miscarriages of them all in the communication and obtaining this bless-
ing ; namely, of Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob. For,
1. Whatever may be spoken in excuse of Isaac, it is certain he failed
greatly in two things. 1st. In his inordinate love to Esau, (whom he
could not but know to be a profane person,) and that on so slight an
account as eating of his venison, Gen. xxv. 28. 2dly. In that he had
not sufficiently inquired into the mind of God, in the oracle that his
wife received concerning their sons. There is no question on the one
hand, but that he knew of it ; nor on the other, that he did not under-
stand it. For if the holy man had known that it was the determinate
will of God, he would not have confradicted it. But this arose from
want of diligent inquiry by prayer, into the mind of God.
2. As for Rebekah, there is no doubt but that she was infallibly
certain that it was the mind and will of God that Jacob should have
the blessing. So far she had a sufficient ground of faith. But her
contrivance for the obtaining of it, when she ought to have committed
the event unto the providence of God, whose word was engaged for it,
cannot be approved ; nor is what she did to be made an example for
3. Jacob also had, no doubt, sufficient evidence that the birth-right
was conveyed unto him ; yet, although he followed his mother's instruc-
tions, and obeyed her commands in what he did, his miscarriages in
getting the conveyance of it by his father's blessing, which were not a
few, are not to be excused. But under all these mistakes and miscar-
riages, we may observe two things.
First. That true faith acted itself in all the persons concerned. The
faith of Isaac was true and right in this, that the promise was sure to
his seed by virtue of the covenant, and that he was instrumentally, in
the way of external evidence, to convey it by his solemn benediction.
The first was express in the covenant ; the other he had by immediate
revelation and inspiration ; for his blessing was a prophecy of things to
come, as it is in the text. But he missed it in the application of it
unto the object in his own intention, though in matter of fact, by the
divine disposal of circumstances, he was in the right. This mistake
hindered not but that he blessed Jacob in faith.
One expositor, who abounds in conjectures, and is as unhappy in
them as any man well can be, would have it, that the blessing of Jacob
in faith doth not belong, or is not to be ascribed unto that solemn bless-
mg which he pronounced over him when he mistook the person, sup-
posing him to be Esau, ch. xxvii. 21 — 29, but unto what he said after-
wards concerning him unto Esau, ver. 33, ' I have blessed him, and he
shall be blessed;' than which nothing can be more remote from the
mind of the Holy Ghost. For in these words to Esau, he directly
affirms that he had blessed him, and now only declares the consequent
of it ; namely, that he should enjoy the blessing : ' he shall be blessed.'
Now this hath respect unto that former blessing, which was therefore
in faith, notwithstanding the present mistake of the person, which he
now understood by what he had done, as being under the immediate
conduct of the Spirit of God.
So did true faith act itself both in Rebekah and Jacob, and they
VER. 20.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 459
were in the right from divine revelation, that the promises did belong
to Jacob. Howbeit, they variously miscarried in the way they took for
obtaining a pledge of it in the paternal benediction.
Wherefore it cannot be denied, but that sometimes, when true faith
is rightly fixed on divine promises, that those in whom it is, and who
truly believe, may through darkness, infirmities, and temptations, put
themselves on irregular ways for the accomplishment of them. And as
in these ways they may fail and miscarry, unto the scandal of religion,
and a dangerous concussion of their own faith, so if they do succeed in
such ways, as Jacob did, yet are not their ways accepted or approved
of God, as they will quickly understand. But yet, although these mis-
takes may be such as to vitiate their works, and render them unaccept-
able to God, yet shall they not condemn their persons in the sight of
God, neither here, nor hereafter.
Whereas, therefore, there yet remain many promises to be accom-
plished concerning the church, and its state or condition in this world;
as it is our duty firmly to believe them, so it is our wisdom, not upon
any temptations, provocations, or advantages, to attempt their accom-
plishment in any unwarrantable way and undertaking.
Secondly. We may see herein the infinite purity of the divine will,
effectually accomplishing its own purposes and designs through the
failings and miscarriages of men, without the least mixture with, or
approbation of their iniquities or miscarriages. So did God accomplish
his purpose and promise unto Jacob, by ordering the outward circum-
stances of the irregular actings of him and his mother unto his own
blessed ends. And although he neither commanded nor approved of
these irregularities in them, yet, whereas there was true faith in the
persons themselves, though misguided as unto some outward actions,
and that acted, as they judged, in compliance with his will, without the
least design of injury unto any others, (for they aimed at nothing but
what was their own by his grant and donation,) he accepted their per-
sons, pardoned their sins, and effected the matter according to their
Obs. I. And we may observe, that the failure, error, or mistake of
any one leading person, with respect unto divine promises and their
accomplishment, maybe of dangerous consequence unto others; as here
the failing of Isaac was the occasion of casting Jacob and Rebekah
into all their irregularities.
These things being premised, as unto the story which respect is here
had unto, the words themselves may be briefly opened : and there are
three things in them. 1. What is ascribed unto Isaac, namely, that he
blessed his sons. 2. How he did it, and that was, in faith. 3. What
was the subject-matter of his blessing ; and that was, things to come.
1. He blessed them, tvXnyijae. These patriarchal blessings were
partly euctical, or prayers; partly prophetical, or predictions: and the
matter of them was the promise made to them, with what was contained
in them, and nothing else. They did not pray for, they could not fore-
tell any thing but what God had promised. They were authoritative
applications of God's promises unto the person unto whom they did
belong, for the confirmation of their faith. So far as they were merely
460 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. XI.
euctical, or consisted in solemn prayer, they were an effect and duty of
the ordinary parental ministry ; and as such, ought to be used by all
parents. Not as some, by the trifling custom of daily. asking and
giving blessing ; whilst, perhaps, a curse is entailed on families by
wretched examples ; but by solemn reiterated prayer unto that purpose.
But there were two things extraordinary in them. 1. A certain deter-
mination of the promise unto particular persons, as was here done by
Isaac, which falls not within the compass of the ordinary paternal
ministry. We may fail in our most earnest desires, and sincere endea-
vours for the communication of the promise unto this or that child. 2.
Prediction of particular future events, falling within the compass and
verge of the promise; so was it in the solemn blessings of Isaac, Jacob,
and Moses. Herein were they acted by a spirit of prophecy and im-
2. Thus he blessed his sons, and he did it inaru, ' by faith.' But yet
here is a difficulty that ariseth on both hands, from the one blessing
and the other. For the blessing of Jacob was from immediate inspira-
tion, and not intended by Isaac to be applied to Jacob ; both which
considerations seem to exclude his faith from any interest in this bene-
diction. And the blessing of Esau related only to temporal things, and
that not with respect to any especial promise.
I answer, that as to the first, or the blessing of Jacob, 1. There was
a proper object of his faith which it was fixed on ; namely, the promise
of the covenant, that 'God would be a God to him and his seed,' and
that ' in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed.' Herein
was his faith exercised in his blessing of Jacob, which was no way im-
peded by his mistake of the person. Faith was acted by the promise,
and was guided as to its object by God's providence. 2. Immediate
inspiration doth no way hinder the actings of faith on preceding revela-
tions. He had the warrant of the word of God before revealed for the
ground of his faith, and his immediate inspiration guided him to act
according to it. And, 3. As for the blessing of Esau, although it
respected only temporal things, yet he gave it him in faith also, in that
it was the fruit of his prayer for him, and contained predictions which
he had received by divine revelation.
o. The subject-matter of both these blessings were, ttsoi jueAAovtwv,
'things to come,' that is, things that were not yet, nor yet to have then-
present accomplishment. For that part of the blessing of Jacob, that
he should be the lord of his brethren, as it is expressed in the blessing
of Esau, ' thou shalt serve thy brother,' was not fulfilled in their days,
there being a great appearance of the contrary. Wherefore the things
contained in these blessings absolutely considered, were future, and yet
for to come, in the days of and among their posterity.
Now the blessing of Jacob did not contain only a better portion in
this world than that of Esau, as Grotius would have it, nor had there
been any need of so great a contest about the difference between the
land of Canaan and that of Edom ; but as it did comprise also the
numerous posterity of Jacob, their quiet habitation, power, and do-
minion in the land of Canaan, so the principal subject of it was the
enclosure of the church, the confinement of the covenant, the enjoy-
VER. 21.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 461
ment of the promise of the blessed seed, to him and his offspring. And
it was the contempt hereof, and not of a double portion of earthly
things, for which Lsau is stigmatized as ' a profane person.'
Ver. 21. — YliaTti Iokw€ airo9vr)GKd)v ticacrrov twv vlwv Iwcr^ tuXo-
yr)(Tt' Kai TrpocrtKvvnatv £7rt to anpov Tt)Q pahoov avrov.
AiroSv^aicwv, morions, moriturus, cum moreretur, 'when he drew
nigh to death,' the present tense ; that which was then in the next dis-
position to the actual death that shortly ensued ; probably a few days
before his death.
'Ekcnttov, singulos filiorum, for kuciTtpov, or ufi^u), 'each,' or both.
Utrumque. Syr. in bob, ' every one,' both the sons of Joseph dis-
E-irt to aicpov rtjc /oa€3ou avrov. Vul. Lat. Et adoravit fastigium
virgae ejus, ' he adored the top of his rod ;' leaving out the preposition
£7ri, ' on,' it corrupts the sense, and forceth the meaning of the words to
be, ' of Joseph's rod,' whence a vain and foolish opinion hath been fan-
cied about adoring or worshipping of creatures, as remote from the
sense of this place as from truth. The Syriac properly, i^i by "t:Di
mtain, * he bowed,' or adored, ' on the top of his own staff'.' Beza
supplies innixus, which we render ' leaning.'
Ver. 21. — By faith Jacob, when he ivas dying, blessed both the sons
of Joseph, (each of them,) and worshipped, leaning on the top of
There are two things mentioned in the words. 1. That Jacob
blessed the sons of Joseph. 2. That he worshipped, leaning on the
top of his staff. But they did not fall out in the order in which they
are here expressed. The latter of them is recorded before the former,
Gen. xlvii. 31, 'And Israel bowed himself on the bed's head.' To
which is added, that after these things, Joseph brought his children to
him, ch. xlviii. 1.
From ch. xlvii. 28, to the end of the book of Genesis, an account
is given us of the dying of Jacob, and what he did in order thereunto,
as the apostle expresseth it,