|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
49:3-7 Reuben was the first-born; but by gross sin, he forfeited the birthright. The character of Reuben is, that he was unstable as water. Men do not thrive, because they do not fix. Reuben's sin left a lasting infamy upon his family. Let us never do evil, then we need not fear being told of it. Simeon and Levi were passionate and revengeful. The murder of the Shechemites is a proof of this. Jacob protested against that barbarous act. Our soul is our honour; by its powers we are distinguished from, and raised above, the beasts that perish. We ought, from our hearts, to abhor all bloody and mischievous men. Cursed be their anger. Jacob does not curse their persons, but their lusts. I will divide them. The sentence as it respects Levi was turned into a blessing. This tribe performed an acceptable service in their zeal against the worshippers of the golden calf, Ex 32. Being set apart to God as priests, they were in that character scattered through the nation of Israel.
Verses 5-7. - Simeon and Levi are brethren (not in parentage alone, but also in their deeds; e.g. their massacre of the Shechemites (Genesis 34:25), to which undoubtedly the next words allude); instruments of cruelty are in their habitations - literally, instruments of violence their מְכֵדֹת, a ἅπαξ λεγόμ. which has been variously rendered
(1) their dwellings, or habitations (Kimchi, A. V., Calvin, Ainsworth), in the land of their sojourning (Onkelos), for which, however, there does not seem to be much authority;
(2) their machinations or wicked counsels, deriving from מָכַר, to string together, to take in a net, to ensnare (Nahum 3:4), the cognate Arabic root signifying to deceive or practice stratagems (De Dieu, Schultens, Castelli, Tayler Lewis, and others);
(3) their betrothals, or compacts of marriage, connecting with the same root as the preceding in the sense of "binding together" (Dathius, Clericus, Michaelis, Knobel, Furst, et alii);
(4) their rage, as suggested by the unused root כִּיד, to boil or seethe (Kalisch);
(5) their swords, from כּוּר = כָּרָה to dig or pierce through, cf. μάχαιρα (Vulgate, Luther, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy, and others). The preponderance of authority appears to be in favor of this last. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; literally, into their council or assembly (סוד, from יָסַד, to set or sit) come not, my soul, or my soul shall not come (cf. Proverbs 1:15, 16) - unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: - literally, with or in their assembly or congregation (קָהֵל from קָהַל, to call together: cf. Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 48:4), mine honor or glory (i.e. the soul as being the noblest part of man: Psalm 16:9; Psalm 57:9; Psalm 108:2 - the term כְּבֹדִי is parallel with the preceding נַפְשִׁי), do not join (Keil), or shall not join (Kalisch) - for in their anger they slew a man, - literally, man, a collective, singular for "men," the plural form of XXX occurring rarely; only in Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 8:4; and Isaiah 53:3 - and in their self will they digged down a wall - literally, they houghed ox (LXX., Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Gerlach, T. Lewis, Murphy, &c., &e.), the singular שׁור, the plural of which is only found once, in Hosea 12:12, being retained here to correspond with אִישׁ. The received rendering, which is not without sanction (Onkelos, Targnm of Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Aquila, Symmachus, Vulgate, Dathius, Calvin), reads שׁוּר instead of שׁור, and takes עָקַרin the primary sense of destruere, evertexe. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: - the second synonym "wrath," literally, outpourings, indicates the fullness and intensity of the tide of fury which by Simeon and Levi was let loose upon the unsuspecting Shechemites - I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. While for the sin (the deed, not the doers) Jacob has a curse, for the sinners themselves he has a well-merited chastisement. They had been confederate in their wickedness, they should in future, when returning to occupy their God. assigned inheritance, be disjoined. That this prediction was exactly fulfilled Scripture testifies. At the second census in the wilderness, shortly before the conquest, the tribe of Simeon had become so reduced in its numbers (reckoning only 22,000 as against 76,500 in Judah) as to be the smallest of the twelve (Numbers 26:14); to be passed over entirely in the last blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33.); to be accorded no independent allotment of territory in Canaan on the completion of the conquest, having only a few cities granted to it within the borders of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9); and to be ultimately absorbed in the more powerful and distinguished tribe under whose protection and tutelage, so to speak, it had been placed (1 Chronicles 4:27). The tribe of Levi also was deprived of a separate inheritance, receiving only a number of cities scattered here and there among the possessions of their brethren (Joshua 21:1, 40); and, though by its election to the priesthood the curse may be said to have been turned into a blessing, yet of this signal honor which was waiting Levi Jacob was completely silent, showing both that no prophecy was of any private interpretation (the seer seeing no further than the Holy Spirit helped him), and that Jacob spoke before the days of Moses. It is almost incredible that a late writer would have omitted to forecast the latter-day glory of the tribe of Levi; and this opinion is confirmed by observing the very different strain in which, after Levi s calling had been revealed, the benediction of Moses himself proceeds (Deuteronomy 33:8-11).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Simeon and Levi are brothers,.... Not because they were so in a natural sense, being brethren both by father and mother's side, for there were others so besides them; but because they were of like tempers, dispositions, and manners (f), bold, wrathful, cruel, revengeful, and deceitful, and joined together in their evil counsels and evil actions, and so are joined together in the evils predicted of them:
instruments of cruelty are in their habitations: or vessels, utensils, household goods gotten by violence and rapine, and through the cruel usage of the Shechemites; these were in their dwellings, their houses were full of such mammon of unrighteousness, or spoil; or, as others, "instruments of cruelty" are "their swords" (g); what they should only have used in their own defence, with these they shed the blood of the Shechemites very barbarously, Genesis 34:25. Some think the word here used is the Greek word for a sword; and the Jews say (h) that Jacob cursed the swords of Simeon and Levi in the Greek tongue; and others say it is Persic, being used by Xenophon for Persian swords; but neither of them seems probable: rather this word was originally Hebrew, and so passed from thence into other languages; but perhaps the sense of it, which Aben Ezra gives, may be most agreeable, if the first sense is not admitted, that it signifies covenants, compacts, agreements (i), such as these men made with the Shechemites, even nuptial contracts; for the root of the word, in the Chaldee language, signifies to espouse (k); and these they abused to cruelty, bloodshed, and slaughter, in a most deceitful manner: in the Ethiopic language, the word signifies counsels; so De Dieu takes it here.
(f) "--------par nobile fratrum Nequitia et nugis pravorum et amore gemellum." Horat. Sermon. l. 2. Satyr. 3.((g) "Machaerae eorum", Montanus, Tigurine version, Schmidt; and so R. Sol. Urbin Ohel Moed, fol. 31. 2.((h) Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. (i) So Castell. Lexic. col. 2058. Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (k) Chald. & Syr. "despondit", "desponsavit", Schindler. Lex. col. 998.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ge 49:5-7. Simeon and Levi were associate in wickedness, and the same prediction would be equally applicable to both their tribes. Levi had cities allotted to them (Jos 21:1-45) in every tribe. On account of their zeal against idolatry, they were honorably "divided in Jacob"; whereas the tribe of Simeon, which was guilty of the grossest idolatry and the vices inseparable from it, were ignominiously "scattered."
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