Genesis 49:6
O my soul, come not you into their secret; to their assembly, my honor, be not you united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they dig down a wall.
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(6) Their secret.—The word sôd used here is literally the little carpet, or cushion, upon which an Oriental sits. Consequently, for two persons to sit upon the same carpet marks a high degree of friendship and familiarity. It would therefore be more exactly translated alliance, or intimacy.

Unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.—For assembly (Heb. congregation), see Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11. It means here their union, or confederacy. In the first clause Jacob bids his soul, his true self, not to enter their alliance; here, after the manner of the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, he intensifies the meaning. For by mine honour, he signifies all that gave him dignity and worth in the sight of God and man. And this nobleness would be degraded and lost by union with men banded together for evil.

In their self-will they digged down a wall—Self-will is worse than anger, and signifies that arrogant temper which leads on to wanton cruelty. The last words mean, they houghed an ox. The Vulgand Syriac took it as our version does, and understood it of making a breach in the walls of Shechem; but they had a different reading, shur, whereas the word in the Hebrew is shor, an ox, and it is so rendered by the LXX. The ox was in old times the symbol of majesty, and thus bulls are put for princes in Psalm 22:12; Psalm 68:30. Thus, then, the meaning is, “In their anger at the wrong done to their sister they slew Hamor, prince of Shechem, with his people; and from wanton cruelty, without any just cause for indignation, they hamstrung the noblest of their brethren, not killing Joseph outright, but disabling him by selling him into slavery, that he might there perish.”

Genesis 49:6. My soul, come not thou into their secret — Their cursed plot hatched in secret: far be it from me to approve of their secret designs. And let not mine honour — Or good name, be stained by being associated with theirs. Thus he signifies to all posterity that that bloody enterprise was undertaken without his consent, and that he could not think of it without detestation, nor let it pass without a severe censure. For in their anger they slew a man — Shechem himself, and many others: and to effect that wickedness they digged down a wall — Broke into their houses to plunder them, and murder the inhabitants.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."Simon and Levi are brethren," by temper as well as by birth. Their weapons. This word is rendered plans, devices, by some. But the present rendering agrees best with the context. Weapons may be properly called instruments of violence; but not so plots. "Habitations" requires the preposition in before it, which is not in the original, and is not to be supplied without necessity. "Into their counsel." This refers to the plot they formed for the destruction of the inhabitants of Shekem. "They houghed an ox." The singular of the original is to be understood as a plural denoting the kind of acts to which they were prompted in their passion for revenge. Jacob pronounces a curse upon their anger, not because indignation against sin is unwarrantable in itself, but because their wrath was marked by deeds of fierceness and cruelty. "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." He does not cut them off from any part in the promised inheritance; but he divides and scatters them.

Accordingly they are divided from one another in their after history, the tribe of Simon being settled in the southwest corner of the territory of Judah, and Levi having no connected territory, but occupying certain cities and their suburbs which were assigned to his descendants in the various provinces of the land. They were also scattered in Israel. For Simon is the weakest of all the tribes at the close of their sojourn in the wilderness Numbers 26:14; he is altogether omitted in the blessing of Moses Deuteronomy 33, and hence, obtains no distinct territory, but only a part of that of Judah Joshua 19:1-9; and he subsequently sends out two colonies, which are separated from the parent stock, and from one another 1 Chronicles 4:24-43. And Levi received forty-eight towns in the various districts of the land, in which his descendants dwelt, far separated from one another. This prediction was therefore, fulfilled to the letter in the history of these brothers. Their classification under one head is a hint that they will yet count but as one tribe.

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." Their secret; or, counsel, or company, as the word is used, Psalm 64:2 Jeremiah 15:17; i.e. do not partake with them in their secret and wicked designs. Hereby he signifies to all posterity, that that bloody enterprise was undertaken without his consent or approbation, and that he could not think of it without detestation, nor let it pass without a severe censure. Or, O my soul, thou wast not in their secret, as the Chaldee, Syriae, and Arabic take it, by a common enallage of the future tense for the past.

Mine honour; either,

1. Properly so called. So the sense is, Let not my honour or good name be bound up with theirs; they gloried in this wickedness, which I abominate, and which indeed is their shame. Or,

2. Improperly; so he understands either,

1. His soul, which is indeed the glory of a man, though I do not remember any place of Scripture where that word must necessarily be so understood. So this is a repetition of the same thing in other words, which is usual in Scripture. Or rather,

2. His tongue, for which the word honour or glory is commonly put, as Psalm 16:9, compared with Acts 2:26 Psalm 30:12 57:8 108:1, because the tongue or speech is the glory of a man, by which he is distinguished from unreasonable creatures, and, if well used, it brings much honour to God, and to the man that speaks with it. So the sense is, As my soul did not approve of that wicked action, so my tongue never gave consent to it, nor shall it now by silence seem to own it, but shall publicly witness my abhorrence of it.

In their anger they slew a man, i.e. men, the Shechemites, Genesis 34:25,26, the singular number for the plural, as Genesis 3:2 32:5 1 Chronicles 10:1, compared with 1 Samuel 31:1. He saith man rather then men, either with respect unto the prince, whose slaughter was principally designed, or to show that they slew them all to a man.

In their self-will: it may note, that this cruelty of theirs was committed,

1. By their own will and choice, not by Jacob’s will or consent, which they never asked nor obtained.

2. Without any necessity or sufficient provocation, but merely by their own will and proper motion.

3. Not rashly and hastily, but wilfully and resolvedly, after mature deliberation.

4. Not unwillingly, but cheerfully, and with delight and good will, as that word commonly signifies.

They digged down a wall; not the walls of the city, but of private houses; it may be only of the prince’s house, who upon the first noise of the tumult might, and probably did, retire and secure himself in some strong room of the house, whose wall they brake down that they might come at him. For neither were the walls of houses or cities so strong then as now many are; nor were Simeon and Levi destitute of fit instruments to break down a wall, which doubtless they brought with them, as easily foreseeing that difficulty in their enterprise. But because the Hebrew word is not shur, a wall, but schor, an ox, others translate the words thus, they houghed, or killed an ox, or bull, meaning Shechem, so called either from his lust, or from his strength and power, from which princes are oft so called, as Deu 33:17 Psalm 22:12 68:30. Or rather thus, they rooted out, or drove away an ox, i.e. the oxen, the singular number for the plural, as before; and under them are comprehended the other cattle of the Shechemites, which they drove away, as we read they did, Genesis 34:28. For as the words may bear this sense, so it seems more reasonable to understand them of that which certainly was done by them, than of their breaking a wall, of which we do not read any thing in the history. O my soul, come not thou into their secret,.... Their cabinet counsels, combinations and conspiracies; this Jacob said, as abhorring the wicked counsel they had took of slaying the Shechemites; and lest any should think he was concerned in it, or connived at it, he expressed a detestation of the fact on his dying bed: the future tense may be put for the past; and so Onkelos renders it, "my soul was not in their secret"; and so the other two Targums paraphrase it, that when they got and consulted together, his soul was not pleased and delighted with their counsel, but abhorred it; or "my soul shall not come", which Jarchi thinks prophetical refers to the case of Zimri, the son of Salu, of the tribe of Simeon, as the following clause to the affair of Korah, of the tribe of Levi, as foreseeing and disapproving them, and desiring they might not be called by his name, or his name called upon them, Numbers 25:14.

unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united; the same thing expressed in different words; by his "honour or glory" he means his soul, the more honourable part of man, or his tongue, with which man glorifies God; and hereby Jacob intimates, that he did not in thought, and much less in express words, give any consent unto, and approbation of the deed of those two sons of his, and that he never was, nor never desired to be with them in their meetings and consultations:

for in their anger they slew a man; Hamor or Shechem, together with all the males of the city; and so "man" may be put for "men", the singular for the plural, as is frequent. The Targum of Jonathan is, a king and his governor; and the Targum of Jerusalem, kings with governors:

and in their selfwill they digged down a wall; not the wall of the city of Shechem, which does not appear to be walled, by their easy access into it; and if it was, they do not seem to have had proper instruments for such an undertaking, nor a sufficient number for such work, and which would have required longer time than they used, unless it was a poor wall indeed: rather the wall of Shechem's house, or the court before it, which they dug down, or broke through to get in and slay Hamor and Shechem, and take away their sister; though the word, as here pointed, always signifies an ox; and so the Samaritan and Septuagint versions render it, they hamstringed a bull, or houghed an ox, just in like manner as horses are said to be houghed, Joshua 11:6 and which some understand (l) figuratively of a prince or ruler; so great personages are called bulls of Bashan, Psalm 22:12 and interpret it either of Hamor or of Shechem, who was a prince among his people, and furious in his lust towards Dinah, and so this clause is much the same with the former: and besides, him they enervated by circumcision, and took the advantage of this his condition at the worst, and slew him, which seems to be the true sense of the text, agreeably to Genesis 34:25 but the Jerusalem Targum paraphrases it of Joseph, whom his brethren sold, who was like unto an ox; and so Jarchi interprets it of him, whom they designed to slay, see Deuteronomy 33:17 but it is better to take the words in a literal sense, either of the oxen that Simeon and Levi took from the Shechemites, which they plucked or drove away from their mangers, as some render the words (m); and some of them they might hough or hamstring, that they might not get away from them, see Genesis 34:28 or rather of Shechem himself, who was "a prince", a word which has some likeness and affinity to this in the text.

(l) R. Jacob Ben Eleazer in Ben Melech, in loc. (m) "avulserunt boves", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; others, "enervarunt bovem", Schmidt; so Ainsworth.

O my soul, come not thou into their {d} secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a {e} man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall.

(d) Or, tongue: meaning that he neither consented to them in word or thought.

(e) The Shechemites Ge 34:26.

6. council] or, as R.V. marg., secret. The word means either a secret confederacy, or its secret purpose. The parallelism of the clauses rather favours the former rendering.

The true spirit of Israel will have nothing to do with the savage policy hatched in the secret conclaves of these two tribes.

my glory] The word “glory” is used to denote the “soul,” or the “spirit,” as man’s most glorious possession. Cf. Psalm 16:9, “my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth”; Psalm 30:12; Psalm 57:8; Psalm 108:2. The LXX, reading the same Hebrew consonants with different vowels, translates “my liver” = “my affections,” and, instead of “united,” renders a slightly different text “contend,” μὴ ἐρίσαι τὰ ἥπατά μου.

a man] or, as R.V. marg., men.

houghed] i.e. “mutilated,” by cutting the sinews of the leg. Cf. Joshua 11:6; Joshua 11:9; 2 Samuel 8:4. LXX gives an exact rendering ἐνευροκόπησαν. The Old English “hox” is the form found in Shakespeare: Wint. Tale, i. 2, “thou art a coward, Which hoxes honesty behind.”

an ox] or, as R.V. marg., oxen: so A.V. Instead of the Heb. shor, another reading, shur, “a wall,” is followed by Lat. suffoderunt murum, and by Targ. Onk., Syr. Pesh., Symmachus, and Jerome; probably on account of the apparent contradiction in Genesis 34:28-29, where the sheep and oxen are not mutilated, but carried off as booty.When Joseph observed his father placing his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, the younger son, he laid hold of it to put it upon Manasseh's head, telling his father at the same time that he was the first-born; but Jacob replied, "I know, my son, I:know: he also (Manasseh) will become a nation, and will become great, yet (ואוּלם as in 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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