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215. But the phenomenon here observed, -and yet more distinctly in x.19, where Sidon alone is named as the representative of all the cities of Phænicia, --is observed also in HOmen, who never mentions Tyre, though he refers to Sidon repeatedly, Il. Z.291,7.743, Od.N.285,0.425. The earliest date assigned for any of the Homeric poems is B.c.1044, about the time at which (as we suppose) this “Blessing of Jacob' was most probably written. At that time, then, according to this datum, Tyre was not yet famous as the large, rich, and populous city, the rival of its parent Sidon, which it afterwards became, though it existed, doubtless, as a city already, and according to JOSEPHUS, indeed, was built nearly two centuries before. Hence we find mention made in 28.xxiv.6,7, of “Zidon and the fortress of Tyre,' and in Jo.xix.28,29, we read of “Great Zidon and the (city of fortress) fortified city of Tyre’; and Hiram, the king of Tyre, we are told, was on friendly terms with David, 28.v.ll, and Solomon, 1K.v.l,ix.11,12.
216. Jacob's BLESSING ON ISSACHAR, xlix.14,15.
ISSACHAR is an ass of bone,
And became a tributary of labour.'
There is another aspect under which the plain of Esdraelon must be considered. Every traveller has remarked on the richness of its soil and the exuberance of its crops. The very weeds are a sign of what in better hands the vast plain might become. The thoroughfare which it forms for every passage, from East to West, from North to South, made it in peaceful times the most available and eligible possession of Palestine. It was the frontier of Zebulun. “Rejoice, O Zebulun, in thy goings-out.' But it was the special portion of Issachar; and in its condition, thus exposed to the good and evil fate of the beaten highway of Palestine, we read the fortunes of the tribe, which, for the sake of this possession, consented to sink into the half-nomadic state of the Bedouins who wandered over it, into the condition of tributaries to the Canaanite tribes, whose iron chariots drove victoriously through it.
217. Among those who came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him,' are mentioned, iCh.xii.32,–
of the children of Issachar they that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the head of them were two hundred, and all their brethren were at their commandment.'
In the case of all the other tribes, as Judah, Simeon, Ephraim, &c., we read of so many thousands for each, of men that “bare shield and spear,' that were 'armed to the war,'"mighty men in volour,' 'expert in war.' The account of the Chronicles, indeed, cannot possibly be true in all its details (111.817,note). But the description here given of the men of Issachar tallies quite with the politic character, which the Jehovist in the “Blessing of Jacob' ascribes to them. They seem to have submitted themselves to their circumstances, whatever these might be, resolved to make the best of them.
218. JACOB's Blessing On Dan, v.16-18.
Dan shall judge his people,
In this account of Dan there appears to be a reference to the craft and cunning, which may have marked some of the transactions of the tribe. We have one instance of this recorded in Ju.xviii. There may be an allusion also to the last act of the Danite, Samson, which may have been current as a legend in the mouths of the people.
The exclamation in v.18 is peculiar, and is regarded by LAND, p.69, as a later interpolation. It appears to me intended as the expression of a burst of pious hope in the breast of the dying patriarch; and we may observe that in Deborah's Song there is a similar sudden exclamation, Bless ye, Jehovah !' Ju.v.9.
219. Jacob's BLESSING ON Gad, xlix.19.
"GAD, a press (of people) shall press him ;
Dean STANLEY observes, Sinai and Palestine, p.327 :
Gad has a more distinctive character, something of the lion-like aspect of Judah. In the forest-region of the Jabbok, he liveth 'like a lion, D.xxxiii.20. Out of his tribe came the eleven valiant chiefs, who crossed the fords of the Jordan in flood-time, to join the outlawed David, ' whose faces were like the faces of lions, and who were as swift as the gazelles upon the mountains,' iCh.xii.8,15. These heroes were but the Bedouins of their time. The very name of Gad expressed the wild aspect which he presented to the wild tribes of the East. Gad is a ‘troop' of plunderers: a troop of plunderers shall • plunder' him, but he shall ‘plunder' at the last.
220. JACOB'S BLESSINGS ON ASHER AND NAPHTALI, xlix.20,21.
* For Asher shall his bread be too rich;
He putteth forth goodly branches.' *
Asher was the tribe to whose lot the rich plain of Acre fell. He dipped his foot in oil': his “bread was fat, and he yielded royal dainties.'
NAPHTALI was to be like 'a spreading terebinth' of the Lebanon forest; he ' putteth out goodly boughs.' Compare the description by Van de VELDE of the country near Kadesh-Naphtali, as a “natural park of oaks and terebinths.'
221. Jacob's BLESSING ON BENJAMIN, xlix.27.
* BENJAMIN shall ravin as a wolf;
And in the evening he shall portion-out the spoil.' v.27.
In his mountain-passes, the ancient haunts of beasts of prey, Benjamin 'ravined as a wolf in the morning, descended into the rich plains of Philistia on the one side, and of the Jordan on the other, and returned in the evening to divide the spoil.' In the troubled period of the Judges, the tribe of Benjamin maintained a struggle, unaided, and for some time with success, against the whole
of the rest of the nation. And to the latest times they never could forget that they had given birth to the first king.
That 'first king' of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, had just made way, as we believe, for the “lion of the tribe of Judah, when these words were written. That Saul himself • ravined as a wolf,' we have sufficient evidence in the recorded transactions of his reign, as in iS.xi.6,7,xiv.24,xv.7–9, and especially in the massacre of the priests at Nob, xxii.17-19. But the words seem here to be employed in politic commendation of the warlike spirit of the tribe.
JACOB'S BLESSING ON LEVI.
222. We have now to consider the remarkable passage, xlix.5-7, with special reference to the tribe of LEVI, having already treated of it as far as it concerns the tribe of SIMEON.
Simeon and LEVI are brethren;
And scatter them in Israel.' 223. LEVI is here addressed in the same language of censure and condemnation as Simeon, and the same severe sentence is here passed upon him, that he shall be
* portioned out in Jacob, and scattered in Israel.'
The contrast between this language, and that used of the tribe of Levi by the Deuteronomist in the · Blessing of Moses,' xxxiii.8-11, is as great as it can possibly be. Here the tribe is covered with contempt and infamy; there no words are strong enough to express their dignity.
*And of Levi he said :
Whom Thou didst right at the waters of Meribah;