham to see the day of Christ implies that he already knew Christ, which can be the case only on the supposition of Christ's concealment in Jehovah. This longing desire is not expressly mentioned in Genesis, but it is most intimately connected with all living faith, and must necessarily precede such divine communications. The seed of the divine promises is everywhere sown only in a well prepared soil. That the promise in 2 Sam. vii. was to David, in like manner, a gratification of his anxious desire—an answer to prayer—we are not, it is true, expressly told in the historical record; and yet, that it was so, is evident from the words of Ps. xxi. 3: "Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips." There is here, then, express mention made of that which is a matter of course, and which forms the necessary condition of that which was reported in Genesis.
We are furnished by the Book of Genesis itself with the right explanation of what is meant by the day of Christ, about which interpreters have so frequently erred. It is not the time of His first appearing, but, in accordance with the New Testament mode of expression (e.g., Phil. i. 10), the time of His glorification. The day of Christ is the time when the promise, "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed," shall be fulfilled.
Peter quotes this promise in Acts iii. 25, 26. Among the families of the earth he enumerates, first and chiefly, the people of the Old Testament dispensation; and he does so with perfect propriety, since there is no warrant whatever for limiting it to the Gentiles.
Paul probably refers to this promise when, in Rom. iv. 13, he speaks of a promise given to Abraham and his seed that he should be the heir of the world. A blessing imparted to the whole world is a spiritual victory obtained over the world. The world is, in a spiritual sense, conquered by Abraham and his seed. Express references are found in Gal. iii. 8, 14, 16.
The same promise is repeated to Abraham in Gen. xviii. 18. Instead of the [Hebrew: mwpHvt hadmh] (the families of the earth), the [Hebrew: gvii harC] (the nations of the earth) are there mentioned; the family-connection is lost sight of, and the comprehensiveness only—the catholic character of the blessing—is prominently brought out. This promise is a third time repeated to Abraham in chap. xxii. 18, on a very appropriate occasion, even that on which, by his endurance of the greatest trial, and by his willingness to sacrifice to God even what was dearest to him, he had proved himself a worthy heir of it. It is certainly not a matter of mere accident that this promise is just three times given to Abraham. There is in this a correspondence with the three individuals to whom the same promise is addressed. Abraham, however, as the first of them, and as the father of the faithful, could not be put on the same footing with the others. Instead of "in thee," or "by thee" ([Hebrew: bK]), we read in xxii. 18, "in" or "by thy seed" ([Hebrew: bzreK]). The same promise is confirmed to Isaac in chap. xxvi. 14, and it is transferred to Jacob in chap. xxviii. 14. But while, in the first and second passages, it is said, "by thee," and in the third and fourth, "by thy seed," we read, in the passage last mentioned, "by thee and thy seed." This evidently shows that, in those passages where we find "by thee" standing alone, we are not at liberty to explain it as meaning simply: "by thy seed." It is not only the seed of Abraham, but Abraham himself also, who is to be the medium of blessing to the nations, as the foundation-stone of the large building of the Church of God, as the father of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh, and as the father of all believers.
There is a deep reason for the fact that, wherever the posterity [Pg 54] of the Patriarchs are spoken of as the instruments of blessing, the singular is always used. This circumstance is pointed out by Paul in Gal. iii. 16. The Apostle does not in the least think of maintaining that, by [Hebrew: zre] "seed," only a single individual could be signified. Such an opinion, no one who understood Hebrew could for a moment entertain; and Rom. iv. 13 shows that Paul was indeed very far from doing so. The further development of the promise (which took place within the limits of Genesis itself, in chap. xlix. 10), as well as its fulfilment (it is, indeed, with reference to the promise now under consideration that the lineal descent of Christ from Abraham is established at the commencement of Matthew's Gospel), showed that the real cause of the salvation bestowed upon the Gentiles was not the seed of Abraham as a whole, but one from among them, or rather He, in whom this whole posterity was comprehended and concentrated. Now, all to which Paul intends to draw our attention is the fact, that the Lord, who, when He gave the promise, had already in view its fulfilment which He had Himself to accomplish, did not unintentionally choose an expression which, besides the comprehensive meaning which would most naturally suggest itself to the Patriarchs, admitted also of the more restricted one which was confirmed by the fulfilment. In the Protevangelium, and in the promise of the Prophet in Deut. xviii., we have a case quite analogous to this; and in 2 Sam. vii. there is likewise a case which is, to a certain extent, parallel.
In two passages out of the five—in chap. xxii. 18 and xxvi. 4—the Hithpael of the verb [Hebrew: brK] instead of the Niphal is found. We meet with it also again in the derived passage in Ps. lxxii. 17, where it is said of the great King to come, "And they shall bless themselves in Him, all nations shall bless Him." In xxii. 18 and xxvi. 4, we shall be allowed to translate only thus: "They shall bless themselves in thy seed." For the Hithpael of [Hebrew: brK] always signifies "to bless oneself;" and the person from whom the blessing is derived (Isa. lxv. 16; Jer. iv. 2), or whose blessing is desired, is connected with it by means of the preposition [Hebrew: b]. (Compare Gen. xlviii. 20: "In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh.") From the nature of the case, it is evident that only the latter can be meant here. This is shown also by the derived passage [Pg 55] in Ps. lxxii. 17, where the words, "they shall bless themselves in Him," are explained by the subsequent expression, "they shall bless Him."
But it is certainly not accidental that the Hithpael is on both sides inclosed by the Niphal, and that the latter stands not only twice at the beginning, but also at the end. Hence we are not at liberty to force upon the Hithpael the signification of the Niphal; but the passages in which the Hithpael occurs must be supplemented from the real fundamental passages. "To bless oneself in" is the preparatory step to being "blessed by." The acknowledgment of the blessing calls forth the wish to be a partaker of it. (Compare Isa. xlv. 14, where, in consequence of the rich blessings poured out upon Israel, the nations make the request to be received among them.) Oftentimes in the Psalms utterance is given to the expectation that, through the blessing resting on the people of God, the Gentiles will be allowed to seek communion in it. (See my Commentary on Ps. vol. iii. p. lxxvii.) But especially in Ps. lxxii. does it clearly appear how "blessing oneself in" is connected with "being blessed by." The very same people who bless themselves in the glorious King to come, hasten to Him to partake in the fulness of the blessings which He dispenses. He has dominion from sea to sea; they that dwell in the wilderness bow before Him; all kings worship Him; all nations serve Him.
Several commentators (Clericus, Gesenius, de Wette, Maurer, Knobel, and, in substance, Hofmann also) attempt to explain the fundamental passage by the derived ones, and force upon Niphal the signification of Hithpael; so that the sense would be only that a great and, as it were, proverbial happiness and prosperity belonged to Abraham: "Holding up this name as a pattern, most of the eastern nations will comprehend all blessings in these or similar words: 'God bless thee as He blessed Abraham.'" But this explanation is, according to the usus loquendi, incorrect, inasmuch as the Niphal is used only in the signification "to be blessed," and never means "to bless oneself," or "to have or find one's blessing in something." To a difference in the significations of the Niphal and the Hithpael, we are led also by the circumstance that the Hithpael is connected only with the seed—"they shall bless themselves in thy seed,"—and the Niphal only with the person of the Patriarch: [Pg 56] "they shall be blessed in thee," and "in thee and thy seed." The Patriarchs themselves are the source of blessing, but, if these nations blessed themselves, they wish for themselves the blessing of their descendants exhibited before their eyes. The reference in Zech. xiv. 17, 18 to the promise made to the Patriarchs presupposes the Messianic character, and the passive signification of [Hebrew: nbrkv]. In like manner, all the quotations of it in the New Testament rest on the passive signification. It is from this view of it that the Lord says that Abraham saw His day; that, in Rom. iv. 13, Paul finds, in this promise, the prophecy of His conquering the world; and that, in Gal. iii. 14, he speaks of the blessing of Abraham upon the Gentiles through Christ Jesus. Gal. iii. 8 and Acts iii. 25 render [Hebrew: nbrkv] by [Greek: eneulogethesontai]. The explanation, "they shall wish prosperity or happiness to each other," is destructive of the gradation, so evident in the fundamental passage,—blessing for, on account of, and by Abraham; it cannot account for the constant, solemn repetition of this proclamation which everywhere appears as the acme of the promises given to the Patriarch; it destroys the correspondence existing between this blessing upon all the families of the earth, and the curse which, after the fall, was inflicted upon the earth; it does away with the contrast, so clearly marked, between the union of the families of the earth effected by the blessing, and their dispersion, narrated in chap. xi.; it demolishes the connection existing between the prophecy of Japheth's dwelling in the tents of Shem (ix. 27), on the one hand, and the Ruler proceeding from Judah, to whom shall be the obedience of the nations (xlix. 10), on the other; and it severs all the necessary connecting links which unite these prophecies with one another.
Another attempt to deprive this promise of its Messianic character—that, namely, made by Bertholdt (de ortu theol. Vet. Hebr. p. 102) and others, who would have us to understand, by the families and nations of the earth, the Canaanitish nations—does not require any minute examination, as the weakness of these productions of rationalistic tendency are so glaringly manifest.
Footnote 1: Herder says, in his Briefe das Studium der Theol. betr. ii. S. 278: "If, in Abraham's descendants, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, Abraham might and should have conceived of this blessing in all its generality, so that everything whereby his nation deserved well of the nations of the earth, was implied in it. If, then, Christ also belongs to the number of those noble individuals who deserved so well, the blessing refers to Him, not indirectly, but directly; and if Christ be the chief of all this number, it then most directly, and in preference to all others, refers to Him;—although, in this germ, Abraham did not distinctly perceive His person, did not, nor could, except by special revelation, in this bud, so plainly discover the full growth of His merits."
Footnote 2: Even in this he was preceded by Lampe, who remarks: "Christ had spoken of seeing the day; the Jews speak about seeing the person. He had spoken of Abraham's seeing; they speak of Christ's seeing."
THE BLESSING OF JACOB UPON JUDAH. (Gen. xlix. 8-10.)
Ver. 8. "Judah, thou, thy brethren shall praise thee; thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies; before thee shall bow down the sons of thy father. Ver. 9. A lion's whelp is Judah; from the prey, my son, thou goest up; he stoopeth down, he coucheth as a lion, and as a full-grown lion, who shall rouse him up? Ver. 10. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him the people shall adhere."
Thus does dying Jacob, in announcing "what shall befall his sons in the end of the days" (ver. 1), speak to Judah, after having dismissed those of his sons to whom, in the name of the Lord, he must tell hard things—things which did not, however, exclude them from the salvation common to all of them (ver. 28), although their shadow made the light of Judah shine so much the more brightly.
In ver. 8 everything depends upon a right determination of the meaning of the name Judah. Being formed from the Future in Hophal, it signifies: "He (viz., God) shall be praised." This explanation rests upon Gen. xxix. 35, where Leah, after the birth of Judah, says, "Now will I praise the Lord;" and then follow the words: "therefore she called his name Judah." It rests likewise on the common use of the verb [Hebrew: idh], the Hiphil of which is, according to Maurer, almost constantly used of "praising God," and is, as it were, set apart and sanctified for that purpose. After having enumerated a multitude of passages, Gesenius says, in his Thesaurus: "In all these passages it refers [Pg 58] to the praise of God, and it is only rarely (Gen. xlix. 8 compared with Job xl. 14) that it refers to the praise of men." Even these few exceptions are such only in appearance. In Job xl. 14, he whom God will praise is not an ordinary man, but a god-man. By the subsequent words in Gen. xlix. 8, "Before thee shall bow down," something divine is ascribed to Judah; we need not therefore be astonished that, by the word [Hebrew: ivdvK], he is raised above the merely human standing. They only who do not know the Lion of the tribe of Judah, have any reason to explain away, by a forced exposition, the slight allusion to a superhuman dignity of the tribe of Judah. The greater number of expositors, referring to the subsequent words, "thy brethren shall praise thee," explain the name by the expression, "blessed one." But, even though we should retain the sure explanation which has been given above, the idea now mentioned falls very naturally in with it. He who, in the fullest sense, is a "God's-praise" (Gottlob), whose very existence becomes the cause of exclaiming, [Greek: doxa to Theo], praise be to God, will assuredly receive praise from the brethren.—"Judah thou" stands (according to Gen. xxvii. 36; Matt. xvi. 18) either for, "Thou art Judah," i.e., thou art rightly called so, or, according to Gen. xxiv. 60, for, "Thou Judah," i.e., I have something particular to tell thee (compare the emphatic "I" in Gen. xxiv. 27).—On the expression, "Thine hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies," i.e., thou shalt put to flight all thine enemies, and press them hard while they are fleeing, compare Exod. xxiii. 27, "I will make all thine enemies (turn their) backs unto thee," and Ps. xviii. 41, where David says, in the name of his family, in which Judah centred, as did Israel in Judah, "Thou hast given me mine enemies (to be) a back." If, however, we inquire how this prophecy was fulfilled, we must not overlook the circumstance that the subjects of it are sinful men, and that, for this reason, God could never give up the right of visiting their iniquity,—a right which has its foundation in His very nature. Three sentences of condemnation precede the blessing upon Judah, and this indicates that Judah too will be weighed in the balance of justice. "The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power," which, in ver. 3, were taken from Reuben, are here adjudged to Judah. The circumstance of his being the first-born could not protect the former against the loss of his privileges; [Pg 59] and just as little will the divine election deliver Judah from a visitation for his sins, although, by that election, the total loss of his privileges is rendered impossible. These two ordinations—the election and the visitation of sin in the elect—stand by the side of each other; and the latter could not be stayed, even at the time when Judah had reached its height in the Lion from out of his tribe; for although the Shepherd was blameless, yet the flock was not so. The ordination of election is, however, far from being thereby darkened; it only shines by a brighter light. Often painful indeed were the defeats which Judah had to sustain; often enough—as during the centuries which elapsed between the destruction of David's kingdom and the coming of Christ—was the promise, "Thy hand shall be in the necks of thine enemies," reversed. But when we behold Judah ever and anon returning and rising to the dignity here bestowed upon him,—when the advance then always keeps equal pace with the preceding depths of humiliation (we need think only of David's time, and compare it with the period of the Judges),—then indeed it appears all the more clearly, that the hand of God is ever active in bringing this promise to a sure and firm fulfilment. In the history of the world there is only one power—that of Judah—in which, notwithstanding all defeats, the promise, "Thy hand shall be in the necks of thine enemies," is ever, after all, fulfilled anew; only one power, the victorious energy of which may indeed be overcome by sleep, but never by death; only one power which can speak as does David in the name of his family in Ps. xviii. 38-40: "I pursue mine enemies and overtake them, I do not return till they are consumed; I crush them, and they cannot rise: they fall under my feet. And Thou girdest me with strength for the war, Thou bowest down those that rise against me."—Luther remarks on this passage: "These promises must be understood in spirit and faith. This may be seen from the history of David, where it often appears as if God had altogether forgotten him, and what He had promised to him. After he had already been elected, he was, for ten years, not able to obtain a fixed place, or residence in the whole kingdom; and when at last he took hold of the reins of government, he fell into great, grievous, heinous sin, and was sore vexed when he had to bear the punishment of it. Therefore these two things—promise and [Pg 60] faith—must always be combined; and it is necessary that a man who has a divine promise know well the art which Paul teaches in Rom. iv. 18, to believe in hope even against hope.—The kingdom of Israel, too, was assailed by so great weakness, and pressed down by so many burdens, that it appeared as if every moment it would fall; and this was especially the case when sin, and punishment in consequence of sin, broke in upon them, as, for instance, after David's adultery with Bathsheba, and oftentimes besides. Yet, even in all such temptations, it always remains, on account of the promise."—It must be carefully observed that the words, "Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies," are placed between, "Thy brethren shall praise thee," and "Before thee shall bow down the sons of thy father," and that, immediately after this, Judah's victorious power against the enemies of God's people is again pointed out. This teaches us that the exalted position which Judah, when compared with his brethren, occupies, rests mainly on this:—that he is their fore-champion in the warfare against the world, and that God has endowed him with conquering power against the enemies of His kingdom. The history of David is best calculated to show and convince us, how closely these two things are connected with each other. That he was called to verify the truth of the promise given to Judah, "Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies," was first seen in his victory over Goliath the Philistine, fore-champion of the world's power. After David's word had been fulfilled, "The Lord who delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear. He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine," and the Philistines had fled, seeing that their champion was dead (1 Sam. xvii. 37-51), then also were fulfilled the other words: "Thy brethren shall praise thee, the sons of thy father shall bow before thee." "And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands."—And in Sam. xviii. 16, it is said: "But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them;"—and in 2 Sam. v. 2, when the ten tribes acknowledged [Pg 61] David as their king, they said: "Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel." David would never have succeeded in overcoming the jealousy and envy of the other tribes, unless the promise, "Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies," had been fulfilled in him.—Before Judah shall how down the sons of his father. I have already remarked, in my commentary on Rev. xix. 10, that there is very little ground for the common distinction between religious and civil [Greek: proskunesis] (bowing down, worship). The true distinction is between that [Greek: proskunesis] which is given to God, either directly or indirectly, in those who bear His image, in the representatives of His gifts and offices,—and that [Greek: proskunesis] which is exacted apart from, and against God. "The God of Scripture demands to be honoured in those who bear His image, who hold His offices,—in father and mother and old men (Lev. xix. 32), in princes (Exod. xxii. 28), in the office of the judge (Deut. i. 17; Exod. xxi. 6, xxii. 7, 8). It is wicked to refuse this honour, and its natural expression in the bowing of the body, under the pretext, that it is due to God alone. It is to be refused only where there is some danger that, thereby, any independent honour would be ascribed to the mere vessel of the divine glory." In what the [Greek: proskunesis] consists, which Judah is to receive from his brethren, we see distinctly from Isa. xlv. 14, where the heathen, at the time of the salvation, fall down before Israel: "Thus saith the Lord, The labour of Egypt and merchandise of Ethiopia, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and be thine: they shall go behind thee; in chains they shall walk; and they shall fall down before thee, and they shall make supplication unto thee (saying). Only in thee is God, and there is no God else." The ground of Judah's adoration on the part of his brethren is this:—that God's glory is visibly upon him, that by glorious deeds and victories the seal is impressed upon him: "with us is God" (Immanuel). And this found its most glorious fulfilment in the Lion of the tribe of Judah, in Christ, of whom it is said in Phil. ii. 9-11: "Wherefore God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of all those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth; and that every tongue should [Pg 62] confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father." That, in its final accomplishment, this prophecy referred to Christ, was known to Jacob as certainly as he makes Judah centre in the Shiloh. This Solomon also knew, when, in Ps. lxxii. 11 (compare Ps. xlv. 12), he ascribes to his great Antitype what is here ascribed to Judah: "All kings shall worship Him, and all nations shall serve Him." The consequence of the worship "by kings and nations" is the worshipping "by the sons of the father." Jacob thus transfers to Judah that which Isaac had promised to him: "People shall serve thee, and nations shall worship thee: be lord over thy brethren, and thy mother's sons shall worship before thee:" Gen. xxvii. 29.
In ver. 9 Judah is first designated a young lion,—a name which is intended to indicate, that the victorious power ascribed to Judah exists, as yet, only in the germ. It required that centuries should pass away before he grew up to be a lion, a full-grown lion. By the long period which thus intervened between the promise and its fulfilment, the divine election is the more strikingly manifested. (Several interpreters have been of opinion that there is no difference between the young lion, the lion, and the full-grown lion. But it is shown by Ezek. xix. 3—"And she brought up one of her [Hebrew: gvriM], and it became a [Hebrew: kpir], and it learnt to tear prey,"—that [Hebrew: gvr arih] is a young lion not yet able to catch prey.) In the words, "From the prey, my son, thou art gone up," the prey is the terminus a quo: for [Hebrew: elh] with [Hebrew: mN] is always used of the place from which it is gone up (see Josh. iv. 17, x. 9; Song of Sol. iv. 2): the terminus ad quem is the usual abode, as is shown by what follows. The residence of the conqueror and ruler is conceived of as being elevated. Joseph, according to Gen. xlvi. 31, goes up to Pharaoh, and in ver. 29 of the same chapter he goes up to meet his father. The expression "to go up" is commonly used of those who come from [Pg 63] other countries to Canaan. But the "going up" in the passage under review implies also the "going down" into the lower regions to seek for prey, just as in Ps. lxviii. 19, where it is said of the Lord, after He had fought for His people, and had been victorious, "Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." "To dwell" means there, that, after having accomplished all this, thou mayest dwell gloriously, and be inaccessible to the vengeance of the conquered, in thy usual place of abode. The sense is the same in the passage before us. Luther is therefore wrong in explaining it thus: "Thou hast risen high, my son, by great victories,"—as are others also who translate it, "From the prey thou growest up." Such a view of this clause would, moreover, break up the connection, and all that follows would appear without preparation.
The words, "He stoopeth down, he croucheth as a lion, and as a full-grown lion; who shall rouse him up?" contain a transition and allusion to what we are subsequently told concerning Shiloh. Even here we are presented with a picture of peace,—a peace, however, which is not to the prejudice of victorious power, as in the case of Issachar (vers. 14, 15), but which, on the contrary, preserves it undiminished. If the promise, "From the prey, my son, thou art gone up," found its first glorious, although only preliminary, fulfilment in the reign of David (compare the enumeration of his victories in 2 Sam. viii.), the words, "He stoopeth down, he coucheth," etc., are the most appropriate inscription for the portal of Solomon's reign. But, in Christ, the pre-eminence in the reign both of war and peace is united.—That [Hebrew: lbia] is not "the lioness," but only the poetical designation of the lion, appears from just the very passage which is so commonly adduced in support of the former signification, viz., Job iv. 11; for the sons of the lion spoken of in that passage are the sons of the wicked (compare Job xxvii. 14).
A parallel to the words in ver. 10, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah," is formed by the departing of the sceptre from Egypt, in Zech. x. 11: "And the pride of Assyria shall [Pg 64] be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away." All dominion of the world over the people of God is only temporary; and so also, the dominion of the people of God over the world, as it centres in Judah, can sustain only a temporary interruption: its departure is everywhere in appearance only; and when it departs, it is only that it may return with enhanced weight.—The sceptre is the emblem of dominion. The words, "A sceptre rises out of Israel" (Num. xxiv. 17), are explained in chap. xxiv. 19 by the words, "Dominion shall come out of Jacob." The question as to the subjects of this dominion must be determined from the preceding words; for there shall not depart from Judah what Judah, according to these words, possesses. Hence they are (1) the brethren of Judah, and (2) the enemies of Israel. The latter can the less properly be excluded, because of these alone the whole of the preceding verse treated. In the words of Balaam, in Num. xxiv. 17 (which refer to the passage under consideration), "There cometh a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre riseth out of Israel, and smiteth the territories of Moab, and destroyeth all the sons of the tumult," there is viewed, in the sceptre, only the victorious and destructive power which he shall display in his relation to the world; but the subjects of dominion are, in that passage, according to ver. 19, the heathens also. The sceptre is pre-eminently an ensign of kings. Hence, to the sceptre and star out of Israel (Num. xxiv. 17) corresponds, in ver. 7, his king: "And his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted,"—i.e., not merely a single royal person, but the Israelitish kingdom. But we can here the less legitimately separate sceptre and kingdom from each other, because, even in the earlier promises made to the Patriarch, there is the prophecy of the rising of a kingdom among their descendants,—of a kingdom, too, that shall extend beyond the boundary of that posterity itself. (Compare Gen. xvii. 6, "Kings shall come out of thee;" ver. 16, "And she shall become nations. Icings of nations shall be of her." See also Gen. xxxv. 11.) In vol. ii. of the Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, p. 166 f., we detailed the natural foundations which there existed for foreseeing the establishment of a kingdom in Israel. It is evident that the promise which was formally given to the whole posterity of the Patriarchs, is here appropriated specially to Judah, who, for [Pg 65] the benefit of the whole people, is to have the sceptre. From what has been remarked, it appears that the fulfilment of this prophecy began first with David; up to that time Judah had been only "a lion's whelp." "In the person of Saul," as Calvin remarks, "there was an abortive effort; but there came out at length in David, under the authority and legitimate arrangement of God, the sovereignty of Judah, according to the prophecy of Jacob." It also appears, from what has been observed, that Reinke, S. 45 of his Monography, Die Weissagung Jacobs ueber Schilo, Muenster 1849 (a work written with great diligence), is mistaken in determining the sense to be, that Judah as a tribe would not perish, and his superiority not cease, until out of him Shiloh, etc.; and that he is wrong, too, in maintaining, S. 133, that the continuance of the royal dignity, and the superiority over all the tribes until the time of Christ, were not required by these words. From the remarks which we have made, even more than that is required,—the continuance, namely, of Judah's dominion over the Gentiles; for otherwise it would be necessary to make a violent separation of these words from the preceding ones. That which has given rise to such interpretations and assertions, viz., the apparent difficulty encountered in pointing out the fulfilment, is by no means removed by such an explanation. For, if we look to the surface only, what had been left of the superiority of the tribe of Judah, at the time when Christ appeared? But if we look deeper, we shall find no reason for such feeble interpretations. The fulness of strength which, notwithstanding the deepest humiliation, still dwelt in the sceptre of Judah at the time when Christ appeared, is made manifest by the very appearance of Christ—the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Although faint-heartedness, perceiving only what is immediately before the eyes, might have said, "The sceptre has departed from [Pg 66] Judah," to every one who was not blinded it must have been evident, at the very moment when Christ appeared, that the sceptre had not departed from Judah. We must not allow ourselves to be perplexed by any events and arguments adduced to prove that the sceptre has departed from Judah; for the very same events and arguments would militate against the eternal dominion of his house which had been promised to David, and would therefore make us doubtful of that also. All these events and arguments lose their significancy, when we remark, that this departing is only an apparent, not a definitive one;—that God never, by His promises, binds the hands of His punitive justice;—that His election goes always hand-in-hand with the visitation of the sins of the elected; but that, in the end, the election will stand in all its validity. To Judah applies exactly what in Ps. lxxxix. 31-35 is said of David: "If his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips." But the greater the degradation that had come upon Judah, the more consoling is this promise. If we see that neither the decline of David's and Judah's dominion after Solomon, nor the apparently total disappearance of David's kingdom which took place after the Chaldee catastrophe, and continued for centuries; nor the altogether comfortless condition (when [Pg 67] looking only at what Is visible) which Jeremiah describes in the words: "Judah is captive in affliction and great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, and findeth no rest. The anointed of the Lord, who was our consolation, is taken in their pits, he of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen. Slaves are ruling over us, and there is none to deliver us from their hand;"—if we see that all these things did not prevent the fulfilment of the words, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come;"—that, notwithstanding all these things, it most gloriously manifested itself in the appearance of Christ, that the dominion remained still with Judah;—why should we be dismayed though the river of the kingdom of God should sometimes lose itself in the sand? Why should we not be firmly confident that in due time it shall spring forth again with its clear and powerful waters?—But the Jews are not benefited by this distinction betwixt the definitive departing of the sceptre, and one which is merely temporary. The latter must necessarily be distinguished from the former by this:—that even in the times of abasement, there must be single symptoms which still indicate the continuance of the sceptre; and this was evidently the case in the times before Christ. In Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, and Hezekiah, the sceptre of Judah brought forth new leaves; after their return from the captivity, the place, at least, was pointed out by Zerubbabel, which the Davidic kingdom would, at some future period, again occupy. The victories of the times of the Maccabees, though they themselves were not of the tribe of Judah, served to manifest clearly that the lion's strength and the lion's courage had not yet departed from Judah. It is not without significance that Judas Maccabeus had his name thus. And under all these events the family of David always remained distinct, and capable of being traced out. But nothing of all this is to be found with the Jews during the 1800 years after Christ; and hence the vanity of their hope that, in some future time, it will be made evident by the appearance of Shiloh, that the supremacy and dominion of Judah are not lost.
Along with the sceptre which shall not depart from Judah, the lawgiver is mentioned, for whom many would, quite arbitrarily, substitute the commander's staff. Is. xxxiii. 22 is explanatory of this passage; "For the Lord our Judge, the [Pg 68] Lord our Lawgiver, the Lord our King, He will save us"—where the lawgiver is put on a level with the judge and king. Gesenius translates it by: our commander.
The lawgiver shall not depart "from between his feet." This is a poetical expression for "from him." He is, as it were, to have the lawgiver wherever he moves or stands. Explanatory of this is the passage in Judges v. 27, where, in the Song of Deborah, it is said of Jael, "He bowed between her feet, he fell, he lay down." That which any one has between his feet, is accordingly his territory on which he moves, that within his reach. In the latter passage the prose expression would have been, "beside her," and in the passage under consideration, "from him."
Sceptre and lawgiver shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come. Here everything depends upon fixing the derivation and signification of this word. There cannot be any doubt, and, indeed, it is now almost universally admitted, that it is derived from [Hebrew: wlh], "to rest." In the first edition of this work, the author gave it as his opinion, that its formation was analogous to that of [Hebrew: kidvr], "tumult of war," from [Hebrew: kdr], "to be troubled," [Hebrew: qiTr], "smoke," from [Hebrew: qTr], [Hebrew: wlH] from [Hebrew: wlH]; and many (Hofmann, Kurtz, Reinke) have stedfastly maintained this opinion even until now. But the author must confess that the objections raised against this derivation by Tuch are well-founded. "In the first place," Tuch remarks, "it is well known that forms like [Hebrew: qiTr] do not constitute any special class in the etymology, but have originated from Piel forms (Ewald, Lehrb. d. Hebr. Spr. Sec. 156 b), as is very clearly shown by [Hebrew: qimvw], being found by the side of [Hebrew: qmvw]. But the o in the final syllable of these words is not an o unchangeable, according to the rules of etymology, and could, therefore, not remain in a root [Hebrew: lh]; and there is not found, in general, any form of a root [Hebrew: lh] analogous to [Hebrew: qiTr]." But far more decisive is another reason. "The nomina Gentilia [Hebrew: gilni] (2 Sam. xv. 12), [Hebrew: wilni] (1 Kings [Pg 69] xi. 29, xii. 15), lead us from the supposed form to the substantive termination [Hebrew: -vN] which a liquida may drop, and express the remaining vowel [Hebrew: v] by [Hebrew: h]." (Compare Ewald, Sec. 163.) Now that Shiloh is an abbreviation of Shilon is proved, not only by the nomen gentile, but also by the fact, that the ruins of the town which received its name from the Shiloh in our passage, are, up to the present moment, called Seilun, and that Josephus writes Silo as well as Silun, [Greek: Siloun] (compare Robinson, Travels iii. 1, p. 305); and, finally, by the analogy of the name [Hebrew: wlmh], which is formed after the manner of [Hebrew: wilh], and likewise shortened from [Hebrew: wlmvN]. We must confess that Tuch is right also when he asserts: "That it is quite impossible to give the word the signification of an appellative noun, since it is only in proper names, in which the signification of the suffix of derivation is of less consequence, that on is shortened into o." The only exception is that of [Hebrew: abdh], "hell," in Prov. xxvii. 20; but even this is only an apparent exception, and is quite in accordance with the rule laid down, inasmuch as "hell" is, in this passage, personified,—as is frequently the case in other passages. (Compare Rev. ix. 11.) But this case very plainly shows that we are not at liberty to apply, as Tuch does, the measure of our proper names to those of Scripture, which are used in a more comprehensive sense. The Samaritan translation is, therefore, right in retaining the "Shiloh." As the passage under review is the first in which the person of the Redeemer meets us, so Shiloh is also the first name of the Redeemer,—a name expressive of His nature, and quite in correspondence with the names in Is. ix. 5, and with the name Immanuel in Is. vii. 14. With respect to the signification of the name, the termination on, according to Ewald, Sec. 163, forms adjectives and abstract nouns. The analogy of the name [Hebrew: wlmh], which is formed after the manner of [Hebrew: wilh], indicates that it has here an adjective signification, and, like Solomon, Shiloh denotes "the man of rest," corresponds to the "Prince of Peace" in Is. ix. 5, and, viewed in its character of a proper name, is like the German "Friedrich" = Frederick, i.e., "rich in peace," "the Peaceful one."
To Shiloh the nations shall adhere. The word [Hebrew: iqhh] is commonly understood as meaning "obedience." But it does not [Pg 70] denote every kind of obedience, but only that which is spontaneous, and has its root in piety. This is clearly shown by the only passage in which, besides the one under consideration, the word [Hebrew: iqhh] is found, Prov. xxx. 17: "An eye that mocketh at his father, and despises the [Hebrew: iqhh] of his mother." To this view we are led also by the Arabic, where the word [Arabic: **], does not denote obedience in general, but willing obedience, docility, in the viii. sq. [Hebrew: l] dicto audientem se praebuit more discipuli. (Compare Camus in Schulten, on Prov. l. c.) Cognate is [Arabic: **], "to take care," "to guard oneself," specially of the conflict with the higher powers of life, in the viii. semet custodivit ah aliqua re, et absolute timuit coluitque Deum, pius fuit. From it is derived [Hebrew: iqh] pius in Prov. xxx. 1, where the son of Jakeh speaks to "With me is God, and I prevail" (Heb. Itheal and Ucal.)
Luther, although he has misunderstood the right meaning of Shiloh, has yet beautifully comprehended the sense of the whole passage. "This is a golden text," he says, "and well worthy of remembrance, namely: that the kingdom of Christ will not be such a kingdom as that of David was, of whom it is said, 1 Chron. xxviii. 3, that he was a man of war and had shed much blood. The kingdom of Shiloh, which succeeded it, is not a kingdom so powerful and bloody, but consists in this,—that the word, by which it is ruled or administered, is heard, believed, and obeyed. All will be done by means of preaching; and this will just be the sign by which the kingdom of Christ is distinguished from the other kingdoms of this world, which are governed by the sword and by physical power." To this point also Luther draws attention, that our prophecy affords a powerful support to the ministers of the Word: "It will be done by the proclamation of the promise, and Shiloh will be [Pg 71] present with it, and will be efficient and powerful through our tongue and mouth."
That by the nations are not meant either the Canaanites in particular, or the tribes of Israel, but the nations in general, appears, partly, from the connection with what precedes—those who now willingly obey are evidently the enemies spoken of in vers. 8, 9,—and, partly, from the reference to the earlier promises of Genesis, all of which refer to nations in general. If a limitation had been intended, an express indication of it would have been necessary. The analogy of the parallel Messianic passages likewise militates against such a limitation; e.g., Ps. lxxii. 8: "He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." (Compare also Is. xi. 10.)
In the Shiloh, the whole dignity of Judah as Lord and Ruler is to be concentrated. It hence follows, that the nations who will not willingly obey Him as Shiloh, must experience the destructive power of His sceptre (Num. xxiv. 17; Ps. ii. 9), and that behind the attractive kingdom of peace, there is concealed the destructive dominion of the lion.
Several interpreters have determined the sense as follows:—The dominion of Judah should continue until the appearing of Shiloh; but that then he should lose it. We, on the contrary, conceive the sense to be this: "That the tribe of Judah should not lose the dominion until he attain to its highest realization by Shiloh, who should be descended from him, and to whom all the nations of the earth should render obedience."
Against this interpretation no difficulty can be raised from the [Hebrew: ed ki]. It is true that this term has always a reference to the terminus ad quem only, and includes it; but it is as certain that, very frequently, a terminus ad quem is mentioned which is not intended to be the last, but only one of special importance; so that what lies beyond it is lost sight of. (Compare the author's Dissert. on the Genuin. of Daniel, pp. 55-56.) If [Pg 72] only sceptre and lawgiver were secured to Judah up to the time of Shiloh's coming, then, as a matter of course, they were so afterwards. That, previous to the coming of Shiloh, great dangers would threaten the sceptre of Judah, is indicated by Jacob, since he lays so much stress upon the sceptre's not departing until that time. Hence we expect circumstances that will almost amount to a departing of the sceptre.
But the positive reason for this interpretation is, that if, according to the other opinion, Judah were told that the dominion of his tribe were, at some future period, to cease, this would not be in harmony with the tone of the remainder of the address to Judah, which is altogether of a cheerful character. And then,—Jacob would, in that case, not have allowed the Messianic promise to remain in its indefinite state; from former analogies, we should have been induced to expect that he would transfer it to one of his sons. And finally,—from the analogy of the other Messianic prophecies, as well as from history, it seems not to be admissible to contrast the dominion of Judah with the kingdom of the Messiah. The dominion of Judah does not by any means terminate in Christ; it rather centres in Him.
We are not expressly told that the Shiloh will be descended from Judah; but this is supposed to be self-evident, and is not, therefore, expressly mentioned. If it were otherwise, the Shiloh would not have been alluded to in connection with Judah at all. A restriction of the promise to Judah, such as would take place if the Shiloh did not belong to him, is the less legitimate, inasmuch as, in vers. 8, 9, victory and dominion, without any limitation, are promised to Judah.
Having thus adduced the positive arguments in support of our view of this passage, let us now further examine the opinions of those who differ from us. Here, then, we must first of all consider those which are at one with us in the acknowledgment that this passage contains the promise of a personal Messiah.
1. Some interpreters (Jonathan, Luther, Calvin, Knapp, Dogm.) are of opinion that [Hebrew: wilh] is compounded of the noun [Hebrew: wil], "child," and the suffix of the third person: "Until his (i.e., Judah's) son or descendant, the Messiah, shall come." (Luther, somewhat differently.) But this supposed signification of [Hebrew: wil] [Pg 73] is destitute of any tenable foundation. That by such an explanation, moreover, there is a dissolution of the connection betwixt the Shiloh in this passage, and Shiloh the name of a place, which is written in precisely the same manner, is decisive against both the view just given forth and that which follows.
2. Others (the last of them. Sack in the second edition of his Apolog.) suppose the word to be erroneously pointed. They propose to read [Hebrew: wlh], compounded of [Hebrew: w] for [Hebrew: awr], and the suffix [Hebrew: h] for [Hebrew: v]. They suppose the language to be elliptical: "Until He come to whom the dominion or sceptre belongs, or is due." The principal argument in support of this exposition is, that most of the ancient translators seem to have followed this punctuation. It is true that this is doubtful as regards Onkelos and the Targum of Jerusalem, which translate, "Donec veniat Messias, cujus est regnum;" for we may well suppose that here [Hebrew: wilh] is simply rendered by [Hebrew: mwiHa], while the following clause adds a complement from Ezek. xxi. 32, which is founded upon the passage now under review. But it is certain that the LXX. supposed the punctuation to be [Hebrew: wlh]. They translate: [Greek: heos an elthe ta apokeimena auto.] (Thus read the two oldest manuscripts—the Vatican and Alexandrian. The other reading, [Greek: ho apokeitai], has no doubt crept in from the later Greek translations, notwithstanding the charge which Justinus [Dial. c. Tryph. Sec. 120] raises against the Jews, that they had substituted the [Greek: ta apokeimena auto] for the earlier [Greek: ho apokeitai]. Comp. Stroth in Eichhorn's Repert. ii. 95; Hohne's edition of the LXX.) Aquila and Symmachus, who translate, [Greek: ho apokeitai], as well as the Syriac and Saadias, who translate, Ille cujus est, follow the same reading. But the defenders of this exposition are wrong in inferring, from the circumstance of the ancient translations having followed this punctuation, that it was generally received. Had such been the case, how could it be explained that it should no more be found in any of our manuscripts? For the circumstance that forty manuscripts collected by de Rossi have [Hebrew: wlh] written without a [Hebrew: i], cannot be considered as of great weight; since it is merely a defective way of writing, occurring frequently in similar words. But if we consider the fact, which may be established upon historical grounds, that the Jews watched with most anxious care the uncorrupted preservation of the received [Pg 74] text of Holy Scripture, according to its consonants and pronunciation; that they did not even venture to receive into the text any emendation, though it should have recommended itself as in the highest degree probable; while, on the other hand, the ancient Jewish and Christian translators took great liberties in this respect, and, in the manifold perplexities into which, owing to their insufficient resources and knowledge, they fell, helped themselves as best they could;—it will certainly appear to us most probable, that even the ancient translators found our vocalization of the word as the received one, but felt themselves obliged to depart from it, because they could, in accordance with it, give no suitable derivation; whilst the punctuation adopted by them agreed perfectly with the traditional reference of the passage to the Messiah. But if this be the case, the authority of the ancient translations can here be of no greater weight than that of any modern interpreter; and, in the case under review, we are at liberty to urge all those considerations which are, in general, advanced against any change in the vocalization, unless there be most urgent reasons for it. The ancient translators, moreover, can have less weight with us, because we can distinctly perceive that a misapprehension of Ezek. xxi. 32 (27)—on which passage we shall afterwards comment—gave rise to their error. Against this explanation it may be further urged, not only that the [Hebrew: w] prefix occurs nowhere else in the Pentateuch—an objection which is not in itself sufficient, since it occurs so early as in the song of Deborah, Judges v. 7—but also, that the supposed ellipsis would be exceedingly hard. (Compare Stange, Theol. Symm. i. S. 238 ff.)
Before we pass on to a consideration of the non-Messianic interpretation, we shall first state the reasons which bear us out in assuming that the passage under review contains a prophecy of a personal Messiah.
It is certainly, with respect to this, a matter of no slight importance that, with a rare agreement, exegetical tradition finds a promise to this effect here expressed; and this circumstance has a significance so much the greater, the less that this agreement extends to the interpretation of the particulars, especially as regards the Shiloh. How manifold soever these differences may be, all antiquity agrees in interpreting this passage of a personal Messiah; and we could scarcely conceive of such an agreement, [Pg 75] unless there had been some objective foundation for it. As regards, first, the exegetical tradition of the Jews,—how far soever we may follow it, it finds, in ver. 10, the Messiah. Thus the LXX. explained it; for, that by "what is destined to Judah" ([Greek: heos an elthe ta apokeimena auto]) they understood nothing else than the sending of the Messiah, is shown by the words following—[Greek: kai autos prosdokia ethnon],—which can refer only to the Messiah. (Compare Is. xlii. 4 according to the LXX.) In the same manner the passage was understood by Aquila, the Chaldee Paraphrasts, the Targum of Onkelos, of Jonathan, and of Jerusalem, the Talmud, the Sohar, and the ancient book of Breshith Rabba. Several even of the modern commentators, e.g., Jarchi, have retained this explanation, although a strong doctrinal interest, to which others yielded, tempted them to give another interpretation to this passage, which occupied so prominent a place in the polemics of the Christians. (Compare the passage in Raim. Martini Pug. Fid. ed. Carpzov; Jac. Alting's Shiloh, Franc. 1660, 4to [also in the opp. t. v.]; Schoettgen, hor. Hebr. ii. p. 146; and, most completely, in "Jac. Patriarch. de Schiloh vatic. a depravatione Clerici assertum, op. Seb. Edzardi, Londini 1698, p. 103 sq.") The Samaritans, too, understood the passage as referring to the Messiah. (Compare Samarit. Briefwechsel, communicated by Schnurrer in Eichhorn's Repert. ix. S. 27.) It is true that from other passages ("Epist. Samarit. ad Jobum Ludolfum," in Eichhorn's Repert. xiii. S. 281-9, compared with de Sacy "de Vers. Samarit. Arab. Pentateuchi in Eichhorn's Biblioth." x. S. 54) it appears that, in accordance with their doctrine of a double Messiah—one who had already appeared, and one who was still to come—they referred our passage, partly to the former, and denied its reference to the real Messiah. But this is of no importance. For, as Gesenius also has remarked (Carmina Samaritana, p. 75), the doctrine of a double Messiah is of recent origin with the Samaritans as well as with the Jews; and hence, it is very probable that the reference to the real Messiah was, formerly, the generally prevailing one, which was, even afterwards, to a large extent retained, as is shown by the passage first quoted.—Finally, In the Christian Church the Messianic interpretation has been the prevailing one ever since the earliest times. We find it as early as Justin Martyr. [Pg 76] The Greek and Latin Fathers agree in it. (Compare the statements in Reinke.) Even Grotius could not but admit that this passage referred to the Messiah; and Clericus stands quite alone and isolated, in his time, as an objector against the Messianic interpretation of it.
But even in the Canon itself, this passage is understood of a personal Messiah. David, Solomon, Isaiah, Ezekiel, look upon it in this light. (Concerning this point, compare the inquiries in the subsequent portions of this work.)
The entire relation of the Pentateuch to the succeeding sacred literature, and the circumstance that the former constitutes the foundation of the latter, and contains, in the germ, all that is afterwards more fully developed, entitle us to expect, that the Messianic idea has also found its expression in those books. The more prominent the place occupied, in the later books, by the announcement of a personal Messiah, the more unlikely it will be to him who has acquired right fundamental views regarding the Pentateuch, to conceive that this announcement should be wanting in it—the announcement, especially, of the Messiah in His kingly office; for it is this office of the Messiah which, in the Old Testament, generally takes a prominent place, and is, before all others, represented in the subsequent books. But there cannot be any doubt, that the promise of a personal Messiah in His kingly office, if it be found in the Old Testament at all, must exist in the passage which we are now considering.
The promises which first were given to Jacob's parents, and thereafter transferred to him, included two things:—first, a numerous progeny, and the possession of Canaan for them;—and secondly, the blessing which, through them, was to come upon all nations. How, then, could it be expected that Jacob, in transferring these blessings to his sons, and while in spirit seeing them already in possession of the promised land, and describing the places of abode which they would occupy, and what should befall them, should have entirely lost sight of the second object, which was much the more important, and as often repeated? Is it not, on the contrary, probable that, as formerly, from among the sons of Abraham and Isaac, so now, from among the sons of Jacob, he should be pointed out who should, according to the will of God, become the depositary of this [Pg 77] promise, which was acquiring more and more of a definite shape? The contrary of this we can the less imagine, because, according to ver. 2, Jacob is to tell his sons that which shall befall them "at the end of the days." The expression, "the end of the days," is always used of that only which lies at the end of the course which is seen by the speaker. (Compare my work on Balaam, p. 465 f.) Accordingly, it indicates, in this passage, that Jacob's announcement must comprehend the whole of the future sphere which was accessible to him. But if we do not admit the reference, in this passage, to the Messiah, then a whole territory of future time, notoriously accessible to Jacob, is left untouched by his announcement.—From the beginning of Genesis, we find the expectation of an universal salvation; and at every new separation, the depositary of this salvation, and its mediator for the whole remaining world, are regularly pointed out. At first, salvation is promised to the whole human race, then to the family of Shem, then to Abraham, then to Isaac, then to Jacob. "Now that the patriarchal trias, since Jacob, has extended into a dodekas forming the historical transition from the family of the promise to the nation of the promise, the question arises, from which of the twelve tribes salvation, i.e., the victory of mankind, and the blessing of the nations, is to come." (Delitzsch, Prophetische Theologie, S. 293.) Should Genesis become to such a degree inconsistent with itself as not to answer a question which itself has called forth? But that answer is contained in the passage under consideration, only if Shiloh be taken for the personal name of the Redeemer. Unless we have recourse to artificial explanations, the announcement of Judah's being the bearer of salvation is to be found in our passage, only when, at the same time, the first indication of the person of the Messiah is perceived in it.
If the reference of the passage to a personal Messiah be explained away, we should certainly be at a loss to discover where the fundamental prophecy of such an one could possibly be found. We should then, in the first place, be thrown upon the Messianic Psalms, especially Ps. ii. and cx. But as it is the office of prophecy only to introduce to the knowledge of the congregation [Pg 78] truths absolutely new, it would subvert the whole relation of psalm-poetry to prophecy, if in these psalms we were to seek for the origin of the expectations of a personal Messiah. These psalms become intelligible, only if in Shiloh we recognise the first name of the Messiah. The passage in question, in combination with the prophetical announcement of the eternal dominion of the house of David, afforded the complete objective foundation for the subjective poetry of the Psalms. The eternity of dominion here promised to Judah was, as we learn from 2 Sam. vii., transferred to David. The exalted person in whom, according to our passage, the dominion of Judah was to culminate, must then necessarily belong to the house of David. Further,—If the passage under review be understood of the Messiah, we have an excellent fountainhead for all the prophecies of a personal Messiah; in its significant, enigmatical, and expressive brevity, it is most suitable for such a purpose. But if its reference to the Messiah be explained away, we are deprived altogether of a suitable starting-point. In the Davidic psalms, the Messianic prophecy already more strongly resembles a stream than a fountain.
So great is the weight of these reasons for the Messianic interpretation, that we might reasonably have expected that such expositors at least as stand on the ground of positive Christianity should abandon it only from overwhelming reasons, or, at least, from such only as are in the highest degree probable. But in this expectation we have been disappointed. The most superficial objections have been considered sufficient by Hofmann, Kurtz, and others, to induce them to disregard the consensus of the whole Christian Church. We cannot, indeed, but be astonished at this.
Kurtz, following the example of Hofmann, says: "The organic progress of prophecy, and its correlative connection with history, which must be maintained in all its stages, forbid us, most decidedly, to assign to the expectation of a personal Messiah, a period so early as that of the Patriarchs. The clearly expressed aim of the whole history of this period is the expansion into a great nation; its whole tendency is directed towards the growth of the multiplicity of a people from the unity of the Patriarchs. As long as the subject of the history was the increase into a nation, the idea of a single personal Saviour [Pg 79] could not, by any means, take root. Such could occur only after they had actually expanded into a great nation in history, and the necessity had been felt of concentrating the multiplicity of the expanded, into the unity of a single, individual, i.e., after one had appeared as the deliverer and saviour, as the leader and ruler of the whole nation. It is therefore only after Moses, Joshua, and David, that the expectation of a personal Messiah could arise."—Do you mean to teach God wisdom? we might ask, in answer to such argumentation. To chain prophecy to history in such a manner, is in reality nothing short of destroying it. How much soever people may choose to varnish it, this is but another form of Naturalism, against the influence of which no one is secure, because it is in the atmosphere of our day. Men who occupy a ground of argumentation so narrow-minded and trifling,—who would rather shape history than heartily surrender themselves to it, and find out, meditate upon, and follow the footsteps of God in it,—will be compelled to erase even the promise in Gen. xii. 3, "In thee all the families of the earth shall be blessed," yea, even the words, "I will make of thee a great nation," with which the promise begins; for even that violates the natural order. But the historical point of connection for the announcement of a personal Messiah, which here at once, like a flash of lightning, illuminates the darkness, is not at all wanting to such a degree as is commonly asserted. On the contrary, if the blessing upon the heathen be allowed to stand, the expectation of a personal Saviour must necessarily arise from a consideration of the known events of history, and meet the immediate revelation of such an one by God. The whole history of the time of the Patriarchs bears a biographical character. Single individuals are, in it, the depositaries of the divine promises, the channels of the divine life. All the blessings of salvation which the congregation possessed at the time when Jacob's blessing was uttered, had come to them through single individuals. Why, then, should the highest Salvation come to them in any other way? Why should not Abraham be as fit a type of the Messiah as Moses, Joshua, and David,—Abraham, of whom God, in Gen. xx. 7, says to Abimelech, the heathen king, "Now therefore restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet; and if he prays for thee, thou shalt live?" Or why not Joseph, who, according to Gen. xlvii. 12, "nourished [Pg 80] his father and his brethren, and all his father's household," and whom the grateful Egyptians called "the Saviour of the World?"
Just as untenable is a second argument against the Messianic explanation,—namely, that there is no parallelism between the two clauses, "until Shiloh comes," "and to Him shall be the obedience of the nations," but only a pure progress of thought. The laws of parallelism are not iron fetters; and, moreover, the parallelism in substance fully exists here, if only it be acknowledged that [Hebrew: iqhh] does not signify any kind of obedience, but only a willing surrender. The words, "until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the nations," are identical in meaning with, "until He cometh, who bringeth rest, and whom the nations shall willingly obey." The second member thus serves to explain the first; the sense would be substantially preserved although one of the members were wanting. The parallelism is slightly concealed only by the circumstance that the words run, "to Him the obedience of the nations,"—instead of, "He to whom shall be the obedience of the nations."
Let us now take a survey of the principal non-Messianic interpretations. A suspicion as to their having any foundation at all in the subject itself must surely be raised by their variety and multiplicity, as well as by the circumstance, that they who object to the Messianic explanation can never, in any way, succeed in uniting with each other, but that, with them, one interpretation is sure to be overthrown by another. Such is, in every case, a sure indication of error.
Moreover, it is possible, in every case, to trace out some interest, apart from the merits of the question, which has led to the objections against the Messianic interpretation. With the Jews, it was because they were driven to a strait by the argumentation of the Christians, that the Messiah must long ago have come, since sceptre and lawgiver had long ago departed from Judah. The rationalistic interpreters have evidently been determined by their antipathy to any Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Hofmann and his followers do not in the least conceal that they are guided by their principle of a concatenation of prophecy with history.
The opinion, according to which it is maintained that Shiloh is the name of the well-known locality in Ephraim, has found not a few defenders. Among these, several, and last of all [Pg 81] Bleek, in the Observ.; Hitzig, on Ps. li. 2; Diestel, "der Segen Jacobs," translate: "Until he or they come to Shiloh." The sense is thus supposed to be: "Judah will be the leader of the tribes, in the journey to Canaan, until they come to Shiloh." There, in consequence of the tribes being dispersed to the boundaries assigned to them, he would then lose his leadership. But such an explanation is, in every point of view, inadmissible. It is very probable that the town Shiloh did not exist at all, under this name, at the time of Jacob. The name nowhere occurs in the Pentateuch; and the Book of Joshua (as we shall show at a subsequent time) contains traces, far from indistinct, that it arose only after the occupation of the land by the Israelites. But even supposing that the town of Shiloh already existed tit the time of Jacob, yet the abrupt mention of a place so little known would be something strange and unaccountable. It would be out of the range of Jacob's visions, which nowhere regard mere details, but have everywhere for their object only the future in its general outlines. Further,—The temporary limitation thus put to the superiority of Judah would be in glaring contradiction to vers. 8 and 9, where Judah is exalted to be the Lion of God without any limitation as to time. And, finally,—Up to the time of their arrival in Shiloh, Judah was never in possession of the sceptre and lawgiver;—and this reason would alone be sufficient to overthrow the opinion which we are now combating. We have already proved that, by these terms, royal power and dominion are designated, and that, for this reason, the beginning of the fulfilment cannot be sought for in any period previous to the time of David. But even if we were to come down to the mere leadership of Judah, we could demonstrate that even this did not belong to him. His marching in front of the others cannot, even in the remotest degree, be considered as a leadership. Moses, who belonged to another tribe, had been solemnly called by God to the chief command. Nor was Joshua [Pg 82] of the tribe of Judah. In him, on the contrary, there appeared the germ of Ephraim's superiority, which continued through the whole period of the Judges, and which came to an end only by David's having been raised to the royal dignity. (Compare my commentary on Ps. lxxviii.)
Others (Tuch, Maurer) give the explanation: "As long as they come to Shiloh." This, according to them, the "poet" meant to be identical with: "in all eternity." They think that his (the "poet's") meaning was, that the holy tabernacle, which at his time (Tuch assigns the composition of Jacob's blessing to the period of Samuel) was at Shiloh, would remain there to all eternity. To this exposition it would be alone sufficient to object that, according to it, the phrase [Hebrew: ed ki], which uniformly means only "until," is taken in the signification "as long as." Further,—History plainly enough shows how little the sanctuary was considered to be bound to Shiloh; to which place it had been brought, not in consequence of an express divine declaration, but only in accordance with Joshua's own views. When the ark of the covenant was carried away by the Philistines, this was considered as an express declaration of God, that He would no longer dwell in Shiloh. How different was the case as regards Jerusalem! Notwithstanding the destruction by the Chaldees, the city continued to be the seat of the sanctuary. Further,—This view implies a strange blending of gross error—viz., the supposition that the sanctuary would remain for ever in Shiloh—and of true prophecy, viz., the announcement, uttered at the time of Ephraim's leadership, of the dominion of the tribe of Judah, which was first realized in David's royalty. The only ground in support of the Ephraimitic Shiloh—the fact, namely, that Shiloh, wherever else it occurs in the Old Testament, always signifies the name of the place—we hope to invalidate by and by; when it will be seen that the town received its name only on the ground of the passage now under consideration.
Other opponents of the Messianic interpretation take Shiloh as a nomen appellativum, in the signification of rest. They translate either, "Until rest cometh and people obey him" (thus Vater, Gesenius, Knobel), or, "Until he comes (or, they come) to rest" (thus Hofmann, Kurtz, and others). By "rest," they understand either the political rest enjoyed under David and Solomon, or they find here expressed the idea of eternal rest in [Pg 83] the expected Messianic time. Thus do Gesenius, Hofmann, and Kurtz understand it. The last-named determines the sense thus: "Judah shall remain in the uninterrupted possession of a princely position among his brethren, until through warfare and by victory he shall have realized the aim, object, and consummation of his sovereignty in the attained enjoyment of happy rest and undisturbed peace, and in the willing and joyful obedience of the nations." But this explanation is to be suspected, simply from the circumstance, that, in whatever other place Shiloh occurs, it is used as a nomen proprium; while it is entirely overthrown by the circumstance, that, according to its form, as already deduced, Shiloh can be nothing else than a nomen proprium. We here only remark, by way of anticipation, that David, Solomon, Isaiah, and Ezekiel bear testimony against this explanation. An interpretation which dissevers the connection betwixt Shiloh and Shiloh, betwixt Shiloh and Solomon, betwixt Shiloh and the Prince of Peace, betwixt Shiloh and Him "whose is the judgment," must be, thereby, self-condemned. Against the explanation, "Until he comes to rest," it may also be urged, that the Accusative could not here stand after a verb of motion; it was too natural to consider Shiloh as the subject. If it had been intended in any other sense, a preposition would have been absolutely requisite.