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When the blessing came to descond to Jacob's children, it did not go entire according to birth-right, nor to any one person, who had deserved it better than all the rest; but as God at first made the promisc and covenant to Abraham, not to Lot, and gave the title to it atterwards to Isaac, not to Ishmael, then to Jacob, not to Esau ; so in the next generation, he conveyed it entire to one single person, but divided it, and gave the blessing of all men to Judah, who was Jacob's fourth son; and parted the covenant about Cannan amongst all of them, giving two parts to Josepu in his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.
There is a passage in the book of Chronicles, which may seem to contradict this account I am en. deavouring to give of Jacob's or Esau's birth right. The sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel, for he was, says the historian, the firstborn, but forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birth-right was. given unto the sons of Joseph, and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birth-right; for Judah prevailed abore his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler, but the birth-right was Joseph's. In this passage the inspired writer may be thought to hint, that there was a birth-right to be observed in the division of Canaan; and that when Gop ordered the blessing to be parted he had a respect to such birth-right in the division of it; though he did not think fit to give it to a person, who by his demerits had forfeited it; and it may be asked, if Jacob's
• 1 Chron. v. 1, 3.
children had a birth-right in this matter, why should we suppose that Isaac's had not ? To this I answer: the passage I have mentioned does not in the least refer to any birth-right, which was esteemed to be such in ths days of Jacob and Esau. 1. For if the inheritance of the father's estate was at that time part of the birth-right; yet it is evident, that it was not so in the proportion here mentioned. · For not only a double portion particularly belonged to the eldest son in these times, but the whole. Thus Abraham gare all that he had unto Isaac; but unto the children, whom he had by Keturah, his second wife, he gave gifts and sent them away eastward, while he yet lived, from Isaac his son. If therefore the inheritance of Canaan had been given according to the birth-right in these days; one of Jacob's sons should have had the whole, and all the rest have been sent to live in some other country. 2. The right of the first-born was settled upon another footing by the law of Mor ses. The priesthood was separated from it, and settled upon the, tribe of Levi, and a double por. tion of the father's estate and substance declared to belong to P the first-born. 3. Esau, when he sold his birthright, did not sell his right of inheritance at his father's death. 4. Jacob had prophe. sied9 that Joseph should have one portion of the land of Canaan above his brethren ; but does not any where hint that any one of his sons should have a birth-right to any one part of it more than the rest,
:Exod. xxviii. 'Numb. ii. 6–17. Deut. xxi, 17,
4 Gen. xlviii. 22.
hy shri. And we may say, that as the whole blessing was
made to rest upon the head of Jacob, without Esau's
having any part of it; so it might likewise have desemed to cended to any one of Jacob's sons, and it could have
descended only to one of them, if it had been a birthtime F right, and had not by the good-will and pleasure of It wa* Gop been designed to be parted among the twelve mot ocs tribes, to every one such a portion of it, as God was
eldets pleased to appoint, and that part of it which contain. changed the blessing of all men to Judah only. For e chile these reasons I conclude, 5. That the author of the -, he goes book of Chronicles, writing after the law of Moses ile kit had altered the priest-hood, and appointed two por: nheris tions of the inheritance to the eldest son ; remarks birth that Joseph had the birthright given to him, meaning hared to refer to what was then called the birth-right;
but not to what was the birth-right, in Jacob and e finde Esau's days, which was long prior to, and very
w of different from, this establishment. : In it, The Jews, at the time when the apostles preached ouble the gospel, seem to have been of opinion, that the teclash whole body of their nation had a birth-right and unn bei alienable title to the blessings of the Messiah. This was of in the hope of the promise made by God unto their fato print thers, unto which promise their twelve tribes instantly On de serving God day and night hoped to come. After Os MCKE the blessing, which had been made to rest upon the d her head of Jacob, had been parted among the twelve the tribes; they apprehended that this was to be the
Acts xxvi. 7.
last distribution of it, and that the whole Jewish nation, or twelve tribes jointly as a people, were to enjoy the blessing for ever. But St. Paul endeavours in several places to correct this mistake; and argues very clearly, that the blessing was never appointed to descend according to birth-right or inheritance; for that not the children of the flesh, but the children of the promise are to be counted for the seed of Abraham, who have a title to it, i. e, not those, who by natural descent may seem to have a right, but those to whom God by special design and promise had directed it. This he proves by instance from Jacob and Esau, that, when Rebekah had conceived them, before the children were born, or had done good or evil, that it might not be said to be owing to any thing they had done, but to the mere de. termination of God's good-will and pleasure, it was said unto her, that the elder should serve the younger.' Thus Esau was the son, who by descent might seem to have the right, but Jacob had it by promise. In the same manner, when Carist the promised seed of Abraham was come; the twelve tribes thought them. selves heirs of the blessings to be received from him ; but in this they erred, not rightly understanding the promise. He was to be the blessing of all men, or according to the words of the promise, in him all the families of the earth," or all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.* And in order to this, God
• Rom. ix. 8.
· Ibid. ix. 12.
had determined to call them his people which were
Rom. ix. 25.
2 Ver. 6, 7. Gen. xxv. 23. Rom. ix, 11, 12.