(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 27) of the Gentiles, because they were to be introduced into the joint participation of the covenant, in order that they might become one people with the natural descendants of Abraham, under one Head. 11. "Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt", &c. He now speaks of the situation of the territory which fell by lot to the sons of Judah; and intimates, that so great would be the abundance of vines there, that they would everywhere present themselves as readily as brambles, or unfruitful shrubs, in other places. For since asses are wont to be bound to the hedges, he here reduces vines to this contemptible use. The hyperbolical forms of speech which follow are to be applied to the same purpose; namely, that Judah shall wash his garments in wine, and his eyes be red there-with. He means that the abundance of wine shall be so great, that it may be poured out to wash with, like water, at no great expense; but that, by constant copious drinking, the eyes would contract redness. But it seems by no means proper, that a profuse intemperance or extravagance should be accounted a blessing. I answer, although fertility and affluence are here described, still the abuse of them is not sanctioned. If the Lord deals very bountifully with us, yet he frequently prescribes the rule of using his gifts with purity and frugality, lest they should stimulate the incontinence of the flesh. But in this place Jacob, omitting to state what is lawful, extols that abundance which would suffice for luxury, and even for vicious and perverse excesses, unless the sons of Judah should voluntarily use self-government. I abstain from those allegories which to some appear plausible; because, as I said at the beginning of the chapter, I do not choose to sport with such great mysteries of God. To these lofty speculators the partition of the land which God prescribed, for the purpose of accrediting his servant Moses, seems a mean and abject thing. But unless our ingratitude has attained a senseless stupor, we ought to be wholly transported with admiration at the thought, that Moses, who had never seen the land of Canaan, should treat of its separate parts as correctly as he could have done, of a few acres cultivated by his own hand. Now, supposing he had heard a general report of the existence of vines in the land; yet he could not have assigned to Judah abundant vineyards, nor could he have assigned to him rich pastures, by saying that his teeth should be white with drinking milk, unless he had been guided by the Spirit. 13. "Zebulun shall dwell at the havens of the sea." Although this blessing contains nothing rare or precious, (as neither do some of those which follow,) yet we ought to deem this fact as sufficiently worthy of notice, that it was just as if God was stretching out his hand from heaven, for the deliverance of the children of Israel, and for the purpose of distributing to each his own dwelling-place. Before mention is made of the lost itself, a maritime region is given to the tribe of Zebulun, which it obtained by lot two hundred years afterwards. And we know of how great importance that hereditary gift was, which, like an earnest, rendered the adoption of the ancient people secure. Therefore, by this prophecy, not only one tribe, but the whole people, ought to have been encouraged to lay hold, with alacrity, of the offered blessing which was certainly in store for them. But it is said that the portion of Zebulun should not only be on the sea-shore, but should also have havens; for Jacob joins its boundary with the country of Zion; in which tract, we know, there were commodious and noble havens. For God, by this prophecy, would not only excite the sons of Zebulun more strenuously to prepare themselves to enter upon the land; but would also assure them, when they obtained possession of the desired portion, that it was the home which had been distinctly proposed and ordained for them by the will of God. 14. "Issachar." Here mention is partly made of the inheritance, and an indication is partly given of the future condition of this tribe. Although he is called a bony ass on account of his strength, which would enable him to endure labors, especially such as were rustic, yet at the same time his sloth is indicated: for it is added a little afterwards, that he should be of servile disposition. Wherefore the meaning is, that the sons of Issachar, though possessed of strength, were yet quiet rather than courageous, and were as ready to bear the burden of servitude as mules are to submit their backs to the packsaddle and the load. The reason given is, that, being content with their fertile and pleasant country, they do not refuse to pay tribute to their neighbors, provided they may enjoy repose. And although this submissiveness is not publicly mentioned either to their praise or their condemnation, it is yet probable that their indolence is censured, because their want of energy hindered them from remaining in possession of that liberty which had been divinely granted unto them. 16. "Dan shall judge his people." In the word judge there is an allusion to his name: for since, among the Hebrews, "din" signifies to judge, Rachel, when she returned thanks to God, gave this name to the son born to her by her handmaid, as if God had been the vindicator of her cause and right. Jacob now gives a new turn to the meaning of the name; namely, that the sons of Dan shall have no mean part in the government of the people. For the Jews foolishly restrict it to Samson, because he alone presided over the whole people, whereas the language rather applies to the perpetual condition of the tribe. Jacob therefore means, that though Dan was born from a concubine, he shall still be one of the judges of Israel: because not only shall his offspring possess a share of the government and command, in the common polity, so that this tribe may constitute one head; but it shall be appointed the bearer of a standard to lead the fourth division of the camp of Israel. In the second place, his subtle disposition is described. For Jacob compares this people to serpents, who rise out of their lurking-places, by stealth, against the unwary whom they wish to injure. The sense then is, that he shall not be so courageous as earnestly and boldly to engage in open conflict; but that he will fight with cunning, and will make use of snares. Yet, in the meantime, he shows that he will be superior to his enemies, whom he does not dare to approach with collected forces, just as serpents who, by their secret bite, cast down the horse and his rider. In this place also no judgment is expressly passed, whether this subtlety of Dan is to be deemed worthy of praise or of censure: but conjecture rather inclines us to place it among his faults, or at least his disadvantages, that instead of opposing himself in open conflict with his enemies, he will fight them only with secret frauds. 18. "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." It may be asked, in the first place, what occasion induced the holy man to break the connection of his discourse, and suddenly to burst forth in this expression; for whereas he had recently predicted the coming of the Messiah, the mention of salvation would have been more appropriate in that place. I think, indeed, that when he perceived, as from a lofty watchtower, the condition of his offspring continually exposed to various changes, and even to be tossed by storms which would almost overwhelm them, he was moved with solicitude and fear; for he had not so put off all paternal affection, as to be entirely without care for those who were of his own blood. He, therefore, foreseeing many troubles, many dangers, many assaults, and even many slaughters, which threatened his seed with as many destructions, could not but condole with them, and, as a man, be troubled at the sight. But in order that he might rise against every kind of temptation with victorious constancy of mind, he commits himself unto the Lord, who had promised that he would be the guardian of his people. Unless this circumstance be observed, I do not see why Jacob exclaims here, rather than at the beginning or the end of his discourse, that he waited for the salvation of the Lord. But when this sad confusion of things presented itself to him, which was not only sufficiently violent to shake his faith, but was more than sufficiently burdensome entirely to overwhelm his mind, his best remedy was to oppose to it this shield. I doubt not also, that he would advise his sons to rise with him to the exercise of the same confidence. Moreover, because he could not be the author of his own salvation, it was necessary for him to repose upon the promise of God. In the same manner, also, must we, at this day, hope for the salvation of the Church: for although it seems to be tossed on a turbulent sea, and almost sunk in the waves, and though still greater storms are to be feared in future; yet amidst manifold destructions, salvation is to be hoped for, in that deliverance which the Lord has promised. It is even possible that Jacob, foreseeing by the Spirit, how great would be the ingratitude, perfidy, and wickedness of his posterity, by which the grace of God might be smothered, was contending against these temptations. But although he expected salvation not for himself alone, but for all his posterity, this, however, deserves to be specially noted, that he exhibits the life-giving covenant of God to many generations, so as to prove his own confidence that, after his death, God would be faithful to his promise. Whence also it follows, that, with his last breath, and as if in the midst of death, he laid hold on eternal life. But if he, amidst obscure shadows, relying on a redemption seen afar off, boldly went forth to meet death; what ought we to do, on whom the clear day has shined; or what excuse remains for us, if our minds fail amidst similar agitations? 19. "Gad, a troop." Jacob also makes allusion to the name of Gad. He had been so called, because Jacob had obtained a numerous offspring by his mother Leah. His fattier now admonishes him, that though his name implied a multitude, he should yet have to do with a great number of enemies, by whom, for a time, he would be oppressed: and he predicts this event, not that his posterity might confide in their own strength, and become proud; but that they might prepare themselves to endure the suffering by which the Lord intended, and now decreed to humble them. Yet, as he here exhorts them to patient endurance, so he presently raises and animates them by the superadded consolation, that, at length, they should emerge from oppression, and should triumph over those enemies by whom they had been vanquished and routed; but this only at the last. Moreover, this prophecy may be applied to the whole Church, which is assailed not for one day only, but is perpetually crushed by fresh attacks, until at length God shall exalt it to honour. 20. "Out of Asher." The inheritance of Asher is but just alluded to, which he declares shall be fruitful in the best and finest wheat, so that it shall need no foreign supply of food, having abundance at home. By royal dainties, he means such as are exquisite. Should any one object, that it is no great thing to be fed with nutritious and pleasant bread; I answer; we must consider the end designed; namely, that they might hereby know that they were fed by the paternal care of God. 21. "Naphtali." Some think that in the tribe of Naphtali fleetness is commended; I rather approve another meaning, namely, that it will guard and defend itself by eloquence and suavity of words, rather than by force of arms. It is, however, no despicable virtue to soothe ferocious minds, and to appease excited anger, by bland and gentle discourse; or if any offense has been stirred up, to allay it by a similar artifice. He therefore assigns this praise to the sons of Naphtali, that they shall rather study to fortify themselves by humanity, by sweet words, and by the arts of peace, then by the defense of arms. He compares them to a hind let loose, which having been taken in hunting, is not put to death, but is rather cherished with delicacies. 22. "Joseph is a fruitful bough." Others translate it, "a son of honour," and both are suitable; but I rather incline to the former sense, because it seems to me that it refers to the name Joseph, by which addition or increase is signified; although I have no objection to the similitude taken from a tree, vehicle, being planted near a fountain, draws from the watered earth the moisture and sap by which it grows the faster. The sum of the figure is, that he is born to grow like a tree situated near a fountain, so that, by its beauty and lofty stature, it may surmount the obstacles around it. For I do not interpret the words which follow to mean that there will be an assemblage of virgins upon the walls, whom the sight of the tree shall have attracted; but, by a continued metaphor, I suppose the tender and smaller branches to be called daughters. And they are said "to run over the wall" when they spread themselves far and wide. Besides, Jacob's discourse does not relate simply to the whole tribe, nor is it a mere prophecy of future times; but the personal history of Joseph is blended with that of his descendants. Thus some things are peculiar to himself, and others belong to the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. So when Joseph is said to have been "grieved," this is wont to be referred especially to himself. And whereas Jacob has compared him to a tree; so he calls both his brethren and Potiphar, with his wife, "archers." Afterwards, however, he changes the figure by making Joseph himself like a strenuous archer, whose bow abides in strength, and whose arms are not relaxed, nor have lost, in any degree, their vigor; by which expressions he predicts the invincible fortitude of Joseph, because he has yielded to no blows however hard and severe. At the same time we are taught that he stood, not by the power of his own arm, but as being strengthened by the hand of God, whom he distinguishes by the peculiar title of "the mighty God of Jacob," because he designed his power to be chiefly conspicuous, and to shine most brightly in the Church. Meanwhile, he declares that the help by which Joseph was assisted, arose from hence, that God had chosen that family for himself For the holy fathers were extremely solicitous that the gratuitous covenant of God should be remembered by themselves and by their children, whenever any benefit was granted unto them. And truly it is a mark of shameful negligence, not to inquire from what fountain we drink water. In the mean time he tacitly censures the impious and ungodly fury of his ten sons; because, by attempting the murder of their brother, they, like the giants, had carried on war against God. He also admonishes them for the future, that they should rather choose to be protected by the guardianship of God, than to make him their enemy, seeing that he is alike willing to give help to all. And hence arises a consideration consolatory to all the pious, when they hear that the power of God resides in the midst of the Church, if they do but glory in him alone; as the Psalm teaches, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will invoke the name of the Lord our God." (Psal. 20: 7.) The sons of Jacob, therefore, must take care lest they, by confiding in their own strength, precipitate themselves into ruin; but must rather bear themselves nobly and triumphantly in the Lord. What follows admits of various interpretations. Some translate it, "From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel;" as if Jacob would say, that Joseph had been the nourisher and rock, or stay of his house. Others read, "the shepherd of the stone," in the genitive case, which I approve, except that they mistake the sense, by taking "stone" to mean family. I refer it to God, who assigned the office of shepherd to his servant Joseph, in the manner in which any one uses the service of a hireling to feed his flock. For whence did it arise that he nourished his own people, except that he was the dispenser of the Divine beneficence? Moreover, under this type, the image of Christ is depicted to us, who, before he should come forth as the conqueror of death and the author of life, was set as a mark of contradiction, (Heb. 12: 3,) against whom all cast their darts; as now also, after his example, the Church also must be transfixed with many arrows, that she may be kept by the wonderful help of God. Moreover, lest the brethren should maliciously envy Joseph, Jacob sets his victory in an amiable point of view to them, by saying that he had been liberated in order that he might become their nourisher or shepherd. 25. "Even by the God of thy father." Again, he more fully affirms that Joseph had been delivered from death, and exalted to such great dignity, not by his own industry, but by the favour of God: and there is not the least doubt that he commends to all the pious, the mere goodness of God, lest they should arrogate anything to themselves, whether they may have escaped from dangers, or whether they may have risen to any rank of honour. "By the God of thy father." In designating God by this title, he again traces whatever good Joseph has received, to the covenant, and to the fountain of gratuitous adoption; as if he had said, "Whereas thou hast proved the paternal care of God in helping thee, I desire that thou wouldst ascribe this to the covenant which God has made with me." Meanwhile, (as we have said before,) he separates from all fictitious idols the God whom he transmits to his descendants to worship. After he has declared, that Joseph should be blessed in every way, both as it respects his own life, and the number and preservation of his posterity; he affirms that the effect of this benediction is near and almost present, by saying, that he blessed Joseph more efficaciously than he himself had been blessed by his fathers. For although, from the beginning, God had been true to his promises, yet he frequently postponed the effect of them, as if he had been feeding Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with nothing but words. For, to what extent were the patriarchs multiplied in Egypt? Where was that immense seed which should equal the sands of the seashore and the stars of heaven? Therefore, not without reason, Jacob declares that the full time had arrived in which the result of his benediction, which had lain concealed, should emerge as from the deep. Now, this comparison ought to inspire us with much greater alacrity at the present time; for the abundant riches of the grace of God which have flowed to us in Christ, exceeds a hundredfold, any blessings which Joseph received and felt. What is added respecting the "utmost bounds of the everlasting hills," some wish to refer to distance of place, some to perpetuity of time. Both senses suit very well; either that the felicity of Joseph should diffuse itself far and wide to the farthest mountains of the world; or that it should endure as long as the everlasting hills, which are the firmest portions of the earth, shall stand. The more certain and genuine sense, however, is to be gathered from the other passage, where Moses repeats this benediction; namely, that the fertility of the land would extend to the tops of the mountains; and these mountains are called perpetual, because they are most celebrated. He also declares that this blessing should be upon his head, lest Joseph might think that his good wishes were scattered to the winds; for by this word he intends to show, if I may so speak, that the blessing was substantial. At length he calls Joseph "nazir" among his brethren, either because he was their crown, on account of the common glory which redounds from him to them all, or because, on account of the dignity by which he excels, he was separated from them all. It may be understood in both senses. Yet we must know that this excellency was temporal, because Joseph, together with the others, was required to take his proper place, and to submit himself to the sceptre of Judah. 27. "Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf." Some of the Jews think the Benjamites are here condemned; because, when they had suffered lusts to prevail, like lawless robbers, among them, they were at length cut down and almost destroyed by a terrible slaughter, for having defiled the Levite's wife. Others regard it as an honorable encomium, by which Saul, or Mordecai was adorned, who were both of the tribe of Benjamin. The interpreters of our own age most inaptly apply it to the apostle Paul, who was changed from a wolf into a preacher of the Gospel. Nothing seems to me more probable than that the disposition and habits of the whole tribe is here delineated; namely, that they would live by plunder. In the morning they would seize and devour the prey, in the evening they would divide the spoil; by which words he describes their diligence in plundering. 28. "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel." Moses would teach us by these words, that his predictions did not apply only to the sons of Jacob, but extended to their whole race. We have, indeed, shown already, with sufficient clearness, that the expressions relate not to their persons only; but this verse was to be added, in order that the readers might more clearly perceive the celestial majesty of the Spirit. Jacob beholds his twelve sons. Let us grant that, at that time, the number of his offspring, down to his great grandchildren, had increased a hundredfold. He does not, however, merely declare what is to be the condition of six hundred or a thousand men, but subjects regions and nations to his sentence; nor does he put himself rashly forward, since it is found afterwards, by the event, that God had certainly made known to him, what he had himself decreed to execute. Moreover, seeing that Jacob beheld, with the eyes of faith, things which were not only very remote, but altogether hidden from human sense; woe be unto our depravity, if we shut our eyes against the very accomplishment of the prediction in which the truth conspicuously appears. But it may seem little consonant to reason, that Jacob is said to have blessed his posterity. For, in deposing Reuben from the primogeniture, he pronounced nothing joyous or prosperous respecting him; he also declared his abhorrence of Simon and Levi. It cannot be alleged that there is an antiphrasis in the word of benediction, as if it were used in a sense contrary to what is usual; because it plainly appears to be applied by Moses in a good, and not an evil sense. I therefore reconcile these things with each other thus; that the temporal punishments with which Jacob mildly and paternally corrected his sons, would not subvert the covenant of grace on which the benediction was founded; but rather, by obliterating their stains, would restore them to the original degree of honour from which they had fallen, so that, at least, they should be patriarchs among the people of God. And the Lord daily proves, in his own people, that the punishments he lays upon them, although they occasion shame and disgrace, are so far from opposing their happiness, that they rather promote it. Unless they were purified in this manner, it were to be feared lest they should become more and more hardened in their vices, and lest the hidden virus should produce corruption, which at length would penetrate to the vitals. We see how freely the flesh indulges itself, even when God rouses us by the tokens of his anger. What then do we suppose would take place if he should always connive at transgression? But when we, after having been reproved for our sins, repent, this result not only absorbs the curse which was felt at the beginning, but also proves that the Lord blesses us more by punishing us, than he would have done by sparing us. Hence it follows, that diseases, poverty, famine, nakedness, and even death itself, so far as they promote our salvation, may deservedly be reckoned blessings, as if their very nature were changed; just as the letting of blood may be not less conducive to health than food. When it is added at the close, "every one according to his blessing", Moses again affirms, that Jacob not only implored a blessing on his sons, from a paternal desire for their welfare, but that he pronounced what God had put into his mouth; because at length the event proved that the prophecies were efficacious. 29. "And he charged them." We have seen before, that Jacob especially commanded his son Joseph to take care that his body should be buried in the land of Canaan. Moses now repeats that the same command was given to all his sons, in order that they might go to that country with one consent; and might mutually assist each other in performing this office. We have stated elsewhere why he made such a point of conscience of his sepulture; which we must always remember, lest the example of the holy man should be drawn injudiciously into a precedent for superstition. Truly he did not wish to be carried into the land of Canaan, as if he would be the nearer heaven for being buried there: but that, being dead, he might claim possession of a land which he had held during his life, only by a precarious tenure. Not that any advantage would hence accrue to him privately, seeing he had already fulfilled his course; but because it was profitable that the memory of the promise should be renewed, by this symbol, among his surviving sons, in order that they might aspire to it. Meanwhile, we gather that his mind did not cleave to the earth; because, unless he had been an heir of heaven, he would never have hoped that God, for the sake of one who was dead, would prove so bountiful towards his children. Now, to give the greater weight to his command, Jacob declares that this thing had not come first into his own mind, but that he had been thus taught by his forefathers. "Abraham," he says, "bought that sepulchre for himself and his family: hitherto, we have sacredly kept the law delivered to us by him. You must therefore take care not to violate it, in order that after my death also, some token of the favour of God may continue with us." 33. "He gathered up his feet." The expression is not superfluous: because Moses wished thereby to describe the placid death of the holy man: as if he had said, that the aged saint gave directions respecting the disposal of his body, as easily as healthy and vigorous men are wont to compose themselves to sleep. And truly a wonderful vigor and presence of mind was necessary for him, when, while death was in his countenance, he thus courageously fulfilled the prophetic office enjoined upon him. And it is not to be doubted that such efficacy of the Holy Spirit manifested itself in him, as served to produce, in his sons, confidence in, and reverence for his prophecies. At the same time, however, it is proper to observe, that it is the effect of a good conscience, to be able to depart out of the world without terror. For since death is by nature formidable, wonderful torments agitate the wicked, when they perceive that they are summoned to the tribunal of God. Moreover, in order that a good conscience may lead us peacefully and quietly to the grave, it is necessary to rely upon the resurrection of Christ; for we then go willingly to God, when we have confidence respecting a better life. We shall not deem it grievous to leave this failing tabernacle, when we reflect on the everlasting abode which is prepared for us. Chapter L. 1 And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. 2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him threescore and ten days. 4 And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, 5 My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again. 6 And Pharaoh said, Go up, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear. 7 And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8 And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen. 9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company. 10 And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which [is] beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days. 11 And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This [is] a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, which [is] beyond Jordan. 12 And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them: 13 For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre. 14 And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father. 15 And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. 16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we [be] thy servants. 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for [am] I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is] this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. 22 And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. 23 And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third [generation]: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees. 24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. 26 So Joseph died, [being] an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. 1. "And Joseph fell upon his father's face." In this chapter, what happened after the death of Jacob, is briefly related. Moses, however, states that Jacob's death was honored with a double mourning--natural (so to speak) and ceremonial. That Joseph falls upon his father's face and sheds tears, flows from true and pure affection; that the Egyptians mourn for him seventy days, since it is done for the sake of honour, and in compliance with custom, is more from ostentation and vain pomp, than from true grief: and yet the dead are generally mourned over in this manner, that the last debt due to them may be discharged. Whence also the proverb has originated, that the mourning of the heir is laughter under a mask. And although sometimes minds are penetrated with real grief; yet something is added to it, by the affectation of making a show of pious sorrow, so that they indulge largely in tears in the presence of others, who would weep more sparingly if there were no witnesses of their grief Hence those friends who meet together, under the pretext of administering consolation, often pursue a course so different, that they call forth more abundant weeping. And although the ceremony of mourning over the dead arose from a good principle; namely, that the living should meditate on the curse entailed by sin upon the human race, yet it has always been tarnished by many evils; because it has been neither directed to its true end, nor regulated by due moderation. With respect to the genuine grief which is not unnaturally elicited, but which breaks forth from the depth of our hearts, it is not, in itself, to be censured, if it be kept within due bounds. For Joseph is not here reproved because he manifests his grief by weeping; but his filial piety is rather commended. We have, however, need of the rein, and of self-government, lest, through intemperate grief, we are hurried, by a blind impulse, to murmur against God: for excessive grief always precipitates us into rebellion. Moreover, the mitigation of sorrow is chiefly to be sought for, in the hope of a future life, according to the doctrine of Paul. 2. "And Joseph commanded his servants." Although formerly more labour was expended on funerals, and that even without superstition, than has been deemed right subsequently to the proof given of the resurrection exhibited by Christ: yet we know that among the Egyptians there was greater expense and pomp than among the Jews. Even the ancient historians record this among the most memorable customs of that nation. Indeed it is not to be doubted (as we have said elsewhere) that the sacred rite of burial descended from the holy fathers, to be a kind of mirror of the future resurrection: but as hypocrites are always more diligent in the performance of ceremonies, than they are, who possess the solid substance of things; it happens that they who have declined from the true faith, assume a far more ostentatious appearance than the faithful, to whom pertain the truth and the right use of the symbol. If we compare the Jews with ourselves, these shadowy ceremonies, in which God required them to be occupied, would, at this time, appear intolerable; though compared with those of other nations, they were moderate and easily to be borne. But the heathen scarcely knew why they incurred so muck labour and expense. Hence we infer how empty and trivial a matter it is, to attend only to external signs, when the pure doctrine which exhibits their true origin and their legitimate end, does not flourish. It is an act of piety to bury the dead. To embalm corpses with aromatic spices, was, in former times, no fault; inasmuch as it was done as a public symbol of future incorruption. For it is not possible but that the sight of a dead man should grievously affect us; as if one common end, without distinction, awaited both us and the beasts that perish. At this day the resurrection of Christ is a sufficient support for us against yielding to this temptation. But the ancients, on whom the full light of day had not yet shone, were aided by figures: they, however, whose minds were not raised to the hope of a better life, did nothing else than trifle, and foolishly imitate the holy fathers. Finally, where faith has not so breathed its odour, as to make men know that something remains for them after death, all embalming will be vapid. Yea, if death is to them the eternal destruction of the body, it would be an impious profanation of a sacred and useful ceremony, to attempt to place what had perished under such costly custody. It is probable that Joseph, in conforming himself to the Egyptians, whose (continued in part 28...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: cvgn2-27.txt .