And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Many days.—Jacob mourned for Joseph not merely during the usual period, but so long as to move even the hearts of those who had wronged him. For not only his daughters, but “all his sons rose up to comfort him.” Probably he had several daughters by Leah and the two handmaidens, Dinah alone having been mentioned by name, because two of her brothers forfeited the birthright by the cruelty with which they avenged her wrong. We learn how long and intense Jacob’s sorrow was from Genesis 45:26-28. His daughters are mentioned also in Genesis 46:7.
- The Family of Judah
1. עדלם ‛ǎdûllâm, 'Adullam, "righteousness." חירה chı̂yrâh Chirah, "nobility?"
2. שׁוּע shûa‛, Shua', "luck, riches, cry."
3. ער ‛êr, 'Er, "watching."
4. אונן 'ônân, Onan, "strong."
5. שׁלה shēlâh, Shelah, "request? rest." כזיב kezı̂yb Kezib, "falsehood."
6. תמר tāmār, Tamar, "palm."
12. תמנה tı̂mnâh, Timnah, "counted or assigned."
14. עינים 'êynayı̂m, 'Enaim, "two fountains."
29. פרץ perets, Perets, "breach."
This strange narrative is an episode in the history of Joseph; but an integral part of the "generations" of Jacob. It is loosely dated with the phrase "at that time." This does not indicate a sequel to the preceding record, the proper phrase for which is "after these things" (האלה חדברים אחר 'achar hadebārı̂ym hâ'ēleh Genesis 22:1). It implies rather a train of events that commenced at least in the past, some time before the closing incident of the previous narrative Genesis 21:22. But the sale of Joseph, which alone is recorded in the last chapter, only occupied some few weeks or months of a year. Hence, the circumstances contained in this memoir of Judah's family must have taken their rise before that event. The date "at that time," is rendered indefinite also by being attached to the phrase, "And it came to pass," which covers at least all the events in the first eleven verses of the chapter.
All this is in accordance with the customary mode of arranging parallel lines of events in Hebrew narrative. We shall see reason afterward for placing the birth of Er at as early a date as possible in the life of Judah Genesis 46:12. Now Judah, we conceive, was born when his father was eighty-seven, and Joseph when he was ninety-one, and hence, there is a difference about four years in their ages. We suppose Er to have been born in Judah's fourteenth year, when Joseph and Dinah were in their tenth, and therefore, about three years before the rape of Dinah, and shortly after Jacob arrived at the town of Shekem. The dishonor of Dinah, and the cruel treatment of Joseph, being of essential moment in the process of things, had to be recorded in the main line of events. The commencement of Judah's family, having no particular influence on the current of the history, is fitly reserved until the whole of the circumstances could be brought together into a connected narrative. And the private history of Judah's line is given, while that of the others is omitted, simply because from him the promised seed is descended. As soon as Jacob is settled in the promised land, the contact with Hebron and its neighborhood seems to have commenced. A clear proof of this is the presence of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, in Jacob's family Genesis 35:8. The great thoroughfare from Damascus to Egypt runs through Shekem and Hebron, and we know that when Jacob was residing at Hebron, his sons fed their flocks at Shekem and Dothan, and the youthful Joseph was sent to inquire after their welfare.Sackcloth, i.e. a coarse and mournful habit. This is the first example of that kind, but afterwards was in common use upon these occasions. See 2 Samuel 3:31 1 Kings 20:31 21:27, &c.
and put sackcloth upon his loins; put off his usual apparel, and put on a coarse garment on his loins next to his flesh, as another token of his great trouble and affliction for the loss of his son; which though afterwards was frequently done in times of public or private mourning, yet this is the first time we read of it; whether Jacob was the first that used it, whom his posterity and others imitated, is not certain; however it appears that this usage, as well as that of rending clothes on sorrowful occasions, were very ancient:And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)34. rent his garments, &c.] Jacob mourned with the mourning rites of the Israelites. The rent clothes, the sackcloth, and the ashes, denote the exact opposite of festal array, new garments, soft raiment, and ointment.
For “sackcloth” in mourning, see 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30.Verse 34. - And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, - שָׂק (cf. σάκος, el, frog, saccus), the usual dress of mourners (2 Samuel 3:31; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:1), was a coarse, thick haircloth, of which corn sacks were also made (Genesis 42:25), and which in cases of extreme mental distress was worn next the skin (1 Kings 21:27) - and mourned for his son many days. Though twenty-two years elapsed before Jacob again beheld his son, and though doubtless the old man's grief for the premature and, violent death, as he imagined, of Rachel s child was little abated by the lapse, of time, yet the expression "many days" may only be employed to mark the intensity of Jacob's sorrow, which continued longer than the customary mournings of the period. Genesis 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11); and לט, ladanum, the fragrant resin of the cistus-rose. Judah seized the opportunity to propose to his brethren to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. "What profit have we," he said, "that we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites; and our hand, let it not lay hold of him (sc., to slay him), for he is our brother, our flesh." Reuben wished to deliver Joseph entirely from his brothers' malice. Judah also wished to save his life, though not from brotherly love so much as from the feeling of horror, which was not quite extinct within him, at incurring the guilt of fratricide; but he would still like to get rid of him, that his dreams might not come true. Judah, like his brethren, was probably afraid that their father might confer upon Joseph the rights of the first-born, and so make him lord over them. His proposal was a welcome one. When the Arabs passed by, the brethren fetched Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took him into Egypt. The different names given to the traders - viz., Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:25, Genesis 37:27, and Genesis 37:28), Midianites (Genesis 37:28), and Medanites (Genesis 37:36) - do not show that the account has been drawn from different legends, but that these tribes were often confounded, from the fact that they resembled one another so closely, not only in their common descent from Abraham (Genesis 16:15 and Genesis 25:2), but also in the similarity of their mode of life and their constant change of abode, that strangers could hardly distinguish them, especially when they appeared not as tribes but as Arabian merchants, such as they are here described as being: "Midianitish men, merchants." That descendants of Abraham should already be met with in this capacity is by no means strange, if we consider that 150 years had passed by since Ishmael's dismissal from his father's house, - a period amply sufficient for his descendants to have grown through marriage into a respectable tribe. The price, "twenty (sc., shekels) of silver," was the price which Moses afterwards fixed as the value of a boy between 5 and 20 (Leviticus 27:5), the average price of a slave being 30 shekels (Exodus 21:32). But the Ishmaelites naturally wanted to make money by the transaction.
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