« AnteriorContinuar »
There follows after many small stars, a beautiful and brilliant evening star, Joseph : only he is here and there overcast by the covering of words as with clouds.
The bough of a fruitful mother is Joseph,
branches shout over the wall.
So I should be disposed to read, with the countenance of the Samaritan and Arabic, instead of the common reading, which has neither gram aat:cal consistency nor harmony of meaning: I have therefore readily held in the first line to the memory of Joseph's mother, the beloved Rachel. She is compared to a vine,-a common image of female fruitfulness (Ps. cxxviii. 3, &c.)- which is planted by a fountain. She indeed bore his father but two sons; but in Joseph she bore many; whose young twigs, the grand-children of Jacob, climb up the wall like cheerful tendrils.
Jacob now quits this image, and on account of the peculiar adventures of Joseph, adopts another. The fair Joseph was not permitted to shoot forth in peace: hard fortunes were waiting for
They distressed him and shot at him
The blessings of thy father ascend far
I know of nothing that surpasses the lofty strain of this blessing, which Moses in his own, imitates, but cannot excel. Jo. seph stands there as an envied and persecuted man in the company of his brethren: they hated him, and shot at him bitter arrows : he, one against a multitude, stands firm, his bow-string faithful, his hand dexterous, his arm strong and agile. Can a
more striking image of hard fortunes in the young years of life, still more of fortunes produced by the envy, the hatred and persecution of brothers, be found any where? They exchange sport for conflict; many join themselves against one, who with. stands them all. : And through whom does he withstand them? Here Jacob reverts to the history of his own life. He had wrestled with the mighty One who gave him the name of Israel : this same, the strong God of Jacob, has strengthened Joseph: the gracious God of Jacob, who watched over him upon the bare stone, when he was persecuted, alone, and a stranger, was the guardian of his son in similar circumstances of desertion and solitude and a foreign land. Can any thing exceed the closeness and fatherliness of the images ? And undoubtedly this is the meaning of them. When Moses, in his blessing, comes to these words, he changes “ the shepherd,* the guardian God at the stone of Israel” into “the God who appeared to him in the bush ;" so that he understood the passage as we have understood it. Both Jacob and Moses give to the best of their posterity all the blessings, with which God had severally manifested himself to each of them. That the God, who discovered himself to Jacob in a dream, watched over him and blessed him as a shepherd, as the guardian of his fortunes ; that Jacob, from this appearance, calculated as it were on the favour of his God; that the stone continued to be to him a sacred memorial and a house of the Divinity ;-all this we know: and how could Jacob think more conformably to his manner of life ? in whose name could he more worthily bless the benefactor of his old age, than in that of the protecting Deity of his once forsaken youth ? And now, not yet satisfied to have bestowed on his darling son the best of his own life, every thing which he had received from God, he places all the blessings of his forefathers upon his head. God, under the name of the Almighty, bad blessed Abraham; and Abraham's blessing must descend upon Joseph. Isaac had blessed Jacob with the blessing of the heaven from above, the fertilizing dew; with the blessing of the deep beneath, with the fatness of the earth. Both he confers on Joseph with increase : for instead of the fulness of corn and wine, he gives him happily to possess and prosperously to enjoy abundance of the best, of human, of maternal fruitfulness. And even yet unsatistied, Jacob summons
* Lest the reader should be left to wonder why he is told here of the shepherd, &c when the passage in question is translated, “who watched over Israel," &c., it may be worth wbile to remark, that the full import of the original word-at least according to Herder's idea-is to watch like a shepherd.
new powers, gathers all the delights of the primitive world, the spices and fruits of the mountains of paradise, of every eternal hill of antiquity,which at that time probably still lived in memory, as belonging to an age, to a world, of deliciousness now no more-all he takes together and places in one fragrant garland upon the head of Joseph, who stands before him as a prince in his Egyptian splendour, and eminently deserves this garland composed of all the glories of the golden age that had departed. That this is the meaning of the prophecy is attested by the parallelism of the passages, by the reading of most of the ancient versions, and especially by the blessing of Moses, who has understood and applied these words precisely so.--I must make no apology for having written so copiously here: for the enthusiasm of the blessing, in its beautiful and growing energy, will hurry you away as it has myself. Benjamin's description is short: his character is wolfish and needs but few words.
Benjamin, a wolf, he raveneth early,
And teareth the prey, and still at evening divideth spoil. A watchful, active, successful, generous adventurer,-probably Benjamin's character.
Although my time is short and my way yet long, I cannot help, having once engaged in this piece, applying myself to ano, ther and a still more difficult one, which receives light from this, and in return helps to illustrate it :-) mean THE BLESSING OF Moses.* It is wholly altered ; because Moses gave the blessing not as father, but as a lawgiver, who had his own particular tribe, and took the lead of them all only in the name of Jehovah. No sons here stood around the bed of a father, but united Israel lay with its hosts before him: a numerous nation, almost exhausted with wanderings; one which had caused him great anxiety, which God bad in various ways tried, and wbich now sighed longingly after repose. Thus all these circumstances, with whatever distinguished the several tribes in the wilderness, his and their situation, the afflictions and hopes of both, give the tone and import to this second benediction. "They make an introduction necessary, which Jacob had no need of; and they suggest for an appropriate conclusion other necessities, other wishes; though it is undeniable, that the strain of the patriarch is floating before the spirit of Moses. Hear the solemn commencement, with which he announces his office:
Jehovah came from Sinai,
How loveth He the tribes !
What a magnificent beginning! Moses bids with it the most solemn stillness, a reverent, childlike silence. In all his fearful majesty God appears, and becomes the paternal teacher of his people, his children. They have laid themselves down at his feet, and now is Moses the mediator :
Through Moses came to us the law,
Thus confirmed as their leader among leaders, through whom God had given them their noble law, and who still speaks as the mediator of the tribes, he begins :
Reuben live! die not utterly away!
Whether the benediction is upon Reuben, or not rather upor Simeon, who is wholly left out, and whose force, as related Numbers xxvi. 14., is very inferiour to that of the rest,--or why Simeon has been thus omitted, - cannot decide. The Alexandrine* has inserted his name into the second line; but I hesitate to follow it.
And this for Judah. He said :
* The Alexandrine copy only of the Septuagint reads : Let Simeon be great in number This reading is also found in the Aldine and Coinplutensian editions. But no critic thinks these of sufficient authority to warrant the adoption of it.
How different is this from Jacob's blessing upon Judah! Moses seems to have had him before his eyes, else the words “ to his own people” are unintelligible. Probably it is the people promised to him, which, according to the first blessing familiar to every one's remembrance, should willingly subject itself to him. But how tame is this language when compared with that! There a bold, mighty lion; here a tribe fainting towards the end of its pilgrimage. Moses only gives him a hint that he must rely on the strength of his own arm to get possession of the land, and wishes for bim, what he wished for himself, the aid of God when his own force should be failing.
To Levi he said :
He said to his father, to his mother:
So will they keep thy law,
That this is the language of prayer to Jehovah is evident; and the purport of it as a whole is equally manifest. We know from the history that Levi, especially the race of Aaron, was exposeil to jealousy and hostility on account of their preferment: against these, the prayer entreats the divine blessing upon the future. At the same time, the force of their obligations is included, that after the example of their great father, the first high-priest, they should acknowledge in the discharge of their office neither
* It is thus that flerder translates the famous Urim aud ThumMIM, on which volumes have been written, aud probably nothing ever satisfactorily said. New Series-vol. III.