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Of the Prophecies concerning Jacob and Esau.
THE Almighty having been pleased to disclose unto Alraham the state and condition of his posterity by Ishmael, who was the son of the bond-woman, he was likewise pleased to predict some things of a much more important nature concerning the posterity of Isaac, who was the son of his wife Sarah. This son was properly the child of promise, and the prophecies relating to him and his family are much more numerous than those relating to Ishmael and his descendants.
Some time before the birth of Ishmael, the Almighty was pleased to make this promise to Abraham, In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed, Gen. xii. 3. But after the birth of Ishmael by Hagar, and Isaac by Sarah, the promise was limited to Isaac; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called, Gen. xxi. 12. And accordingly to Isaac was the promise repeated, In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; which plainly intimated, that the Saviour of the world was not to come from the family of Ishmael, but that of Isaac.
The Almighty had been pleased to promise the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants four hundred years before they obtained possession of it, and it was afterwards promised to his son Isaac: Sojourn in this land (says the Lord unto Isaac) and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee and unto thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father.
This promise was strictly fulfilled soon after the death of Moses (which happened in the year of the world 1 147) when the Israelites got possession of the land of Canaan through the assistance and protection of Joshua, who succeeded Moses in the government of the people. See page 283, vol. 1, &c. In pursuance of these prophecies they remained in possession for several ages; and afterwards, when for their sins and iniquities they were to be removed
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from it, their removal also was foretold, both the carrying away of the ten tribes, and the captivity of the two remaining tribes for seventy years, as likewise their inal captivity and dispersion into all nations, till, in the fullness of time, they shall be again restored to the land of their inheritance.
Abraham received a promise from God that his posterity should be multiplied exceedingly above that of others.
I will make of thee a great nation, and in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed is the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the selshore. See Gen. xii. 2. xxii. 17. The like promise wus also continued to Isaac, I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, Gen. xxvi. 4.
Not to mention the great increase of the other posterity of Abraham and Isaac, how soon did their descendants by Jacob grow up to a mighty nation, and how numerous were they formerly in the land of Canaan? How numerous were they likewise (according to the accounts we have from Philo and Josephus) in various other parts of the world? And after innumerable massacres and persecutions which they have undergone, how numerous are they still in their present dispersion among all nations? Mr Basnage (who has written an history of the Jews as a supplement and continuation of the history of Josephus) says, “ It is impossible to fix the number of persons this 6 nation is composed of. But yet we have reason to be. “ lieve, there are still near three millions of people, who “ profess the Jewish religion; and, as their phrase is, “ are witnesses of the unity of God in all the nations of 66 the world."
Isaac had two sons, the one named Jacob, and the other Esau. The descendants of these sons did not incorporate themselves together as one people, but separated inio two different nations; and therefore as it had been before specified which of the two, Ishmael or Isaac, was to be heir of the promises made to Abraham, so there was a necessity now for the same distinction to be made between Esau and Jacob.
This was accordingly done, and that in the most ample and clear manner. When Rebecca, their mother, had
conceivel, the children struggled together within her, Gen. XXV.22. and she received the following Divine rev. elation: hoo nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people stall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shale be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall save the younger, Gen. xxv. 23.
The same Divine spirit influenced and directed their father to give is final benediction to the like purpose; for thus did he bles Jacob: God give thee of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let people sera thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brothren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee : cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that desseth thee. Gen. xxvii. 28, 29. And thus did he bless Esau: Behold thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shal come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.
But for greater clearness and certainty a more express revelation was afterwards made to Jacob; and the land of Canaan, a numerous progeny, and the blessing of all na. tions, were promised to him in particular. I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Israel: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south ; and in thee, and in thy seed, shall the families of the earth be blessed. Gen. xxviii. 13, 14.
This prophecy, as well as those before mentioned, was not to be verified in the persons of Esau and Jacob, but in those of their posterity. Jacob was so far from bearing rule over Esau, that he was forced to fly his country for fear of him. He continued abroad several years, and when he returned he sent a servant before with a supplicatory message to his brother Esau, requesting that he might find grace in his sight. When he heard of Esau's coming to meet him with four hundred men, he was greatly afraid and distressed, and cried unto the Lord, Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of m-brother, from the hand of Esau. Gen. xxxij. 11. He sat a magnificent present before him to appease his brotler, calling him his lord and himself his servant. When ie met him, he bowed himself to the ground seven times, util he came near to his brother. And after he had found a gracious reception, he made this acknowledgment: Thave seen thy face as though I had seen the face of God,ind thou wast pleased with me.
At this time Jacob had no temporal supriority over his brother Esau; and therefore we must jok for the completion of the prophecy among their dscendants. The prophecy itself mentions plainly two zations, and two manner of people, and comprehends ihese several particulars; that the families of Èsau and Jacob should grow up into two different people and nations; that the family of the elder should be subject to that of .he younger; that in situation and other temporal advantıges they should be much alike; that the elder branch should delight more in war and violence, but yet should be subdued by the younger; that however there should be a time when the elder should have dominion, and shake off the yoke of the younger; but in all spiritual gifts and graces the younger should be greatly superior, and be the happy instrument of conveying the blessing to all nations.
By the first part of the prophecy, Two nations are in thy womb, &c. we find that they (that is, their posterity) were not only to grow up into two nations, but into two very different nations. And have not the Edomites (who were descended from Esau) and the Israelites, (who were descended from Jacob) been all along two very different people in their manners, customs and religions, which made them to be perpetually at variance with each other?
And the children struggled together within her. This was a token of their future disagreement, and was fully evinced when they grew up to a state of manhood by their different dispositions and inclinations. Esau was a cun. ning hunter, and delighted in the sports of the field; but Jacob was more mild and gentle, dwelling in tents, and minding his sheep and cattle. Esau slighted his birth. right and those sacred privileges of which Jacob was de.
sirous, ind is therefore called the profane Esau, (Heb. xii. 16, but Jacob was a man of better faith and religion. The lie diversity ran through their posterity. The de. scendats of Jacob were strict observers of the Jewish re. ligion:but those of Esau, (whatever tbey were at first) becam, in process of time, the grossest idolaters. From these eligious differences, and on other accounts, there was a continual grudge and enmity between the two nations. The king of Edom would not suffer the Israelites, in ther return out of Egypt, so much as to pass through his teritories, (See page 258, vol. 1.) and the history of the Edonites after is little more than the history of the wars between them and the Jews.
Ind the one people shall be stronger than the other pecple, and the elder shall serve the younger. The family of Esau was the elder, and for some time the greater and more powerful of the two, there having been dukes and kings in Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel. Gen. xxxvi. 31. But David and his captains made an entire conquest of the Edomites, slew several thousands, compelled the rest to become his tributaries and servants, and planted garrisons among them to secure their obedience. See 2 Sam. viii. 14.
After the Edomites were reduced to subjection by David and his captains, they continued in a state of servitude for about an hundred and fifty years, and, instead of having a king of their own, were governed by viceroys or deputies appointed by the kings of Judah. In the days of Jehoram, the son of Jehosbaphat, they revolted, recovered their liberties, and made a king over themselves, 2 Kings, vii. 20. But after this they were again reduced by several of the princes of Judah at different periods, and most of their principal places destroyed. Judas Maccabeus, attacked and defeated them several times, killing no less than twenty thousand at one time, and upwards of the like number at another. He likewise took their chief city Hebron, and destroyed all the towers and fortresses about it. At length Hyrcanus, the nephew of Judas Mac. cabéus, took what few cities they had left, and reduced them to the necessity of either embracing the Jewish religion, or of leaving their country and seeking new habita