Gather yourselves together, and hear, you sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Genesis 49:2. Hearken, unto Israel your father — This chapter calls for our strictest attention, for it contains a number of predictions which were to be fulfilled at distant periods, through a long succession of ages; things depending upon so many various circumstances, upon such remote causes, so hid to all human view, so contrary to all appearances at the time they were spoken of, that it was impossible for any foresight or sagacity of man so much as to conjecture or imagine them. And yet they were all exactly and fully accomplished; many of them in distant ages, long after both the prophet and the recorder of the prophecies were dead. And surely nothing can give us a higher idea of the Scriptures, or more confirm our faith in them, than to observe events foretold in them, and spoken of with the most certain assurance, ages before they happened, and then to see all these things taking place accordingly. But what makes this chapter of still more value to us, and more worthy of our closest attention, is, that we have here a sure word prophecy, marking out the time and some peculiar circumstances of the coming of the Messiah so particularly as will furnish us with an invincible argument, that not only the Messiah is come, but also that Jesus, in whom we believe, is that Messiah: so that, being fully convinced in our hearts, as Peter was, (John 6:68-69,) we may say with him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The prophet has his mind filled with the objects and events of the present and the past, and from these he must draw his images for the future, and express them in the current language of his day. To interpret his words, therefore, we must ascend to his day, examine his usage of speech, distinguish the transient forms in which truth may appear, and hold fast by the constant essence which belongs to all ages. "Hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken to Israel your father." This is a specimen of the synthetic or synonymous parallel. It affords a good example of the equivalence, and at the same time the distinction, of Jacob and Israel. They both apply to the same person, and to the race of which he is the head. The one refers to the natural, the other to the spiritual. The distinction is similar to that between Elohim and Yahweh: the former of which designates the eternal God, antecedent to all creation, and therefore, equally related to the whole universe; the latter, the self-existent God, subsequent to the creation of intelligent beings, and especially related to them, as the moral Governor, the Keeper of covenant, and the Performer of promise.
Ge 49:1-33. Patriarchal Blessing.
1. Jacob called unto his sons—It is not to the sayings of the dying saint, so much as of the inspired prophet, that attention is called in this chapter. Under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit he pronounced his prophetic benediction and described the condition of their respective descendants in the last days, or future times.
and hear, ye sons of Jacob, and hearken to Israel your father: these words are used and doubled to excite their attention to what he was about to say, and which is urged from the near relation there was between them.Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. Assemble yourselves] This verse forms a kind of introduction to the main subject of the song.
and hear] The occurrence of the same Hebrew word for “hear” in the first clause, and for “hearken” in the second, is metrically a violation of the parallelism of Hebrew poetry. In English it is not apparent, as our rendering “hearken” avoids the repetition. Either “and hear” is a gloss, or another Hebrew word stood for “hearken.” Cf. Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:10.
Jacob … Israel] The use of these proper names concurrently is frequent in Israelite poetry. Here it is evidence of the somewhat formal poetical prelude to the main song. Cf. Psalm 105:23. The names emphasize the national character of the oracle, which is put into the mouth of the patriarch, and has reference to the fortunes of the twelve tribes.Verse 2. - Gather yourselves together, - the repetition indicates at once the elevation of the speaker's soul, and the importance, in his mind, of the impending revelation - and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. The two clauses form a synthetic or synonymous parallel, numerous illustrations of which are to be found in the succeeding verses. Genesis 28:19) his younger brother will become greater than he, and his seed will become the fulness of nations." This blessing began to be fulfilled from the time of the Judges, when the tribe of Ephraim so increased in extent and power, that it took the lead of the northern tribes and became the head of the ten tribes, and its name acquired equal importance with the name Israel, whereas under Moses, Manasseh had numbered 20,000 more than Ephraim (Numbers 26:34 and Numbers 26:37). As a result of the promises received from God, the blessing was not merely a pious wish, but the actual bestowal of a blessing of prophetic significance and force. - In Genesis 48:20 the writer sums up the entire act of blessing in the words of the patriarch: "In thee (i.e., Joseph) will Israel (as a nation) bless, saying: God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh" (i.e., Joseph shall be so blessed in his two sons, that their blessing will become a standing form of benediction in Israel); "and thus he placed Ephraim before Manasseh," viz., in the position of his hands and the terms of the blessing. Lastly, (Genesis 48:21) Israel expressed to Joseph his firm faith in the promise, that God would bring back his descendants after his death into the land of their fathers (Canaan), and assigned to him a double portion in the promised land, the conquest of which passed before his prophetic glance as already accomplished, in order to insure for the future the inheritance of the adopted sons of Joseph. "I give thee one ridge of land above thy brethren" (i.e., above what thy brethren receive, each as a single tribe), "which I take from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and bow" (i.e., by force of arms). As the perfect is used prophetically, transposing the future to the present as being already accomplished, so the words לקחתּי אשׁר must also be understood prophetically, as denoting that Jacob would wrest the land from the Amorites, not in his own person, but in that of his posterity.
(Note: There is no force in Kurtz's objection, that this gift did not apply to Joseph as the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, but to Joseph personally; for it rests upon the erroneous assumption, that Jacob separated Joseph from his sons by their adoption. But there is not a word to that effect in Genesis 48:6, and the very opposite in Genesis 48:15, viz., that Jacob blessed Joseph in Ephraim and Manasseh. Heim's conjecture, which Kurtz approves, that by the land given to Joseph we are to understand the high land of Gilead, which Jacob had conquered from the Amorites, needs no refutation, for it is purely imaginary.)
The words cannot refer to the purchase of the piece of ground at Shechem (Genesis 33:19), for a purchase could not possibly be called a conquest by sword and bow; and still less to the crime committed by the sons of Jacob against the inhabitants of Shechem, when they plundered the town (Genesis 34:25.), for Jacob could not possibly have attributed to himself a deed for which he had pronounced a curse upon Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:6-7), not to mention the fact, that the plundering of Shechem was not followed in this instance by the possession of the city, but by the removal of Jacob from the neighbourhood. "Moreover, any conquest of territory would have been entirely at variance with the character of the patriarchal history, which consisted in the renunciation of all reliance upon human power, and a believing, devoted trust in the God of the promises" (Delitzsch). The land, which the patriarchs desired to obtain in Canaan, they procured not by force of arms, but by legal purchase (cf. Genesis 24 and Genesis 33:19). It was to be very different in the future, when the iniquity of the Amorites was full (Genesis 15:16). But Jacob called the inheritance, which Joseph was to have in excess of his brethren, שׁכם (lit., shoulder, or more properly nape, neck; here figuratively a ridge, or tract of land), as a play upon the word Shechem, because he regarded the piece of land purchased at Shechem as a pledge of the future possession of the whole land. In the piece purchased there, the bones of Joseph were buried, after the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 24:32); and this was understood in future times, as though Jacob had presented the piece of ground to Joseph (vid., John 4:5).
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