(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 25)

acknowledges his father as a prophet of God, who utters no inventions of 
his own, esteems as highly the dominion offered to him, which has never 
yet become apparent, as if it were already in his possession. Moreover, 
that Jacob commands the other sons of Joseph, (if there should be any,) 
to be reckoned in the families of these two brothers, is as if he 
directed them to be adopted by the two whom he adopts to himself. 
  7. "And as for me, when I came from Padan." He mentions the death and 
burial of his wife Rachel, in order that the name of his mother might 
prove a stimulus to the mind of Joseph. For since all the sons of Jacob 
had sprung from Syria, it was not a little to the purpose, that they 
should be thorough]y acquainted with the history which we have before 
considered, namely, that their father, returning into the land of 
Canaan, by the command and under the protection of God, brought his 
wives with him. For if it was not grievous to women, to leave their 
father, and to journey into a distant land, their example ought to be no 
slight inducement to their sons to bid farewell to Egypt; and at the 
command of the same God, strenuously prepare themselves for taking 
possession of the land of Canaan. 
  8. "And Israel beheld Joseph's sons." I have no doubt that he had 
inquired concerning the youths, before he called them his heirs. But in 
the narration of Moses there is a hysteron proteron. And in the answer 
of Joseph we observe, what we have elsewhere alluded to, that the fruit 
of the womb is not born by chance, but is to be reckoned among the 
precious gifts of God. This confession indeed finds a ready utterance 
from the tongues of all; but there are few who heartily acknowledge that 
their seed has been given them by God. And hence a large proportion of 
man's offspring becomes continually more and more degenerate: because 
the ingratitude of the world renders it unable to perceive the effect of 
the blessings of God. We must now briefly consider the design of Moses: 
which was to show that a solemn symbol was interposed, by which the 
adoption might be ratified. Jacob puts his hands upon his grandsons; for 
what end? Truly to prove that he gave them a place among his sons: and 
thus constitutes Joseph who was one, into two chiefs. For this was not 
his wish as a private person; according to the manner in which fathers 
and grandfathers are wont to pray for prosperity to their descendants: 
but a divine authority suggested it, as was afterwards proved by the 
event. Therefore he commands them to be brought near to him, that he 
might confer on them a new honour, as if he had been appointed the 
dispenser of it by the Lord; and Joseph, on the other hand, begins with 
adoration, giving thanks to God. 
  12. "And Joseph brought them out." Moses explains more fully what he 
had touched upon in a single word. Joseph brings forth his sons from his 
own lap to his father's knees, not only for the sake of honour, but that 
he may present them to receive a blessing from the prophet of God; for 
he was certainly persuaded, that holy Jacob did not desire to embrace 
his grandsons after the common manner of men; but inasmuch as he was the 
interpreter of God, he wished to impart to them the blessing deposited 
with himself. And although, in dividing the land of Canaan, he assigned 
them equal portions with his sons, yet the imposition of his hands had 
respect to something higher; namely, that they should be two of the 
patriarchs of the Church, and should hold an honorable preeminence in 
the spiritual kingdom of God. 
  14. "And Israel stretched out his right hand." Seeing his eyes were 
dim with age, so that he could not, by looking, discern which was the 
elder, he yet intentionally placed his hands across. And therefore Moses 
says that he guided his hands wittingly, because he did not rashly put 
them forth, nor transfer them from one youth to the other for the sake 
of feeling them: but using judgment, he purposely directed his right 
hand to Ephraim who was the younger: but placed his left hand on the 
first-born. Whence we gather that the Holy Spirit was the director of 
this act, who irradiated the mind of the holy man, and caused him to see 
more correctly, than those who were the most clear-sighted, into the 
nature of this symbolical act. I shall avoid saying more, because we 
shall be able to inquire into it from other passages. 
  15. "God before whom." Although Jacob knew that a dispensation of the 
grace of God was committed to him, in order that he might effectual]y 
bless his grandchildren; yet he arrogates nothing to himself, but 
suppliantly resorts to prayer, lest he should, in the least degree, 
detract from the glory of God. For as he was the legitimate 
administrator of the blessing, so it behaved him to acknowledge God as 
its sole Author. And hence a common rule is to be deduced for all the 
ministers and pastors of the Church. For though they are not only called 
witnesses of celestial grace, but are also entrusted with the 
dispensation of spiritual gifts; yet when they are compared with God, 
they are nothing; because he alone contains all things within himself. 
Wherefore let them learn willingly to keep their own place, lest they 
should obscure the name of God. And truly, since the Lord, by no means, 
appoints his ministers, with the intention of derogating from his own 
power; therefore, mortal man cannot, without sacrilege, desire to seem 
anything separate from God. In the words of Jacob we must note, first, 
that he invokes God, in whose sight his fathers Abraham and Isaac had 
walked: for since the blessing depended upon the covenant entered into 
with them, it was necessary that their faith should be an intervening 
link between them and their descendants. God had chosen them and their 
posterity for a people unto himself: but the promise was efficacious for 
this reason, because, being apprehended by faith, it had taken a lively 
root. And thus it came to pass, that they transmitted the light of 
succession to Jacob himself. We now see that he does not bring forward, 
in vain, or unseasonably, that faith of the fathers, without which he 
would not have been a legitimate successor of grace, by the covenant of 
God: not that Abraham and Isaac had acquired so great an honour for 
themselves, and their posterity; or were, in themselves, so excellent; 
but because the Lord seals and sanctions by faith, those benefits which 
he promises us, so that they shall not fail. 
  "The God which fed me." Jacob now descends to his own feelings, and 
states that from his youth he had constantly experienced, in various 
ways, the divine favour towards him. He had before made the knowledge of 
God received through his word, and the faith of his fathers, the basis 
of the blessing he pronounces; he now adds another confirmation from 
experience itself; as if he would say, that he was not pronouncing a 
blessing which consisted in an empty sound of words, but one of which he 
had himself enjoyed the fruit, all his life long. Now though God causes 
his sun to shine indiscriminately on the good and evil, and feeds 
unbelievers as well as believers: yet because he affords, only to the 
latter, the peculiar sense of his paternal love in the use of his gifts, 
Jacob rightly uses this as a reason for the confirmation of his faith, 
that he had always been protected by the help of God. Unbelievers are 
fed, even to the full, by the liberality of God: but they gorge 
themselves, like swine, which, while acorns are falling for them from 
the trees, yet have their snouts fixed to the earth. But in God's 
benefits this is the principal thing, that they are pledges or tokens of 
his paternal love towards us. Jacob, therefore, from the sense of piety, 
with which the children of God are endued, rightly adduces, as proof of 
the promised grace, whatever good things God had bestowed upon him; as 
if he would say, that he himself was a decisive example to show how 
truly and faithfully the Lord had engaged by covenant to be a father to 
the children of Abraham. Let us also learn hence, carefully to consider 
and meditate upon whatever benefits we receive from the hand of God, 
that they may prove so many supports for the confirmation of our faith. 
The best method of seeking God is to begin at his word; after this, (if 
I may so speak,) experimental knowledge is added. Now whereas, in this 
place, the singular gratitude of the holy man is conspicuous; yet this 
circumstance adds to his honour, that, while involved in manifold 
sufferings, by which he was almost borne down, he celebrates the 
continual goodness of God. For although, by the rare and wonderful power 
of God, he had been, in an extraordinary manner, delivered from many 
dangers; yet it was a mark of an exalted and courageous mind, to be able 
to surmount so many and so great obstacles, to fly on the wings of faith 
to the goodness of God, and instead of being overwhelmed by a mass of 
evils, to perceive the same goodness in the thickest darkness. 
  16. "The Angel which redeemed me." He so joins the Angel to God as to 
make him his equal. Truly he offers him divine worship, and asks the 
same things from him as from God. If this be understood indifferently of 
any angel what ever, the sentence is absurd. Nay, rather, as Jacob 
himself sustains the name and character of God, in blessing his son, he 
is superior, in this respect, to the angels. Wherefore it is necessary 
that Christ should be here meant, who does not bear in vain the title of 
Angel, because he had become the perpetual Mediator. And Paul testifies 
that he was the Leader and Guide of the journey of his ancient people. 
(1 Cor. 10: 4.) He had not yet indeed been sent by the Father, to 
approach more nearly to us by taking our flesh, but because he was 
always the bond of connection between God and man, and because God 
formally manifested himself in no other way than through him, he is 
properly called the Angel. To which may be added, that the faith of the 
fathers was always fixed on his future mission. He was therefore the 
Angel, because even then he poured forth his rays, that the saints might 
approach God, through him, as Mediator. For there was always so wide a 
distance between God and men, that, without a mediator; there could be 
no communication. Nevertheless though Christ appeared in the form of an 
angel, we must remember what the Apostle says to the Hebrews, (2: 16,) 
that "he took not on him the nature of angels," so as to become one of 
them, in the manner in which he truly became man; for even when angels 
put on human bodies, they did not, on that account, become men. Now 
since we are taught, in these words, that the peculiar office of Christ 
is to defend us and to deliver us from all evil, let us take heed not to 
bury this grace in impious oblivion: yea, seeing that now it is more 
clearly exhibited to us, than formerly to the saints under the law, 
since Christ openly declares that the faithful are committed to his 
care, that not one of them might perish, (John 17: 12,) so much the more 
ought it to flourish in our hearts, both that it may be highly 
celebrated by us with suitable praise, and that it may stir us up to 
seek this guardianship of our best Protector. And this is exceedingly 
necessary for us; for if we reflect how many dangers surround us, that 
we scarcely pass a day without being delivered from a thousand deaths; 
whence does this arise, except from that care which is taken of us, by 
the Son of God, who has received us under his protection, from the hand 
of his Father. 
  "And let my name be named on them." This is a mark of the adoption 
before mentioned: for he puts his name upon them, that they may obtain a 
place among the patriarchs. Indeed the Hebrew phrase signifies nothing 
else than to be reckoned among the family of Jacob. Thus the name of the 
husband is said to be called upon the wife, (Is. 4: 1,) because the wife 
borrows the name from the head to which she is subject. So much the more 
ridiculous is the ignorance of the Papists, who would prove hence that 
the dead are to be invoked in prayers. Jacob, say they, desired after 
his death to be invoked by his posterity. What! that being prayed to, he 
might bring them succor; and not--according to the plain intention of 
the speaker--that Ephraim and Manasseh might be added to the society of 
the patriarchs, to constitute two tribes of the holy people! Moreover it 
is wonderful, that the Papists, leaving under this pretext framed for 
themselves innumerable patrons, should have passed over Abraham, Isaac, 
and Jacob, as unworthy of the office. But the Lord, by this brutish 
stupor, has avenged their impious profanation of his name. What Jacob 
adds in the next clause, namely, that they should "grow into a 
multitude", refers also to the same promise. The sum amounts to this, 
that the Lord would complete in them, what he had promised to the 
  17. "And when Joseph saw." Because by crossing his arms, Jacob had so 
placed his hands as to put his left hand upon the head of the 
first-born, Joseph wished to correct this proceeding, as if it had been 
a mistake. He thought that the error arose from dimness of vision; but 
his father followed the Spirit of God as his secret guide, in order that 
he might transfer the title of honour, which nature had conferred upon 
the elder to the younger. For, as he did not rashly assume to himself 
the office of conveying the blessing; so was it not lawful for him to 
attempt anything according to his own will. And at length it was evident 
by the event, that whatever he had done had been dictated to him from 
heaven. Whereas Joseph took it amiss, that Manasseh, who by the right of 
nature was first, should be cast down to the second place, this feeling 
arose from faith and from holy reverence for the prophetic office. For 
he would easily have borne to see him make a mistake in the order of 
embracing the youths; if he had not known that his father; as a minister 
of divine grace, so far from acting a futile part, was but pronouncing 
on earth what God would ratify in heaven. Yet he errs in binding the 

grace of God to the accustomed order of nature: as if the Lord did not 
often purposely change the law of nature, to teach us that what he 
freely confers upon us, is entirely the result of his own will. If God 
were rendering to every one his due, a certain rule might properly be 
applied to the distribution of his favors; but since he owes no one 
anything, he is free to confer gifts at his own pleasure. More 
especially, lest any one should glory in the flesh, he designedly 
illustrates his own free mercy, in choosing those who had no worthiness 
of their own. What shall we say was the cause, why he raised Ephraim 
above his own brother, to whom, according to usage, he was inferior? If 
any one should suppose that Ephraim had some hidden seed of excellence, 
he not only vainly trifles, but impiously perverts the counsel of God. 
For since God derives from himself and from his own liberality, the 
cause, why he prefers one of the two to the other: he confers the honour 
upon the younger, for the purpose of showing that he is bound by no 
claims of human merit; but that he distributes his gifts freely, as it 
seems good unto him. And while this liberty of God is extended to every 
kind of good, it yet shines the most clearly in the first adoption, 
whereby he predestinates to himself, those whom he sees fit, out of the 
ruined mass. Wherefore, be it our part to leave to God his whole power 
untouched, and if at any time, our carnal sense rebels, let us know that 
none are more truly wise than they who are willing to account themselves 
blind, when contemplating the wonderful dealings of God, in order that 
they may trace the cause of any difference he makes, to himself alone. 
We have seen above, that the eyes of Jacob were dim: but in crossing his 
arms, with apparent negligence, in order to comply with God's purpose of 
election, he is more clear-sighted than his son Joseph, who, according 
to the sense of the flesh, inquires with too much acuteness. They who 
insanely imagine that this judgment was formed from a view of their 
works, sufficiently declare, by this one thing, that they do not hold 
the first rudiments of faith. For either the adoption common both to 
Manasseh and to Ephraim, was a free gift, or a reward of debt. 
Concerning this second supposition all ambiguity is removed, by many 
passages of Scripture, in which the Lord makes known his goodness, in 
having freely loved and chosen his people. Now no one is so ignorant; as 
not to perceive that the first place is not assigned to one or the 
other, according to merit; but is given gratuitously, since it so 
pleases the Lord. With regard to the posture of the hands, the subtlety 
of certain persons, who conjecture that the mystery of the cross was 
included in it, is absurd; for the Lord intended nothing more than that 
the crossing of the right hand and the left should indicate a change in 
the accustomed order of nature. 
  19. "He also shall become a people." Jacob does not dispute which of 
the youths shall be the more worthy; but only pronounces what God had 
decreed with himself, concerning each, and, what would take place after 
a long succession of time. He seeks, therefore, no causes elsewhere; but 
contents himself with this one statement, that Ephraim will be more 
greatly multiplied than Manasseh. And truly our dignity is hidden in the 
counsel of God alone, until, by his vocation, he makes it manifest what 
he wills to do with us. Meanwhile, sinful emulation is forbidden, when 
he commands Manasseh to be contented with his lot. They are therefore 
altogether insane, who hew out dry and perforated cisterns, in seeking 
causes of divine adoption; whereas, everywhere, the Scripture defines in 
one word, that they are called to salvation whom God has chosen, (Rom. 
8: 29,) and that the primary source of election is his free good 
pleasure. The form of the benediction, which is shortly afterwards 
related, more fully confirms what I have alluded to, that the grace of 
God towards both is commended, in order that Manasseh, considering that 
more was given to him than he deserved, might not envy his brother. 
Moreover, this blessing pronounced on Ephraim and Manasseh is not to be 
taken in the same sense as the former, in which it is said, "In thy seed 
shall all nations be blessed:" but the simple meaning is, that the grace 
of God should be so conspicuous towards the two sons of Joseph, as to 
furnish the people of Israel with a form by which to express their good 
  21. "And Israel said unto Joseph." Jacob repeats what he had said. And 
truly all his sons, and especially Joseph and his sons, required 
something more than one simple confirmation, in order that they might 
not fix their abode in Egypt, but might dwell, in their minds, in the 
land of Canaan. He mentions his own death, for the purpose of teaching 
them that the eternal truth of God by no means depended on the life of 
men: as if he had said, my life, seeing it is short and fading, passes 
away; but the promise of God, which has no limit, will flourish when I 
also am dead. No vision had appeared unto his sons, but God had ordained 
the holy old man as the intermediate sponsor of his covenant. He 
therefore sedulously fulfills the office enjoined upon him, taking 
timely precaution that their faith should not be shaken by his death. So 
when the Lord delivers his word to the world by mortal men, although 
they die, having finished their course of life according to the flesh; 
yet the voice of God is not extinguished with them, but quickens us even 
at the present day. Therefore Peter writes, that he will endeavor, that 
after his decease, the Church may be mindful of the doctrine committed 
unto him. (2 Pet. 1: 15.) 
  "Unto the land of your fathers." It is not without reason that he 
claims for himself and his fathers, the dominion over that land in which 
they had always wandered as strangers; for whereas it might seem that 
the promise of God had failed, he excites his sons to a good hope, and 
pronounces, with a courageous spirit, that land to be his own, in which, 
at length, he scarcely obtained a sepulchre, and that only by favour. 
Whence then was this great confidence, except that he would accustom his 
sons, by his example, to have faith in the word of God? Now this 
doctrine is also common to us; because we never rely with sufficient 
firmness on the word of God, so long as we are led by our own feelings. 
Nay, until our faith rises to lay hold on those things which are removed 
afar off, we know not what it is to set our seal to the word of God. 
  22. "I have given to thee one portion." In order to increase the 
confidence of his son Joseph, Jacob here assigns him a portion beyond 
his proper lot. Some expound the passage otherwise; as if he called him 
a double heir in his two sons, thus honoring him with one portion more 
than the rest. But there is no doubt that he means a certain territory. 
And John, (chap. 4: 5,) removes all controversy; for, speaking of the 
field adjoining Sychar, which before was called Shechem, says, it was 
that which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. And, in the last chapter of 
Joshua, (ver. 32,) it is said to have come into the possession of the 
sons of Joseph. But in the word "shechem", which among the Hebrews 
signifies a part, allusion is made to the proper name of the place. But 
here a question arises; how can he say that he had obtained the field by 
his sword and by his bow, which he had purchased with money, as is 
stated before, (chap. 33: 19,) and is again recorded in the above 
mentioned chapter of Joshua? Seeing, however, that only a small portion 
of the field, where he might pitch his tents, was bought, I do not doubt 
that here he comprised a much greater space. For we may easily 
calculate, from the price, how small a portion of land he possessed, 
before the destruction of the city. He gives, therefore, now to his son 
Joseph, not only the place of his tent, which had cost a hundred pieces 
of silver, but the field which had been the common of the city of 
Sychar. But it remains to inquire how he may be said to have obtained it 
by his sword, whereas the inhabitants had been wickedly and cruelly 
slain by Simon and Levi. How then could it be acquired by the right of 
conquest, from those against whom war had been unjustly brought; or 
rather, against whom, without any war, the most cruel perfidy had been 
practiced? Jerome resorts to allegory, saying that the field was 
obtained by money, which is called strength, or justice. Others suppose 
a prolepsis, as if Jacob was speaking of a future acquisition of the 
land: a meaning which, though I do not reject, seems yet somewhat 
forced. I rather incline to this interpretation: first, that he wished 
to testify that he had taken nothing by means of his two sons Simon and 
Levi; who, having raged like robbers, were not lawful conquerors, and 
had never obtained a single foot of land, after the perpetration of the 
slaughter. For, so far were they from gaining anything, that they 
compelled their father to fly; nor would escape have been possible, 
unless they had been delivered by miracle. When, however, Jacob strips 
them of their empty title, he transfers this right of victory to 
himself, as being divinely granted to him. For though he always held 
their wickedness in abhorrence, and will show his detestation of it in 
the next chapter; yet, because they had armed his whole household, they 
fought as under his auspices. Gladly would he have preserved the 
citizens of Shechem, a design which he was not able to accomplish; yet 
he appropriates to himself the land left empty and deserted by their 
destruction, because, for his sake, God had spared the murderers. 
Chapter XLIX. 
1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, 
that I may tell you [that] which shall befall you in the last days. 
2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken 
unto Israel your father. 
3 Reuben, thou [art] my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my 
strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 
4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to 
thy father's bed; then defiledst thou [it]: he went up to my couch. 
5 Simeon and Levi [are] brethren; instruments of cruelty [are in] their 
6 O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine 
honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in 
their selfwill they digged down a wall. 
7 Cursed [be] their anger, for [it was] fierce; and their wrath, for it 
was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. 
8 Judah, thou [art he] whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand [shall 
be] in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down 
before thee. 
9 Judah [is] a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he 
stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse 
him up? 
10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between 
his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him [shall] the gathering of the 
people [be]. 
11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice 
vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of 
12 His eyes [shall be] red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. 
13 Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he [shall be] for an 
haven of ships; and his border [shall be] unto Zidon. 
14 Issachar [is] a strong ass couching down between two burdens: 
15 And he saw that rest [was] good, and the land that [it was] pleasant; 
and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute. 
16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 
17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth 
the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. 
18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD. 
19 Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last. 
20 Out of Asher his bread [shall be] fat, and he shall yield royal 
21 Naphtali [is] a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. 
22 Joseph [is] a fruitful bough, [even] a fruitful bough by a well; 
[whose] branches run over the wall: 
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot [at him], and hated 
24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made 
strong by the hands of the mighty [God] of Jacob; (from thence [is] the 
shepherd, the stone of Israel:) 
25 [Even] by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the 
Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings 
of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: 
26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my 
progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall 
be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was 
separate from his brethren. 
27 Benjamin shall ravin [as] a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the 
prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil. 
28 All these [are] the twelve tribes of Israel: and this [is it] that 
their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to 
his blessing he blessed them. 
29 And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my 
people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that [is] in the field of 
Ephron the Hittite, 
30 In the cave that [is] in the field of Machpelah, which [is] before 
Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of 
Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a buryingplace. 
31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac 
and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. 
32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that [is] therein [was] 
from the children of Heth. 
33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up 
his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto 
his people. 
  1. "And Jacob called." In the former chapter, the blessing on Ephraim 
and Manasseh was related, because, before Jacob should treat of the 
state of the whole nation about to spring from him, it was right that 
these two grandsons should be inserted into the body of his sons. Now, 
as if carried above the heavens, he announces, not in the character of a 
man, but as from the mouth of God, what shall be the condition of them 
all, for a long time to come. And it will be proper first to remark, 
that as he had then thirteen sons, he sets before his view, in each of 
their persons, the same number of nations or tribes: in which act the 
admirable lustre of his faith is conspicuous. For since he had often 
heard from the Lord, that his seed should be increased to a multitude of 
people, this oracle is to him like a sublime mirror, in which he may 
perceive things deeply hidden from human sense. Moreover, this is not a 
simple confession of faith, by which Jacob testifies that he hopes for 
whatever had been promised him by the Lord; but he rises superior to 
men, at the interpreter and ambassador of God, to regulate the future 
state of the Church. Now, since some interpreters perceived this 
prophecy to be noble and magnificent, they have thought that it would 
not be adorned with its proper dignity, unless they should extract from 
it certain new mysteries. Thus it has happened, that in striving 
earnestly to elicit profound allegories, they have departed from the 
genuine sense of the words, and have corrupted, by their own inventions, 
what is here delivered for the solid edification of the pious. But lest 
we should depreciate the literal sense, as if it did not contain 
speculations sufficiently profound, let us mark the design of the holy 
Spirit. In the first place, the sons of Jacob are informed beforehand, 
of their future fortune, that they may know themselves to be objects of 
the special care of God; and that, although the whole world is governed 
by his providence, they, notwithstanding, are preferred to other 
nations, as members of his own household. It seems apparently a mean and 
contemptible thing, that a region productive of vines, which should 
yield abundance of choice wine, and one rich in pasturers, which should 
supply milk, is promised to the tribe of Judah. But if any one will 
consider that the Lord is hereby giving an illustrious proof of his own 
election, in descending, like the father of a family, to the care of 
food, and also showing, in minute things, that he is united by the 
sacred bond of a covenant to the children of Abraham, he will look for 
no deeper mystery. In the second place; the hope of the promised 
inheritance is again renewed unto them. And, therefore, Jacob, as if he 
would put them in possession of the land by his own hand, expounds 
familiarly, and as in an affair actually present, what kind of 
habitation should belong to each of them. Can the confirmation of a 
matter so serious, appear contemptible to sane and prudent readers? It 
is, however, the principal design of Jacob more correctly to point out 
from whence a king should arise among them, who should bring them 
complete felicity. And in this manner he explains what had been promised 
obscurely, concerning the blessed seed. In these things there is so 
great weight, that the simple treating of them, if only we were skillful 
interpreters, ought justly to transport us with admiration. But 
(omitting all things else) an advantage of no common kind consists in 
this single point, that the mouth of impure and profane men, who freely 
detract from the credibility of Moses, is shut, so that they no longer 
dare to contend that he did not speak by a celestial impulse. Let us 
imagine that Moses does not relate what Jacob had before prophesied, but 
speaks in his own person; whence, then, could he divine what did not 
happen till many ages afterwards? Such, for instance, is the prophecy 
concerning the kingdom of David. And there is no doubt that God 
commanded the land to be divided by lot, lest any suspicion should arise 
that Joshua had divided it among the tribes, by compact, and as he had 
been instructed by his master. After the Israelites had obtained 
possession of the land, the division of it was not made by the will of 
men. Whence was it that a dwelling near the sea-shore was given to the 
tribe of Zebulun; a fruitful plain to the tribe of Asher; and to the 
others, by lot, what is here recorded; except that the Lord would ratify 
his oracles by the result, and would show openly, that nothing then 
occurred which he had not, a long time before, declared should take 
place? I now return to the words of Moses, in which holy Jacob is 
introduced, relating what he had been taught by the Holy Spirit 
concerning events still very remote. But some, with canine rage, demand, 
Whence did Moses derive his knowledge of a conversation, held in an 
obscure hut, two hundred years before his time? I ask in return, before 
I give an answer, Whence had he his knowledge of the places in the land 
of Canaan, which he assigns, like a skillful surveyor, to each tribe? If 
this was a knowledge derived from heaven, (which must be granted,) why 
will these impious babblers deny that the things which Jacob has 
predicted, were divinely revealed to Moses? Besides, among many other 
things which the holy fathers had handed down by tradition, this 
prediction might then be generally known. Whence was it that the people, 
when tyrannically oppressed, implored the assistance of God as their 
deliverer? Whence was it, that at the simple hearing of a promise 
formerly given, they raised their minds to a good hope, unless that some 
remembrance of the divine adoption still flourished among them? If there 
was a general acquaintance with the covenant of the Lord among the 
people; what impudence will it be to deny that the heavenly servants of 
God more accurately investigated whatever was important to be known 
respecting the promised inheritance? For the Lord did not utter oracles 
by the mouth of Jacob which, after his death, a sudden oblivion should 
destroy; as if he had breathed, I know not what sounds, into the air. 
But rather he delivered instructions common to many ages; that his 
posterity might know from what source their redemption, as well as the 
hereditary title of the land, flowed down to them. We know how tardily, 
and even timidly, Moses undertook the province assigned him, when he was 
called to deliver his own people: because he was aware that he should 
have to deal with an intractable and perverse nation. It was, therefore, 
necessary, that he should come prepared with certain credentials which 
might give proof of his vocation. And, hence, he put forth these 
predictions, as public documents from the sacred archives of God, that 
no one might suppose him to have intruded rashly into his office. 
  "Gather yourselves together." Jacob begins with inviting their 
attention. For he gravely enters on his subject, and claims for himself 
the authority of a prophet, in order to teach his sons that he is by no 
means making a private testamentary disposition of his domestic affairs; 
but that he is expressing in words, those oracles which are deposited 
with him, until the event shall follow in due time. For he does not 
command them simply to listen to his wishes, but gathers them into an 
assembly by a solemn rite, that they may hear what shall occur to them 
in the succession of time. Moreover, I do not doubt, that he places this 
future period of which he speaks, in opposition to their exile in Egypt, 
that, when their minds were in suspense, they might look forward to that 
promised state. Now, from the above remarks, it may be easily inferred, 
that, in this prophecy is comprised the whole period from the departure 
out of Egypt to the reign of Christ: not that Jacob enumerates every 
event, but that, in the summary of things on which he briefly touches, 
he arranges a settled order and course, until Christ should appear. 
  3. "Reuben, thou art my first-born." He begins with the first-born, 
not for the sake of honour, to confirm him in his rank; but that he may 

(continued in part 26...)

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