We further remark, that vers. 11 and 12, which ancient and modern interpreters, e.g., Kurtz, have attempted to bring into artificial connection with ver. 10, simply "finish the picture of Judah's happiness by a description of the luxurious fulness of his rich territory" (Tuch). Their tenor is quite different from that which precedes, where a pre-eminence was assigned to Judah; for they contain nothing beyond a simple, positive declaration. What is in them assigned to Judah, belongs to him only as a part of the whole, as a fellow-heir of the country flowing with milk and honey, and corresponds entirely with the blessings upon the other sons, which are, almost all of them, only individual applications of the general blessing. It is evidently parallel to what, in vers. 25, 26, is said of Joseph, and in ver. 20 of Asher. That which Jacob here assigns to Judah, was [Pg 84] formerly, in Gen. xxvii. 28, assigned by Isaac to Jacob, and in him to the whole people: "God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine." Hence, it is not at all necessary to examine history for the purpose of ascertaining whether Judah was distinguished above the other tribes, by plenty of wine and milk.
We need not lose much time in discussing the attempts which have been made to assign the blessing of Jacob to a later period. The futility of all of them is proved by the circumstance, that we have not here before us any special predictions, such as are peculiar to vaticinia post eventum, but general prophetical outlines, individual applications of the general blessings, exemplifications. Whatever seems, at first sight, to be different, melts away while handling it. Thus, for example, the blessings which Israel enjoyed by his dwelling on the sea-side, are pointed out in the blessing upon Zebulun, because he had his name from the dwelling, Gen. xxi. 20. That Zebulun is here viewed only as a part of the whole, appears from the fact that, afterwards, he did not live by the sea at all. In the case of Issachar, it was the individuality of the ancestor Jacob which gave him occasion to describe, from his own example, the dangers of an indolent rest. History does not say anything of Issachar alone having yielded to these dangers in a peculiar degree. In the case of Joseph, the events personal to the son are transferred to the tribe, and in the tribe, to the whole nation. In an inimitable manner the tender love of the father towards his son and provider meets us here. The only thing which goes beyond the human sphere of Jacob, is the prediction by which Judah is placed in the centre of the world's history. But it is just this which, even in its beginnings, goes beyond the time at which this pretended vaticinium post eventum is placed by Tuch, Bleek, and Ewald; for, by this assumption of theirs, they are necessarily limited to the time before David, if they wish to avoid the insurmountable difficulties which arise from what is said of Levi and of Joseph. But to the man who looks deeper, vers. 8-10 are just the seal of the divinity, and hence of the genuineness also, of this prophecy, and, with all his heart, he will hate such miserable conjectures.
Let us now follow through history Jacob's blessing upon Judah. From this inquiry it will appear how deep has been the impression made by it upon the people of the covenant. On this occasion also, it will be seen still more distinctly what the right is which rationalistic criticism has to declare this fundamental prophecy to be the recent production of an obscure poet. The chain-like character of Holy Scripture will be seen in a very striking light.
In Num. ii. regulations are laid down respecting the order in which the tribes are to encamp about the tabernacle, and in which they are to set forth. "On the east side, towards which the entrance of the sanctuary is directed, and hence in the front, Judah, as the principal tribe, is encamped; and the two sons of his mother—Issachar and Zebulun—who were born immediately after him, pitch next to him. On the south side there is the camp, with the standard, of Reuben; and next to him are his brother Simeon, who was born immediately after him, and Gad, one of the sons of his mother's maid. The west side is assigned to the sons of Rachel, with Ephraim at their head. And, finally, on the north side, the three other sons of the maids, viz., Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, have their position. In the same order as they encamp they are also to set forth." (Baumgarten.)
Judah is the chief tribe on the chief side. This distinction [Pg 86] is not based on the deeds hitherto performed by Judah, nor is it the result of any revelation which Moses received upon the subject. It is regarded as a matter of course. And yet, there must necessarily have been some foundation for such a distinction, because, otherwise, it would have called forth the opposition of the other tribes, especially of that of Ephraim. Such a foundation, however, is afforded only by the blessing of Jacob, in which the tribe of Judah appears as the leading one. The complete realization of this prediction is left, indeed, in the hand of God; but the bearer of honours so great, even although future, must, in the prospect of that future, enjoy, even in the present, a certain distinction; such distinction, however, as does not at all imply sovereignty.
But we are compelled to have recourse to Genesis, and especially to chap. xlix., the more because the whole arrangement of the camp has evidently its foundation in Genesis, and the key to a whole series of facts in it can be found only in chap. xlix. If we ask why it is that the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun are subordinate to Judah; that Reuben, Simeon, and Gad, that Ephraim and Benjamin, that Dan, Asher, and Naphtali are encamped by each other; it is in Genesis alone that we are furnished with the answer.
The position which Reuben occupies specially points to Gen. xlix. As the first-born, he ought to stand at the head; but here we find him occupying the second place. In Gen. xlix. Jacob says to him, on account of his guilt, "Thou shalt not excel;" and "the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power," which up to that time he had possessed, are transferred to Judah. Yet Moses has so much regard to his original dignity, that he places him immediately after Judah; the utterance of Jacob did not entitle him to assign to him a lower position. Further,—The reason why Dan stands at the head of the sons of the maids is explained only in Gen. xlix. 16-18, where Dan is specially distinguished among them, and where it is specially said of him, "Dan shall judge his people."
If the blessing of Jacob be the production of a later time, then the order of the encampment, which rests upon it, must necessarily be so also; but such an idea will at once be discarded by every man of sound judgment. Even they who refuse to acknowledge Moses as the author of the Pentateuch, admit that [Pg 87] those regulations which bear reference only to the condition of things in the wilderness must have originated from him.
But exactly the same order which Moses in Num. ii. prescribes for the encampment and setting forth of the tribes, is found again in chap. vii., where there is described the offerings which the princes of the tribes offered at the dedication of the altar. Every prince has here a day to himself, and here also does Judah occupy the first place: "And he that offered his offering the first day was Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah."—If any one should venture to set down this chapter also, with all its details, as a fabrication of later times, he would only betray an utter absence of all scientific judgment.
According to Num. x. 14, Judah led the march when they set forth from Sinai.
Balaam's prophecies, the genuineness of which is proved by so many weighty arguments (compare the enumeration of them in my work on Balaam), rest, in general, on the fundamental prophecies of Genesis, but especially on the blessing of Jacob upon Judah.
In Num. xxiii. 24, Balaam says: "Behold, a people, like a full-grown lion he rises, and like a lion he lifts himself up. Not shall he lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain." This conclusion of Balaam's second prophecy, which at once demolishes Balak's vain hopes of victory, by pointing out the dreadful power of Israel, unconquerable by all his enemies, and crushing them all, has an intentional reference to Gen. xlix. 9,—a reference specially suitable for such a conclusion. What was there ascribed to Judah is here transferred to Israel, whose fore-champion Judah is. "Dost thou think," says Balaam to Balak, "of being able to overcome them, to stop them in their course towards the mark held out to them? Behold, according to an old revelation of their God, they are a people destroying their enemies with the lion's strength. Therefore, get thee out of their way, lest such a fate befall thee."
In Num. xxiv. 9, Balaam says, "He couches, he lies as a lion, and as a great lion, who shall stir him up?" As in the preceding prophecy he had pointed out Israel's dreadful power which secures to him victory in the battle, so here he shows how, even after having finished the battle, this power so intimidates his enemies, that they do not venture to disturb his peace. [Pg 88] That which Jacob had said of Judah, is, with intended literality, here transferred to Israel.
In Num. xxiv. 17, we read: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star goeth out of Jacob, and a sceptre riseth out of Israel, and smiteth the borders of Moab, and destroyeth all the sons of the tumult."—As the two preceding utterances carry us back to Gen. xlix. 9, so this one refers to ver. 10, where the sceptre, the emblem of dominion, denotes, just as it does in this passage, dominion itself, and where to Judah, and in him to all Israel, the kingdom is promised which shall at last be consummated in the Shiloh. The meaning of the words, "A sceptre riseth out of Israel," is explained in ver. 19 by the words, "Dominion shall come out of Jacob." Jacob has in view the internal relations among his descendants, and hence he speaks specially of Judah; but Balaam, in accordance with his object, speaks of Israel only. Jacob points, at the close, to Shiloh's just and peaceful dominion; but Balaam, who has to do with the enraged and obstinate enemies of Israel, points out, from among the effects produced by the star and sceptre, only the victorious might, and destructive power which these will display in the conflict with the enemies of Israel.
In the blessing of Moses, Deut. xxxii. 7, it is said of Judah: "Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people; with his hands he fights for himself, and be Thou an help to him from his enemies." Even the remarkable brevity of this utterance points back to the blessing of Jacob. With this brevity, the length of the blessing upon Levi, who had been treated too summarily by Jacob, forms a striking contrast. In the case of Reuben also, the attempt to pour oil into the wounds then inflicted is visible. The whole announcement is based upon the supposition that Judah is the fore-champion of Israel; and this supposition refers us back to Gen. xlix. This appears especially in the words, "Bring him to his people," on which light is thrown only by Gen. xlix. It is for his people that Judah engages in foreign wars, and the Lord, fulfilling the words, "From the prey, my son, thou goest up," brings him safely to his people.
There can be no doubt that in Shiloh, as the name of a place, there is a reference to Gen. xlix. 10. They who rightly denied that Shiloh could, in that passage, be understood as the name of the place, could, nevertheless, not feel satisfied as long as they allowed a twofold Shiloh to exist unconnected with each other. The agreement in the very rare and peculiar form, which nowhere else occurs, cannot well be a matter of accident.
In the Pentateuch, Shiloh does not occur at all as the name of a place. In the passage where Shiloh is first mentioned—in Josh. xvi. 6—another name is beside it, and prefixed to it. According to that passage, the former name was Taanah. (They who are of opinion that this place was different from Shiloh, can find no support from the authority of Eusebius; it is not said Taanah by Shiloh, but Taanath-Shiloh.) After that place had become the seat of the Sanctuary, the holy name Shiloh took the place of the former natural one. The reason why this name was given to it is indicated in Josh. xviii. 1: "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there; and the land was subdued before them." Compare also xxi. 44, xxii. 4, where it is remarked that at that time "the Lord gave them rest round about." (See Bachiene, Palestina ii. 3, S. 409 ff.) In the subjection of the country,—in the rest which the Lord had given them from all round about, they saw an earnest of, and a prelude to, the obedience of the nations in general, and to the state of perfect rest which should take place at some future time with the appearing of Shiloh. Victory, peace! (Siegfried!) such was the watchword corresponding to the elevated consciousness of the people. It is an elevation quite similar to that which we so often perceive in the Psalms. "Sometimes there rises the hope that the Gentiles shall, at some future period, be received among the people of God—a hope based upon the experience of the Lord's victorious power in the present, in which faith perceives a pledge of the future subjection of the world's power under His sceptre. Thus, in vers. 29-32 of Ps. lxviii., which was composed by David on the occasion of his having, by the help of the Lord, conquered his most dangerous enemies, the Aramites and Ammonites; in Ps. xlvii., written on the occasion of Jehoshaphat's victory over several heathen nations; and in Ps. lxxxvii., composed on the [Pg 90] ground of the joyful events under Hezekiah, the germ of the hope for the conversion of the heathen, which had all along lain dormant in the people, was developed."
After the main power of the Canaanites had been broken by the expeditions of all Israel under Joshua, Judah begins, at the command of God, to expel the Canaanites from the territory assigned to him. In Judges i. 1, 2, we read: "And the children of Israel asked the Lord, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites at the beginning to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up; behold, I deliver the land into his hands." They were concerned to find out the tribe who, by the decree of God, had been destined to be the fore-champion for his brethren, and with whom they might be sure of a happy commencement of the war. The short answer, "Judah shall go up," would scarcely have been justified, had it not had a foundation in a previous declaration of God's will. It indicates that Jacob's blessing upon Judah still possessed its power.
In like manner, in the war against Benjamin, according to divine direction, Judah goes up first to the battle, forms the vanguard. Judges xx. 18. The intentional identity of the expression used here and in chap. i., leads us to the supposition that the words, "Judah shall go up," have, in both passages, the same foundation.
From both of these events, we are led to expect that Judah may be called to occupy a still more important position. The announcement of Jacob regarding Judah, to which the words, "Judah shall go up," refer, finds, in these events, evidently but a poor beginning of its complete fulfilment. All, however, which was required in the meantime, was the indication, by gentle touches, of the position which Judah was called to occupy in future times. It is just God's way to take time in carrying out [Pg 91] His elections; all human conditions must first disappear. After these two intimations, at the end of the time of Joshua (for Judges i. 1, 2, belongs to that period; the words, "And it came to pass after the death of Joshua," do not refer to what follows immediately after, but only to the contents of the book as a whole), and at the beginning of the time of the Judges, Judah retires out of view. During the whole period of the Judges, Ephraim held the supremacy. Under David, the validity of the election suddenly appeared, and the announcement of Jacob found a glorious fulfilment; but again, such an one only as pointed to a still more glorious fulfilment in the future. Before this took place, however,—before Shiloh came, to whom the obedience of the people was promised, the lamp of Judah was once more to be extinguished, so that, to human eyes, it should be invisible for many centuries.
In 1 Chron. xxviii. 4, David says: "And the Lord God of Israel chose me out of all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever; for He hath chosen Judah to be the ruler, and in the house of Judah, the house of my father, and in the house of my father. He liked me to make me king over all Israel." David here points to an event by which Judah was raised to be the ruling tribe; and such an election is nowhere else to be found than in Gen. xlix. We cannot for a moment suppose that Judah was elected only in, and with, the election of David. Against such a supposition militates the fact, that even the election of David's house is represented in history as being distinct from the election of David himself; for in 1 Sam. xvi. the decree of God is first made known, that one of Jesse's sons is to be king; and it is only afterwards that we are told which of them is to be chosen. The expression too, "He hath chosen Judah to be the ruler," is decisive against it; for this expression has an evident reference to the sceptre and lawgiver in Gen. xlix. But if any doubt should still remain, it would be entirely removed by the parallel passage in 1 Chron. v. 2, where, in the words, "For Judah was mighty among his brethren, and of him the prince was to come," there is an allusion, which cannot be mistaken, to Gen. xlix.
There cannot be a doubt that David gave to his son the name Solomon, because he hoped that, in his just and peaceful reign, he would be a type of the Shiloh whom the nation should willingly [Pg 92] obey, just as, in his own reign, there had been the first grand fulfilment of what Jacob had prophesied of Judah's lion-courage, and lion-strength,—of Judah's sceptre and lawgiver. We have here the counterpart of the fact, that the children of Israel, after the first occupation of the country, gave to the seat of the sanctuary the name of Shiloh. In the case of Solomon, both the name and the substance point to Shiloh. With regard to the name, three out of the four letters of which the name [Hebrew: wlmh] consists, are common to it with Shiloh. The signification is precisely the same; so also is the form. In [Hebrew: wlmh] as well as in [Hebrew: wilh] we meet with the very rare case of the [Hebrew: wilh] at the end being thrown off. In Ewald's Grammar, Sec. 163, these two names are, for this reason, pointed out and placed immediately beside each other. And, with regard to the agreement in the substance, we refer to 1 Chron. xxii. 9, where Nathan says to David: "Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days." We refer, further, to 1 Kings v. 4, where Solomon says to Hiram: "And now the Lord my God hath given me rest round about; there is neither adversary nor evil obstacle." We refer, finally, to 1 Kings v. 4, 5 (iv. 24, 25): "He had dominion over all the region on the other side of the river, from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings on the other side of the river, and he had peace from all his servants round about. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and fig-tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon."
But if any further doubt should remain as regards the typical relation in which Solomon stands to Shiloh, it would be removed by Ps. lxxii., which discards the very idea that Solomon could be anything more than a type,—that any hope had ever been entertained of his being himself the Shiloh. Even David's Messianic Psalms bear witness against such an opinion. In harmony with the words of our Lord in Matt. xii. 42, "A [Pg 93] greater than Solomon is here," Solomon In this Psalm points beyond himself. In his own just and peaceful dominion, he beholds a type of the kingdom of the Prince of Peace, who, by His justice and love, shall obtain dominion over the world, and whom all kings shall worship, and all the heathen shall serve. How closely this Psalm is connected with Gen. xlix. is pointed out by Ezekiel, in a passage of which we shall immediately treat.
In ver. 9 of Ps. lx., which was composed by David, the words, "Judah is my lawgiver"—equivalent to, Judah is my, i.e., Israel's ruling tribe—point to Gen. xlix. 10, according to which the lawgiver shall not depart from Judah; just as ver. 13, "Give us help from the enemy," alludes to Deut. xxxiii. 7, where it is said of Judah, "Be thou a help to him from his enemies," and ver. 14, to Num. xxiv. 18.
That the Prince of Peace spoken of in Is. ix. 5, under whom there is "no end to the increase of government and of peace," refers to the Peaceful One, to whom the nations render obedience, will not be doubted by those who have recognised the connection in which Solomon and Ps. lxxii. stand to the Shiloh. Nor will such fail to recognise an allusion to the Shiloh in all the other passages of the Prophets, in which the Messiah is described as the Author of rest and peace; e.g., Mic. iv. 1-4; Is. ii. 2-4; Zech. ix. 10; and the less so, the more clearly it appears, from passages of Ezekiel, what influence Gen. xlix. exercised over the prophetic consciousness. Isaiah significantly alludes to it in other passages also. In chap. xxix. 1, 2, he says: "Woe to Ariel, (i.e., Lion of God), the city where David encamped! Add ye year to year, let the feasts revolve. And I distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and affliction, but it shall be unto me as Ariel;"—the meaning of which is: Jerusalem will, in times to come, endure heavy affliction (through Asshur), but the world-conquering power of the kingdom of God will manifest itself in her deliverance. The name Ariel is emphatically placed at the beginning, and, in it, the Prophet gives to the congregation of God a guarantee for her deliverance. That which Jacob had said of Judah, who, to him, appeared as the invincible lion of God, is here applied to Zion, the city where David encamped, the centre of the kingdom of Judah.
Ezekiel, in his lamentation over the princes of Israel who, [Pg 94] in his time, were standing just at the brink of the abyss, says in chap. xix. 2: "Thy mother was a lioness, who lay down among lionesses, and brought up her whelps among young lions." The mother is the congregation of Judah. The image of the lion points to the blessing of Jacob, and its fulfilment in history. "Judah once couched in a threatening position, endangering his adversaries, in the midst of lions, i.e., among the other powerful kingdoms fond of conquests." (Haevernick.)
In Ezek. xxi. 15, 18 (10-15), the Lord, with an evident allusion to Gen. xlix. 10, announces the (temporary) destruction of the sceptre of His son (i.e., Israel or Judah), a sceptre which despises all other sceptres.
In vers. 30-32 (25-27) of the same chapter, Ezekiel foretells, in the name of the Lord, a complete overturning of all relations, a total revolution, in which the Davidic kingdom especially is brought down, a condition of affairs in which rest and safety will not anywhere be found. This state of things is to continue "until He comes to whom is the judgment; to Him I will give it."
The reference of this passage to Gen. xlix. cannot be mistaken. It was recognised, indeed, by the ancient translators; only that most of them erroneously found in it an explanation instead of an allusion.
Instead of the words, "to whom is the judgment," we should, from the expression used in Gen. xlix. 10, "Until Shiloh cometh," have expected, "to whom is peace;" but Ezekiel has filled up Gen. xlix. 10 from Ps. lxxii. 1-5, where judgment and righteousness appear as the basis of the peace which the Anointed One shall bring. And peace occupies the background in Ezekiel also. The advent of Him to whom is the judgment, in contrast with the injustice and wickedness of those who were hitherto the bearers of the sceptre, puts an end to strife, confusion, and destruction. That, in like manner, in Gen. xlix., the judgment occupies the background, we see plainly, from the commentary upon that passage furnished by Ps. lxxii., as well as from Is. ix. and ii. In Ps. lxxii., peace comes into consideration, only in so far as it is a product and consequence of justice, which is an attribute of the King, and is by him [Pg 95] infused into the life of the nation. In vers. 1-50, the thought is: "God gives righteousness to His King, and in consequence of it, righteousness and the fear of God become indigenous to the people, and these again bring peace in their train."
Every word in Ezekiel is taken from Gen. xlix. and Ps. lxxii. From the latter are taken the words, "judgment," and "I will give it." (Compare Ps. lxxii. 1: "Give the King thy judgments.") The combination of these two passages points out their close connection, and indicates that Ps. lxxii. is to be viewed as a comment. Onkelos, who thus translates the passage in Gen. xlix., "Until Messiah comes, to whom the kingdom is due, and Him the people shall obey," has very properly only supplemented the declaration of Jacob from Ezekiel, or, at least, has taken thence the explanation of Shiloh.
But, at the same time, the words [Hebrew: awr li hmwpT], which, on the basis of Ps. lxxii., Ezekiel puts in the place of [Hebrew: wilh], allude to the letters of the latter word which forms the initials of the words in Ezekiel. That [Hebrew: w] is the main letter in [Hebrew: awr], is shown by the common abbreviation of it into [Hebrew: w]; and that the [Hebrew: i] in [Hebrew: wilh] is unessential, is proved by the circumstance that the name of the place is often written [Hebrew: wlh], and that even in Gen. xlix. 10, a number of manuscripts have this orthography.
"From the allusion to a prophecy so well known, and so frequently used, the brevity of the prophecy in Ezekiel is to be explained. It forms a most powerful conclusion and resting-point for the prophetic discourse." (Haevernick.)
There cannot be any doubt that Ezekiel found in Gen. xlix. 10, the prophecy of a personal Messiah. They, therefore, who assert that no such prophecy is contained in our passage, must, at the same time, assert that Ezekiel misunderstood it; yea, even more, that, even as early as at that period, a false view of that passage was generally prevalent. For, the manner in which Ezekiel alludes to it presupposes that, at that time, the view which found in it a personal Messiah was generally held. If we observe still further, that Ezekiel connected the allusion to Ps. lxxii. with that to Gen. xlix., we cannot hesitate for a moment to admit that he understood the name Shiloh to be Rest-maker, Peace-maker; only, that on the ground of Ps. lxxii., he mentions the cause instead of the effect. He had, moreover, the stronger reason for designating the bearer of peace as the bearer of judgment, [Pg 96] because, in his time, the want of judgment had evidently produced the absence of peace, and the general confusion, misery, and destruction.
"As in Gen. xlix. the Patriarch sees a light rising at a far distance, and spreading its brightness over the darkness of centuries, so in Ezekiel also, the same ray of glorious hope lightens through the dark night of confusion and unutterable misery in which he sees himself enveloped."
Kurtz, S. 266, has altogether denied the connection of the passage in Ezekiel with Gen. xlix. These two passages are, as he thinks, altogether different, inasmuch as Ezekiel announces destruction and desolation which shall continue until He comes to whom is the judgment, while Gen. xlix., when understood of a personal Messiah, announces dominion which shall continue until Shiloh comes. But Ezekiel does not contradict Gen. xlix. 10. He gives only the supplement necessary for preventing this passage from being considered as a permission to sin, and from becoming a support of false security. Ezekiel, too, assumes a continuation of the dominion. If that were not concealed behind the destruction, how could "the coming of Him to whom is the judgment" be pointed out as the limit of that destruction? The tree indeed is cut down, but the root remains in its full vigour.
When Jacob announces that the sceptre shall not depart until Shiloh, the prince of peace, cometh, he can thereby mean only that it would not depart definitively; for, otherwise, he would have belied his own experience. From the way by which the Lord had led him, he had sufficiently learnt that God's promises to sinful men must be taken cum grano salis; that they never exclude the visitation of the elect on account of their sins, and that it is only in the end that God will bring all to a glorious fulfilment. When he went to Mesopotamia, God had said to him, "I am with thee, and I will keep thee in all places whither thou goest," Gen. xxviii. 15; and yet the deceit which he had practised upon his father and brother was recompensed to him there by the deceit of Laban, and he was obliged to say, "In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from mine eyes," Gen. xxxi. 40. When he came from the land of the two rivers, God blessed him and gave him the honourable name of Israel, Gen. xxxii.; and yet [Pg 97] he had soon thereafter to experience grievous distress on account of Dinah and Joseph; and in chap. xxxvii. 34, 35, we are told concerning him: "And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, I shall go down into the grave unto my son in sorrow." In the kingdom of God there are no other promises than such as resemble those rivers which flow alternately above and below ground, since it is certain that all the subjects of the promises are affected by sin.
Ezekiel xliii. 15 likewise refers to the blessing of Jacob upon Judah. The altar for the burnt-offerings in the new temple is first called Harel = the mountain of God, and afterwards Ariel = the Lion of God,—indicating that what had been promised to Judah in Gen. xlix., viz., the Lion's nature and invincible power, victorious over all enemies, has its root in the altar,—in the circumstance that the people of God are a people whose sins are forgiven, who dedicate themselves to God, and give Him thanks and praise.
A very remarkable reference to Gen. xlix. meets us at the very threshold of the New Testament. In Luke ii. 13, 14, the heavenly host praise God, saying: "Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace." The words, "glory" or "praise be to God," are an allusion to Judah, and to the glorious things foretold in Gen. xlix. of him who centres in Christ. Christ is the true Judah,—He by whom God is glorified, John xiv. 13. The words, "on earth peace," contain the explanation of the name Shiloh, the first name under which the Saviour is celebrated in the Old Testament.
As the words with which the Saviour is first introduced into the world allude to Gen. xlix., so the Lord Himself, before His departure, alludes to this fundamental Messianic prophecy in John xiv. 27: "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you;" and in xvi. 33: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace." So also, after His resurrection, Christ says, in the circle of His disciples, "Peace be unto you," John xx. 19, 21, 26.
The last book of the entire Holy Scripture—the Apocalypse [Pg 98]—likewise points back to the remarkable prophecy of Christ at the close of its first book. In Rev. v. 5, we read: "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed." "The designation of Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, rests on Gen. xlix. 9. Judah appears there as a lion, in order to denote his warlike and victorious powers. But Judah himself, according to the blessing of dying Jacob, is at some future period to centre in the Messiah. As a type, he had formerly centred already in David, in whom the lion-nature of the tribe of Judah was manifested." This allusion shows that even what Is said in vers. 8, 9, found its complete fulfilment only in Christ, and that vers. 8, 9, are parallel to the entire ver. 10, and not to its first half only.
Bengel remarks on Rev. v. 6: "The elder had pointed John to a Lion, and yet John beheld a Lamb. The Lord Jesus is called a Lion only once in this prophecy, and that, at the very beginning, before the appellation Lamb appears. This indicates that as often as the Lamb is remembered, we should also remember Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah."
As the designation of Christ as the Lion refers to what, in the blessing of Jacob, is said of the lion-nature of the tribe of Judah, so, in the "Lamb"—the emblem of innocence, justice, silent patience and gentleness—the name Shiloh is embodied.
Footnote 1: Luther says: "No doubt the sons of Jacob will have waited with anxious desire, and with weeping and groaning, for what their father had yet to say; for, after having heard curses so hard and severe, they were very much confounded and afraid. And Judah, too, will certainly not have been able to refrain from weeping, and will have been afraid, when thinking of what should now become of him. There will have arisen in his heart very sad recollections of his sins, of his whoredom with Thamar, and of the advice which he had given to sell Joseph. Certainly, I should have died with sorrow and tears. But there soon follow a fine dew and a lovely balm, refreshing the heart again."
Footnote 2: Bochart says: "When the whelp of a lion is weaned, and begins to go out for prey, and to seek his own food without the help of his mother, he then ceases to be a [Hebrew: gvr], and is called a [Hebrew: kpir]." Deut. xxxiii. 22 must, therefore, not be translated, "Dan is a lion's whelp leaping from Bashan"—as if the [Hebrew: gvr arih] were already active—but thus, "Dan is a lion's whelp; he shall leap (i.e., after he shall have grown up) from Bashan." Dan is in that place styled a lion's whelp, just as is Judah in Gen. xlix. 9, because, as yet, he is only a candidate for future victories.
Footnote 3: The LXX. translate, [Greek: ek blastou huie mou anebes], "from a shoot, my son, thou hast grown up." They explain [Hebrew: TrP] by an inappropriate reference to Ezek. xvii. 9, where it is used of a fresh green leaf.
Footnote 4: Calvin says: "This dignity is bestowed upon Judah only with a view to benefit the whole of the people."
Footnote 5: In the first edition of this work, the author had likewise maintained that view.
Footnote 6: It was this difficulty which led Grotius to adopt the feeble exposition, "That teachers out of Judah's posterity would lead the people until the times of the Messiah, who would be the highest leader and commander of Jews and Gentiles."
Footnote 7: Calvin says: "If any one should object, that the words of Jacob convey a different meaning, we would answer him, that whatever promises God gave concerning the outward condition of the Church, they were so far limited that God might, in the meantime, exercise His judgments in the punishment of men's sins, and prove the faith of His people. And indeed it was not a light trial when, at the third succession, the tribe of Judah was deprived of the greater part of his territory. A more severe one followed when, before the eyes of the father, the sons of the king were slain, his own eyes put out, and himself was carried to Babylon, and given over to servitude and exile along with the whole royal family. But the heaviest trial of all came, when the people returned to their land, and were so far from seeing their expectations fulfilled, that they were, on the contrary, subjected to a sad dispersion. But even then, the saints beheld with the eye of faith the sceptre hidden under ground; neither did their hearts fail, nor their courage give way, so that they desisted not from continuing their course."
Footnote 8: Many expositors, following the LXX. ([Greek: ek ton meron autou]), the Vulgate (de femore ejus), and the Chaldee Paraphrast, understand this expression as a designation of origin and production. But in that case, we must assume a very hard ellipsis, viz., "he who is to proceed." Moreover, this explanation is destructive of the parallelism, according to which, "from between his feet" must correspond with "from Judah."
Footnote 9: The signification, "expectation," given to this word by the LXX. ([Greek: kai autos prosdokia ethnon]), Jerome, and other translators, is founded upon the erroneous derivation of the word from [Hebrew: qvh]. In the other passage (Prov. xxx. 17), where the LXX. translate, "the age of his mother," they have confounded the root [Hebrew: iqh] with [Hebrew: qhh], "to be blunted."
Footnote 10: Gousset says: The word can signify something good only, on account of the passage, Prov. xxx. 17, namely, something which adorns the relation of the son to his mother, the despising of which is a crime on the part of the son, and which deserves that he should be sent [Greek: eis korakas]. And not less so from its being used in Gen. xlix. 10 in reference to the Shiloh, where, thereby, not one or a few, but all the nations without exception, are bound to Him by a tie similar to that which exists betwixt mother and son.
Footnote 11: Thus Luther says: "This sceptre of Judah shall continue, and shall not be taken from him, till the hero come; but when He comes, then the sceptre also shall depart. The kingdom or sceptre has fallen; the Jews are scattered throughout the whole world, and, therefore, the Messiah has certainly come; for, at His appearing, the sceptre should be taken from Judah."
Footnote 12: In the volume containing the Dissertations on the Genuineness of Daniel, etc. Edinburgh, T. and T. Clark.
Footnote 13: Delitzsch (who had formerly been a defender of the explanation of a personal Messiah) differs, in his Commentary on Genesis, from this view, only in so far, that he supposes that, while Judah's dominion over the tribes comes to an end in Shiloh, his dominion over the nations dates from that period. But this explanation must be objected to on the ground, that the dominion bestowed upon Judah is not merely a dominion over the tribes, but over the world.
Footnote 14: Knobel knows of no other expedient by which to escape from the force of this argument, than by changing the punctuation. He proposes to read [Hebrew: wlh], a word which nowhere occurs.
Footnote 15: The rationalistic objection, that at so great an age, and on the brink of the grave, man is not wont to compose poems, may be refuted by a reference to the history of the ancient Arabic poetry. The Arabic poets before the time of Mohammed often recited long poems extempore,—so natural to them was poetry. (Compare Tharaphae Moallakah, ed. Reiske, p. xl.; Antarae Moallakah, ed. Menil. p. 18.) The poet Lebid, who attained to the age of 157 years (compare Reiske prolegg. ad Thar. Moall. p. xxx.; De Sacy, Memoires de l'Academie des inscriptions, p. 403 ff.), composed a poem when he was dying; compare Herbelot Bibl. Or. p. 513. The poet Hareth was 135 years old when he recited extempore his Moallakah, which is still extant; compare Reiske l.c. The objection, too, that it is inconceivable how the blessing spoken by Jacob could have been handed down verbatim to Moses, finds its best refutation in the history of Arabic poetry. The art of writing was introduced among the Arabs only a short time before Mohammed. (Compare de Sacy l.c. pp. 306, 348; Amrulkeisi Moall. ed. Hengstenberg, p. 3.) Up to that time, even the longest poems, of which some consisted of more than a hundred verses, were preserved by mere oral tradition (compare Nuweiri in Rosenmueller, Zoheiri Moall. p. 11); and the internal condition of those which have been preserved to us bears the best testimony to their having been faithfully handed down. But in the case before us, something altogether different from a poem was concerned.
Footnote 16: Onkelos paraphrases these words very correctly, thus: "Hear, O Lord, the prayers of Judah when he goes out to war, and bring him safely back to his people."
Footnote 17: It is probable also, that in the passage, Josh. xvi. 6, where Shiloh occurs for the first time as the name of a place, and which we have already discussed, there is not, as we assumed, a connection of the former name with the latter, but the complete appellation, of which the latter—Shiloh—is only an abbreviation. From the well ascertained and common signification of the verb [Hebrew: anh], we are entitled to explain Taanath-Shiloh: "the futurity, or the appearance of Shiloh." Shiloh shall come! Such was the watchword at that time. The word [Hebrew: tanh] would then correspond to the [Hebrew: iba] of the fundamental passage.
Footnote 18: That there exists a connection between Shiloh and Solomon has often been guessed at and expressed; but expositors have not succeeded well in determining it more closely. The Samarit. Arab. Translation here says expressly: "Until Solomon cometh." (Comp. Lib. Genes. sec. Arab. Pent. Samarit. vers. ed. Kuenen. Leyden, 51.)
Footnote 19: Kimchi says: "As long as the Jews were doing the will of God, they could lie down like the lion without fear."
BALAAM'S PROPHECY. (Numb. xxiv. 17-19.)
Carried by the Spirit into the far distant future, Balaam sees here how a star goeth out of Jacob and a sceptre riseth out of Israel, and how this sceptre smiteth Moab, by whose enmity the Seer had been brought from a distant region for the destruction of Israel. And not Moab only shall be smitten, but its southern neighbour, Edom, too shall be subdued, whose hatred against Israel had already been prefigured in its ancestor, and had now begun to display Itself; and In general, all the enemies of the [Pg 99] people of God shall be cast down to the ground by the Ruler out of Jacob.
Ver. 17. "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh. A star goeth out of Jacob, and a sceptre riseth out of Israel, and smiteth the borders of Moab, and destroyeth all the sons of the tumult. Ver. 18. And Edom shall be a possession, and Seir shall be a possession—his enemies, and Israel acquireth might. Ver. 19. And a Ruler shall come out of Jacob, and destroyeth what remaineth out of the city."
The star is, in Scripture, the symbol of the splendour of power. The sceptre leads us back to Gen. xlix. 10; and, in general, the announcements of Balaam have, throughout, the promises and hopes of the Patriarchs for their foundation. As in the fundamental passage, so here also, the sceptre, the symbol of dominion, stands for dominion itself. The substance of the two figurative expressions is briefly stated in ver. 19, in the words, "They shall rule out of Jacob," which are tantamount to, "A Ruler shall come out of Jacob."
A difference of opinion exists regarding the glorious King who is here announced. From the earliest times, the Jews understood thereby the Messiah, either exclusively, or, at least, principally, so as to admit of a secondary reference to David. Onkelos translates: "When a King shall rise out of Jacob, and out of Israel Messiah shall be anointed;"—Jonathan: "When a valiant King shall rise out of the house of Jacob, and out of Israel, Messiah, and a strong Sceptre shall be anointed." The Book of Sohar remarks on the words, "I see him, but now:" "This was in part fulfilled at that time; it will be completely fulfilled in the days of Messiah." (Compare the passages in Jos. de Voisin, in the Prooem. on R. Martini Pugio fid. p. 68; R. Martini iii. 3, c. 11; Schoettgen, "Jesus Messias," S. 151.) How widely this opinion was spread among the Jews, is sufficiently apparent from the circumstance, that the renowned pseudo-Messiah in the time of Hadrian adopted, with reference to the passage under review, the surname Barcochba, i.e., Son of the Star.—From the Jews, this interpretation very soon passed over to the Christians, who rightly found a warrant for it in the narrative of the star of the wise men from the East. Cyril of Jerusalem defended the Messianic interpretation against Julian. (Compare Julian, ed. Spanh. p. 263 c. See other passages [Pg 100] from the fathers of the Church in Calov.) According to Theodoret (Quest. 44 in Numb.), there were, indeed, some to whom "Balaam appeared to have foretold nothing concerning our Saviour;" but this opinion was rejected as profane. The Messianic interpretation has, in a narrower and wider sense—i.e., as referring in the first instance to David, but in the highest and proper sense to Christ—become the prevailing one in the Evangelical Church also. It was defended even by such interpreters as Calvin and Clericus, who, as to other passages, differed from the prevailing Messianic interpretation. (Compare especially Mieg, de Stella et Sceptro Baleamitico in the Thes. Nov. p. 423 sqq., and Boullier, Dissert. Syll. Amsterdam 1750, Diss. I.) On the other hand, the Messianic interpretation found a zealous and ingenious opponent, first in Verschnir in the Bibl. Brem. nova, reprinted in his Opusc. He was joined by the rationalistic interpreters, who maintained an exclusive reference to David. But Rosenmueller and Baumgarten-Crusius (bibl. Theol. S. 369) returned to the Messianic interpretation.
The question at issue is chiefly this:—Whether by the star and sceptre some single Israelitish king is designated, or rather, an ideal person—the personified Israelitish kingdom. The latter view I proved, in my work on Balaam, to be the correct one, for the following reasons:—1. The reference to a certain Israelitish king is against the analogy of the other prophecies of the Pentateuch. A single person, especially a single king of future time, is nowhere announced in it,—except the Messiah, whose announcement, however, is different from that of David. But, on the other hand, the rise of the kingdom in Israel is announced as early as in the promise to the Patriarchs, on which all of Balaam's declarations rest throughout. It is only to this that the words, "A star goeth out of Jacob, and a sceptre riseth out of Israel," can refer,—according to the analogy of Gen. xvii. 6: "Kings shall come out of thee;" ver. 16: "And she shall become nations, kings of people shall be of her;" and xxxv. 11: "Kings shall come out of thy loins." 2. The reference to a single king would be against the analogy of Balaam's prophecies, inasmuch as these nowhere refer to a single individual. 3. The sceptre does not, in itself, lead us to think of an individual, since it does not designate a ruler, but dominion in general. But that which especially militates against the reference [Pg 101] to an individual is the comparison with the fundamental passage, Gen. xlix. 10, in which Judah, and in him all Israel, does not receive the promise of a single king, but of the kingdom which shall at last be consummated in the Shiloh. 4. In favour of this general interpretation is also ver. 19, in which the words, "And dominion shall come out of Jacob," or literally, "They shall rule out of Jacob," may be considered as just a commentary on the words, "A sceptre riseth out of Israel." So also is ver. 7, "More elevated than Agag be his king," where the king of Israel is an ideal person—the personification of the kingdom. Agag, i.e., the fiery one, is not a proper name, but a surname of all Amalekite kings. The Amalekite kingdom—which here represents the world's power, opposed to the kingdom of God, because at the time of the Seer the Amalekites were the most powerful among the people who were hostile to Israel (compare ver. 20, where they are called the beginning of the heathen nations, i.e., the most powerful of them)—is here put in opposition to the Israelitish kingdom, and the latter will show itself superior to all worldly power.
The arguments which thus prove the reference of Balaam's prophecy to an Israelitish kingdom, disprove also, not only the exclusive reference to David, but also the exclusive reference to Christ; although they imply at the same time that the prophecy, in its final reference, has Christ for its subject. The Israelitish kingdom, indeed, attained to the full height of its destiny only in and with the Messiah; without the Messiah, the Israelitish kingdom is a trunk without a head. The prophecy thus centres in Christ. We are, however, not entitled to suppose that the prophet himself was not aware of this; on the contrary, we cannot but assume that Balaam must have known it. It is with intention that he does not speak of a plurality of Israelitish kings. The Israelitish kingdom, on the contrary, appears to him in the from of an ideal king, because he knows that, at some period, it will find Its full realization in the person of one king. For the same reason, Moses also describes the prophetic order, in the first instance, as an ideal prophet. That Balaam knew that the Israelitish kingdom would centre in the Messiah, is shown by the reference which his prophecy has to that of dying Jacob, in Gen. xlix. 10, from which the figure of the sceptre is borrowed. According to the latter passage, the whole dignity of Judah as [Pg 102] ruler and lord over the whole heathen world is to centre in one elevated individual—the Shiloh. As to the letter, Balaam's prophecy falls short of the prophecy to which it refers, and on which it is founded, in two points. Instead of Judah, it mentions Israel; and instead of the invincible kingdom which is at last to centre in the Messiah, it represents the invincible kingdom only in general. But in both cases, this generality is easily accounted for by the external direction of Balaam's prophecy: a more definite tendency was of importance only for those who were within. We are fully entitled to suppose that Balaam himself knew what was contained in the fundamental passage. To the same result we are led by the contents of the prophecy itself. Balaam here brings into view an Israelitish kingdom, all-powerful on earth, and raised absolutely above the world's power. He does not stop with the victory over Moab and Edom—even this victory appears to him as an absolute and lasting one, and hence, essentially different from the temporary submission to David—but, from the particular, which only serves to exemplify the idea in reference to the historical relations existing at the present, he passes on, in ver. 19, to the general, the total overthrow of the whole hostile world's power. Indeed, such a progress is probably found even in ver. 17 itself. If at the close of it we read, "And destroyeth all the sons of the tumult," the word all, which is wanting in Jer. xlviii. 45, indicates that by the sons of the tumult we are to understand not only the Moabites, but the whole species to which they belonged, the whole heathen world, whose nature is restlessness, desire for strife, and the spirit of conquest,—the opposites of meekness and gentleness, which are the virtues characteristic of the subjects of the kingdom of God. In ver. 18, the particular is likewise followed by the general. But while ver. 17 and 18 contain, in each of the two particular features, a previous short allusion to the general, ver. 19 most expressly and intentionally reduces the particular to the general. The absolute elevation above the world's power, attributed by Balaam to the Israelitish kingdom, leads not only beyond the idea of a single king of the ordinary stamp, but also beyond that of the entire ordinary kingdom.
The objections urged against the Messianic interpretation are based either on a misunderstanding, or upon a superficial view of the passage. They who maintain that the judging activity of [Pg 103]the Messiah is here brought forward in a manner too one-sided, forget that this part only could here be treated of. As Balaam's discourse formed the answer to Balak's message—"Come, curse me this people; peradventure we shall prevail to smite them and drive them out of the land,"—its natural subject was: Israel's position towards their enemies; and Balaam had expressly stated, in ver. 14, that he would treat of that subject. Balaam had to do with an enemy of Israel, and his chief aim was to represent to him the vanity of all his hostile efforts. The partial view arises, therefore, from the nature of the case; and only in that case could doubts arise as to the ultimate reference to the Messiah, if the other view were altogether denied. But such is by no means the case; for the words in ver. 9, "Blessed is he that blesseth thee," distinctly point it out. They who object to the Messianic interpretation on the ground that, at the time of Christ, the Moabites had disappeared from the stage of history, overlook the circumstance, that the Moabites here, as well as in Is. xi., where the complete destruction of Moab is likewise assigned to the times of the Messiah, are viewed only in their character as enemies to the congregation of God. If the prophecy were fulfilled upon the Moabites, even at the time when they still existed as a nation, not as Moabites, but as the enemies of the people of God; then the limit of their national existence cannot be the limit of the fulfilment of the prophecy. A case quite analogous is found in Mic. v. 4, 5, where the prophet characterizes the enemies of the kingdom of God at the time of the Messiah by the name of Asshur, although it appears, from other passages, that he distinctly knew that Asshur must, long ere that time, have disappeared from the scene of history.
The Messianic character of the prophecy being thus established, it will be impossible to misunderstand the internal relation between the star of Balaam and the star of the wise men from the East. The star of Balaam is the emblem of the kingdom which will rise in Israel. The star of the Magi is the symbol of the Ruler in whom the kingly power appears concentrated. The appearance of the star embodying the image of the prophet, indicates that the last and highest fulfilment of his prophecies is now to take place.
MOSES' PROMISE OF THE PROPHET. (Deut. xviii. 15-19.)
Ver. 15. "A prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, Jehovah thy God will raise up: unto him ye shall hearken. Ver. 16. According to all that thou desiredst of Jehovah thy God in Horeb, in the day of the assembly, when thou didst say, I will not hear any farther the voice of Jehovah my God, and will not see this great fire any more, that I die not. Ver. 17. Then Jehovah said unto me. They have well spoken. Ver. 18. A prophet I will raise them up from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put My words into his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. Ver. 19. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him."
If we leave out of view the unfortunate attempts of those who would understand by the prophet here promised, either Joshua—as is done by Abenezra, Bechai, and von Ammon (Christol. S. 29)—or Jeremiah—as is the case in Baal Hatturim and Jalkut out of the book Pesikta, and in Abarbanel—we may reduce the expositions of this passage to three classes. 1. Several consider the "prophet" as a collective noun, and understand thereby the prophets of all times. Such was the opinion of Origen (c. Celsum i. 9, Sec. 5, Mosh.), of the Arabic translator, and of most of the modern Jewish interpreters,—especially Kimchi, Alshech, and Lipman (Nizachon 137); while Abenezra and Bechai conjoin this view with that according to which Jeremiah is meant. Among recent expositors, it is defended by Rosenmueller, Vater, Baumgarten-Crusius (Bibl. Theol. S. 369), and others. 2. Some see in it an exclusive reference to Christ,—a view which has been held by most interpreters in the Christian Church, and from the earliest times. It is found as early as in Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Athanasius, Eusebius (Demonstr. iii. 2, ix. 11), Lactantius (iv. 17), Augustine (c. Faustum, xvi. c. 15, 18, 19), and Isidore of Pelusium (c. iii. ep. 49). It was held by Luther (t. 3. Jen. Lat. f. 123), became the prevailing one in the Lutheran Church, and was [Pg 105] approved of by most of the Reformed interpreters. Among its earliest defenders, the most eminent are Deyling (Misc. ii. 175), Frischmuth (in the Thesaurus theol.-philol. i. 354), and Hasaeus (in the Thes. theol.-philol. nov. i. S. 439.) In recent times it has been defended by Pareau (in the Inst. interpr. V. T. p. 506), by Knapp (Dogm. ii. 138). 3. Others have steered a middle course, inasmuch as they consider the "prophet" to be a collective noun, but, at the same time, maintain that only by the mission of Christ, in whom the idea of the prophetic order was perfectly realized, the promise was completely fulfilled. Thus did Nicolaus de Lyra, Calvin, several Roman Catholic interpreters, Grotius, Clericus, and others.
In favour of the Messianic interpretation, the authority of tradition has been, first of all, appealed to. It is true that modern Jewish interpreters differ from it; but this has been the result of polemical considerations alone. It can be satisfactorily proved that the Messianic interpretation was the prevailing one among the older Jews. 1 Mac. xiv. 41—"Also that the Jews and priests resolved that Simon should be commander and high priest for ever, until a credible prophet should arise,"—has been frequently appealed to in proof of this, but erroneously. For, that by the "credible prophet," i.e., one sufficiently attested by miracles or fulfilled prophecies, we are not to understand the prophet promised by Moses (as was done by Luther, and many older expositors who followed him), is shown, partly by the absence of the article, and partly by the circumstance that a credible prophet is spoken of. The sense is rather this: Simon and his family should continue to hold the highest dignity until God Himself should make another arrangement by a future prophet, as there was none at that time (comp. Ps. lxxiv. 9: "There is no more any prophet"), and thus put an end to a state of things which, on the one hand, was in contradiction to the law, and, on the other, to the promise,—a state of things unto which they had been led by the force of circumstances, and which could, at all events, be only a provisional one. (Compare J. D. Michaelis on that passage.) It is not on the passage under review that the expectation of a prophet there rests, but rather on Mal. iii. 1, 23, where a prophet is promised as the precursor of the Messiah. But the New Testament furnishes sufficient materials for proving the [Pg 106] Messianic interpretation. The very manner in which Peter and Stephen quote this passage shows that the Messianic interpretation was, at that time, the prevailing one. They do not deem it at all necessary to prove it; they proceed on the supposition of its being universally acknowledged. It was, no doubt, chiefly our passage which Philip had in view when, in John i. 46, he said to Nathanael: [Greek: hon egrapse Mouses en to nomo, heurekamen, Iesoun.] For, besides the passage under consideration, there is only one other personal Messianic prophecy in the Pentateuch, namely, Gen. xlix. 10; and the marks of the Shiloh did not so distinctly appear in Jesus, as did those of the Prophet. The mention of the person of Moses (which in Gen. xlix. 10 is less concerned), and of the law, clearly point to the passage under review. After the feeding of the five thousand, the people say, in John vi. 14: [Greek: hOti houtos estin alethos ho prophetes, ho erchomenos eis ton kosmon.] The Messianic interpretation was, accordingly, not peculiar to a few learned men, but to the whole people. Even with the Samaritans the Messianic explanation was the prevailing one,—based, no doubt, upon the tradition which had come to them from the Jews. The Samaritan woman says, in John iv. 25: [Greek: oida hoti Messias erchetai, ho legomenos Christos. hoton elthe ekeinos, anangelei hemin panta.] Now, as the Samaritans acknowledged only the Pentateuch, there is no other passage than that under review from which the idea of the Messiah as a divinely enlightened teacher, which is here expressed, could have been derived. The last words agree in a remarkable manner with Deut. xviii. 18: "And he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." That too great weight, however, must not be attached to tradition, is shown by John i. 21, and vii. 40, 41; for these passages clearly prove that there were also many who thought it possible that Deut. xviii. contained not only the announcement of the Messiah, but of some distinguished prophet also, besides Him, who should be His precursor or companion. At the same time, we must not overlook the circumstance that, in both passages, the people are at a loss, and are thereby induced to deviate from the prevailing [Pg 107] opinion. Their uncertainty and wavering, however, is only about the person. In this they agree, notwithstanding, that in Deut. xviii. they find the announcement of one distinguished person.
But the Messianic interpretation may appeal, with still greater confidence, to the direct evidence of the New Testament. The declaration of the Lord in John v. 45-47 is here to be noticed above all: [Greek: Me dokeite hoti ego kategoreso humon pros ton patera. estin ho kategoron humon, Mouses, eis hon humeis elpikate. Ei gar episteuete Mouse, episteuete an emoi. peri gar emou ekeinos egrapsen. Ei de tois ekeinou grammasin ou pisteuete, pos tois emois rhemasi pisteusete];—It is clear that the Lord must here have had in view a distinct passage of the Pentateuch,—a clear and definite declaration of Moses. Dexterous explanations (Bengel: Nunquam non; Tholuck: The prophetical and typical element implied in the whole form of worship) are of no apologetic value, and it is not possible summarily, on such grounds, to call the enemies before the judgment-seat of God. It was not enough to allude, in a way so general, to what could not be at once perceptible; greater distinctness and particularity would have been required. But if a single declaration—a direct Messianic prophecy—form the question at issue, our passage only can be meant; for it is the only prophecy of Christ which Moses, on whose person great stress is laid, uttered in his own name. Moreover, Christ would more readily expect that the Jews would acknowledge our prophecy to be fulfilled in Him, than the prophecy in Gen. xlix., which refers rather to the Messiah in glory. The preceding words of Jesus likewise contain references to the passage now under consideration. Ver. 38—"And ye have not His word abiding in you; for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not,"—contains an allusion to Deut. xviii. 18: "And I will put My words into his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him;" so that whosoever rejects the Ambassador of God, rejects His word at the same time. John v. 43—"I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not,"—acquires both its significance and earnestness from its reference to ver. 19 of our passage: "Whosoever will not hearken unto My words, which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him." Further,—The point at issue in this discourse of Christ is an accusation of the Jews against Christ, [Pg 108] that He had violated the Mosaic law. (Compare John v. 10-16, and v. 18, which states the second apparent violation of the law.) It was thus highly appropriate that Jesus should throw back upon the Jews the charge which they brought against Him, and should prove to them that it was just they who were in fatal opposition to the enactments of the Mosaic law. Finally,—It is this same Moses in whom they trusted, whom they considered as their patron, and whom to please the more, they were so zealous for his law against Jesus,—it is this same Moses whom Jesus represents as their accuser. And he is such an accuser as renders every other superfluous, so that Christ did not need specially to come forward in such a character. The accusation of Moses must, then, according to this declaration, and in accordance with what follows, refer to the cause of Christ. But the passage under review is the only Messianic prophecy of a threatening character which the Pentateuch contains,—the only one in which divine judgments are threatened to the despisers of the Messiah,—the only Mosaic foundation for the denunciation: "Woe to the people that despiseth thee." If it be denied that Christ refers to it,—if its Messianic character be not acknowledged, the first words of Christ are destitute of foundation. But if it be thus undeniable that Christ declared Himself to be the prophet of our passage, it must be considered an indirect attack upon His divinity to say, as Dr Luecke does, that Christ did so by way of "adaptation to the interpretation of that time." It is just this appeal which forms the pith of Christ's discourse; it is the real death-blow inflicted by Him upon His adversaries. If this blow was a mere feint, His honour is endangered,—which may God forbid!—The Lord further marks Himself out as the prophet announced by Moses, and that, too, in a very distinct manner, in John xii. 48-50,—a passage which is evidently based upon vers. 18 and 19 of the text under review. (Compare John xiv. 24-31.)—To this we may add, further, that, according to St Luke xxiv. 44, the Lord Himself explains to His disciples the prophecies in the Pentateuch concerning Him; and we cannot well expect that Christ should have made no reference to a passage which one of the Apostles points out as being of greater weight than all others. This is done by Peter in Acts iii. 22, 23. The manner in which he quotes it, entirely excludes the notion that Moses was [Pg 109] speaking of Christ, only in so far as He belonged to the collective body of the prophets. Peter says expressly, that Moses and the later prophets foretold [Greek: tas hemeras tautas]; and the words, [Greek: tou prophetou ekeinou], show that he did not understand the singular in a collective sense. The circumstance that Stephen, in Acts vii. 37, likewise refers the passage to Christ, would not be, in itself, conclusive, because Stephen's case is different from that of the Apostles. But we must not overlook the passage Matt. xvii. 5, according to which, at Christ's transfiguration, a voice was heard from heaven which said: [Greek: houtos estin ho huios mou ho agapetos, en ho eudokesa. autou akouete.] As the first part of this declaration is taken from the Messianic prediction in Is. xlii., so is the second from the passage under consideration; and, by this use of its words, the sense is clearly shown. It is a very significant fact, that our passage is thus connected just with Is. xlii.—the first prophetic announcement in which it is specially resumed, and in which the prophetic order itself is the proclaimer of the Prophet. And it is not less significant that this reference to our text, with which all the other announcements by Isaiah concerning the Great Prophet to come are so immediately connected, should precede chapters xlix., l., and lxi. It thus serves as a commentary upon the declaration of Moses. The beginning and the outlines receive light from the progress and completion.
He, however, who believes in Christ, will, after these details, expect that internal reasons also should prove the reference to Christ; and this expectation is fully confirmed.
That Moses did not intend by the word [Hebrew: nbia] "prophet," to designate a collective body merely, but that he had at least some special individual in view, appears, partly, from the word itself being constantly in the singular, and, partly, from the constant use of the singular suffixes in reference to it; while, in the case of collective nouns, it is usual to interchange the singular with the plural. The force of this argument is abundantly evident in the fact, that not a few of even non-Messianic interpreters have been thereby compelled to make some single individual the subject of this prophecy. But we must hesitate the more to adopt the opinion that [Hebrew: nbia] stands here simply in the singular instead of the plural, because neither does this word anywhere else occur as a collective noun, nor is the prophetic order ever [Pg 110] spoken of in the manner alleged. The expectation of a Messiah was already at that time current among the people. In what way, then, could they understand a promise, in which one individual only was spoken of, except by referring it, at least chiefly, to the one whom they expected?—Hofmann (Weissagung und Erfuellung i. S. 253) objects that the prophet here spoken of was, in no respect, different from the king in Deut. xvii. 14-20. But the king mentioned there is no collective noun. An individual who, in future times, should first attain to royal dignity, forms there the subject throughout. This appears especially from ver. 20, where he and his sons are spoken of. The first king is held up as an example, to show in him what was applicable to the royal dignity in general. On the other hand, it is in favour of our view, that, in the verses immediately preceding (vers. 8-13), the priests are, at first, spoken of only in the plural, although the priestly order had much more of the character of a collective body than the prophetic order.
A comparison between this prophecy and that of the Shiloh in Gen. xlix. 10 is likewise in favour of the Messianic interpretation. Even there. His prophetic office is alluded to in the kingly office. The ruler out of Judah is the Peaceful One, to whom the nations yield a spontaneous obedience, an obedience flowing from a pious source,—and He rules not by compulsion, but by the word.
The prophet is moreover contrasted with a single individual—with Moses; and this compels us to refer the prophecy to some distinguished individual. In ver. 15, Moses promises to the people a prophet like unto himself; and thus also does the Lord say, in ver. 18: "A prophet like unto thee I will raise up." We cannot for a moment suppose that this likeness should refer to the prophetic calling only,—to the words: "I will put My words into his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." It must at the same time be implied in it, that the future prophet shall be as thoroughly competent for his work, as Moses was for that which was committed to him. If it were not so, the promise would be deficient in that consolatory and elevating character which, according to the context, it is evidently intended to possess. If we were to paraphrase thus, "The Lord will raise up a prophet, inferior, indeed, to myself, [Pg 111] but yet the bearer of divine revelations," we should at once perceive how unsuitable it were. Further,—It is quite evident that the "Prophet" here is the main instrument of divine agency among the covenant-people of the future,—that He is the real support and anchor of the kingdom of God. But now the difficulties of the future were, as Moses himself saw, so great, that gifts in any way short of those of Moses would by no means have been sufficient. Moses foresees that the spirit of apostasy, which, even in his time, began to manifest itself, would, in future times, increase to a fearful extent. (Compare especially Deut. xxxii.) Against this, ordinary gifts and powers would be of no avail. A successful and enduring reaction could be brought about only by one who should be, for the more difficult circumstances of the future, such as Moses was for his times. But—and this circumstance is of still greater weight—it forms the task of the future to translate the whole heathen world into the kingdom of God. In it, Japheth is to dwell in the tents of Shem; all the nations of the earth are to become partakers in the blessing resting on Abraham. In the view of such a task, a prophet of ordinary dimensions, as well as the collective body of such, would dwindle down to the appearance of a dwarf. They would have been less than Moses. In Deut. xxxiv. 10, it is said, "There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face;"—a passage which not only plainly refers to the experience acquired at that time, but which expresses also what might be expected of that portion of the future which was more immediately at hand. When Miriam and Aaron said, "Doth the Lord indeed speak only by Moses, doth He not speak by us also?" the Lord immediately, Num. xii. 6-8, reproves their presumption of thinking themselves like unto Moses, as respects the prophetical gift, in these words: "If some one be your prophet,"—i.e., if some one be a prophet according to your way, with prophets of your class,—"I, the Lord, make myself known unto him in a vision, in a dream I speak unto him. Not so my servant Moses; in all My house he is faithful. Mouth to mouth I speak to him, and face to face, and not in dark speeches; and the appearance of the Lord he beholds." Moses, as a prophet, is here contrasted with the whole order of prophets of ordinary gifts. A higher dignity among them is claimed for him on the ground that not some special mission, [Pg 112] but the care of the whole economy of the Old Testament, was entrusted to him; compare Heb. iii. 5. His is a specially close relation to the Lord, a specially high degree of illumination. The collective body of ordinary prophets cannot, therefore, by any possibility be the "prophet" who is like unto Moses, as completely equal to the task of the future as Moses was for that of his day. But the greater the work of the future, the more necessary is it that the prophet of the future, in order to be like unto Moses, should, in his whole individuality, and in all his gifts, be far superior to him; compare Heb. iii. 6.
Finally,—The common prophetic order itself refuses the honour of being the prophet like unto Moses. The prophecies of Isaiah, in chapters xlii., xlix., l., and lxi., are based upon our passage, and in all of them the Messiah appears as the prophet [Greek: kat' exochen]. It is to Him that the mission is entrusted of being the restorer of Jacob, and the salvation of the Lord, even unto the end of the world.
Whilst these reasons demand the reference of this prophecy to Christ, there are, on the other hand, weighty considerations which make it appear that a reference to the prophetic order of the Old Testament cannot be excluded. These considerations are, 1. The wider context. Deuteronomy is distinguished from the preceding books by this, that provisions are made in it for the time subsequent to the death of Moses, which was now at hand. From chap. xvii. 8, the magistrates and powers—the superiors, to whose authority in secular and spiritual affairs the people shall submit—are introduced. First, the civil magistrates are brought before them, xvii. 8-20; and then the ecclesiastical superiors, chap. xviii. Vers. 1-8 treat of the priests as the ordinary servants of the Lord in spiritual things. Everywhere else, offices, institutions, orders, are spoken of. In such a connection, it is not probable that the prophet should be only an individual; and the less so, because evidently the prophet, as the organ of the immediate revelation of God, is placed by the side of the priests, the teachers of the law (compare xvii. 10, 11, 18; xxxiv. 10), as their corrective, as a thorn in their flesh, to make up for their inability. It is true that this wider connection is also against those who would here exclude Christ. If it be certain that Moses already knew the Messianic promises (compare the remarks on Gen. xlix.), then, just in this context, the reference [Pg 113] to Christ, the head of the authorities of the future, could not be wanting.
2. An exclusive reference to Christ is opposed by the more immediate context. This connection is twofold. In ver. 15, Moses first utters the promise in his own name, and here it stands connected with what precedes. Moses had forbidden to the people the use of all the means by which those who were given to idolatry endeavoured to penetrate the boundaries of human knowledge: "Thou shalt not do so," is his language; for that which these are vainly seeking after in this sinful manner, shall, in reality, be granted to thee by thy God. Here, it was not only appropriate to remind them of the Messiah, inasmuch as His appearance, as being the most perfect revelation of God, satisfies most perfectly the desire after higher communications; but it would have been very strange if here, where so suitable an opportunity presented itself, the founder of the Old Economy had omitted all reference to the founder of the New Economy, and had limited himself to the intervening, more imperfect divine communications. But, on the other hand, it would have been as strange if Moses had taken no notice of them at all,—if, supposing that a series of false prophets would appear, he had been satisfied to lay down in chap. xiii. 2 sqq. the distinctive marks of true and false prophets, and had then, in the passage under review, referred to the divine revelations to be expected in the distant future, without noticing those to be expected in the more immediate future,—thus neglecting to employ means peculiarly fitted for gaining admission for his exhortations. The word [Hebrew: ntN] in ver. 14 is especially opposed to such a view. "And thou (shalt) not (do) so, Jehovah thy God gave thee." J. D. Michaelis says: "What He gave to the Israelites is specified in vers. 15 and 18." The past tense suggests the idea of a gift which had already taken its beginning in the present.—The promise stands in a different connection in ver. 18. Moses had already given it in his own name in ver. 15. In order to give it greater authority, he reports, in the following verses, when and how he had received it from God. It was delivered to him on Sinai, where God had directly revealed Himself to the people at the promulgation of the Law, partly in order to strengthen their confidence in Moses the mediator, and [Pg 114] partly to show them the folly of their desiring any other mode of divine communication. But the people were seized with terror before the dreadful majesty of God, and prayed that God would no longer speak to them directly, but through a mediator, as He had hitherto done; compare Exod. xx.; Deut. v. The Lord then said to Moses, "They have well spoken; a prophet," etc. The words here, in ver. 17, agree very well with Deut. v. 28. The agreement in the words indicates that here we have an addition to that which is there communicated regarding what was spoken by God on that occasion. There, we are told only what had an immediate reference to the present—viz., the appointment of Moses as mediator; here, we are told what was at that time fixed in reference to the future of the people. We cannot fail to perceive that here, if ever, a divine revelation was appropriate concerning the coming of Christ, who, as the Mediator between God and man, veiled His Godhead, and in human form, brought God nearer to man. But we should, at the same time, expect here an allusion to the inferior messengers of God, who were to precede Him.
3. The exclusive reference to the Messiah is inconsistent with vers. 20-22. The marks of a false prophet are given in them. If, however, that which precedes had no reference at all to true prophets, it would be almost impossible to trace any suitable connection of the thoughts.
4. If the passage were referred to Christ exclusively, the prophetic institution would then be without any legitimate authority; and from the whole character of the Mosaic legislation, as laying the foundation for the future progress and development of the Theocracy, we could not well conceive that so important an institution should be deficient in this point. Moreover, the whole historical existence of the prophetic order necessarily presupposes such a foundation. Deut. xiii. 2 sq. was not fitted to afford such a foundation, as it refers, only indirectly and by implication, to true prophets.
5. Finally,—There are not wanting slight hints in the New Testament that the reference to Christ is not an exclusive one. These are found in Luke xi. 50, 51: [Greek: hIna ekzetethe to haima panton ton propheton ... apo tes geneas tautes ... nai lego humin ekzetethesetai apo tes geneas tautes.] The emphatic repetition of [Greek: ekzetein] in that passage shows plainly its connection [Pg 115] with the words, "I will require it of him," in the passage under review; just as the [Hebrew: idrw], which, according to 2 Chron. xxiv. 22, the prophet Zechariah, who was unjustly slain, uttered when dying, alludes not only to Gen. ix. 5, but to our passage also. But here we must remark that, in consequence of the sin committed against the Prophet [Greek: kat' exochen]—Christ—vengeance for the crimes committed against the inferior prophets is executed at the same time, so that, in the first instance, His blood is required, and, on this occasion, all the blood also which was formerly shed.
But how can these two facts be reconciled:—that Moses had, undeniably, the Messiah in view, and that, notwithstanding, there seems at the same time to be a reference to the prophets in general? The simplest mode of reconciling them is the following. The prophet here is an ideal person, comprehending all the true prophets who had appeared from Moses to Christ, including the latter. But Moses does not here speak of the prophets as a collective body, to which, at the close, Christ also belonged, as it were, incidentally, and as one among the many,—as Calvin and other interpreters mentioned above suppose; but rather, the plurality of prophets is, for this reason only, comprehended by Moses in an ideal unity, that, on the authority of Gen. xlix. 10, and by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, he knew that the prophetical order would, at some future time, centre in a real person,—in Christ. But there is so much the more of truth in thus viewing the prophetic order as a whole, since, according to 1 Peter i. 11, the Spirit of Christ spoke in the prophets. Thus, in a certain sense, Christ is the only Prophet.
Footnote 1: Lampe says: He has preserved to us not only what, in Paradise, and afterwards to and through the Patriarchs, had been told about this Redeemer; but he himself, under divine inspiration, has prophesied of Him,—especially in Deut. xviii. 15-18.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD IN THE PENTATEUCH, AND THE BOOK OF JOSHUA.
The New Testament distinguishes between the hidden God and the revealed God—the Son or Logos—who is connected with the former by oneness of nature, and who from everlasting, and even at the creation itself, filled up the immeasurable distance between the Creator and the creation;—who has been the Mediator in all God's relations to the world;—who at all times, and even before He became man in Christ, has been the light of [Pg 116] the world,—and to whom, specially, was committed the direction of the economy of the Old Covenant.
It is evident that this doctrine stands in the closest connection with the Christology,—that it forms, indeed, its theological foundation and ground-work. Until the Christology has attained to a knowledge of the true divinity of the Saviour, its results cannot be otherwise than very meagre and unsatisfactory. Wheresoever the true state of human nature is seen in the light of Holy Scripture, no high expectations can be entertained from a merely human Saviour, although he were endowed even with as full a measure of the gifts of the Spirit of God as human nature, in its finite and sinful condition, is able to bear. But unless there exist in the one divine Being itself, such a distinction of persons, the divinity of the Saviour cannot be acknowledged, without endangering the unity of God which the Scriptures so emphatically teach. If, however, there be such a distinction,—if the Word be indeed with God, we cannot avoid ascribing to God the desire of revealing Himself; nor, in such a case, can we conceive that He should content Himself with inferior forms of revelation, with merely transitory manifestations. We can recognise in these only preparations, and preludes of the highest and truest revelation.