or, The Constellations
by Frances Rolleston
Philologos Religious Online Books
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"Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?"-Job 33:32
|Prophecies corresponding in word or type with the figures and the names||NAMES OF THE ANTEDILUVIAN PATRIARCHS
||Texts where the word or its root is used in this sense in the Hebrew Bible||Hebrew Roots|
|Rom 8:3 |
|Adam, the likeness, of God
ARIES, the lamb, to which the promised seed is likened
|Gen 1:26 |
|Heb 1:2 |
TAURUS, he is appointed to subdue all enemies
|Gen 4:25 ||h# |
|Isa 53:3 ||Enos, suffering
GEMINI, in the human nature, wounded in the heel
|sorrow ||Isa 17:11 ||#n) |
|Psa 2:8 |
|Cainan, gaining or purchasing a possession
CANCER, the purchased possession
|bought ||Deut 32:6 ||hnq |
|John 1:18 ||Mahalaleel, the shining forth of God
LEO, coming forth to separate good from evil
|Job 31:26 |
|Psa 72:6 ||Jared, he shall come down
VIRGO, the branch or seed of the woman shall come down
|Psa 72:6 ||dry |
|John 2:21 ||Enoch, dedicated, as a temple
LIBRA, the redemption, by his self-dedication
|1 Kings 8:63 ||Knx |
|Psa 68:20 |
|Methuselah, from death he releases
SCORPIO, wounded in the heel, he bruises the head of the enemy
|Isa 25:8 |
|Isa 53:4 ||Lamech, being smitten
SAGITTARIUS, as by the arrow going forth
|Isa 53:4 ||Km |
|Isa 53:5 ||Noah, he gives rest
CAPRICORNUS, by the atoning sacrifice, of his death
|Exo 33:14 |
|Such are the meanings of the names of the ten antediluvian Patriarchs. Early Christian tradition has said, that in them is contained the whole scheme of the Gospel. The coincidence of the last eight with eight of the Signs of the Zodiac, as explained in the preceding tables, is evident. Seth, to whom is attributed the invention of these Signs, seems to have desired to call his descendants by names alluding to the prophecies expressed in them. He might observe that the divinely given name of Adam, the likeness, would accord with the divinely ordained sacrifice. The Lamb was the appointed likeness of the coming of the second Adam, whose redemption he had typified in the emblems he had chosen: the sign of the Lamb, or Ram, he might therefore connect with the name of Adam. The name which his mother had given to himself would also agree with the next of his emblems. He, whose coming in power the chief of the herd prefigured, was also the appointed. In the following eight names the correspondence is so close, as to indicate design. If that design was to follow out the analogy of the Signs, two more names were required: we find them in Shem and Arphaxad, in whom was continued the line of the promised Messiah.|
|Sam 23:5 ||Shem, ordained, set up
AQUARIUS, arising, pouring out blessings
|Isa 41:19 |
2 Sam 23:5
| M# |
|Psa 22:22 ||Arphaxad, supporting the assembly
PISCES, the multitudes united by the band
|leaning on |
|Song 8:5 |
It has been observed that the names of the antediluvian patriarchs, as enumerated in Genesis 5 and 1 Chronicles 1, contain the whole scheme of the Gospel. The assertion has been differently explained by different expositors; all however agree in referring it to the meanings of the names in Hebrew.
All names in all languages have meanings: among the more obvious in English, for example, are Grace, Ruth, Patience, Victoria; among those less so are Robert, meaning strong; George, a tiller of the earth; Anna, gracious.
In this genealogy we have the authority of the context for the intentional application of the name of Noah. We may therefore infer that the intermediate names were also given with some intended application of their ancient Hebrew significations. Their roots are to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, used in the sense here attributed to them, which, in some instances, differs from the meanings heretofore given, where the texts in which the words are used have not been referred to by those who explained them.
If these successive names be found to form a sentence containing a meaning, it appears probable that the meaning was designedly expressed; if this meaning contain prophecy, it shows that a revelation had been given. That it does contain prophecy may be made clear to the English reader as follows:
Each of these four lines in the original would consist of three words. Such is the measure of the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32, and such that of Lamech in the line of Cain, which has often been cited as the earliest poetry.
The likeness of God, appointed, suffering.
Gaining a possession, the shining forth of God, He shall come down.
Dedicated, from death he releases, being smitten.
He gives rest, ordained, supporting the assembly.
The tradition that these names contain the whole scheme of the Gospel is corroborated by the somewhat similar meanings in the names of Cain's posterity. In the line from which the Messiah was to descend, the names are more clearly expressive of the prophecy, and given in such succession as to convey it. In the family of Cain, they are only as it were a faint echo of the promise made to the common ancestor. The eldest son of Cain was called Enoch, dedicated, probably because, as the firstborn, he was to be the religious as well as temporal head of the family. Such was the birthright which Esau failed to recover, though he sought it with many tears. To the name of Irad, the next in succession, the meaning usually annexed is that of "a wild ass," in Syriac, untamed, in Arabic, hard to subdue, as if inheriting the temper of his grandfather Cain: the next, Mehujael, declaring God, written by the Sept. as they write Mahalaleel, and having nearly the same signification. Methusael, his death is required, may set forth the doctrine taught by the rite of sacrifice. These two last names encourage the hope that the promise of the coming Saviour was not wholly disregarded among the Cainites. The name of Lamech, sixth in the line of Cain, and eighth in that of Seth, has the same meaning in both: whether it had any reference to his homicide is not known. It is considered that with him polygamy began; and he named his offspring not after spiritual, but temporal good. Jubal, fruit of the earth; Tubal-cain, worldly possession; Zillah, likeness or shadow, as of the parent; Naamah, gracious.
Had the names of the patriarchs of the chosen family merely individually referred to the promised Redeemer, as did many in later times, their series would not thus have formed a sentence or stanza conveying the prophecies, amplified much beyond what is contained in the promise of the seed of the woman.
If, as antiquity asserts,* Seth was the inventor of astronomy, his arrangement of the emblems would account for the sequence of the names of his descendants, most of whom he lived to see. The meanings and order of these names therefore furnish corroborating evidence that such was the origin and intention of the signs.
* Were it proved that Chinese or Egyptian chronology went back further than the date usually assigned to the deluge, there might have been transmitted by Noah the history of his ancestors, or of chiefs and dominions in the line of Cain, especially if connected with astronomical data, such as eclipses or conjunctions of the orbs of heaven. Seth has often been supposed by ancient writers to be Hermes Trismegistus.
NOTE ON ADAM. Some authorities derive Adam from Adamah, red earth; but others from Damah, to be like, and from the same root Adamah, red earth or ground, as being every where alike. Flesh-red it is not, but deep brown, not the colour of the Caucasian race, of which Adam is considered the prototype.
NOTE ON METHUSELAH. Methu, death, a collective noun, as Penu in Genesis 32:31.
Enoch was considered by the ancient Hebrews, Persians, and Arabs as one of the originators of astronomy. The book now extant in his name was found by Bruce in Abyssinia. It has been translated by Abp. Lawrence, who remarks in his preface, that as the writer gives the length of the day as from eight to twelve hours, he must have lived between 45o and 49o N. Lat., and might therefore be one of the ten tribes located in Media. It is certain that in the second century there was such a book, as Tertullian spoke of it. He thought it inspired; but the more learned Origen rejected it. St. Jude had previously adopted the prophecy of Enoch, but not as a book: it might be received from tradition as spoken.
It has been observed that succeeding prophets frequently use the very words of those who preceded them. Moses, in Deuteronomy 33:2, has been supposed to refer to this prophecy of Enoch, as also Zechariah 14:5. St. Peter, in his Second Epistle (2:17,18), is considered to allude to the prophecy of Enoch, also Jude 12, 13, 15, where the ideas and even the expressions of the two Apostles remarkably coincide. The prophecy expressly quoted by Jude is to be found in the second chapter of the book translated by Lawrence. This passage, standing alone in its magnificence, luminous in the surrounding obscurity, seems to have been the only genuine record of the words of the patriarch that had reached the writer. There is nothing like it, nothing worthy of it in the rest of the volume, which may well have originated with a Jew into whose hands the Epistle of Jude had fallen. The imagery of the Apocalypse seems imitated in it, but not the prophecies. As the translator observes, none of its attempts at foretelling events after the Christian era correspond with history. The seal of inspiration is therefore wanting to the book, though the inspired Apostle has authenticated this one passage, apparently received by tradition as spoken by Enoch. Whether the book found in Abyssinia is that which Tertullian received but Origen rejected, is not known; but it is generally supposed not to be. Origen speaks of the book with which he was acquainted, as asserting that in the time of Enoch the constellations were already named and divided. The book now extant says, in c. 43, "The angel called the stars by their names, and they heard: they are the names of the righteous who dwell upon the earth." If the book seen by Origen said, "of the Righteous One who shall dwell upon the earth," it would agree with the names of the stars relating to the titles and attributes of the Messiah. There is an Indian tradition that the third from Adam, famous for his piety and the salutary precepts he gave to mankind, was translated to heaven, where he shines as the polar star. Enoch was named in tradition as the third with Adam and Seth in the invention of astronomy.
The positive assertion that Enoch was a prophet is founded on the Epistle of Jude. That Epistle, though doubtfully esteemed by some in the time of Eusebius (as it has been in ours), was received by the Council of Laodicea, which, with Origen and Athanasius, held the same books, and no others, to be inspired which are the Canonical Scriptures of the Anglican Church. In addition to this external evidence, the internal is supplied by the test often used as to the other Scriptures. A good man could not have said that he, the writer, was Jude the brother of James, unless he were really so: an evil man, capable of a sacrilegious forgery, could not have written other and highly spiritual parts of the same Epistle. The resemblance to 2 Peter 2:17,18, in verses 6 and 8, 12 and 13, has been explained by supposing both passages to have been taken from the book of Enoch; not that now extant, but that which was known to Origen. A book of Enoch is spoken of in the "Zohar," which was written about the time of the Christian era. It is asserted by many ancient writers that there was a book called the book of Enoch. What the two Apostles quoted as authoritative must have been inspired: but an inspired book would not have perished. Jude does not refer to a book, but to a saying. That prophecy of Enoch might have been traditionally preserved, and inserted in the book called of Enoch and recognized as prophetic by the inspired writers. The very ancient and widely prevalent tradition that Enoch did write a book, to which in some cases was added that it was preserved by Noah in the ark, is remarkable. May he not have written from the dictation of Adam the four first chapters of Genesis, under the guidance of that Spirit by which Moses might recognize and adopt them?
The ancient British Triads, stanzas of three lines or measures, containing in each line an important truth, are well known. The same kind of arrangement may be traced in the primitive poetry of other nations. These significant names of the early patriarchs seem to take a similar form. Thence may have originated the triads of their posterity. There is in these four triads some analogy with the four seasons of the year. The four great astronomical epochs, the two equinoxes and two solstices, then, as now, occurred within the allotted signs of the respective triads. All beauty is a likeness of the perfections of God. The beauty of spring comes; but it is appointed to the suffering of decay. Summer, bringing the wealth, the possession of man, shines forth from God, and comes down in blessing: in autumn, dedicated to death, but to rise again, it is smitten. In winter man rests from his labour; and the ordained sustenance supports the assembled multitudes. Arranged as triads we read-
|SPRING||The likeness of God, |
|The antediluvian Spring equinox|
|SUMMER||Purchasing a possession, |
The shining forth of God,
He shall come down.
|The antediluvian Summer solstice|
From death he sets free,
|The antediluvian Autumn equinox|
|WINTER||He giveth rest, |
He supports the assembly.
|The antediluvian Winter solstice|
"'The children of Seth' were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order; and that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction, that the world was at one time to be destroyed by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone. They described their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind, and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Syria or Seirad to this day" (Book 1. chap. 2).
Whiston subjoins an assertion that Josephus confounded Seth with Sesostris, &c.; but late discoveries render it needless to enter on the proof that his opinion has little weight on a subject then so imperfectly understood.
"Let no one, on comparing the lives of the ancients with ours, think that what we have now said is false." "Their food was fitter then for the prolongation of life; and God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue, and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries, which would not have afforded the time for foretelling the periods of the stars, unless they had lived six hundred years, for the great year is completed in that interval. Now, I have witnesses to what I have said, all those who have written antiquities both among the Greeks and the barbarians; for even Manetho, who wrote the Egyptian History, and Berosus, who collected the Chaldean monuments, and Moechus, and Hestiaeus, and besides these Hieronymus the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician History, agree to what I here say. Hesiod also, and Hecataeus, and Hellanicus, and Arcesilaus; and besides these, Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years" (Book 1. chap. 3).
"Catholic doctors have determined that the deep researches of the ancients, before God deluged the original world by a general flood, are to be ascribed to miracle and not to nature; as God granted them as much of life as was requisite for discovering and inscribing the sciences in books, amongst which, according to Josephus, the wonderful diversities of astronomy required a period of six hundred years, that they might be experimentally submitted to observation" (page 93).
"The fact is certain, that at some remote period there were mathematicians and astronomers who knew that the sun is in the centre of our system, and that the earth, itself a planet, revolves round the central fire; who attempted to calculate the return of comets; who indicated the number of solar years contained in the great cycle, by multiplying a period (variously called in the Zend, the Sanscrit, and the Chinese, Ven, Van, and Phen) of one hundred and thirty years, by another period of one hundred and forty-four years; who took the parallax of the sun by a method superior to that of Hipparchus, and little inferior to our own; who fixed with considerable accuracy the distance of the moon and the circumference of the earth; who held that the face of the moon was diversified with vales and seas; who asserted that there was a planet beyond Saturn; who reckoned the planets to be sixteen in number; and who calculated the length of the tropical year within three minutes of the true time. All the authorities for these assertions are stated in my Essay on the Science of the Egyptians and Chaldeans."
"There is nothing, then, improbable in the report of Josephus, when he says that the descendants of Seth were skilful astronomers, and seems to ascribe to them the invention of the cycle of which Cassini has developed the excellence. The Jews, Assyrians, and Arabians have abundance of traditions concerning the antediluvian astronomical knowledge, especially of Adam, Seth, Enoch, and Ham. It was asserted in the book of Enoch, as Origen tells us, that the constellations in the time of that patriarch were already named and divided. The Arabians say that they have named Enoch, Edris, on account of his learning" (page 38).
"Some of the rabbins have said that Cham had learned the science of astronomy and the knowledge of the zodiacal ring" (page 40).
"The antediluvian predictions of Josephus were probably astronomical. The Indians have a cycle of sixty years, probably as the decimal part of the great year of six hundred years."
"That the invention of the zodiac ought to be attributed to the antediluvians may appear to some a rash and idle conjecture: but I shall not renounce this conjecture, merely because it may startle those who never thought of it before. Tradition has told several of the Oriental nations that the antediluvians were eminently skilled in astronomy; and tradition has generally some foundation in truth. When Bailly undertook to write the history of astronomy, he found at the outset certain fragments of science, which proved to him the existence of a system in some remote age, and anterior to all regular history, if we except the fragment in the book of Genesis. As all the emblems in the similarly divided zodiacs of India, Chaldea, Bactria, Arabia, Egypt, are nearly alike, it would seem they had followed some common model, and to whom should we attribute its invention but to their common ancestors?"
Cassini says, "The period of six hundred years, of which we find no intimation in any records but those of the Jewish nation, referred to by Josephus, and called the grand year, is one of the finest ever invented. It brings out the solar year more exactly than that of Hipparchus and Ptolemy, and the lunar month within one second of what is determined by modern astronomy." He also urges that nothing but the observations of those who lived to see the return of the celestial orbs to the same places could have originated this wonderful period. This argument, again brought forward by Sir W. Drummond, appears to have had weight with him in his conversion to a reverential acquiescence in the authority of those Holy Scriptures he had once undervalued.* Cassini, in verifying this ancient calculation, had the use of observations made by means of the instruments of modern science, and from these could ascertain what the patriarchs might know by ocular inspection of the course of the heavenly bodies. In their lives one man might observe twenty or thirty revolutions of Saturn, sixty or eighty of Jupiter, and many more of the inferior planets. In this great cycle of six hundred years, Cassini says, "The lunar month is reckoned at 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 3 seconds; the solar year at 365 days, 5 hours, 51 minutes, 36 seconds: not that this division was so made in the ancient tradition, as made by computation, but is the result given of the actual completion of the cycle, which might be observed by those whose lives were of sufficient length. After the first completion of the first six hundred years had been witnessed, every succeeding year would furnish another, a new proof of its accuracy."
* In his early work, the Oedipus Judaicus, he treats the Scriptures with much disrespect: in his later, particularly his Essay on the Zodiacs of Esneh and Denderah, he expresses his full adhesion to them.
One of these triads appears to imply not only a knowledge of the immortality of the soul, but of the resurrection.
The restoration of original character,
The restoration of all that was beloved,
The restoration of remembrance from the origin of all things." (Triads of Bardism)
|Signs borne on the banners of the tribes of Israel||NAMES OF THE SONS OF JACOB
ACCORDING TO THEIR BIRTH
|Texts where the word or its root occurs||Hebrew Roots|
|AQUARIUS||Reuben, behold a son, the son, arising, pouring out blessings||Gen 29:32|
|PISCES||Simeon, heard, characteristic of the Church
Levi, bound, united, characteristic of the Church
|LEO||Judah, praise to the Lord, for the coming Messiah||Ib. 35|
|SCORPIO||Dan, judging, ruling, his people||Gen 30:6|
|CAPRICORNUS||Naphtali, wrestling, sufferings at the first coming||Ib. 8|
|ARIES||Gad, good fortune, blessings at the second coming, (Arab. use.)||Ib. 11|
|SAGITTARIUS||Asher, happy, the going forth of the Gospel||Ib. 13|
|CANCER||Issachar, recompense, or reward, of the Messiah's sufferings||Ib. 18|
|VIRGO||Zebulon, dwelling, as the promised seed at his first coming||Ib. 20|
|TAURUS||Joseph, adding. Ephraim; fruitful, Gen 41:52; gathering in the Gentiles||Ib. 24|
|GEMINI||Benjamin, son of the right hand, called by his mother, Ben-oni, son of sorrow, the suffering and triumphant Messiah||Gen 35:18
||1st Row |
|Odem, ruby, red, Isa 43:2 (bloodshedding, Arab. sense)
||Pitdah, reward, price of redemption
||Bareketh, shining; carbuncle
||qrb||2nd Row |
|Nophek, pouring forth, as light or water
||1 Sam 10:1
||Saphir, numbered, as multitudes, Rev 7:9; sapphire
||Jahalom, which breaks; diamond
||Mlh||3rd Row |
|Leshem, tongues, of fire, Isa 5:24
||Shebo, dwelling; agate
||Achlama, which restores; amethyst
||Mlx||4th Row |
|Tarshish, a possession, Ephesians 1:14
||Shoham, lively, strong (as a horse, Arab. use); onyx
||Jasphe, jasper, which shall bruise, and be bruised
The Breastplate of the High Priest, with the
|1st Row||Bareketh, |
|Exo 28:15-22 compared with Num 2|
|2nd Row||Jahalom, |
|3rd Row||Achlama, |
Ephraim & Manasseh,
|4th Row||Jasphe, |
|Note.Libra was not borne on the banners of any of the Tribes of Israel, Simeon and Levi being united under the emblem of Pisces, but would be on the breastplate.|
Allusions to the Signs of the Zodiac have often been pointed out in the blessing of Jacob (Gen 49); those in the blessing of Moses (Deut 33) have been less remarked. Unless these emblems had some signification familiar and important to the hearers, it is not to be supposed that the dying patriarch or the departing lawgiver would have adopted their imagery. If, however, they had been framed by the forefathers of mankind to transmit the primaeval revelation, it is consistent that they should again be so employed.
If, as has been shown (Table 15), their import is to be traced in the names of the antediluvian patriarchs, it is the more probable that they should afterwards be used in prophecy. It does not clearly appear whether Jacob and his wives had at first any intention of connecting the names of their children with the signs; but when Jacob changed the name Ben-oni, son of sorrow, to Ben-jamin, son of the right hand, it is probable he had in view the sign of the heavenly twins, which the tribe of Benjamin is known to have borne on its banners, under the accompanying figure of the wolf, whose name means, He cometh.
These names are subsequently consecrated to the purpose of prophecy by the command to engrave them on the stones of the oracular breastplate, and by their place on the gates of the city of Ezekiel and the New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse. While in the names of the earlier patriarchs is found the Redeemer alone, in those of the sons of Jacob there is more of the peculiar people, the Church, then beginning to be set apart, but still, as in the emblems of the signs, in union with the Redeemer. The order in which their father addressed them begins with Reuben. "Behold the Son!" calling on us to look to Him, of whom Isaiah afterwards said, "Unto us a Son is given," and "Look unto Him, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." In Simeon and Levi, those that have heard and are joined together, is shown the need they have of union between themselves, and support from Him who sustains them. In Judah, the theme of our praise and the delight in offering it. In Zebulon is set forth that He shall dwell with them, and they with Him. In Issachar, the purchased possession, the reward of Messiah's sufferings. In Dan the salvation of his people is secured by his judging or ruling for them. In Gad, conformed to Him in affliction, they are with Him pierced with many sorrows. In Asher is their blessedness, in feeding on the bread from heaven. In Naphtali they are set free by his wrestling. In Joseph is shown the continual addition to the Church of such as shall be saved. In Benjamin, He who is the man of sorrows, and of God's right hand, closes, as He began, the enumeration. Ephraim, fruitfulness, and Manasseh, forgetfulness of all worldly troubles, equally suit with the place they afterwards occupied in subordination to their father Joseph.
It is not said that the gift of prophecy had been imparted to Jacob before his last illness. Perhaps from the widely diffused tradition of this prophetic effusion an idea as widely received, that dying persons speak prophetically, may have originated.
The prediction first accomplished, that the sovereignty should be vested in the tribe of Judah, is the preliminary mark giving authority to the yet unfulfilled prophecies, both of the Messiah and the tribes. As certainly as the families of the twelve patriarchs divided between them the promised land under Joshua, so certainly shall they again possess it, under Him of whom Joshua was a type. As surely as David the son of Jesse reigned upon Mount Zion, so surely unto that Shiloh, that King Messiah who is also of the line of Judah, shall be the gathering of the nations.
The blessing of Jacob contains prophecies of the Messiah, some of which are equally appreciated by Christians and by Jews. Such is that of Shiloh: but the ancient Hebrews understood far more of these predictions as relating to Him who was to come, than is in general pointed out by commentators. According to the early and most learned Jewish authorities, references to the Messiah are throughout interwoven with those to the patriarchs and the tribes. Some of these annunciations are yet unfulfilled, both as to the final triumph of the Messiah and the destiny of the tribes in their restoration to their own land. Translations, ancient and modern, vary, as in Genesis 49:26, in which the great majority give Nazir, the Nazarite, where the English has "separate." Commentators also differ; some, however, have perceived the allusions to the twelve signs, as borne on the standards of Israel, but have not consistently explained or adapted them: not even the Jewish writers who inform us that they were so borne. However, these ancient authorities unanimously assert that Reuben bore Aquarius; Joseph, Taurus; Benjamin, Gemini under the emblem of the wolf; and Dan, Scorpio under that of an eagle, or of a crowned serpent or basilisk.
If these emblems were thus early employed by the family chosen to preserve the worship of the One true God, the idea of their origin in Egypt, then fast sinking into idolatry, becomes most improbable. On the descendants of Abraham was ever impressed abhorrence of that idolatry from which he had been called. What idolaters had invented they might not adopt: but what idolaters had corrupted they were not always commanded to abandon. The cherubic forms, afterwards perverted to the purposes of idolatry in Egypt and Assyria, are found in the four principal signs where the equinoxes and solstices of antediluvian astronomy had always occurred. These forms could not be of Egyptian invention, for they were set at the east of Eden. Jewish authorities say that "they were from the beginning in the holy tabernacle called the face of God." Had the eight intermediate signs been added by the Egyptians, the chosen family must not have intermingled the devices of man with ordinances of Divine authority. If they knew that all had been arranged to declare the glory of God and proclaim the coming Redeemer, the use of them by Jacob, and the recurrence to them by Moses, would be of obvious utility. Happily would the children of the departed prophet behold them in the peaceful plains of Goshen. How hopefully in the toilsome valley of the Nile would they gaze on their own hieroglyphics, of far higher import than those of their oppressors! With what thankfulness in the weary sands of the wilderness would they repose, encamping every man under the shadow of his own standard! With what joy would they unfurl those prophetic ensigns to the welcome breezes of the promised land! As the written word of God in our own day, to some they would still be an unsolved enigma, while to others they would declare the great salvation. The rebellious seer read in them the ruin of his race: the triumphant Lawgiver traced the future glories of Him who should be "King in Jeshurun."
It does not appear that the signs were first appropriated to the sons of Jacob by their father's dying blessing; it rather seems that the children had been names with a reference to the signs, as is still done in the East: therefore, when Joseph related his dream of eleven stars bowing down before him, his brethren applied it to themselves, and were offended. This dream was fulfilled, his second dream was not: his own mother was dead, and his step-mother also died before his brethren bowed down to him. Jacob appears to have seen, that if the first was from above, the second was merely natural, and reproved him in consequence.
Beneath the midnight sky of the land of Goshen, the dying patriarch, animated by prophetic impulse and surrounded by reverential listeners, from within the lifted curtain of his tent might gaze enrapt on the starry heaven, whither by Divine command his father Abraham had been taught to look for a type of the promised seed. With Leo rising, Aquarius would be seen about to set, thus figuring the transfer of the birthright from Reuben to Judah. Taurus, the well-known bearing of Joseph, would be on the meridian; and the place of Scorpio, the ensign of Dan, though below the horizon, would be pointed out by the head of the Serpent immediately beneath the Northern Crown. Every intermediate sign would either be visible or its place indicated by some remarkable star belonging to or above it; as Sagittarius by Vega, in Lyra, and Capricornus by Cygnus. Reverting from the brilliant orbs on high, beyond which lay the haven of that salvation for which he had waited, his failing eyes would rest on the familiar faces around him, the inheritors of that earthly Canaan typifying the heavenly country which his spirit sought. Full of the glories of Him at once his Saviour and his son, he addresses them under the influence of that Divine Spirit which alone enables man to predict futurity.
NOTE. The annexed translations, varying but little from the English Version, yet accommodated in some degree to the idiom of the Hebrew in its inversions and omissions of connecting particles, if harsh to the ear, aim at conveying some idea of the antique dignity of the original in the blessing of Jacob, and at shadowing forth the sublimity of that of Moses.
1. And Jacob called his sons, and said, Assemble yourselves together, and I will tell you that which shall happen unto you in the latter days. 2. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father. 3. Reuben, thou, my firstborn! my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power. 4. Poured forth as water, thou shalt not excel, for thou wentest up to the bed of thy father: then didst thou profane; he went up to my couch! 5. Simeon and Levi, brethren! instruments of cruelty in their slaying! 6. Into their council come not thou, O my soul! unto their assembly be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their willfulness they cut off the Prince. 7. Cursed their anger, for fierce; and their wrath, for stubborn: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. 8. Judah, thou! thy brethren shall praise thee! thy hand on the neck of thine enemies! thy father's children shall bow down before thee. 9. A lion's whelp, Judah! upon the prey, my son, thou art come up: he stoopeth down, he coucheth as a lion, and as a fierce lion; who shall rouse him up? 10. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him the gathering of the nations. 11. Binding his foal to the vine, and unto the choice vine his ass's colt, he washeth his garments in wine, and his mantle in the blood of grapes. 12. His eyes sparkling more than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk. 13. Zebulon shall dwell at the haven of the sea: and He shall be a haven for affliction, and his side a stronghold. 14. Issachar! a strong ass couching down between the sheepfolds. 15. And he shall see his resting-place, that it is good, and the land, that it is pleasant; and he shall bow his shoulder to the burden, and shall be a servant to tribute. 16. Judging, He shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17. There shall be for Dan a serpent by the way, an adder by the path, biting the horse's heels; and his rider shall fall after. 18. For thy salvation have I waited, O Lord! 19. Gad! a troop shall pierce him: and he shall be pierced in the heel. 20. With Asher, abundant his bread, and he shall give the sweet influences of a king. 21. Naphtali, a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. 22. Branch of fruitfulness, Joseph, branch of fruitfulness by the fountains! the daughters walk before the bull. 23. The archers have sorely grieved him, and contended with him, and hated him. 24. But his bow shall abide in strength, and his arms shall be made strong, his hands by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, from whence the shepherd, the stone of Israel: 25. By the God of thy father, and He shall help thee, and by the Almighty, and He shall bless thee, blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that coucheth below, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26. The blessings of thy father have been mighty beyond the blessings of the ancient mountains, the desired of the lasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of Him, the Nazarite among his brethren. 27. Benjamin! the wolf shall rend: in the morning he shall feed on the prey, in the evening he shall divide the spoil. 28. All these, the twelve tribes of Israel, and this, what their father spake unto them; every one according to his blessing blessed he them.The dying patriarch appears to have addressed each son by name, and then alluding to his appointed emblem, to have pointed out its signification as to the promised Redeemer. To Reuben was allotted Aquarius, the pourer out of blessings, arising as in triumph. He was his might and the "excellency" of dignity and of power; but the "excellency" of primogeniture, of being the head of the family, he takes from Reuben, "Thou shalt not excel," and afterwards transfers it to Judah. The reason is given in the delinquency of Reuben.
Verse 5. To Simeon and Levi he allotted Pisces, the united fishes, as brethren. They had slain Shechem, a man, a prince of the land. It has often been pointed out that these two tribes were the enemies of the Man, the second Adam, and were instrumental by their "assembly" to the crucifixion, slaying the Prince. The word here rendered prince, is by the Septuagint rendered bull, and by the Vulgate wall. The alteration of a single vowel, in the Hebrew expressed by a single point, allows these variations; and certainly in the time of Jacob the points were not in use. Whether before or after the event, a prediction of the slaying of the Messiah by his own people would not find favour with the Jewish mind. A point would be easily dropt if involving it.
Verse 7. The original, and as here rendered, allows the anger and wrath to be future, that against Messiah the Prince, foreseen by Jacob.
Verse 10. Shiloh, the Giver of peace, or the Peace. John 14:7; Ephesians 2:14.
Verse 14. Sheepfolds. The word is so rendered Judges 5:16.
Verse 16. He, Messiah, shall judge.
Verse 17. Ancient Hebrew and Chaldee authorities say that Dan bore on his standard a crowned serpent or basilisk, held in the claws of an eagle. The constellation of the serpent by the milky way held by Ophiuchus, in Scorpio, and the reptile under his foot in the zodiac, seem here alluded to. By the serpent wounding the heel, the human nature falls in death.
Verse 19. By one of the troop of Roman soldiers the Messiah was pierced in the side: in being nailed to the cross, He was pierced in the heel. At last is the same word as heel (Gen 3:15).
Verse 20. "Royal dainties" is in Job rendered "sweet influences." The Rabbins all agree that this is King Messiah.
Verse 21. Hind is of the neuter or feminine gender, as is the desire of nations, and wisdom, in Proverbs 8, where substituting it for she would remove difficulties. The Messiah was to take human nature, the nature equally of man and woman. The Hebrew has but two genders, masculine, and all that is not masculine, including feminine and neuter in one.
Verse 22. The well or fountain may be the river, Eridanus. Daughters, as in the English margin and the Vulgate, appear to be the Pleiades, which precede the constellation Taurus, the bull, which is known to have been the ensign of Joseph, and afterwards of Ephraim.
Verse 25. In the remarkable expression "the deep that lieth or coucheth under," there seems again an allusion to the constellation Eridanus, immediately beneath that of Taurus.
Verse 26. Nazarite. The word rendered separate in the English, is in the Vulgate, in Luther's and most other translations, Nazarite. The Jewish writers observe on this passage, that he who is here called a Nazarite cannot be Joseph, who threw himself on the body of his father; for a Nazarite might not touch a dead body. They understand it of the King Messiah. So understanding it, this is one of the places in which Christ is spoken of as a Nazarite, according to Matthew 2:23: the other is Deuteronomy 33, where Moses repeats the words of his ancestor's prophecy.
Verse 27. The wolf. The allusion here is to the figure of the wolf known to be borne on the standard of Benjamin, as representing the sign Gemini. It may be traced in the constellation Sirius, called by the Egyptians a dog. The greater and lesser dog of the modern sphere were called by the Arabs the right and left Prince or Mighty One. The Semitic name of the wolf, Zeeb, is this or he cometh. The prey, that which is appointed, as in Job 30:23, at his first coming, the morning; at his second, the evening, all shall be at his disposal.
Verse 28. Tribes, literally rods, standards. The word is rendered scepter in verse 10.
The ancient Rabbis all explain verse 8 of Messiah. On verse 11 they refer to Zechariah 9:9. On verse 8 there is a reference to Job 15:18: "as is said by the Holy Spirit by the hand of Job," showing their faith that the Scriptures were dictated by the Holy Spirit, and that Job was inspired.
On Shiloh they say, in verse 8, "This is the Messiah; and he shall be over all the world." "The vine is the house of Israel." (Mart. Pug. Fidei.)
"The writers of the Targums allow an original literal sense of a passage, and leave a typical one to prefigure something in the time of Messiah," as Psalm 72, of Solomon and the Messiah. On Genesis 49, Jonathan Onkelos, and the Jerusalem Targum all interpret Shiloh the Messiah. The latter adds, "whose is the kingdom, and to whom all the kings of the earth shall be subjected." Ahmed Ibn Idris, an Arabic writer, calls this "a prophecy of Isa, upon whom be peace," and renders Shiloh Messias. R. Johanan said that "all the Prophets prophesied only of the days of Messiah": others that "the Prophets prophesied only of the years of redemption and the days of Messiah." R. Simeon ben Jochai, on Genesis 3, speaks of King Messiah as the son of David, and to be born of a virgin, applying to Him Isaiah 11:2. (Jonathan, with other ancient Rabbis, applies to him Isaiah 52 and 53.) R. S. also says of Him, "God's most holy Son, having put on human flesh, that He may forgive their iniqutieis," and that "they shall kill Him." R. S. may have understood Genesis 49:6 of the Messiah. The Targum of Jonathan says, on Genesis 3, "The children of the woman shall have a remedy (for the wound of the serpent) in the days of Messiah the King." (Nicholl's Conference with a Theist.)
In Martini Pugio Fidei may be seen references to the Jewish books and writers who explain much of the "blessing of Jacob" of King Messiah; to Him they all agree in referring verse 8 and 11. On Shiloh they say, "This is Messiah": also, of Dan, verse 16, "This, Dan, is Messiah to come, who is to judge as the blessed God." In Beres. Rab. Mose Haddashan is quoted as saying, on Genesis 49:11, "When King Messiah comes to Jerusalem to save Israel, He himself shall gird his ass, and ride upon it and guide it himself in meekness to Jerusalem, as it is written Zechariah 9:9." Also, on verse 10, "The last and final redemption of Israel is here meant." The Targums of Jonathan and of Jerusalem apply all this chapter to the Messiah.
It will be seen from the prophecy of Balaam, Numbers 24, that the previous prophetic blessing of Jacob was known to him, as he uses its very words in verse 9. The emblems on the standards of the tribes were before his eyes; he distinctly alludes to the urn and water of Aquarius, and the lion of Judah. In the order of the encampment given in Numbers 2, these two leading tribes were on the east and on the south, consequently most apparent to the prophet of Midian.
Part of the Prophecy of Balaam
2. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding according to their tribes. 5. How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! 6. As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign-aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. 7. He shall pour the water out of his water-vessels, and his seed in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. 8. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the swiftness of the elk: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce with his arrows. 9. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee...14. I will instruct thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days. 15. And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor said, and the man whose eyes are open said, 16. He said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, saw the vision of the Almighty, falling, but having his eyes open: 17. I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there comeyh a star out of Jacob, and there ariseth a sceptre out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and bring together all the children of Seth. 18. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. 19. And from out of Jacob who shall have dominion, and shall destroy the remnant of the city.
It may be observed that Balaam when speaking in his own person uses the name of God in the singular, Al, as in verse 4, but when speaking of Him as the God of Israel, he calls Him Jehovah: he also, in verse 16, uses the names Elion, Most High, and Shaddai, the Giver of blessings, or the Almighty.
Verse 7. The pouring out of water from the urns or vases here evidently alludes to Aquarius. In the Egyptian sphere the man holds an urn in each hand. As the second commandment had now been given, it may seem that human figures were no longer on the banners of Israel, if they had ever been. The Jerusalem Targum, and that of Jonathan, say this is King Messiah: so other Jewish writers. (Gill's Com.) Agag is supposed to be Gog, Ezekiel 38: so the Septuagint.
Verse 8. The Septuagint for Reem has unicorn, the Vulgate, rhinoceros: but modern travelers say there is a large species of elk still called by the Arabs Reem.
Verse 9. The first part of this verse is in the words of Jacob, Genesis 49:10: The latter part, in those of Isaac, Genesis 27:29. These earlier prophecies appear to have been well known to the surrounding nations. That now given forth through Balaam was yet more extensively so, as appears from the Persian tradition of the star, and the universal one of the coming of Him who should have dominion.
Verse 17. In the book of Zohar it is said, "When the Messiah shall be revealed, a bright star shall arise in the East." Aben Ezra applies it partly to David and partly to the Messiah, as does Maimonides. The use made of it by Christians may have induced the Jews to bring in David. "There shall come a star out of Jacob." The preposition Mem is said by Gill and others sometimes to bear the sense of unto. In this place both senses seem needed; the star, Messiah himself, came out of, as well as unto Jacob. The literal star, which led the Magi, came unto the land and descendants of Jacob: of the scepter, not yet come, the same may be said. "Bring together." All mankind are through Noah children of Seth. So Jarchi observes. Onkelos has "shall rule over the children of Seth." He and many other Jewish authorities interpret this of Messiah by name. Verse 19 is also in the ancient Jewish writings applied to Messiah.
Vers 19. "The city." The Babylon of prophecy.
Great is the sanction derived to the prophetic import of the signs from the allusions to them in the farewell blessing of Moses to the assembled nation. Consciously standing on the verge of eternity, no mere device of man could have engaged one moment of fast-fleeting time: but in the prophecies emblematized on those standards of Israel now floating before his eyes he found the pervading theme of his last solemn unveiling of futurity. They proclaimed the coming of the Deliverer who should bruise the serpent's head. Where the plains of Moab ended, and the ascent of Abarim, the mount of passing over, rose to the loftier Nebo, the mountain of beholding, stood the divinely appointed leader, his mission fulfilled, his earthly warfare accomplished. The words of his father Jacob in his mind, the allotted ensigns in his view, he amplified those predictions, dwelling triumphantly on the glorious close, the final restoration of the chosen people to the land of promise, now seen afar off in aerial beauty beyond the intervening flood.
First he invokes on Reuben a heavenly blessing, compensating the deprivation of his earthly birthright: and he then plainly alludes to the man in Aquarius. Turning to Judah, he prays for the speedy coming of Him who was to be of his lineage, and sees the hands of the Conqueror, as in lion-grasp, on the neck of the enemy. To Levi, with whom Simeon is united as the fishes on the ensign, he speaks of the honour of the priesthood, and the union of the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate. In Benjamin he sees alone the glory of the beloved, the son of the right hand. To Joseph, enumerating abundant endowments, he expressly names his well-known ensign, the sacrificial bull, afterwards borne by Ephraim. With Zebulon he rejoices in Him whose goings forth have been from everlasting: with Issachar, that He should dwell in the tents of Shem. In speaking of Gad, he exactly describes the ram whose foot is on the head of the sea-monster, who had provided for himself the first part, "the beginning of months," which the sign Aries was now appointed to be. For Dan he speaks of the ruling; for Naphtali, of the full satisfaction, the blood-bought salvation; for Asher, of the dispensation of peace, the coming swiftly to the earth, as the horse shod with iron and brass, of Him, the God of Jeshurun, who rideth on the heavens in his help.
1. And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. 2. And he said, The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from Mount Paran, and He came with multitudes of saints: from his right hand a fiery law unto them. 3. Yea, He loved the nations; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sit down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words. 4. Moses commanded us a law, the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. 5. And he was king in Jeshurun a King, in the gathering of the heads of the people together with the tribes of Israel. 6. Reuben shall live, and not die; his men be few. 7. And this to Judah: and he said, Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah! and thou shalt bring Him to his people: and his hands mighty unto him, and help from his enemies shalt thou be. 8. And to Levi he said, Thy perfections and thy lights from Him, thy Holy One, whom thou didst prove at Massah, with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; 9. Who said of his father and of his mother, I saw them not, and his brethren he did not acknowledge, and his children he did not know: for they observed thy word, and kept thy covenant. 10. They shall teach thy judgments to Jacob: they shall put incense before thee, and whole sacrifices on thy altar. 11. Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not up again. 12. To Benjamin he said, The Beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; sheltering by him all the day, and between his shoulders he dwelleth. 13. And to Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord his land, by the precious things of the heavens, by the dew, and by the deep that coucheth beneath. 14. And by the precious things brought forth by the sun, and by the precious put forth by the moons, 15. And by the chief things of the ancient mountains, and by the precious things of the lasting hills, 16. And by the precious things of the earth, and the fullness thereof; and the good will of the dweller in the bush shall come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the head of Him, the Nazarite among his brethren. 17. The firstborn, his bull, glory for him, horns of lifting up his horns: with them shall he push the nations together in the ends of the earth: and they, the multitudes of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh. 18. And to Zebulon he said, Rejoice, Zebulon, in thy going forth; and Issachar, in thy tents. 19. They shall call the nations to the mountain, there shall they offer sacrifices of righteousness: for the abundance of the seas they shall suck, and treasures hid in the sand. 20. And of Gad he said, Blessed He that enlargeth Gad: as a lion he dwelleth, and teareth with the forefoot the crown of the head. 21. And he provided the first part for himself, for there, in the portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he shall come with the heads of the people, to work the righteousness of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel. 22. And of Dan he said, Dan, a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan. 23. And of Naphtali he said, Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord: inherit thou the west and the south. 24. And of Asher he said, Asher, blessed with children; he shall be acceptable to his brethren, and dip in oil his foot. 25. Iron and brass thy shoes; and as thy days thy strength. 26. None like the God of Jeshurun; he rideth upon the heavens in thy help, and in his triumph on the sky. 27. The Eternal God thy refuge, and underneath the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out before thee the enemy, and shall say, Be destroyed. 28. And Israel shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob in a land of corn and wine, also his heavens shall drop down dew. 29. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy triumph! and thine enemies shall fail before thee, and thou shalt tread on their high places.
Verse 1. "Before" has the force of "looking to" or "in prospect of" his death.
Verse 12. The ancient Rabbins said, "This is the day of Messiah." (See Talmud, Gill.)
Verse 13. "Coucheth." This remarkable expression is repeated from the blessing of Jacob, as are the fifteenth and sixteenth verses. It is a Jewish remark, that every prophet quotes from the preceding ones.
Verse 16. Here again, as in the prophecy of Jacob, it is spoken by a prophet, that He, the Messiah, should be a Nazarite.
Verse 17. The word rendered unicorn, rhinoceros, or elk, is rendered lifted up in Zechariah 14:10; and in Psalm 75:10 the root is so applied to the horn of the righteous, also in Psalm 89:16, 17.
Verse 18. In the going forth of the promised seed, to dwell with men, as in Virgo.
Verse 20. The same word is used for the arm of a man and for the fore-leg of an animal. The fore-leg of Aries is on the head of the sea-monster Cetus, or Leviathan, below, showing the predicted bruising the head of the enemy.
Verse 21. The beginning of the year, which had previously been at the anniversary of the creation, at the junction of Leo and Virgo, was now, by Divine command, transferred to the new moon of Aries, the portion of the lawgiver, under the type of the lamb slain at the Passover.
Verse 23. This prophecy remains to be fulfilled, apparently at the restoration of Israel.
Verse 25. The rendering of this passage has been disputed; but the word translated strength is so used in Arabic, also in Chaldee, (see Buxtorf,) and is so rendered in the Syriac and Targum, (see Lee's Lexicon).
Verse 26. "God" is here the singular, El, as is frequent where the second person of the Trinity, about to take into union the human nature, is intended. In verse 27 it is Elohim, the Triune God. For the plurality of Elohim, see Genesis 1:26, 11:7; Isa 6:8. "R. S. ben Jochai says: Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim. There are three degrees, and each degree is by itself alone; and yet they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other." (Zohar, Bagster's Comp. Bible.)
Verse 29. "Triumph," see Exodus 15:1.
THE ENCAMPMENT OF ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS (NUM 2),
AND THE BREASTPLATE OF THE HIGH PRIEST.
The blessing of Jacob had annexed a prophetic importance to these emblems, and had allotted them to the tribes as their standards. The Supreme Ruler of all things saw fit to direct the encampment of the Children of Israel, "every man by his own standard, with the ensign of his father's house," in their progress through the wilderness. This their journeying is allowed to be typical of that of the individual soul in its passage through this wilderness of human life, and of the destinies of the Church in its terrestrial existence. Prophecy, the great proof of the Divine government of the world, and of the fact that God has spoken, pervades the patriarchal and Mosaic records and institutions. Thus is shown the purpose of Divine dictation in what might otherwise appear unworthy of such superintendence. The same direction was given as to the placing of the precious stones on the breastplate of the high priest (Exo 28). They are called by names analogous in meaning to those of the ensigns of the tribes. Thus Odem differently pointed is Adam, flesh, the human nature of the Messiah, who is allowed by Jew and Christian to be typified by the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The beginning being thus fixed, as in the order for the encampment, the others will follow the same order. Pitdah, the reward, the price, accords with the reward of Issachar, the possession, in Cancer. Bareketh, the shining forth, with the dwelling among men in Zebulon and Virgo. Nophek, the pouring forth, with Reuben and Aquarius. Sapphire, the number, as in Pisces, who have heard, as Simeon. Jahalom, which breaks as the diamond, piercing, as Gad, as Aries. Leshem, the nations, of the fruitful, Joseph and Ephraim. Shebo, the inhabiting, as in the tabernacle; joined together by redemption, as in Levi and Libra. Achlama, which restores, recovers, as Benjamin the spoil. Tarshish, the possession, ruled over, as Dan. Shoham, strong, as Asher, and the horse in Sagittarius. Jasphe, breaking, as jasper is known to do; as Naphtali in wrestling, and Capricorn in being slain. The names used in translations are uncertain or arbitrary.
Eben, a stone, is from the root Bana, to build, from which also is Ben, a son. Stones build up a house, a dwelling: sons, a house, a family. A stone is thus a type of the Son, the promised Messiah. Stone is first applied in Scripture as typical of the Messiah in Genesis 49:24; again in Isaiah 28:16. From Psalm 118:22, it is applied by our Lord to Himself, and by the Apostles, Acts 4:11.
In Exodus 28 a command is given to grave the names of the sons of Israel, according to their birth, on two stones of onyx, six on each. Shoham, an onyx, may be considered as intensive of Shem, a name, as a great or strong name. "Name" is often applied to Christ, as in Malachi 1:11, &c.; Acts 4:12, &c. Shoham may also convey the idea of "this, the multitude," the many. The onyx has many layers or stripes of colour, whence it may have been named and selected to receive many names. Josephus says, "The sardonyx which the high priest wore on his shoulder, displayed a supernatural brilliancy when the Almighty approved the oblations. When in consequence of our supplications He was disposed to grant us a victory, the Essen (or breastplate) emitted a dazzling lustre." The Essen or Hoshen, the silent, spoke by the light of its gems. The Chaldee paraphrase on the Song of Solomon says the twelve signs were engraven on the stones of the breastplate, and that they were lucid, like lamps. Maimonides relates, that "the inquirer knelt, while by the increased brilliancy of the stones the answer was read to him by the high priest." Some authorities say that only the ruler or king had a right thus to inquire. The significant names of the tribes and the stones, and their oneness of purpose, the certain approach, the sufferings, and the glory that was to follow, of Him spoken of by all the Prophets from the beginning of the world, show the intention of these apparently arbitrary and minute arrangements. They were prophetic: half of their message is fulfilled in the first coming, half remains to be fulfilled in the second coming of Him they thus prefigured. That the stones on the breastplate of the high priest, and the names engraven on them, had meanings corresponding with each other and with the twelve signs, which ancient authorities say were also engraven on them, has not been equally noticed. That the types and shadows of the Levitical Law were similarly hieroglyphical no scriptural theologian questions.
The fact of Moses having been divinely directed to the use of types, which had been and would be idolatrously perverted, may be understood on the supposition of their having been originally devoted to the glory of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and known as such to their descendants. If these emblems each expressed a prophecy concerning the Messiah, made known to the constructors by the earliest revelation, the great honour thus put upon them is intelligible. The prophecies were of God: the symbols contrived to transmit them were of man, but of man living under the manifestation of the prophetic spirit; for we know that Enoch, one of their alleged originators, was a prophet.
In tracing the analogy between the emblems of the constellations and the types of the Levitical Law, it should be borne in mind that this analogy is a natural consequence of the oneness of the subject. The theme of both is the coming of the promised Redemer, his person and his work. In both the first type is the lamb or young ram. The ancient year of the Hebrews had begun at the traditional anniversary of the creation, where the figure of the lion joins that of the virgin. The civil year of the Jews still commences when the sun is among those stars. By Divine command, the beginning of the sacred year was placed where the sign of the ram or lamb corresponded to the appointment then made of the fast of the Passover. Neither solstice nor equinox was then in that sign: neither were its stars visible at night. Only the type there expressed affords a reason for the appointment. The constellation Virgo, figuring the branch, and the woman bearing the seed, would then be seen resplendently in the clear sky of the house of bondage, from which the shepherd of Israel, typified in the accompanying constellation of Bootes, was now leading his purchased flock, represented in the two sheepfolds so long misconstrued as bears. Soon after the going out from Egypt, the bull is ordained for sacrifice (Exo 29:1), in connexion with the consecration of the high priest, the leader and ruler of the people, as the bull was of the herd. This meaning is conveyed in the names of the animal, of the sign, and of its chief star. With the bull two rams without blemish were to be offered. The ram or lamb was equally typical of the great High Priest "who offered himself without spot to God" (Heb 9:14). The two lambs of morning and evening sacrifice accord with Aries and the victim in Libra, one rising when the other sets; thus keeping constantly in view the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, and thus showing that while the Rule is one, his human nature will appear twice, in the morning and the evening of the dispensation. The altar of incense is then ordained. On the similar starry emblem the victim held and pierced by the Centaur seems about to be placed. On the altar of incense the high priest was to sprinkle the blood of the sin-offering once in the year, on the great day of atonement, the tenth of the seventh month. At that time the sun, among the stars of Scorpio, was over those stars called the Altar. On that great day the sun's place was by the red star Antares, the wounding, wherein is shown the bruising of Messiah's heel, and of the enemy's head. It is said that the Jewish calendar was rectified by reckoning in one year twelve, and in the next thirteen moons. Therefore if on that day in one year the sun was exactly over any star, in the next he would be near it, and in the third return to it again. On the day of atonement there were to be two goats, one slain, the other sent away into a "land of separation," of cutting off, as the unseen state. The death, resurrection, and ascension of the Divine Atoner are here typified. In the twins of Gemini, one mortal, the other immortal; in the united figures of Ophiuchus, the desired, and Hercules, who bruises the dragon's head; in Capricorn, the falling sacrifice, and Aries, the Lamb that had been slain, but now overcoming as Lord of lords (Rev 17:14), we find among the stars responding emblems. On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the sun would be under the branch held by Hercules, and that in the hand of Bootes, having passed through the sign of which the branch is the leading idea. On that day the Israelites were to make themselves booths or tabernacles of branches (Lev 23): they were to dwell in and be sheltered by Him whose name is the Branch. The star by us called Spica, the ear of corn, the seed, by the Arabs the branch, would be with the sun by day, and at other seasons by night mark its place, at that great feast which showed forth the dwelling on earth of Him who was to come, his tabernacling among men. The two birds of atonement - one killed, the other let go free - also typify the death, resurrection, and ascension of Him who, coming down from heaven, should return thither. With these correspond the constellations Aquila, the wounded and falling eagle, and the eagle of Lyra, risen and triumphing. The slain bird was to be killed over water from a running stream: so the falling eagle is over the water flowing from the urn of Aquarius. Aquila, the wounded, Vega, the triumphant, in Lyra, and Cygnus, the wild swan going and returning, are among the most remarkable of the stars in our sky, and the first to be recognized by learners: would it not be well again to connect with them the death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again of the great object of prophecy, of Him who is equally the subject of the types of the Levitical Law and the emblems of ancient astronomy?
While in the emblems and names of the signs ten more especially typify the promised Conqueror of the serpent, and two His people, in all the names of the sons of Jacob there is also a secondary reference to the people, the Church as typified by the Israelitish nation. These names were written on the breastplate,* it should seem, beneath the emblems or abbreviated characters of the signs. They contain all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet except five, which are interchangeable with those they do contain. If, as Maimonides relates, it was by a supernatural illumination of the gems of the breastplate (with which its name Hushon, the silent, agrees), in this manner the high priest would read off the words of the oracle.
In the names given by Divine direction to the child of the prophet Isaiah, and to those of Hosea, we find example and authority for seeking the meanings in other names, especially in those of Divine selection, such as those of the stones of the breastplate, while in the name given to Noah, the meaning of which is recorded as intentionally applied, we find precedent for those of the sons of Jacob.
* It seems probable that in the breastplate only the abbreviations or hieroglyphics of the signs were engraven, in literal obedience to the second commandment. The forms had been desecrated in the service of idolatry, which these abbreviated characters never had been. The horns, or power of wounding or bruising, of the two first signs, the union of the third, the possession in the fourth, the leaping forth in the fifth, the branch and spike in the sixth, the scales brought to evenness in the seventh, the sting in the eighth, the arrow in the ninth, the goat's horns with the fish's tail in the tenth, the water in the eleventh, the different turn of the heads and the band in the twelfth, all avoid the likeness of any thing in heaven or in earth. Like the cherubic heads, they typify the action, not the actor.
Hengstenberg, in his "Christology," observes, "The encampment of Israel, Numbers 2, has its foundation in Genesis: in chapter 49 is the key to the arrangement. The same order is observed in Numbers 7." "Balaam intentionally refers to Genesis 49, also Moses in Deuteronomy 33." He thinks Shilo is "our peace," or peace-giver, and alluded to in Luke 2:14.
Memes, "On the Fine Arts of the Jews," remarks, that "where Moses may seem to have adopted Egyptian accessories, it is probable that he returned to patriarchal and even antedlivian forms of worship."
Bunsen rejects the notion of an Indian origin of Egyptian mythology or science. Ancient writers attribute it to the Chaldeans, so more directly from Noah.
The first revelation was too familiar to Isaac and Rebekah not to be borne in mind in naming Jacob, "he shall take hold of the heel," and Esau, "the ordained," (as in 1 Kings 12:32) as the firstborn ordained, by that birthright he afterwards sold, to the headship of the family, and so far to the priestly office as to offer the family sacrifices. These names would then bear the meaning, "Jacob shall take hold of the bruised heel of Him, the Ordained to bruise the serpent's head." Esau appears to have been the name of the firstborn till he sold his birthright, afterwards Edom, the red, from the colour of his hair. It is possible that in thus naming his twin children Isaac might have in view the twins of the zodiac, one of whom has a name, Polllux, the ruler, to whom the name Wasat, the appointed or ordained, from the same root as Esau, would also apply. The other twin has a name, Castor, quickly coming, hastening, in allusion to which Jacob, as coming quickly after Esau, might be named, the root of Jacob having sometimes the sense of pursuing, coming along a track or way. From the names of his ancestors of the line of Seth, Isaac might have the idea of thus connecting the names of his descendants with the emblems of astronomy, or rather with the great truths those emblems were intended to convey.
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