He closes with the blessings of his best beloved sons, Joseph and Benjamin; with these he will breathe his last.
I. The blessing of Joseph, which is very large and full. He is compared (Gen. 49:22) to a fruitful bough, or young tree; for God had made him fruitful in the land of his affliction; he owned it, Gen. 41:52. His two sons were as branches of a vine, or other spreading plant, running over the wall. Note, God can make those fruitful, great comforts to themselves and others, who have been looked upon as dry and withered. More is recorded in the history concerning Joseph than concerning any other of Jacob’s sons; and therefore what Jacob says of him is historical as well as prophetical. Observe,
1. The providences of God concerning Joseph, Gen. 49:23, 24. These are mentioned to the glory of God, and for the encouragement of Jacob’s faith and hope, that God had blessings in store for his seed. Here observe (1.) Joseph’s straits and troubles, Gen. 49:23. Though he now lived at ease and in honour, Jacob reminds him of the difficulties he had formerly waded through. He had had many enemies, here called archers, being skilful to do mischief, masters of their art of persecution. They hated him: there persecution begins. They shot their poisonous darts at him, and thus they sorely grieved him. His brethren, in his father’s house, were very spiteful towards him, mocked him, stripped him, threatened him, sold him, thought they had been the death of him. His mistress, in the house of Potiphar, sorely grieved him, and shot at him, when she impudently assaulted his chastity (temptations are fiery darts, thorns in the flesh, sorely grievous to gracious souls); when she prevailed not in this, she hated him, and shot at him by her false accusations, arrows against which there is little fence but the hold God has in the consciences of the worst of men. Doubtless he had enemies in the court of Pharaoh, that envied his preferment, and sought to undermine him. (2.) Joseph’s strength and support under all these troubles (Gen. 49:24): His bow abode in strength, that is, his faith did not fail, but he kept his ground, and came off a conqueror. The arms of his hands were made strong, that is, his other graces did their part, his wisdom, courage, and patience, which are better than weapons of war. In short, he maintained both his integrity and his comfort through all his trials; he bore all his burdens with an invincible resolution, and did not sink under them, nor do any thing unbecoming him. (3.) The spring and fountain of this strength; it was by the hands of the mighty God, who was therefore able to strengthen him, and the God of Jacob, a God in covenant with him, and therefore engaged to help him. All our strength for the resisting of temptations, and the bearing of afflictions, comes from God: his grace is sufficient, and his strength is perfected in our weakness. (4.) The state of honour and usefulness to which he was subsequently advanced: Thence (from this strange method of providence) he became the shepherd and stone, the feeder and supporter, of God’s Israel, Jacob and his family. Herein Joseph was a type, [1.] Of Christ; he was shot at and hated, but borne up under his sufferings (Isa. 50:7-9), and was afterwards advanced to be the shepherd and stone. [2.] Of the church in general, and particular believers; hell shoots its arrows against the saints, but Heaven protects and strengthens them, and will crown them.
2. The promises of God to Joseph. See how these are connected with the former: Even by the God of thy father Jacob, who shall help thee, Gen. 49:25. Note, Our experiences of God’s power and goodness in strengthening us hitherto are our encouragements still to hope for help from him; he that has helped us will help: we may build much upon our Eben-ezers. See what Joseph may expect from the Almighty, even the God of his father. (1.) He shall help thee in difficulties and dangers which may yet be before thee, help thy seed in their wars. Joshua came from him, who commanded in chief in the wars of Canaan. (2.) He shall bless thee; and he only blesses indeed. Jacob prays for a blessing upon Joseph, but the God of Jacob commands the blessing. Observe the blessings conferred on Joseph. [1.] Various and abundant blessings: Blessings of heaven above (rain in its season, and fair weather in its season, and the benign influences of the heavenly bodies); blessings of the deep that lieth under this earth, which, compared with the upper world, is but a great deep, with subterraneous mines and springs. Spiritual blessings are blessings of heaven above, which we ought to desire and seek for in the first place, and to which we must give the preference; while temporal blessings, those of this earth, must lie under in our account and esteem. Blessings of the womb and the breasts are given when children are safely born and comfortably nursed. In the word of God, by which we are born again, and nourished up (1 Pet. 1:23; 2:2), there are to the new man blessings both of the womb and the breasts. [2.] Eminent and transcendent blessings, which prevail above the blessings of my progenitors, Gen. 49:26. His father Isaac had but one blessing, and, when he had given that to Jacob, he was at a loss for a blessing to bestow upon Esau; but Jacob had a blessing for each of his twelve sons, and now, at the latter end, a copious one for Joseph. The great blessing entailed upon that family was increase, which did not so immediately and so signally follow the blessings which Abraham and Isaac gave to their sons as it followed the blessing which Jacob gave to his; for, soon after his death, they multiplied exceedingly. [3.] Durable and extensive blessings: Unto the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills, including all the productions of the most fruitful hills, and lasting as long as they last, Isa. 54:10. Note, the blessings of the everlasting God include the riches of the everlasting hills, and much more. Well, of these blessings it is here said, They shall be, so it is a promise, or, Let them be, so it is a prayer, on the head of Joseph, to which let them be as a crown to adorn it and a helmet to protect it. Joseph was separated from his brethren (so we read it) for a time; yet, as others read it, he was a Nazarite among his brethren, better and more excellent than they. Note, It is no new thing for the best men to meet with the worst usage, for Nazarites among their brethren to be cast out and separated from their brethren; but the blessing of God will make it up to them.
II. The blessing of Benjamin (Gen. 49:27): He shall raven as a wolf; it is plain by this that Jacob was guided in what he said by a spirit of prophecy, and not by natural affection; else he would have spoken with more tenderness of his beloved son Benjamin, concerning whom he only foresees and foretels this, that his posterity should be a warlike tribe, strong and daring, and that they should enrich themselves with the spoils of their enemies—that they should be active and busy in the world, and a tribe as much feared by their neighbours as any other: In the morning, he shall devour the prey, which he seized and divided over night. Or, in the first times of Israel, they shall be noted for activity, though many of them left-handed, Jdg. 3:15; 20:16. Ehud the second judge, and Saul the first king, were of this tribe; and so also in the last times Esther and Mordecai, by whom the enemies of the Jews were destroyed, were of this tribe. The Benjamites ravened like wolves when they desperately espoused the cause of the men of Gibeah, those men of Belial, Jdg. 20:14. Blessed Paul was of this tribe (Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5); and he did, in the morning of his day, devour the prey as a persecutor, but, in the evening, divided the spoil as a preacher. Note, God can serve his own purposes by the different tempers of men; the deceived and the deceiver are his.