Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Joseph.—The blessing of Joseph is, in many particulars, the most remarkable of them all. Jacob throughout it seems struggling with himself, and anxious to bestow more than was in his power. Joseph was his dearest son, the child of his chief and most beloved wife; he was, too, the saviour of Israel’s family, and the actual ruler of Egypt; and his father had even bestowed upon him the portion of the firstborn in giving him two tribes, and to the rest but one. Nevertheless, he cannot bestow upon him the sovereignty. In clear terms he had described Judah as the lion, whose lordly strength should give Israel victory and dominion, and the sceptre must remain his until He whose right it is to rule should come. And thus Jacob magnifies again and again, but in obscure terms, his blessing upon Joseph, which, when analyzed, amounts simply to excessive fruitfulness, with no Messianic or spiritual prerogative. Beginning with this, Jacob next dwells upon Joseph’s trials, and upon the manliness with which he had borne and overcome them; and then magnifies the blessedness of the earthly lot of his race, won for them by the personal worth of Joseph, with a description of which Jacob ends his words.
(22) A fruitful bough.—Literally the words are, “Son of a fruitful tree is Joseph; son of a fruitful tree by a fountain: the daughters spread over the wall.” That is, Joseph is like a fruitful tree planted near a fountain of living water, and of which the branches, or suckers, springing from it overtop the wall built round the spring for its protection. This fruitfulness of Joseph was shown by the vast number of his descendants.Genesis 49:22. Joseph is a fruitful bough — Shooting forth two luxuriant stems or branches, the two numerous tribes which proceeded from his sons; by a well — Or fountain, or water-course, where plants grow fastest. Thus David compares a godly man to “a tree planted by the rivers of waters:” Whose branches run over the wall — The heat of which furthers their growth no less than the moisture received from the water.
22. a fruitful bough, &c.—denotes the extraordinary increase of that tribe (compare Nu 1:33-35; Jos 17:17; De 33:17). The patriarch describes him as attacked by envy, revenge, temptation, ingratitude; yet still, by the grace of God, he triumphed over all opposition, so that he became the sustainer of Israel; and then he proceeds to shower blessings of every kind upon the head of this favorite son. The history of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh shows how fully these blessings were realized.A fruitful bough, in regard of those two numerous tribes which proceeded from his two sons.
By a well, or fountain, or water-course, which situation doth much further the growth of trees. See Psalm 1:3 Ezekiel 19:10.
Whose branches run over the wall, i. e: which is planted by a wall, whose heat furthers its growth no less than the moisture of the water doth.
even a fruitful bough by a well; those are the most fruitful that are near a well or fountain of water, as such trees are which are planted by rivers of water, see Psalm 1:3 this being repeated may have respect to the two boughs or branches of Joseph's family, or the two fruitful and numerous tribes that sprung from him:
whose branches run over the wall; as such trees that are set against one, and by the reflected heat of the sun grow the more, and become more fruitful. The word for "branches" is "daughters", which some refer to the daughters of Manasseh and Zelophehad, who received their inheritance on both sides of Jordan; and others interpret it of the cities of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, as cities are sometimes called.Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. Joseph] The blessing of Joseph extends over Genesis 49:22-26. Its subject matter falls into four divisions: (1) Joseph’s prosperity under the simile of a vine (Genesis 49:22); (2) his contest with bitter foes (Genesis 49:23); (3) the invocation for aid from the God of Jacob (Genesis 49:24-25 a); (4) the blessing from heaven, sea, and earth, pronounced upon Joseph (25b, 26).
The elaborate eulogy pronounced on Joseph reflects the predominance of Ephraim and Manasseh among the tribes of Israel, in virtue both of their central position in Canaan and of their power and wealth. The impression we derive from this description of Joseph is that of 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, “his (Reuben’s) birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph … Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the prince; but the birthright was Joseph’s.”
The text in the following verses has in several places suffered from corruption. The meaning is often very obscure, and no certainty of translation is to be looked for.
A fruitful bough] Heb. the son of a fruitful tree. The word “fruitful” in the original contains a play upon the name “Ephraim”; see note on Genesis 41:52; cf. Joshua 17:14 ff. “Bough” is probably that of a vine. Cf. Psalm 128:3; Isaiah 32:12, “the fruitful vine.” The simile is that of a young fruitful tree, planted near a spring, whose tendrils trail down over the wall.
by a fountain] i.e. in a fertile spot. In Canaan, wherever there was moisture, there was fertility.
The versions give an entirely different rendering.
run over the wall] The branches and tendrils of the strongly growing vine throw themselves over the wall, which has been built for their protection and training. They hang down in graceful luxuriance, a pretty metaphor from nature.Verses 22-26. - Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall - literally, son of a fruit tree, Joseph; son o/a fruit tree at the well; daughters run (each one of them: vide Gesenius, 'Grammar,' § 146, 4) over the wall. The structure of the clauses, the order of the words, the repetition of the thoughts, supply a glimpse into the fond emotion with which the aged prophet approached the blessing of his beloved son Joseph. Under the image of a fruit tree, probably a vine, as in Psalm 80, planted by a well, whence it draws forth necessary moisture, and, sending forth its young twigs or offshoots over the supporting walls, he pictures the fruitfulness and prosperity which should afterwards attend the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, as the twofold representative of Joseph, with perhaps a backward glance at the service which Joseph had performed in Egypt by gathering up and dispensing the produce of the land for the salvation of his family and people. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him - literally, they provoked him, and shot at, and laid snares for him, masters of arrows, though Kalisch translates וָרֹבוּ, and they assembled in multitudes, which yields a sense sufficiently clear. It is sometimes alleged (Keil, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary') that the words contain no allusion to the personal history of Joseph, but solely to the later fortunes of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh; but even if they do point to the subsequent hostilities which Joseph's descendants should incur (Joshua 17:16-18; Judges 12:4-6), it is almost morally certain that the image of the shooting archers which he selects to depict their adversaries was suggested to his mind by the early lot of his beloved son (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Gerlach, Murphy, and others). But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. Notwithstanding the multitudinous and fierce assaults which had been made on Joseph, he had risen superior to his adversaries; his bow had continued firm and unbroken (cf. 1 Samuel 2:4; Job 12:19; Job 33:19), and his arms had been rendered active and flexible - neither ἐξελύθη τὰ νεῦρα βραχιόνων χειρὸς αὐτῶν, (LXX.), dissoluta sunt vincula brachiorum et manuum (Vulgate), as if Joseph s enemies were the subjects referred to; nor, "Therefore gold was placed upon his arms (Onkelos, Raehi, and others), referring to the gift of Pharaoh's ring - by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, i.e. God, who had proved himself to be Jacob's Mighty One by the powerful protection vouchsafed to his servant The title here ascribed to God occurs afterwards in Isaiah 1:24. From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel. If the clause is parenthetical, it may signify either that from the time of Joseph's exaltation he became the shepherd (who sustained) and the stone of (i.e. the rock which supported) Israel (Oleaster); or that from God, the Mighty One of Jacob, Joseph received strength to become the shepherd and stone of Israel (Pererius, Ainsworth, Lawson, Patrick, and others), in which capacity he served as a prefiguration of the Good Shepherd who was also to become the Rock or Foundation of his Church (Calvin, Pererius, Candiish, &c.); but if the clause is rather co-ordinate with that which precedes and that which follows, as the introductory particle מִן appears to suggest, then the words "shepherd and stone of Israel" will apply to God, and the sentiment will be that the hands of Joseph were made strong from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, from there (i.e. from there where is, or from him who is) the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Gerlach, Lange, et alii). Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee (literally, from the (led of thy father, and he shall help thee, i.e. who shall help thee); and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee - literally, and with (sc. the aid of) the Almighty, and he shall bless thee. It is unnecessary to change וְאֵת. into וְאֵל (LXX., Vulgate, Samaritan, Syriac, Ewald), or to insert מִן before אֵת, as thus, מֵאֵת (Knobel, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), since אֵת may be understood here, as in Genesis 4:1; Genesis 5:24, in the sense of helpful communion (Keil) - with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb. "From the God of Jacob, and by the help of the Almighty, should the rain and dew of heaven (Genesis 27:28), and fountains and brooks which spring from the great deep or the abyss of the earth, pour their fertilizing waters over Joseph's land, so that everything that had womb and breast should become pregnant, bring forth and suckle" (Keil). The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. The meaning is, according to this rendering, which some adopt (the Targums, Vulgate, Syriac, Saadias, Rosenmüller, Lange, Murphy, et alii), that the blessings which Jacob pronounced upon Joseph surpassed those which he himself had received from Abraham and Isaac, either as far as the primary mountains towered above the earth (Keil, Murphy), or, while exceeding the benedictions of his ancestors, those now delivered by himself would last while the hills endured (Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary'). But the words may be otherwise rendered: "The blessings of thy father prevail over, are mightier than the blessings of the mountains of eternity, the delight, or glory, or loveliness of the hills of eternity (LXX., Dathe, Michaelis, Gesenius, Bohlen, Kalisch, Gerlach, and others); and in favor of this may be adduced the beautiful parallelism between the last two clauses, which the received translation overlooks. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren - literally, of him, the separated (from nazar, to separate) from his brethren (Onkelos, Rashi, Rosenmüller, Keil, and others), though by some different renderings are preferred, as, e.g., the crowned among his brethren (LXX. Syriac, Targum of Jerusalem, Kimchi, Kalisch, Gerlach), taking nazir to signify he who wears the nezer, or royal diadem. Judges 18, as well as in the "romantic chivalry of the brave, gigantic Samson, when the cunning of the serpent he overthrew the mightiest foes" (Del.). שׁפיפן: κεράστης, the very poisonous horned serpent, which is of the colour of the sand, and as it lies upon the ground, merely stretching out its feelers, inflicts a fatal wound upon any who may tread upon it unawares (Diod. Sic. 3, 49; Pliny. 8, 23).
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