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“birth, than to distinguish them by a relation to “this blessed seed, which he promised them; as “ God designed, without all question, by that " means, to oblige the Jews to remember the first " promise made to mankind ; so no doubt, he in“ tended by it to fix their minds upon the confi“ deration of that favour he had shewed to them, s as well as to Abraham, to distinguish them from “ all the people of the earth, that the Deliverer 6 of the world might be born in their common“ wealth, and from one of their posterity. It “ was the same prospect of the Messiah, which “ made God condemn those to death, who should “ either remain uncircumcised themselves, or leave " their children fou."
ix. The mode-of swearing' observed by some of the patriarchs, deserves our attention here. It would appear,
that the most ancient and most ordinary custom was, to lift up the hand. Hence Abraham said to the king of Sodom ; “ I have “ lifted up mine hand to JEHOVAH, the most “high God, the poffeffor of heaven and earth." But afterwards we find the same patriarch observing a different mode. When he employed his steward Eliezer to take a wife to his son of the daughters of his own people, he said to him; “ Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh ; " and I will make thee fwear by JEHOVAH, &c. “ -And the servant put his hand under the thigh “ of his master, and sware to him concerning that " matter w.” Some view this rite' merely as a token of subjection, as being the manner in which inferiors swore to their superiors x. Others, with much more probability, consider it as having a mystical reference. It has accordingly been interpreted, as either referring to the sign of circumcision, or to the promise of the Messiah. Did it immediately respect circumcision? It appears, then, from what we have already seen, that it must have ultimately referred to the promised feed. It is, however, the judgment of some learned writers, that to this it directly referred. The Messiah was to come out of Abraham's loins or thigh. For, with respect to descent, these are used as synonymous terms. Therefore the posterity of Jacob are called the “ souls that came out of Ja“ cob's thigh," as the word literally signifies y, The fame expression is used as to the seventy fons of Gideon 2." It is probable, that the patriarchs still continued to swear by the hand lifted up, in ordinary or civil matters; but that they used the other mode, when swearing in things pertaining to the covenant and promise. As the oath taken by the servant of Abraham, had this reference, because he wished to prevent Ifaac from mingling with the idolatrous Canaanites; the other inftance, which we have recorded, was of the same kind. Jacob, when dying, took an oath of Joseph, that he should not bury him in Egypt, but
a Reflections on the Books of Scripture, Vol. i, Part .. chap. 15. ✓ Gen. xiv. 22.
with w Gen, xxiv. 2. 9. x Hiedegger Histor. Patriarch. Vol. 2. p. 135, y Gen. xlvi. 26.; alfa Exod. i. 5. 2 Judg. viii. 30.
with his fathers in the land of promise a. Now, as it is said of Joseph himself, that " by faith he
gave commandment concerning his bones b;" we cannot reasonably suppose that the conduct of his father, in requiring an oath from him with the same view, proceeded from any inferior principle. From the manner in which Jacob addrefsed Joseph, it can scarcely be supposed, that he asked him to swear in this peculiar form in token of inferiority. Jacob was still his father. But fo great was the dignity of Jofeph, that Jacob speaks to him as one foliciting a fignal favour from his superior : “ If now I have found grace in tby fight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh,-bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt.”
x. The custom observed among the posterity of Jacob, of not eating of the finew that shrank, deserves particular notice. This custom originated from the wonderful struggle that their ancestor had with the Angel-Redeemer, which we have already considered. “ The hollow of Jacob's thigh
was out of joint, while he wrestled with him.“ Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the “ fincw which shrank, which is upon the hollow “ of the thigh, unto this day : because he touch“ed the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the finew " that shrank." It has been supposed, that Jacob, by divine inspiration, enjoined this abstinence on his posterity : and indeed the words may be read, " The children of Israel may not
a Gen. xlvii. 29.-31.
b Heb. xi. 22.
c Gen. xxxi. 25. 32.
eat of the finew which shrank." The mention here made of this rite, if not an express approbation of it, at least implies no censure. It must at any rate be supposed, that there was a special providence of God overruling the observance of this rite, as a perpetual memorial of that unparalleled interview, and of its design. The children, seeing their fathers carefully abstain from eating of this sinew, would as naturally say, as concerning the passover, “ What mean ye by this ?” They could not but reply, that they did it in remembrance of Jacob's wrestling with God in the appearance of man: and in as far as their knowledge or faith reached, they would explain the relation of this manifestation to the future appearance of the God of Jacob in human nature.
Various have been the opinions entertained, as to the reason of Jacob's receiving the mark of weakness in this part of his body. I shall venture a conjecture, which seems to arise from what has been already observed, in regard to the fingular mode of swearing used by him, as well as by his grandfather. As the Messiah, the promised seed, was to spring from his thigh ; might not the allwise God set this signal mark of human imbecility here, still to remind Jacob and his posterity, that, although he had received the promise of this peculiar blefing, and a renewed confirmation of it on this occalion, it was not his natural birthright, nor procured by his own merit or power, but wholly of grace ? According to this view, it might be the will of God, that Jacob should bear a mark
of weakness, as to that very point in which he was to be honoured above all other men; and have a perpetual lesson of humility, in regard to what would be most apt to excite his natural pride.
This great doctrine, of the incarnation of a divine Person, was revealed comparatively in an obscure manner to the patriarchs and under the law. Yet believers, who lived in these ages, saw the day of Christ; they saw it afar off, and were glad. The promise of the incarnation of Chrift was the ground of their hope. This, as connected with a persuasion of his presence in the Church, as that divine Person who should at length actual. ly assume human nature, was the foundation of their triumph over all the enemies who threatened her destruction d. Is not the ground of our triumph greatly enlarged ? Is not the evidence of our security wonderfully confirmed ? God hath been“ manifested in the flesh.” Jesus is known as Immanuel. Are not we, then, under still stronger obligations to sing ; “ The LORD of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge ?”
We have seen, that there were many preludes of the incarnation. Thus he, who from eternity engaged himself as our Surety, early manifested his love to the children of men. These were all testimonies of the infinite pleasure he had in the prospect of his work of mediation in our world. Thus he anticipated his habitation among men.
d Ifa. vii. 13. 14.; viii. 9, 10.