His glory is like the firstling of his bullock - This similitude is very obscure. A bullock was the most excellent of animals among the Jews, not only because of its acceptableness in sacrifice to God, but because of its great usefulness in agriculture. There is something peculiarly noble and dignified in the appearance of the ox, and his greatest ornament are his fine horns; these the inspired penman has particularly in view, as the following clause proves; and it is well known that in Scriptural language horns are the emblem of strength, glory, and sovereignty; Psalm 75:5, Psalm 75:10; Psalm 89:17, Psalm 89:24; Psalm 112:9; Daniel 8:3, etc.; Luke 1:69; Revelation 17:3, etc.
His horns are like the horns of unicorns - ראם reem, which we translate unicorn, from the μονοκερως monokeros of the Septuagint, signifies, according to Bochart, the mountain goat; and according to others, the rhinoceros, a very large quadruped with one great horn on his nose, from which circumstance his name is derived. See the notes on Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8. Reem is in the singular number, and because the horns of a unicorn, a one-horned animal, would have appeared absurd, our translators, with an unfaithfulness not common to them, put the word in the plural number.
To the ends of the earth - Of the land of Canaan, for Joshua with his armies conquered all this land, and drove the ancient inhabitants out before him.
They are the ten thousands of Ephraim, etc. - That is, The horns signify the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh. Jacob prophesied, Genesis 48:19, that the younger should be greater than the elder; so here Tens of thousands are given to Ephraim, and only thousands to Manasseh. See the census, Numbers 1:33-35; (note).
Comparing the words of Moses with those of Jacob, it will be seen that the patriarch dwells with emphasis on the severe conflicts which Joseph, i. e., Ephraim and Manasseh, would undergo (compare Genesis 49:23-24); while the lawgiver seems to look beyond, and to behold the two triumphant and established in their power.
Rather: “The first-born of his” (i. e. Joseph‘s) “bullock is his glory”: the reference being to Ephraim, who was raised by Jacob to the honors of the firstborn (Genesis 48:20, and is here likened to the firstling of Joseph‘s oxen, i. e., of Joseph‘s offspring. The ox is a common emblem of power and strength.
The blessing ended, Jacob gave his son the assurance—leaving for the generations to come, through long years of bondage and sorrow, this testimony to his faith—“Behold, I die; but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers.” PP 235.1
At the last all the sons of Jacob were gathered about his dying bed. And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, “Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father,” “that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” Often and anxiously he had thought of their future, and had endeavored to picture to himself the history of the different tribes. Now as his children waited to receive his last blessing the Spirit of Inspiration rested upon him, and before him in prophetic vision the future of his descendants was unfolded. One after another the names of his sons were mentioned, the character of each was described, and the future history of the tribes was briefly foretold. PP 235.2
Thus the father pictured what should have been the position of Reuben as the first-born son; but his grievous sin at Edar had made him unworthy of the birthright blessing. Jacob continued— PP 235.4
The priesthood was apportioned to Levi, the kingdom and the Messianic promise to Judah, and the double portion of the inheritance to Joseph. The tribe of Reuben never rose to any eminence in Israel; it was not so numerous as Judah, Joseph, or Dan, and was among the first that were carried into captivity. PP 235.6
Next in age to Reuben were Simeon and Levi. They had been united in their cruelty toward the Shechemites, and they had also been the most guilty in the selling of Joseph. Concerning them it was declared— PP 235.7
At the numbering of Israel, just before their entrance to Canaan, Simeon was the smallest tribe. Moses, in his last blessing, made no reference to Simeon. In the settlement of Canaan this tribe had only a small portion of Judah's lot, and such families as afterward became powerful formed different colonies and settled in territory outside the borders of the Holy Land. Levi also received no inheritance except forty-eight cities scattered in different parts of the land. In the case of this tribe, however, their fidelity to Jehovah when the other tribes apostatized, secured their appointment to the sacred service of the sanctuary, and thus the curse was changed into a blessing. PP 235.9Read in context »