Genesis (Part 221)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 49:22-26

22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough,
    a fruitful bough by a spring;
    his branches run over the wall.
23 The archers bitterly attacked him,
    shot at him, and harassed him severely,
24 yet his bow remained unmoved;
    his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
    (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 by the God of your father who will help you,
    by the Almighty who will bless you
    with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26 The blessings of your father
    are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents,
    up to the bounties of the everlasting hills.
May they be on the head of Joseph,
    and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.


Jacob gives a long and very positive blessing to Joseph. We’ll look at this starting with The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 49:22-26

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall—literally, son of a fruit tree, Joseph; son o/a fruit tree at the well; daughters run over the wall. The structure of the clauses, the order of the words, the repetition of the thoughts, supply a glimpse into the fond emotion with which the aged prophet approached the blessing of his beloved son Joseph. Under the image of a fruit tree, probably a vine, as in Psalms 80:1-19; planted by a well, whence it draws forth necessary moisture, and, sending forth its young twigs or offshoots over the supporting walls, he pictures the fruitfulness and prosperity which should afterwards attend the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, as the twofold representative of Joseph, with perhaps a backward glance at the service which Joseph had performed in Egypt by gathering up and dispensing the produce of the land for the salvation of his family and people. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him—literally, they provoked him, and shot at, and laid snares for him, masters of arrows, though Kalisch translates וָרֹבוּ, and they assembled in multitudes, which yields a sense sufficiently clear. It is sometimes alleged (Keil, Lange, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’) that the words contain no allusion to the personal history of Joseph, but solely to the later fortunes of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh; but even if they do point to the subsequent hostilities which Joseph’s descendants should incur (Joshua 17:16-18Judges 12:4-6), it is almost morally certain that the image of the shooting archers which he selects to depict their adversaries was suggested to his mind by the early lot of his beloved son (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Gerlach, Murphy, and others). But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. Notwithstanding the multitudinous and fierce assaults which had been made on Joseph, he had risen superior to his adversaries; his bow had continued firm and unbroken (cf. 1 Samuel 2:4Job 12:19Job 33:19), and his arms had been rendered active and flexible—neither ἐξελύθη τὰ νεῦρα βραχιόνων χειρὸς αὐτῶν(LXX.), dissoluta sunt vincula brachiorum et manuum (Vulgate), as if Joseph’s enemies were the subjects referred to; nor, “Therefore gold was placed upon his arms (Onkelos, Raehi, and others), referring to the gift of Pharaoh’s ring—by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, i.e. God, who had proved himself to be Jacob’s Mighty One by the powerful protection vouchsafed to his servant The title here ascribed to God occurs afterwards in Isaiah 1:24From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel. If the clause is parenthetical, it may signify either that from the time of Joseph’s exaltation he became the shepherd (who sustained) and the stone of (i.e. the rock which supported) Israel (Oleaster); or that from God, the Mighty One of Jacob, Joseph received strength to become the shepherd and stone of Israel (Pererius, Ainsworth, Lawson, Patrick, and others), in which capacity he served as a prefiguration of the Good Shepherd who was also to become the Rock or Foundation of his Church (Calvin, Pererius, Candiish, &c.); but if the clause is rather co-ordinate with that which precedes and that which follows, as the introductory particle מִן appears to suggest, then the words “shepherd and stone of Israel” will apply to God, and the sentiment will be that the hands of Joseph were made strong from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, from there (i.e. from there where is, or from him who is) the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Gerlach, Lange, et alii). Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee (literally, from the (led of thy father, and he shall help theei.e. who shall help thee); and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee—literally, and with (sc. the aid of) the Almighty, and he shall bless thee. It is unnecessary to change וְאֵת. into וְאֵל (LXX; Vulgate, Samaritan, Syriac, Ewald), or to insert מִן before אֵת, as thus, מֵאֵת (Knobel, Rosenmüller, Kalisch), since אֵת may be understood here, as in Genesis 4:1Genesis 5:24, in the sense of helpful communion (Keil)—with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb. “From the God of Jacob, and by the help of the Almighty, should the rain and dew of heaven (Genesis 27:28), and fountains and brooks which spring from the great deep or the abyss of the earth, pour their fertilizing waters over Joseph’s land, so that everything that had womb and breast should become pregnant, bring forth and suckle” (Keil). The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. The meaning is, according to this rendering, which some adopt (the Targums, Vulgate, Syriac, Saadias, Rosenmüller, Lange, Murphy, et alii)that the blessings which Jacob pronounced upon Joseph surpassed those which he himself had received from Abraham and Isaac, either as far as the primary mountains towered above the earth (Keil, Murphy), or, while exceeding the benedictions of his ancestors, those now delivered by himself would last while the hills endured (Rosenmüller, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’). But the words may be otherwise rendered: “The blessings of thy father prevail over, are mightier than the blessings of the mountains of eternity, the delight, or glory, or loveliness of the hills of eternity (LXX; Dathe, Michaelis, Gesenius, Bohlen, Kalisch, Gerlach, and others); and in favor of this may be adduced the beautiful parallelism between the last two clauses, which the received translation overlooks. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren—literally, of him, the separated from his brethren (Onkelos, Rashi, Rosenmüller, Keil, and others), though by some different renderings are preferred, as, e.g; the crowned among his brethren (LXX. Syriac, Targum of Jerusalem, Kimchi, Kalisch, Gerlach), taking nazir to signify he who wears the nezer, or royal diadem.

I’ll also show Ellicott‘s note for this section before we look at it more closely:

(22-26) Joseph.—The blessing of Joseph is, in many particulars, the most remarkable of them all. Jacob throughout it seems struggling with himself, and anxious to bestow more than was in his power. Joseph was his dearest son, the child of his chief and most beloved wife; he was, too, the saviour of Israel’s family, and the actual ruler of Egypt; and his father had even bestowed upon him the portion of the firstborn in giving him two tribes, and to the rest but one. Nevertheless, he cannot bestow upon him the sovereignty. In clear terms he had described Judah as the lion, whose lordly strength should give Israel victory and dominion, and the sceptre must remain his until He whose right it is to rule should come. And thus Jacob magnifies again and again, but in obscure terms, his blessing upon Joseph, which, when analyzed, amounts simply to excessive fruitfulness, with no Messianic or spiritual prerogative. Beginning with this, Jacob next dwells upon Joseph’s trials, and upon the manliness with which he had borne and overcome them; and then magnifies the blessedness of the earthly lot of his race, won for them by the personal worth of Joseph, with a description of which Jacob ends his words.

Note that while Ellicott argues there are no Messianic or spiritual prerogatives placed upon the line of Joseph, that assertion is not universally agreed upon. From wiki:

Jewish tradition alludes to four messianic figures, called the Four Craftsmen, from a vision found in Book of Zechariah (Zechariah Hebrew text 2:1-4; traditional English texts 1:18-21). The four craftsmen are discussed in Babylonian Talmud Suk. 52b. Rav Hana bar Bizna, attributed to Rav Simeon Hasida, identifies these four craftsmen as Messiah ben David, Messiah ben Joseph, Elijah, and the Righteous Priest. Each will be involved in ushering in the Messianic age. They are mentioned in the Talmud and the Book of Zechariah.

Rashi in his commentary on the Talmud gives more details. Rashi explains that Messiah ben Joseph is called a craftsman because he will help rebuild the temple. Nahmanides also commented on Messiah ben Joseph’s rebuilding of the temple. The roles of the Four Craftsmen are as follows. Elijah will be the herald of the eschaton. If necessary, Messiah ben Joseph will wage war against the evil forces and die in combat with the enemies of God and Israel. According to Saadia Gaon the need for his appearance will depend on the spiritual condition of the Jewish people. In the Sefer Zerubbabel and later writings, after his death a period of great calamities will befall Israel. God will then resurrect the dead and usher in the Messianic Era of universal peace. Messiah ben David will reign as a Jewish king during the period when God will resurrect the dead. With the ascendancy of Rabbinic Judaism the Righteous Priest has largely not been the subject of Jewish messianic speculation.

And I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. 2 And I said unto the angel that spoke with me: ‘What are these?’ And he said unto me: ‘These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.’ 3 And the LORD showed me four craftsmen. 4 Then said I: ‘What come these to do?’ And he spoke, saying: ‘These—the horns which scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head—these then are come to frighten them, to cast down the horns of the nations, which lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.’

— Zechariah 2:1–4

The last of the brothers to receive a blessing will be Benjamin, in the next section.

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