PREVIOUS CHAPTER - NEXT CHAPTER - HELP - FB - TWITTER - GR VIDEOS - GR FORUMS - GR YOUTUBE
HOW ISAAC DIED, AND WAS BURIED IN HEBRON.
FROM thence Jacob came to Hebron, a city situate among the Canaanites; and there it was that Isaac lived: and so they lived together for a little while; for as to Rebeka, Jacob did not find her alive. Isaac also died not long after the coming of his son; and was buried by his sons, with his wife, in Hebron, where they had a monument belonging to them from their forefathers. Now Isaac was a man who was beloved of God, and was vouchsafed great instances of providence by God, after Abraham his father, and lived to be exceeding old; for when he had lived virtuously one hundred and eighty-five years, he then died.
(1) Since Josephus, in his Preface, sect. 4, says that Moses wrote some things enigmatically, some allegorically, and the rest in plain words, since in his account of the first chapter of Genesis, and the first three verses of the second, he gives us no hints of any mystery at all; but when he here comes to ver. 4, etc. he says that Moses, after the seventh day was over, began to talk philosophically; it is not very improbable that he understood the rest of the second and the third chapters in some enigmatical, or allegorical, or philosophical sense. The change of the name of God just at this place, from Elohim to Jehovah Elohim, from God to Lord God, in the Hebrew, Samaritan, and Septuagint, does also not a little favor some such change in the narration or construction. (2) We may observe here, that Josephus supposed man to be compounded of spirit, soul, and body, with St. Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and the rest of the ancients: he elsewhere says also, that the blood of animals was forbidden to be eaten, as having in it soul and spirit, Antiq. B. III. ch. 11. sect. 2. (3) Whence this strange notion came, which yet is not peculiar to Joseph,, but, as Dr. Hudson says here, is derived from older authors, as if four of the greatest rivers in the world, running two of them at vast distances from the other two, by some means or other watered paradise, is hard to say. Only since Josephus has already appeared to allegorize this history, and take notice that these four names had a particular signification; Phison for Ganges, a multitude; Phrath for Euphrates, either a dispersion or a flower; Diglath for Tigris, what is swift, with narrowness; and Geon for Nile, what arises from the east,--we perhaps mistake him when we suppose he literally means those four rivers; especially as to Geon or Nile, which arises from the east, while he very well knew the literal Nile arises from the south; though what further allegorical sense he had in view, is now, I fear, impossible to be determined. (4) By the Red Sea is not here meant the Arabian Gulf, which alone we now call by that name, but all that South Sea, which included the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf, as far as the East Indies; as Reland and Hudson here truly note, from the old geographers. (5) Hence it appears, that Josephus thought several, at least, of the brute animals, particularly the serpent, could speak before the fall. And I think few of the more perfect kinds of those animals want the organs of speech at this day. Many inducements there are also to a notion, that the present state they are in, is not their original state; and that their capacities have been once much greater than we now see them, and are capable of being restored to their former condition. But as to this most ancient, and authentic, and probably allegorical account of that grand affair of the fall of our first parents, I have somewhat more to say in way of conjecture, but being only a conjecture, I omit it: only thus far, that the imputation of the sin of our first parents to their posterity, any further than as some way the cause or occasion of man's mortality, seems almost entirely groundless; and that both man, and the other subordinate creatures, are hereafter to be delivered from the curse then brought upon them, and at last to be delivered from that bondage of corruption, Romans 8:19-22. (6) St. John's account of the reason why God accepted the sacrifice of Abel, and rejected that of Cain; as also why Cain slew Abel, on account of that his acceptance with God, is much better than this of Josephus: I mean, because "Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous," 1 John 3:12. Josephus's reason seems to be no better than a pharisaical notion or tradition. (7) From this Jubal, not improbably, came Jobel, the trumpet of jobel or jubilee; that large and loud musical instrument, used in proclaiming the liberty at the year of jubilee. (8) The number of Adam's children, as says the old tradition was thirty-three sons, and twenty-three daughters. (9) What is here said of Seth and his posterity, that they were very good and virtuous, and at the same time very happy, without any considerable misfortunes, for seven generations, [see ch. 2. sect. 1, before; and ch. 3. sect. 1, hereafter,] is exactly agreeable to the state of the world and the conduct of Providence in all the first ages. (10) Of Josephus's mistake here, when he took Seth the son of Adam, for Seth or Sesostris, king of Egypt, the erector of this pillar in the land of Siriad, see Essay on the Old Testament, Appendix, p. 159, 160. Although the main of this relation might be true, and Adam might foretell a conflagration and a deluge, which all antiquity witnesses to be an ancient tradition; nay, Seth's posterity might engrave their inventions in astronomy on two such pillars; yet it is no way credible that they could survive the deluge, which has buried all such pillars and edifices far under ground in the sediment of its waters, especially since the like pillars of the Egyptian Seth or Sesostris were extant after the flood, in the land of Siriad, and perhaps in the days of Josephus also, as is shown in the place here referred to. (11) This notion, that the fallen angels were, in some sense, the fathers of the old giants, was the constant opinion of antiquity. (12) Josephus here supposes that the life of these giants, for of them only do I understand him, was now reduced to 120 years; which is confirmed by the fragment of Enoch, sect. 10, in Authent. Rec. Part I. p. 268. For as to the rest of mankind, Josephus himself confesses their lives were much longer than 120 years, for many generations after the flood, as we shall see presently; and he says they were gradually shortened till the days of Moses, and then fixed [for some time] at 120, ch. 6. sect. 5. Nor indeed need we suppose that either Enoch or Josephus meant to interpret these 120 years for the life of men before the flood, to be different from the 120 years of God's patience [perhaps while the ark was preparing] till the deluge; which I take to be the meaning of God when he threatened this wicked world, that if they so long continued unrepentant, their days should be no more than 120 years. (13) A cubit is about 21 English inches. (14) Josephus here truly determines, that the year that the Flood began, our Hebrew and Samaritan, and perhaps Josephus's own copy, more rightly placed it on the 17th day, instead of the 27th, as here; for Josephus agrees with them, as to the distance of 150 days to the 17th day of the 7th month, as Genesis 7. ult. with 8:3. (15) Josephus here takes notice, that these ancient genealogies were first set down by those that then lived, and from them were transmitted down to posterity; which I suppose to be the true account of that matter. For there is no reason to imagine that men were not taught to read and write soon after they were taught to speak; and perhaps all by the Messiah himself, who, under the Father, was the Creator or Governor of mankind, and who frequently in those early days appeared to them. (16) This (GREEK), or Place of Descent, is the proper rendering of the Armenian name of this very city. It is called in Ptolemy Naxuana, and by Moses Chorenensis, the Armenian historian, Idsheuan; but at the place itself Nachidsheuan, which signifies The first place of descent, and is a lasting monument of the preservation of Noah in the ark, upon the top of that mountain, at whose foot it was built, as the first city or town after the flood. See Antiq. B. XX. ch. 2. sect. 3; and Moses Chorenensis, who also says elsewhere, that another town was related by tradition to have been called Seron, or, The Place of Dispersion, on account of the dispersion of Xisuthrus's or Noah's sons, from thence first made. Whether any remains of this ark be still preserved, as the people of the country suppose, I cannot certainly tell. Mons. Tournefort had, not very long since, a mind to see the place himself, but met with too great dangers and difficulties to venture through them. (17) One observation ought not here to be neglected, with regard to that Ethiopic war which Moses, as general of the Egyptians, put an end to, Antiq. B. II. ch. 10., and about which our late writers seem very much unconcerned; viz. that it was a war of that consequence, as to occasion the removal or destruction of six or seven nations of the posterity of Mitzraim, with their cities; which Josephus would not have said, if he had not had ancient records to justify those his assertions, though those records be now all lost. (18) That the Jews were called Hebrews from this their progenitor Heber, our author Josephus here rightly affirms; and not from Abram the Hebrew, or passenger over Euphrates, as many of the moderns suppose. Shem is also called the father of all the children of Heber, or of all the Hebrews, in a history long before Abram passed over Euphrates, Genesis 10:21, though it must be confessed that, Genesis 14:13, where the original says they told Abram the Hebrew, the Septuagint renders it the passenger, (GREEK): but this is spoken only of Abram himself, who had then lately passed over Euphrates, and is another signification of the Hebrew word, taken as an appellative, and not as a proper name. (19) It is worth noting here, that God required no other sacrifices under the law of Moses, than what were taken from these five kinds of animals which he here required of Abram. Nor did the Jews feed upon any other domestic animals than the three here named, as Reland observes on Antiq. B. IV. ch. 4. sect. 4. (20) As to this affliction of Abram's posterity for 400 years, see Antiq. B. II. ch. 9. sect. 1. (21) These sons-in-law to Lot, as they are called, Genesis 19:12- 14, might be so styled, because they were betrothed to Lot's daughters, though not yet married to them. See the note on Antiq. B. XIV. ch. 13. sect. 1. (22) Of the War, B. IV. ch. 8. sect. 4. (23) This pillar of salt was, we see here, standing in the days of Josephus, and he had seen it. That it was standing then is also attested by Clement of Rome, contemporary with Josephus; as also that it was so in the next century, is attested by Irenaeus, with the addition of an hypothesis, how it came to last so long, with all its members entire. - Whether the account that some modern travelers give be true, that it is still standing, I do not know. Its remote situation, at the most southern point of the Sea of Sodom, in the wild and dangerous deserts of Arabia, makes it exceeding difficult for inquisitive travelers to examine the place; and for common reports of country people, at a distance, they are not very satisfactory. In the mean time, I have no opinion of Le Clerc's dissertation or hypothesis about this question, which can only be determined by eye-witnesses. When Christian princes, so called, lay aside their foolish and unchristian wars and quarrels, and send a body of fit persons to travel over the east, and bring us faithful accounts of all ancient monuments, and procure us copies of all ancient records, at present lost among us, we may hope for full satisfaction in such inquiries; but hardly before. (24) I see no proper wicked intention in these daughters of Lot, when in a case which appeared to them of unavoidable necessity, they procured themselves to be with child by their father. Without such an unavoidable necessity, incest is a horrid crime; but whether in such a case of necessity, as they apprehended this to be, according to Josephus, it was any such crime, I am not satisfied. In the mean time, their making their father drunk, and their solicitous concealment of what they did from him, shows that they despaired of persuading him to an action which, at the best, could not but be very suspicious and shocking to so good a man. (25) It is well worth observation, that Josephus here calls that principal Angel, who appeared to Abraham and foretold the birth of Isaac, directly God; which language of Josephus here, prepares us to believe those other expressions of his, that Jesus was a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, Antiq. B. XVIII. ch. 3. sect. 3, and of God the Word, in his homily concerning Hades, may be both genuine. Nor is the other expression of Divine Angel, used presently, and before, also of any other signification. (26) Josephus here calls Ismael a young child or infant, though he was about 13 years of age; as Judas calls himself and his brethren young men, when he was 47, and had two children, Antiq. B. II. ch. 6. sect. 8, and they were of much the same age; as is a damsel of 12 years old called a little child, Mark 5:39-42, five several times. Herod is also said by Josephus to be a very young man at 25. See the note on Antiq. B. XIV. ch. 9. sect 2, and of the War, B. I. ch. 10. And Aristobulus is styled a very little child at 16 years of age, Antiq. B. XV. ch. 2. sect. 6, 7. Domitian also is called by him a very young child, when he went on his German expedition at about 18 years of age, of the War, B. VII. ch. 4. sect. 2. Samson's wife, and Ruth, when they were widows, are called children, Antiq. B. V. ch. 8. sect. 6, and ch. 9. sect. 2 3. (27) Note, that both here and Hebrews 11:17, Isaac is called Abraham's only begotten son, though he at the same time had another son, Ismael. The Septuagint expresses the true meaning, by rendering the text the beloved son. (28) Here is a plain error in the copies which say that king David afterwards built the temple on this Mount Moriah, while it was certainly no other than king Solomon who built that temple, as indeed Procopius cites it from Josephus. For it was for certain David, and not Solomon, who built the first altar there, as we learn, 2 Samuel 24:18, etc.; 1 Chronicles 21:22, etc.; and Antiq. B. VII. ch. 13. sect. 4. (29) It seems both here, and in God's parallel blessing to Jacob, ch. 19. sect. 1, that Josephus had yet no notion of the hidden meaning of that most important and most eminent promise, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. He saith not, and of seeds, as of many, but as of one; and to thy seed, which is Christ," Galatians 3:16. Nor is it any wonder, he being, I think, as yet not a Christian. And had he been a Christian, yet since he was, to be sure, till the latter part of his life, no more than an Ebionite Christian, who, above all the apostles, rejected and despised St. Paul, it would be no great wonder if he did not now follow his interpretation. In the mean time, we have in effect St. Paul's exposition in the Testament of Reuben, sect. 6, in Authent. Rec. Part I. p. 302, who charges his sons "to worship the seed of Judah, who should die for them in visible and invisible wars; and should be among them an eternal king." Nor is that observation of a learned foreigner of my acquaintance to be despised, who takes notice, that as seeds in the plural, must signify posterity, so seed in the singular may signify either posterity, or a single person; and that in this promise of all nations being happy in the seed of Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, etc. it is always used in the singular. To which I shall add, that it is sometimes, as it were, paraphrased by the son of Abraham, the son of David, etc., which is capable of no such ambiguity. (30) The birth of Jacob and Esau is here said to be after Abraham's death: it should have been after Sarah's death. The order of the narration in Genesis, not always exactly according to the order of time, seems to have led Josephus into this error, as Dr. Bernard observes here. (31) For Seir in Josephus, the coherence requires that we read Esau or Seir, which signify the same thing. (32) The supper of savory meat, as we call it, Genesis 27:4, to be caught by hunting, was intended plainly for a festival or a sacrifice; and upon the prayers that were frequent at sacrifices, Isaac expected, as was then usual in such eminent cases, that a divine impulse would come upon him, in order to the blessing of his son there present, and his foretelling his future behavior and fortune. Whence it must be, that when Isaac had unwittingly blessed Jacob, and was afterwards made sensible of his mistake, yet did he not attempt to alter it, how earnestly soever his affection for Esau might incline him to wish it might be altered, because he knew that this blessing came not from himself, but from God, and that an alteration was out of his power. A second afflatus then came upon him, and enabled him to foretell Esau's future behavior and foretell Esau's future behavior and fortune also. (33) Whether Jacob or his mother Rebeka were most blameable in this imposition upon Isaac in his old age, I cannot determine. However the blessing being delivered as a prediction of future events, by a Divine impulse, and foretelling things to befall to the posterity of Jacob and Esau in future ages, was for certain providential; and according to what Rebeka knew to be the purpose of God, when he answered her inquiry, "before the children were born," Genesis 25:23, "that one people should be stronger than the other people; and the elder, Esau, should serve the younger, Jacob." Whether Isaac knew or remembered this old oracle, delivered in our copies only to Rebeka; or whether, if he knew and remembered it, he did not endeavor to alter the Divine determination, out of his fondness for his elder and worser son Esau, to the damage of his younger and better son Jacob, as Josephus elsewhere supposes, Antiq. B. II. ch. 7. sect. 3; I cannot certainly say. if so, this might tempt Rebeka to contrive, and Jacob to put this imposition upon him. However, Josephus says here, that it was Isaac, and not Rebeka, who inquired of God at first, and received the forementioned oracle, sect. 1; which, if it be the true reading, renders Isaac's procedure more inexcusable. Nor was it probably any thing else that so much encouraged Esau formerly to marry two Canaanitish wives, without his parents' consent, as Isaac's unhappy fondness for him. (34) By this "deprivation of the kingdom that was to be given Esau of God," as the first-born, it appears that Josephus thought that a "kingdom to be derived from God" was due to him whom Isaac should bless as his first-born, which I take to be that kingdom which was expected under the Messiah, who therefore was to be born of his posterity whom Isaac should so bless. Jacob therefore by obtaining this blessing of the first-born, became the genuine heir of that kingdom, in opposition to Esau. (35) Here we have the difference between slaves for life and servants, such as we now hire for a time agreed upon on both sides, and dismiss again after he time contracted for is over, which are no slaves, but free men and free women. Accordingly, when the Apostolical Constitutions forbid a clergyman to marry perpetual servants or slaves, B. VI. ch. 17., it is meant only of the former sort; as we learn elsewhere from the same Constitutions, ch. 47. Can. LXXXII. But concerning these twelve sons of Jacob, the reasons of their several names, and the times of their several births in the intervals here assigned, their several excellent characters, their several faults and repentance, the several accidents of their lives, with their several prophecies at their deaths, see the Testaments of these twelve patriarchs, still preserved at large in the Authent. Rec. Part I. p. 294-443. (36) I formerly explained these mandrakes, as we, with the Septuagint, and Josephus, render the Hebrew word Dudaim, of the Syrian Maux, with Ludolphus, Antbent. Rec. Part I. p. 420; but have since seen such a very probable account in M. S. of my learned friend Mr. Samuel Barker, of what we still call mandrakes, and their description by the ancient naturalists and physicians, as inclines me to think these here mentioned were really mandrakes, and no other. (37) Perhaps this may be the proper meaning of the word Israel, by the present and the old Jerusalem analogy of the Hebrew tongue. In the mean time, it is certain that the Hellenists of the first century, in Egypt and elsewhere, interpreted Israel to be a man seeing God, as is evident from the argument fore-cited. (38) Of this slaughter of the Shechemites by Simeon and Levi, see Authent. Rec. Part I. p. 309, 418, 432-439. But why Josephus has omitted the circumcision of these Shechemites, as the occasion of their death; and of Jacob's great grief, as in the Testament of Levi, sect. 5; I cannot tell. (39) Since Benoni signifies the son of my sorrow, and Benjamin the son of days, or one born in the father's old age, Genesis 44:20, I suspect Josephus's present copies to be here imperfect, and suppose that, in correspondence to other copies, he wrote that Rachel called her son's name Benoni, but his father called him Benjamin, Genesis 35:18. As for Benjamin, as commonly explained, the son of the right hand, it makes no sense at all, and seems to be a gross modern error only. The Samaritan always writes this name truly Benjamin, which probably is here of the same signification, only with the Chaldee termination in, instead of im in the Hebrew; as we pronounce cherubin or cherubim indifferently. Accordingly, both the Testament of Benjamin, sect. 2, p. 401, and Philo de Nominum Mutatione, p. 1059, write the name Benjamin, but explain it not the son of the right hand, but the son of days.