Observe that among the posterity of Rachel, two of them paired together, Naphtali and Manasseh, head the family: Joseph and Benjamin bring up the rear. Naphtali and Manasseh are preferred, because he was illustrious, as well in Barak, the conqueror of Sisera the Canaanite, as in Hiram, a Naphtalite on his father's side, the artificer of the instruments and furniture of the temple of God; (1 Kings, c. vii. v.14.2 Chron. c. ii. v.14.) and in a name yet greater, of whom hereafter; the latter was noted for Gideon, the subverter of Baal, and Elisha the prophet.
But the glory of Christ's inhabitation exalts Naphtali, though the son of a maid-servant, above Manasseh, as when Christ was about to enter on his office, he fixed his residence and seat of his preaching in the noblest city of the tribe of Naphtali, and the metropolis of all Galilee, Capernaum, whence, as from an episcopal city, he went forth many times over all Galilee with his apostles, into all the synagogues and villages, teaching the gospel of the kingdom, and shining forth with miracles of healing. For, Reader, I wish to remark, from the Evangelical History, (because it escapes many,) that our Saviour dwelt in Galilee during the whole time that he abode on earth; but that he was seen in Judea, the principal seat both of the nation and of his own tribe, only at the time of the festivals. And this is what Isaiah of old had predicted, Isa. c. ix. Matt. c. iv. v.14.; that |the wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, (Sept. the Father of the age to come,) the Prince of Peace,| -- in one word, the Messiah, should be a Galilean; and, as if in compensation and consolation of the captivity, which Galilee, first of all the regions in the Holy Land, had then recently undergone from the Assyrian, (2 Kings, c. xv. v.29.) that the tract in question should be peculiarly enlightened by his presence; apparently, indeed, that public way, called |the Way of the Sea,| which, coming out of Syria to Jordan, passes through the middle of Capernaum, and from thence, proceeding near the Sea of Galilee, leads into Egypt. Let us hear what he says, (vide Hebrew.) |As in former times he rendered vile the land of Zabulon and the land of Naphtali, (viz. as 1 have observed by Tiglathpileser,) so at the last he will render it glorious.| For |the way of the sea (trodden by the Assyrian) to the passage of Jordan, (where Capernaum was situated,) Galilee of the Gentiles, -- the people which walked in darkness, (namely, of afflictions,) have seen a great light; to those who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, on them has the light shined,| &c. Would you know whence and under whose influence Galilee will be so blessed, and within that maritime way where the passage of the Jordan was? he immediately subjoins, |For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity, the Prince of Peace.|
But those words (with which our transcribers, almost treading in the footsteps of the Jews, who never understood this prophecy, begin the chapter with a great disturbance of the sense,) I annex with Jerome and the Royal Bibles to the last sentence of the preceding chapter; and I render them, |For there is no obscurity in Him who is the cause of their trouble,| that is, in the calamitous and afflicted state of things into which the Israelitish republic at that time is reported to have fallen, according to the threatening of the law, and which is as it were submitted to our sight; men were driven to indignation and despair because they saw the enemy by which they were oppressed enjoy perpetual success, and that no misfortune befel him. It is of great importance to the Christian faith, that this oracle concerning the Galilean Messiah should he clearly understood, and the fidelity of Matthew, who alleges it, should be asserted; on which account I. was desirous of throwing some light upon it on this occasion, hoping that the Reader would not consider it as unacceptable. I return to the Apocalypse, and I will add one thing more before I dismiss Naphtali; that, as among the sons of Leah, the first place was allotted to Judah, on account of the generation of Christ, so among those of Rachel Naphtali was noticed on account of his dwelling, that the prerogative of Christ might be supereminent on both sides, in whose name, as that of Lord and Emperor, the assembly (as we shall hear in its proper place) is enrolled.
Joseph and Benjamin remain, transferred to be the last pair of Rachel's children, and of whom the sirname of Ephraim degraded to this place, since it is Ephraim, in truth, who is concealed under the name of Joseph, having been unworthy, on his own account, (because he was the leader of the Israelitish idolatry introduced by Micah, and also because of that enormous apostasy of which Jeroboam and Ahab were the founders,) to have his name repeated in the catalogue. Benjamin likewise, beside being the youngest born, the hatred of Saul the Benjamite, against David, and the curses of Shimei against him who was the head of the family and the type of Christ, deprived of a higher station.