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larated Isaac, and, as one whom the Lord had blessed, and whose heart
As Esau, the man of the field, followed the chase in the pastures of the plains, or amidst the brushwood on the sloping hills, his garments took the smell of the field which the Lord had blessed. No doubt the poetical form in which the blessing was expressed, gives greater prominence to this view than would otherwise have been done. Yet in all ages the hunter has been thus spoken of. It has ever been a favourite notion that his garments bore on them the fresh odours of the field. When the king is represented passing with his spouse “ from Lebanon, from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the VOL. I.
lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards,” her clothing takes the perfume of the vegetation amidst which they have been walking“Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue, and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.” A walk on an April morning in any even of our own woods when the larch (Larix Europæa) is in full bloom, and the sunshine is drinking the dew sparkling on its pretty flowers, whose perfume is spread all around, will let more light in on the beauty and truthfulness of the imagery in this verse (Song iv. 11) than the most elaborate exposition can do. So fully persuaded were the ancients in the belief that the fields lent their perfumes to the garments of those who dwelt in them, that they readily credited the account of Herodotus as to how the Arabians got one of their most precious perfumes, and had recourse to the same method for collecting the fragrant gum. The Arabian ledanum, says Herodotus, “is found sticking like gum to the beards of he-goats, which gather it from the wood” (iii. 113). The blessing is continued in the strong words of a poetical utterance :
"God give thee of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth,
Plenty of corn and of wine !
To see the full force of this, the blessing vouchsafed, after much earnest entreaty, to Esau, must be compared with it:
“ Behold, without the fatness of the earth shall be thy dwelling,
And without the dew of heaven from above.
The rendering of the preposition in the two first clauses by “without,” instead of by “of, as in our translation, is not only required in the circumstances, but is warranted by its use in other portions of Scripture. “The word min in the prophetic declaration of Isaac,” says Kurtz, “may be rendered without' or 'far from. This is grammatically correct, and demanded by the context. For in verse 37 Isaac complains that he had no more corn nor wine to give, and in the prophecy itself emphasis is laid on the circumstance that Esau is to live by the sword.” Thus we reach the implied contrast between the declaration made to Jacob and that uttered to Esau in answer to his “great and exceeding bitter cry” (ver. 34), when he again sought the blessing “ carefully with tears” (Heb. xii. 17).
The expressions “ dew of heaven” and “fatness of the earth” point to a land under conditions of general fruitfulness. The “corn and the wine” are the special products resulting therefrom. This “fatness of the earth” is the same as that brought out under three main aspects in Psalm civ. 14, 15:
“He causeth grass to grow for the cattle,
And herb for the service of man;
The fulfilment of the declarations of Isaac to his sons, Jacob and Esau, finds its illustration in the physical features of the countries assigned to their descendants. Canaan, when taken possession of by Israel reminded them, in every part where they pitched their tents, that the last promise had been fulfilled : God had given them of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. The wild mountainous tract which stretches from the Red Sea to the south-eastern shores of the Sea of the Plain, with its deep ravines, its rugged heights shooting grandly to the sky, its huge masses of porphyry, its weather-worn sandstones, and its jagged limestone cliffs, all point to the truthfulness of Isaac's declaration. The whole region forms still a fit dwelling-place for men who “live by their swords.” The height of these porphyry cliffs is about 2000 feet above the Arabah, and that of the limestone ridges, which slope into the plateau of the great eastern desert, is not less than 3000 feet. In this wild tract, averaging little more than twenty miles broad, Esau had his dwelling. The fruitfulness of some of the valleys, the luxuriance of the trees, shrubs, and flowers to be met with in modern times in some of the river courses, and the flat terraces often seen on the mountain sides, have been pointed to as justifying the usual rendering of the utterance of Isaac—“Thy dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth.” But it is to be kept in mind, that the soil in such situations must be much deeper now than during the first ages of the occupancy of the land by the Edomites. It is also to be remembered, that even as in the blessing of Jacob it was not implied, that there would be no unfruitful tracts in Canaan, so in the declaration to Esau it was not said that there would be universal sterility. In each the general and prevailing features were described. Jacob's portion was for the most part to be suited for pastoral and agricultural pursuits; Esau's was one meet for “a man of the field.” In addition to the fatness of the earth, Jacob was promised the “dew of heaven”_"the precious thing of heaven” (Deut. xxxiii. 13). Its value in a land in which the drought of an almost rainless summer is most intense cannot be over-estimated. But then it is, when night comes and a cloudless sky looks down on Canaan, that the refreshing dew is formed in rich abundance. “Did you observe,” asks a recent traveller, “that the dew rolled off our tent this morning like rain ? And now the early sunbeams 'sow the earth with pearls and diamonds,' as Milton's muse describes these pendent drops that glitter and sparkle from every leaf in the forest and blade in the field.”—(See “ Dew" under Judges vi. 36.)