Genesis 49:7
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.
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(7) Cursed . . . —Jacob condemns Simeon and Levi not because they were angry, but because they vented their anger in a perfidious and violent manner. The next sentence literally is, And their rage, for it was hard. The indignation at Joseph’s dreams, told them by him innocently, led them to an act harsh and in human (see Genesis 42:21).

I will divide them . . . —This prediction was equally fulfilled in the fact that neither of the tribes of Simeon and Levi possessed any political importance in Israel. The brothers had banded together to oppress their kindred; their descendants were powerless. But in every other respect the fulfilment was utterly diverse. In the wilderness the Simeonites dwindled from 59,300 to 22,200 men (Numbers 1:23; Numbers 26:14); and after the conquest of Canaan, were so feeble as to have only fifteen towns assigned them, scattered about in the territory of Judah. And there they melted away, being either absorbed into the tribe among whom they dwelt, crwithdrawing to wander as nomads in the wilderness of Paran. In Levi’s case the curse was changed into a blessing by the faithfulness of the tribe upon a very trying occasion (Exodus 32:26-28); and we learn from it the great lesson that the Divine rewards and punishments, even when specified in prophecy, are nevertheless conditional upon human conduct. Of this diversity of fulfilment there is not the slightest indication in Jacob’s blessing, while in that of Moses the lot of Levi is described in terms of the highest praise, and that of Simeon is passed over in inglorious silence.

Genesis 49:7. Cursed be their anger — Not their persons. We ought always, in the expressions of our zeal, carefully to distinguish between the sinner and the sin, so as not to love or bless the sin for the sake of the person, nor to hate or curse the person for the sake of the sin. I will divide them — The Levites were scattered throughout all the tribes, and Simeon’s lot lay not together, and was so strait that many of that tribe were forced to disperse themselves in quest of settlements and subsistence. This curse was afterward turned into a blessing to the Levites; but the Simeonites, for Zimri’s sin, Numbers 25., had it bound on.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." Cursed be their anger, or, cursed was. It was execrable and abominable both before God and men; such as deserved and brought the curse of God upon themselves, which I, as God’s instrument, am now to pronounce against them.

I do here declare, in the name of God, that they shall be divided and dispersed

in Jacob, & c.; that is, among the children or tribes of Jacob or Israel. Prophets are said to do what they foretell that God will do, as Jeremiah is said to root out and pull down kingdoms, Jeremiah 1:10, and Ezekiel to destroy the city, Ezekiel 43:3. Add Hosea 6:5. Note here how suitable their punishment was to their crime. They sinned by conspiracy and confederation in the counsel and action, and they are punished with division or separation, not only of the two brethren and their tribes, but of the children and families of the several tribes, one from another. This was eminently fulfilled in the tribe of Levi, which had no proper portion or inheritance, but was scattered among all the tribes, Joshua 18:7, though afterwards God turned this curse into a blessing. And for Simeon, he had no part of his own in the division of the land; but the portion of Judah being too large for that tribe, he was taken into that lot, and was as an inmate to them, Joshua 19:1,2,9, and afterwards part of them were forced to seek new seats, and so were divided from the rest of their brethren, 1 Chronicles 4:27,39,42. And moreover, the Jewish doctors write, that that tribe was so straitened in their habitations and conveniences, that a very great number of them were forced to scatter themselves amongst the other tribes to get a subsistence by teaching their children. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce,.... It was sinful anger in the nature of it, and so criminal and detestable; it was strong, fierce, and furious in its operation and effects, and so justly cursed; not their persons, but their passions:

and their wrath, for it was cruel; it issued in the cruel and barbarous slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem; the same thing as before in other words repeated, to express his great abhorrence of their wrath and rage. Aben Ezra thinks that the words may be considered either as a prophecy or a prayer, that their anger might cease: what follows is certainly a prophecy:

I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel; which he is said to do, because he foretold it would be done; as Jeremiah is said to root out and pull down kingdoms, because he prophesied thereof, Jeremiah 1:10 and this was fulfilled in the tribes of Simeon and Levi; as for the tribe of Simeon, that had not a distinct part by itself in the land of Canaan, but had their inheritance out of the portion, and within the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, Joshua 19:1 and their cities did not join to one another, as Aben Ezra observes, but lay scattered up and down in the tribe of Judah; and when they were increased and straitened for room, many of them went without the land, to the entrance of Gedor, where they of Ham, or the Egyptians, had dwelt, and others to Mount Seir in Edom, 1 Chronicles 4:39 and it is a notion which prevails with the Jews, and which Jarchi takes notice of, that a great many of this tribe were scribes and teachers of the law, and even teachers of children, and by which they lived among the several tribes; and so the Jerusalem Targum,"I will divide the tribe of Simeon, that they may be scribes and teachers of the law in the congregation of Jacob.''And as for the tribe of Levi, it is well known that they had no inheritance in the land of Canaan, but had forty eight cities assigned them in the several tribes here and there; and thus Jacob's prophecy had an exact accomplishment.

Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will {f} divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

(f) For Levi had no part, and Simeon was under Judah, Jos 19:1 till God gave them the place of the Amalekites, 1Ch 4:43.

7. In the curse here pronounced upon Simeon and Levi, no mention is made of the Levitical priesthood. Nevertheless, the patriarch’s curse is evidently assumed to have produced its effect upon the two tribes. One (Levi) was scattered up and down Palestine without territorial possession; and the other (Simeon) occupied territory in a limited area, enclosed within the tribe of Judah. Cf. Joshua 19:1-9; 1 Chronicles 4:24-39. In the Song of Moses, Simeon is not even mentioned. Levi, on the other hand, is blessed, as the tribe of the priesthood, Deuteronomy 33:8-11.

in Jacob … Israel] See note on Genesis 49:2.The Blessing. - Genesis 49:1, Genesis 49:2. When Jacob had adopted and blessed the two sons of Joseph, he called his twelve sons, to make known to them his spiritual bequest. In an elevated and solemn tone he said, "Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you (יקרא for יקרה, as in Genesis 42:4, Genesis 42:38) at the end of the days! Gather yourselves together and hear, ye sons of Jacob, and hearken unto Israel your father!" The last address of Jacob-Israel to his twelve sons, which these words introduce, is designated by the historian (Genesis 49:28) "the blessing," with which "their father blessed them, every one according to his blessing." This blessing is at the same time a prophecy. "Every superior and significant life becomes prophetic at its close" (Ziegler). But this was especially the case with the lives of the patriarchs, which were filled and sustained by the promises and revelations of God. As Isaac in his blessing (Genesis 27) pointed out prophetically to his two sons, by virtue of divine illumination, the future history of their families; "so Jacob, while blessing the twelve, pictured in grand outlines the lineamenta of the future history of the future nation" (Ziegler). The groundwork of his prophecy was supplied partly by the natural character of his twelve sons, and partly by the divine promise which had been given by the Lord to him and to his fathers Abraham and Isaac, and that not merely in these two points, the numerous increase of their seed and the possession of Canaan, but in its entire scope, by which Israel had been appointed to be the recipient and medium of salvation for all nations. On this foundation the Spirit of God revealed to the dying patriarch Israel the future history of his seed, so that he discerned in the characters of his sons the future development of the tribes proceeding from them, and with prophetic clearness assigned to each of them its position and importance in the nation into which they were to expand in the promised inheritance. Thus he predicted to the sons what would happen to them "in the last days," lit., "at the end of the days" (ἐπ ̓ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, lxx), and not merely at some future time. אחרית, the opposite of ראשׁית, signifies the end in contrast with the beginning (Deuteronomy 11:12; Isaiah 46:10); hence הימים אחרית in prophetic language denoted, not the future generally, but the last future (see Hengstenberg's History of Balaam, pp. 465-467, transl.), the Messianic age of consummation (Isaiah 2:2; Ezekiel 38:8, Ezekiel 38:16; Jeremiah 30:24; Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:39, etc.: so also Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30), like ἐπ ̓ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν (2 Peter 3:3; Hebrews 1:2), or ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις (Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1). But we must not restrict "the end of the days" to the extreme point of the time of completion of the Messianic kingdom; it embraces "the whole history of the completion which underlies the present period of growth," or "the future as bringing the work of God to its ultimate completion, though modified according to the particular stage to which the work of God had advanced in any particular age, the range of vision opened to that age, and the consequent horizon of the prophet, which, though not absolutely dependent upon it, was to a certain extent regulated by it" (Delitzsch).

For the patriarch, who, with his pilgrim-life, had been obliged in the very evening of his days to leave the soil of the promised land and seek a refuge for himself and his house in Egypt, the final future, with its realization of the promises of God, commenced as soon as the promised land was in the possession of the twelve tribes descended from his sons. He had already before his eyes, in his twelve sons with their children and children's children, the first beginnings of the multiplication of his seed into a great nation. Moreover, on his departure from Canaan he had received the promise, that the God of his fathers would make him into a great nation, and lead him up again to Canaan (Genesis 46:3-4). The fulfilment of this promise his thoughts and hopes, his longings and wishes, were all directed. This constituted the firm foundation, though by no means the sole and exclusive purport, of his words of blessing. The fact was not, as Baumgarten and Kurtz suppose, that Jacob regarded the time of Joshua as that of the completion; that for him the end was nothing more than the possession of the promised land by his seed as the promised nation, so that all the promises pointed to this, and nothing beyond it was either affirmed or hinted at. Not a single utterance announces the capture of the promised land; not a single one points specially to the time of Joshua. On the contrary, Jacob presupposes not only the increase of his sons into powerful tribes, but also the conquest of Canaan, as already fulfilled; foretells to his sons, whom he sees in spirit as populous tribes, growth and prosperity on the soil in their possession; and dilates upon their relation to one another in Canaan and to the nations round about, even to the time of their final subjection to the peaceful sway of Him, from whom the sceptre of Judah shall never depart. The ultimate future of the patriarchal blessing, therefore, extends to the ultimate fulfilment of the divine promises-that is to say, to the completion of the kingdom of God. The enlightened seer's-eye of the patriarch surveyed, "as though upon a canvas painted without perspective," the entire development of Israel from its first foundation as the nation and kingdom of God till its completion under the rule of the Prince of Peace, whom the nations would serve in willing obedience; and beheld the twelve tribes spreading themselves out, each in his inheritance, successfully resisting their enemies, and finding rest and full satisfaction in the enjoyment of the blessings of Canaan.

It is in this vision of the future condition of his sons as grown into tribes that the prophetic character of the blessing consists; not in the prediction of particular historical events, all of which, on the contrary, with the exception of the prophecy of Shiloh, fall into the background behind the purely ideal portraiture of the peculiarities of the different tribes. The blessing gives, in short sayings full of bold and thoroughly original pictures, only general outlines of a prophetic character, which are to receive their definite concrete form from the historical development of the tribes in the future; and throughout it possesses both in form and substance a certain antique stamp, in which its genuineness is unmistakeably apparent. Every attack upon its genuineness has really proceeded from an a priori denial of all supernatural prophecies, and has been sustained by such misinterpretations as the introduction of special historical allusions, for the purpose of stamping it as a vaticinia ex eventu, and by other untenable assertions and assumptions; such, for example, as that people do not make poetry at so advanced an age or in the immediate prospect of death, or that the transmission of such an oration word for word down to the time of Moses is utterly inconceivable-objections the emptiness of which has been demonstrated in Hengstenberg's Christology i. p. 76 (transl.) by copious citations from the history of the early Arabic poetry.

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