(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 26)

the more completely cover him with shame, and humble him by just 
reproaches. For Reuben is here cast down from his primogeniture; because 
he had polluted his father's bed by incestuous intercourse with his 
mother-in-law. The meaning of his words is this: "Thou, indeed, by 
nature the first-born, oughtest to have excelled, seeing thou art my 
strength, and the beginning of my manly vigor; but since thou best 
flowed away like water, there is no more any ground for arrogating 
anything to thyself. For, from the day of thy incest, that dignity which 
thou receivedst on thy birth-day, from thy mother's womb, is gone and 
vanished away. The noun "'on", some translate seed, others grief; and 
turn the passage thus: "Thou my strength, and the beginning of my grief 
or seed." They who prefer the word grief, assign as a reason, that 
children bring care and anxiety to their parents. But if this were the 
true meaning, there would rather have been an antithesis between 
strength and sorrow. Since, however, Jacob is reciting, in continuity, 
the declaration of the dignity which belongs to the first-born, I doubt 
not that he here mentions the beginning of his manhood. For as men, in a 
certain sense, live again in their children, the first-born is properly 
called the "beginning of strength." To the same point belongs what 
immediately follows, that he had been the excellency of dignity and of 
strength, until he had deservedly deprived himself of both. For Jacob 
places before the eyes of his son Reuben his former honour, because it 
was for his profit to be made thoroughly conscious whence he had fallen. 
So Paul says, that he set before the Corinthians the sins by which they 
were defiled, in order to make them ashamed. (1 Cor. 6: 5.) For whereas 
we are disposed to flatter ourselves in our vices, scarcely any one of 
us is brought back to a sane mind, after he has fallen, unless he is 
touched with a sense of his vileness. Moreover, nothing is better 
adapted to wound us, than when a comparison is made between those favors 
which God bestows upon us, and the punishments we bring upon ourselves 
by our own fault. After Adam had been stripped of all good things, God 
reproaches him sharply, and not without ridicule, "Behold Adam is as one 
of us." What end is this designed to answer, except that Adam, 
reflecting with himself how far he is changed from that man, who had 
lately been created according to the image of God, and had been endowed 
with so many excellent gifts, might be confounded and fall prostrate, 
deploring his present misery? We see, then, that reproofs are necessary 
for us, in order that we may be touched to the quick by the anger of the 
Lord. For so it happens, not only that we become displeased with the 
sins of which we are now bearing the punishment, but also, that we take 
greater care diligently to guard those gifts of God which dwell within 
us, lest they perish through our negligence. They who refer the 
"excellency of dignity" to the priesthood, and the "excellency of power" 
to the kingly office, are, in my judgment, too subtle interpreters. I 
take the more simple meaning of the passage to be; that if Reuben had 
stood firmly in his own rank, the chief place of all excellency would 
have belonged to him. 
  4. "Unstable as water." He shows that the honour which had not a good 
conscience for its keeper, was not firm but evanescent; and thus he 
rejects Reuben from the primogeniture. He declares the cause, lest 
Reuben should complain that he was punished when innocent: for it was 
also of great consequence, in this affair, that he should be convinced 
of his fault, lest his punishment should not be attended with profit. We 
now see Jacob, having laid carnal affection aside, executing the office 
of a prophet with vigor and magnanimity. For this judgment is not to be 
ascribed to anger, as if the father desired to take private vengeance of 
his son: but it proceeded from the Spirit of God; because Jacob kept 
fully in mind the burden imposed upon him. The word "'alach" the close 
of the sentence signifies to depart, or to be blown away like the 
ascending smoke, which is dispersed. Therefore the sense is, that the 
excellency of Reuben, from the time that he had defiled his father's 
bed, had flowed away and become extinct. For to expound the expression 
concerning the bed, to mean that it ceased to be Jacob's conjugal bed, 
because Bilhah had been divorced, is too frigid. 
  5. "Simeon and Levi are brethren." He condemns the massacre of the 
city of Shechem by his two sons Simon and Levi, and denounces the 
punishment of so great a crime. Whence we learn how hateful cruelty is 
to God, seeing that the blood of man is precious in his sight. For it is 
as if he would cite to his own tribunal those two men, and would demand 
vengeance on them, when they thought they had already escaped. It may, 
however, be asked, whether pardon had not been granted to them long ago; 
and if God had already forgiven them, why does he recall them again to 
punishment? I answer, it was both privately useful to themselves, and 
was also necessary as an example, that this slaughter should not remain 
unpunished, although they might have obtained previous forgiveness. For 
we have seen before, when they were admonished by their father, how far 
they were from that sorrow which is the commencement of true repentance; 
and it may be believed that afterwards they became stupefied more and 
more, with a kind of brutish torpor, in their wickedness; or at least, 
that they had not been seriously affected with bitter grief for their 
sin. It was also to be feared lest their posterity might become addicted 
to the same brutality, unless divinely impressed with horror at the 
deed. Therefore the Lord, partly for the purpose of humbling them, 
partly for that of making them an example to all ages, inflicted on them 
the punishment of perpetual ignominy. Moreover, by thus acting, he did 
not retain the punishment while remitting the guilt, as the Papists 
foolishly dream: but though truly and perfectly appeased, he 
administered a correction suitable for future times. The Papists imagine 
that sins are only half remitted by God; because he is not willing to 
absolve sinners gratuitously. But Scripture speaks far otherwise. It 
teaches us that God does not exact punishments which shall compensate 
for offenses; but such as shall purge hearts from hypocrisy, and shall 
invite the elect--the allurements of the world being gradually shaken 
off--to repentance, shall stir them up to vigilant solicitude, and shall 
keep them under restraint by the bridle of fear and reverence. Whence it 
follows that nothing is more preposterous, than that the punishments 
which we have deserved, should be redeemed by satisfactions, as if God, 
after the manner of men, would have what was owing paid to him; nay, 
rather there is the best possible agreement between the gratuitous 
remission of punishments and those chastening of the rod, which rather 
prevent future evils, than follow such as have been already committed. 
  To return to Simon and Levi. How is it that God, by inflicting a 
punishment which had been long deferred, should drag them back as guilty 
fugitives to judgment; unless because impunity would have been hurtful 
to them? And yet he fulfills the office of a physician rather than of a 
judge, who refuses to spare, because he intends to heal; and who not 
only heals two who are sick, but, by an antidote, anticipates the 
diseases of others, in order that they may beware of cruelty. This also 
is highly worthy to be remembered, that Moses, in publishing the infamy 
of his own people, acts as the herald of God: and not only does he 
proclaim a disgrace common to the whole nation, but brands with infamy, 
the special tribe from which he sprung. Whence it plainly appears, that 
he paid no respect to his own flesh and blood; nor was he to be induced, 
by favour or hatred, to give a false colour to anything, or to decline 
from historical fidelity: but, as a chosen minister and witness of the 
Lord, he was mindful of his calling, which was that he should declare 
the truth of God sincerely and confidently. A comparison is here made 
not only between the sons of Jacob personally; but also between the 
tribes which descended from them. This certainly was a specially 
opportune occasion for Moses to defend the nobility of his own people. 
But so far is he from heaping encomiums upon them, that he frankly 
stamps the progenitor of his own tribe with an everlasting dishonor, 
which should redound to his whole family. Those Lucianist dogs, who carp 
at the doctrine of Moses, pretend that he was a vain man who wished to 
acquire for himself the command over the rude common people. But had 
this been his project, why did he not also make provision for his own 
family? Those sons whom ambition would have persuaded him to endeavor to 
place in the highest rank, he puts aside from the honour of the 
priesthood, and consigns them to a lowly and common service. Who does 
not see that these impious calumnies have been anticipated by a divine 
counsel rather than by merely human prudence, and that the heirs of this 
great and extraordinary man were deprived of honour, for this reason, 
that no sinister suspicion might adhere to him? But to say nothing of 
his children and grandchildren, we may perceive that, by censuring his 
whole tribe in the person of Levi, he acted not as a man, but as an 
angel speaking under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, and free from all 
carnal affection. Moreover, in the former clause, he announces the 
crime: afterwards, he subjoins the punishment. The crime is, that the 
arms of violence are in their tabernacles; and therefore he declares, 
both by his tongue and in his heart, that he holds their counsel in 
abhorrence, because, in their desire of revenge, they cut off a city 
with its inhabitants. Respecting the meaning of the words commentators 
differ. For some take the word "makroth" to mean swords; as if Jacob had 
said, that their swords had been wickedly polluted with innocent blood. 
But they think more correctly, who translate the word habitations; as if 
he had said, that unjust violence dwelt among them, because they had 
been so sanguinary. I do not doubt that the word "chabod" is put for the 
tongue, as in other places; and thus the sense is clear, that Jacob, 
from his heart, so detests the crime perpetrated by his sons, that his 
tongue shall not give any assent to it whatever. Which he does, for this 
end, that they may begin to be dissatisfied with themselves, and that 
all others may learn to abhor perfidy combined with cruelty. Fury, 
beyond doubt, signifies a perverse and blind impulse of anger: and lust 
is opposed to rational moderation; because they are governed by no law. 
Interpreters also differ respecting the meaning of the word "shor". Some 
translate it "bullock," and think that the Shechemites are allegorically 
denoted by it, seeing they were sufficiently robust and powerful to 
defend their lives, had not Simon and Levi enervated them by fraud and 
perfidy. But a different exposition is far preferable, namely, that they 
"overturned a wall." For Jacob magnifies the atrociousness of their 
crime, from the fact, that they did not even spare buildings in their 
  7. "Cursed be their anger." What I have said must be kept in mind; 
namely, that we are divinely admonished by the mouth of the holy 
prophet, to keep at a distance from all wicked counsels. Jacob 
pronounces a woe upon their fury. Why is this, unless that others may 
learn to put a restraint upon themselves, and to be on their guard 
against such cruelty? However, (as I have already observed,) it will not 
suffice to preserve our hands pure, unless we are far removed from all 
association with crime. For though it may not always be in our power to 
repress unjust violence; yet that concealment of it is culpable, which 
approaches to the appearance of consent. Here even the ties of kindred, 
and whatever else would bias a sound judgment, must be dismissed from 
the mind: since we see a holy father, at the command of God, so severely 
thundering against his own sons. He pronounces the anger of Simon and 
Levi to be so much the more hateful, because, in its commencement, it 
was violent, and even to the end, it was implacable. 
  "I will divide them in Jacob." It may seem a strange method of 
proceeding, that Jacob, while designating his sons patriarchs of the 
Church, and calling them heirs of the divine covenant, should pronounce 
a malediction upon them instead of a blessing. Nevertheless it was 
necessary for him to begin with the chastisement, which should prepare 
the way for the manifestation of God's grace, as will be made to appear 
at the close of the chapter: but God mitigates the punishment, by giving 
them an honorable name in the Church, and leaving them their right 

unimpaired: yea, his incredible goodness unexpectedly shone forth, when 
that which was the punishment of Levi, became changed into the reward of 
the priesthood. The dispersion of the Levitical tribe had its origin in 
the crime of their father, lest he should congratulate himself on 
account of his perverse and lawless spirit of revenge. But God, who in 
the beginning had produced light out of darkness, found another reason 
why the Levites should be dispersed abroad among the people,--a reason 
not only free from disgrace, but highly honorable,--namely, that no 
corner of the land might be destitute of competent instructors. Lastly, 
he constituted them overseers and governors, in his name, over every 
part of the land, as if he would scatter everywhere the seed of eternal 
salvation, or would send forth ministers of his grace. Whence we 
conclude, how much better it was for Levi to be chastised at the time, 
for his own good, than to be left to perish, in consequence of present 
impunity in sin. And it is not to be deemed strange, that, when the land 
was distributed, and cities were given to the Levites, far apart from 
each other, this reason was suppressed, and one entirely different was 
adduced; namely, that the Lord was their inheritance. For this, as I 
have lately said, is one of the miracles of God, to brine light out of 
darkness. Had Levi been sentenced to distant exile, he would have been 
most worthy of the punishment: but now, God in a measure spares him, by 
assigning him a wandering life in his paternal inheritance. Afterwards, 
the mark of infamy being removed, God sends his posterity into different 
parts, under the title of a distinguished embassy. In Simon there 
remained a certain, though obscure trace of the curse: because a 
distinct territory did not fall to his sons by lot; but they were mixed 
with the tribe of Judah, as is stated in Joshua 19: 1. Afterwards they 
went to Mount Seir, having expelled the Amalekites and taken possession 
of their land, as it is written, 1 Chron. 4: 40-43. Here, also, we 
perceive the manly fortitude of holy Jacob's breast, who, though a 
decrepit old man and an exile, lying on his private and lowly couch, 
nevertheless assigns provinces to his sons, as from the lofty throne of 
a great king. He also does this in his own right, knowing that the 
covenant of God was deposited with him, by which he had been called the 
heir and lord of the land: and at the same time he claims for himself 
authority as sustaining the character of a prophet of God. For it 
greatly concerns us, when the word of God sounds in our ears, to 
apprehend by faith the thing proclaimed, as if his ministers had been 
commanded to carry into effect what they pronounce. Therefore it was 
said to Jeremiah, "See I have this day set thee over the nations and 
over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to 
throw down, and to build, and to plant." (Jer. 1: 10.) And the prophets 
are generally commanded to set their faces against the countries which 
they threaten, as if they were furnished with a large army to make the 
  8. "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise." In the word 
praise there is an allusion to the name of Judah; for so he had been 
called by his mother, because his birth had given occasion for praising 
God. The father adduces a new etymology, because his name shall be so 
celebrated and illustrious among his brethren, that he should be honored 
by them all equally with the first-born. The double portion, indeed, 
which he recently assigned to his son Joseph, depended on the right of 
primogeniture: but because the kingdom was transferred to the tribe of 
Judah, Jacob properly pronounces that his name should be held worthy of 
praise. For the honour of Joseph was temporary; but here a stable and 
durable kingdom is treated of, which should be under the authority of 
the sons of Judah. Hence we gather, that when God would institute a 
perfect state of government among his people, the monarchical form was 
chosen by him. And whereas the appointment of a king under the law, was 
partly to be attributed to the will of man, and partly to the divine 
decree; this combination of human with divine agency must be referred to 
the commencement of the monarchy, which was inauspicious, because the 
people had tumultuously desired a king to be given them, before the 
proper time had arrived. Hence their unseemly haste was the cause why 
the kingdom was not immediately set up in the tribe of Judah, but was 
brought forth, as an abortive offspring, in the person of Saul. Yet at 
length, by the favour and in the legitimate order of God, the 
preeminence of the tribe of Judah was established in the person of 
  "Thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies." In these words he 
shows that Judah should not be free from enemies; but although many 
would give him trouble, and would endeavor to deprive him of his right, 
Jacob promises him victory; not that the sons of David should always 
prevail against their enemies, (for their ingratitude interfered with 
the constant and equable course of the grace of God,) but in this 
respect, at least, Judah had the superiority, that in his tribe stood 
the royal throne which God approved, and which was founded on his word. 
For though the kingdom of Israel was more flourishing in wealth and in 
number of inhabitants, yet because it was spurious, it was not the 
object of God's favour: nor indeed was it right, that, by its tinselled 
splendor, it should eclipse the glory of the Divine election which was 
engraven upon the tribe of Judah. In David, therefore, the force and 
effect of this prophecy plainly appeared; then again in Solomon; 
afterwards, although the kingdom was mutilated, yet was it wonderfully 
preserved by the hand of God; otherwise, in a short space, it would have 
perished a hundred times. Thus it came to pass, that the children of 
Judah imposed their yoke upon their enemies. Whereas defection carried 
away ten tribes, which would not bow their knees to the sons of David; 
the legitimate government was in this way disturbed, and lawless 
confusion introduced; yet nothing could violate the decree of God, by 
which the right to govern remained with the tribe of Judah. 
  9. "Judah is a lion's whelp." This similitude confirms the preceding 
sentence, that Judah would be formidable to his enemies. Yet Jacob seems 
to allude to that diminution which took place, when the greater part of 
the people revolted to Jeroboam. For then the king of Judah began to be 
like a sleeping lion, for he did not shake his mane to diffuse his 
terror far and wide, but, as it were, laid him down in his den. Yet a 
certain secret power of God lay hidden under that torpor, and they who 
most desired his destruction, and who were most able to do him injury, 
did not dare to disturb him. Therefore, after Jacob has transferred the 
supreme authority over his brethren to Judah alone; he now adds, by way 
of correction, that, though his power should happen to be diminished, he 
would nevertheless remain terrible to his enemies, like a lion who lies 
down in his lair. 
  10. "The sceptre shall not depart." Though this passage is obscure, it 
would not have been very difficult to elicit its genuine sense, if the 
Jews, with their accustomed malignity, had not endeavored to envelop it 
in clouds. It is certain that the Messiah, who was to spring from the 
tribe of Judah, is here promised. But whereas they ought willingly to 
run to embrace him, they purposely catch at every possible subterfuge, 
by which they may lead themselves and others far astray in tortuous 
by-paths. It is no wonder, then, if the spirit of bitterness and 
obstinacy, and the lust of contention have so blinded them, that, in the 
clearest light, they should have perpetually stumbled. Christians, also, 
with a pious diligence to set forth the glory of Christ, have, 
nevertheless, betrayed some excess of fervor. For while they lay too 
much stress on certain words, they produce no other effect than that of 
giving an occasion of ridicule to the Jews, whom it is necessary to 
surround with firm and powerful barriers, from which they shall be 
unable to escape. Admonished, therefore, by such examples, let us seek, 
without contention, the true meaning of the passage. In the first place, 
we must keep in mind the true design of the Holy Spirit, which, 
hitherto, has not been sufficiently considered or expounded with 
sufficient distinctness. After he has invested the tribe of Judah with 
supreme authority, he immediately declares that God would show his care 
for the people, by preserving the state of the kingdom, till the 
promised felicity should attain its highest point. For the dignity of 
Judah is so maintained as to show that its proposed end was the common 
salvation of the whole people. The blessing promised to the seed of 
Abraham (as we have before seen) could not be firm, unless it flowed 
from one head. Jacob now testifies the same thing, namely, that a King 
should come, under whom that promised happiness should be complete in 
all its parts. Even the Jews will not deny, that while a lower blessing 
rested on the tribe of Judah, the hope of a better and more excellent 
condition was herein held forth. They also freely grant another point, 
that the Messiah is the sole Author of full and solid happiness and 
glory. We now add a third point, which we may also do, without any 
opposition from them; namely, that the kingdom which began from David, 
was a kind of prelude, and shadowy representation of that greater grace 
which was delayed, and held in suspense, until the advent of the 
Messiah. They have indeed no relish for a spiritual kingdom; and 
therefore they rather imagine for themselves wealth and power, and 
propose to themselves sweet repose and earthly pleasures, than 
righteousness, and newness of life, with free forgiveness of sins. They 
acknowledge, nevertheless, that the felicity which was to be expected 
under the Messiah, was adumbrated by their ancient kingdom. I now return 
to the words of Jacob. 
  "Until Shiloh come", he says, the sceptre, or the dominion, "shall 
remain in Judah." We must first see what the word "shiloh" signifies. 
Because Jerome interprets it, "he who is to be sent," some think that 
the place has been fraudulently corrupted, by the letter "he" 
substituted for the letter "cheth"; which objection, though not firm, is 
plausible. That which some of the Jews suppose, namely, that it denotes 
the place (Shiloh) where the ark of the covenant had been long 
deposited, because, a little before the commencement of David's reign, 
it had been laid waste, is entirely destitute of reason. For Jacob does 
not here predict the time when David was to be appointed king; but 
declares that the kingdom should be established in his family, until God 
should fulfill what he had promised concerning the special benediction 
of the seed of Abraham. Besides the form of speech, "until Shiloh come," 
for "until Shiloh come to an end," would be harsh and constrained. Far 
more correctly and consistently do other interpreters take this 
expression to mean "his son," for among the Hebrews a son is called 
"shil". They say also that "he" is put in the place of the relative 
"waw"; and the greater part assent to this signification. But again, the 
Jews dissent entirely from the meaning of the patriarch, by referring 
this to David. For (as I have just hinted) the origin of the kingdom in 
David is not here promised, but its absolute perfection in the Messiah. 
And truly an absurdity so gross, does not require a lengthened 
refutation. For what can this mean, that the kingdom should not come to 
an end in the tribe of Judah, till it should have been erected? 
Certainly the word "depart" means nothing else than to cease. Further, 
Jacob points to a continued series, when he says the scribe shall not 
depart from between his feet. For it behaves a king so to be placed upon 
his throne that a lawgiver may sit between his feet. A kingdom is 
therefore described to us, which after it has been constituted, will not 
cease to exist till a more perfect state shall succeed; or, which comes 
to the same point; Jacob honors the future kingdom of David with this 
title, because it was to be the token and pledge of that happy glory 
which had been before ordained for the race of Abraham. In short, the 
kingdom which he transfers to the tribe of Judah, he declares shall be 
no common kingdom, because from it, at length, shall proceed the fulness 
of the promised benediction. But here the Jews haughtily object, that 
the event convicts us of error. For it appears that the kingdom by no 
means endured until the coming of Christ; but rather that the sceptre 
was broken, from the time that the people were carried into captivity. 
But if they give credit to the prophecies, I wish, before I solve their 
objection, that they would tell me in what manner Jacob here assigns the 
kingdom to his son Judah. For we know, that when it had scarcely become 
his fixed possession, it was suddenly rent asunder, and nearly its whole 
power was possessed by the tribe of Ephraim. Has God, according to these 

men, here promised, by the mouth of Jacob, some evanescent kingdom? If 
they reply, the sceptre was not then broken, though Rehoboam was 
deprived of a great part of his people; they can by no means escape by 
this cavil; because the authority of Judah is expressly extended over 
all the tribes, by these words, "Thy mother's sons shall bow their knee 
before thee." They bring, therefore, nothing against us, which we cannot 
immediately, in turn, retort upon themselves. 
  Yet I confess the question is not yet solved; but I wished to premise 
this, in order that the Jews, laying aside their disposition to 
calumniate, may learn calmly to examine the matter itself, with us. 
Christians are commonly wont to connect perpetual government with the 
tribe of Judah, in the following manner. When the people returned from 
banishment, they say, that, in the place of the royal sceptre, was the 
government which lasted to the time of the Maccabees. That afterwards, a 
third mode of government succeeded, because the chief power of judging 
rested with the Seventy, who, it appears by history, were chosen out of 
the regal race. Now, so far was this authority of the royal race from 
having fallen into decay, that Herod, having been cited before it, with 
difficulty escaped capital punishment, because he contumaciously 
withdrew from it. Our commentators, therefore, conclude that, although 
the royal majesty did not shine brightly from David until Christ, yet 
some preeminence remained in the tribe of Judah, and thus the oracle was 
fulfilled. Although these things are true, still more skill must be used 
in rightly discussing this passage. And, in the first place, it must be 
kept in mind, that the tribe of Judah was already constituted chief 
among the rest, as preeminent in dignity, though it had not yet obtained 
the dominion. And, truly, Moses elsewhere testifies, that supremacy was 
voluntarily conceded to it by the remaining tribes, from the time that 
the people were redeemed out of Egypt. In the second place, we must 
remember, that a more illustrious example of this dignity was set forth 
in that kingdom which God had commenced in David. And although defection 
followed soon after, so that but a small portion of authority remained 
in the tribe of Judah; yet the right divinely conferred upon it, could 
by no means be taken away. Therefore, at the time when the kingdom of 
Israel was replenished with abundant opulence, and was swelling with 
lofty pride, it was said, that the lamp of the Lord was lighted in 
Jerusalem. Let us proceed further: when Ezekiel predicts the destruction 
of the kingdom, (chap. 21: 26,) he clearly shows how the sceptre was to 
be preserved by the Lord, until it should come into the hands of Christ: 
"Remove the diadem, and take off the crown; this shall not be the same: 
I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, until he come whose right it 
is." It may seem at first sight that the prophecy of Jacob had failed 
when the tribe of Judah was stripped of its royal ornament. But we 
conclude hence, that God was not bound always to exhibit the visible 
glory of the kingdom on high. Otherwise, those other promises which 
predict the restoration of the throne, which was cast down and broken, 
were false. Behold the days come in which I will "raise up the 
tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, 
and I will raise up his ruins." (Amos 9: 11.) It would be absurd, 
however, to cite more passages, seeing this doctrine occurs frequently 
in the prophets. Whence we infer, that the kingdom was not so confirmed 
as always to shine with equal brightness; but that, though, for a time, 
it might lie fallen and defaced, it should afterwards recover its lost 
splendor. The prophets, indeed, seem to make the return from the 
Babylonian exile the termination of that ruin; but since they predict 
the restoration of the kingdom no otherwise than they do that of the 
temple and the priesthood, it is necessary that the whole period, from 
that liberation to the advent of Christ, should be comprehended. The 
crown, therefore, was cast down, not for one day only, or from one 
single head, but for a long time, and in various methods, until God 
placed it on Christ, his own lawful king. And truly Isaiah describes the 
origin of Christ, as being very remote from all regal splendor: "There 
shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow 
out of his roots." (Isaiah 11: 1.) Why does he mention Jesse rather than 
David, except because Messiah was about to proceed from the rustic hut 
of a private man, rather than from a splendid palace? Why from a tree 
cut down, having nothing left but the root and the trunk, except because 
the majesty of the kingdom was to be almost trodden under foot till the 
manifestation of Christ? If any one object, that the words of Jacob seem 
to have a different signification; I answer, that whatever God has 
promised at any time concerning the external condition of the Church, 
was so to be restricted, that, in the mean time, he might execute his 
judgments in punishing men, and might try the faith of his own people. 
It was, indeed, no light trial, that the tribe of Judah, in its third 
successor to the throne, should be deprived of the greater portion of 
the kingdom. Even a still more severe trial followed, when the sons of 
the king were put to death in the sight of their father, when he, with 
his eyes thrust out, was dragged to Babylon, and the whole royal family 
was at length given over to slavery and captivity. But this was the most 
grievous trial of all; that when the people returned to their own land, 
they could in no way perceive the accomplishment of their hope, but were 
compelled to lie in sorrowful dejection. Nevertheless, even then, the 
saints, contemplating, with the eyes of faith, the sceptre hidden under 
the earth, did not fail, or become broken in spirit, so as to desist 
from their course. I shall, perhaps, seem to grant too much to the Jews, 
because I do not assign what they call a real dominion, in uninterrupted 
succession, to the tribe of Judah. For our interpreters, to prove that 
the Jews are still kept bound by a foolish expectation of the Messiah, 
insist on this point, that the dominion of which Jacob had prophesied, 
ceased from the time of Herod; as if, indeed, they had not been 
tributaries five hundred years previously; as if, also, the dignity of 
the royal race had not been extinct as long as the tyranny of Antiochus 
prevailed; as if, lastly, the Asmonean race had not usurped to itself 
both the rank and power of princes, until the Jews became subject to the 
Romans. And that is not a sufficient solution which is proposed; namely, 
that either the regal dominion, or some lower kind of government, are 
disjunctively promised; and that from the time when the kingdom was 
destroyed, the scribes remained in authority. For I, in order to mark 
the distinction between a lawful government and tyranny, acknowledge 
that counselors were joined with the king, who should administer public 
affairs rightly and in order. Whereas some of the Jews explain, that the 
right of government was given to the tribe of Judah, because it was 
unlawful for it to be transferred elsewhere, but that it was not 
necessary that the glory of the crown once given should be perpetuated, 
I deem it right to subscribe in part to this opinion. I say, in part, 
because the Jews gain nothing by this cavil, who, in order to support 
their fiction of a Messiah yet to come, postpone that subversion of the 
regal dignity which, in fact, long ago occurred. For we must keep in 
memory what I have said before, that while Jacob wished to sustain the 
minds of his descendants until the coming of the Messiah; lest they 
should faint through the weariness of long delay, he set before them an 
example in their temporal kingdom: as if he had said, that there was no 
reason why the Israelites, when the kingdom of David fell, should allow 
their hope to waver; seeing that no other change should follow, which 
could answer to the blessing promised by God, until the Redeemer should 

appear. That the nation was grievously harassed, and was under servile 
oppression some years before the coming of Christ happened, through the 
wonderful counsel of God, in order that they might be urged by continual 
chastisements to wish for redemption. Meanwhile, it was necessary that 
some collective body of the nation should remain, in which the promise 
might receive its fulfillment. But now, when, through nearly fifteen 
centuries, they have been scattered and banished from their country, 
having no polity, by what pretext can they fancy, from the prophecy of 
Jacob, that a Redeemer will come to them? Truly, as I would not 
willingly glory over their calamity; so, unless they, being subdued by 
it, open their eyes, I freely pronounce that they are worthy to perish a 
thousand times without remedy. It was also a most suitable method for 
retaining them in the faith, that the Lord would have the sons of Jacob 
turn their eyes upon one particular tribe, that they might not seek 
salvation elsewhere; and that no vague imagination might mislead them. 
For which end, also, the election of this family is celebrated, when it 
is frequently compared with, and preferred to Ephraim and the rest, in 
the Psalms. To us, also, it is not less useful, for the confirmation of 
our faith, to know that Christ had been not only promised, but that his 
origin had been pointed out, as with a finger, two thousand years before 
he appeared. 
  "And unto him shall the gathering of the people be." Here truly he 
declares that Christ should be a king, not over one people only, but 
that under his authority various nations shall be gathered, that they 
might coalesce together. I know, indeed, that the word rendered 
"gathering" is differently expounded by different commentators; but they 
who derive it from the root up, to make it signify the weakening of the 
people, rash]y and absurdly misapply what is said of the saving dominion 
of Christ, to the sanguinary pride with which they puffed up. If the 
word obedience is preferred, (as it is by others,) the sense will remain 
the same with that which I have followed. For this is the mode in which 
the gathering together will be effected; namely, that they who before 
were carried away to different objects of pursuit, will consent together 
in obedience to one common Head. Now, although Jacob had previously 
called the tribes about to spring from him by the name of peoples, for 
the sake of amplification, yet this gathering is of still wider extent. 
For, whereas he had included the whole body of the nation by their 
families, when he spoke of the ordinary dominion of Judah, he now 
extends the boundaries of a new king: as if he would say, "There shall 
be kings of the tribe of Judah, who shall be preeminent among their 
brethren, and to whom the sons of the same mother shall bow down: but at 
length He shall follow in succession, who shall subject other peoples 
unto himself." But this, we know, is fulfilled in Christ; to whom was 
promised the inheritance of the world; under whose yoke the nations are 
brought; and at whose will they, who before were scattered, are gathered 
together. Moreover, a memorable testimony is here borne to the vocation 

(continued in part 27...)

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