Onyx (Heb. Shoh-Ham)

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RESPECTING this stone it has been before observed that the Hebrew root from which the name is supposed to be derived, signifies " a flashing forth of splendor." The names of all the sons of Jacob were inscribed on the two onyx-stones, placed upon the shoulders of the High Priest.
Asher was engraven on this onyx-stone of the breastplate. There may be some significance in this: for Asher means blessedness. The blessednesses implied in all the various names of Jacob's sons were combined in this one complete blessedness graven on this precious onyx-stone. The word translated blessed or happy, in the Psalms, and in a few other places, is a remarkable one in the Hebrew: for it is the plural of this word Asher. For instance, in the 1 Psalm, " Blessed is the man "...." might be literally translated, " The blessednesses of the man.... ' And in the 32. Psalm, " Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven." " The blessednesses of him whose transgression is forgiven." Leah when she gave this name to her adopted son, (for he was the child of Zilpah her bond-maid) exclaimed" In my blessedness, or happiness; for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name, Blessed:" thus recording in the name of Asher, her own happiness, and the report respecting herself, that would be spread by others.
Is there not a similar expression of joy from the lips of the Virgin, when she in that beautiful song of praise, magnifies the Lord, and rejoices in God her Savior, because He had regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: " for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." Elizabeth also pronounces this same word (makarios,) the Sept. word for Asher " Blessed is she that believed: for there shall be performance of those things which were told her from the Lord." Luke 1:48,45.
If we trace the blessedness pronounced in the Psalms and Proverbs, we shall find many of the blessings connected with the names of the children of Israel on the breastplate. Thus, there is the Judah blessing, in Psa. 84; the blessing of constantly abiding in the house of the Lord, and still praising Him: and in Psa. 89 15, Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound of redemption. Mercy and truth going before the face of Jehovah; justice and judgment being the habitation of His throne. Mercy to pardon in the way of truth; justice to forgive, because of judgment already executed upon the Lamb of God. " They shall walk, 0 Lord, in the light of Thy countenance. In Thy name shall they rejoice all the day; and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For Thou art the glory of their strength: and in Thy favor our horn shall be exalted. For Jehovah is our shield: and the Holy One of Israel is our King."
Issachar: Hire or Reward, as the blessing of service. " Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways. For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee." Psa. 128:1, 2.
Zebulon Dwelling.-"Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple." Psa. 65:4.
Reuben: See a Son,-"I will declare the decree: the Lord bath said unto me, Thou art my;Son this day have I begotten Thee.... Blessed are all they that trust in Him " Psa. 2:7,12. "Blessed is the man that maketh Jehovah his trust." Psa. 40:4. " Blessed is he that considereth the poor." Psa. 41 I Is not the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, here contemplated as the poor one?
Simeon, Hearing.-" Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." Prov. 8:34. " Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, 0 Lord, and teachest him out of thy law, that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity." Psa. 94:12,13.
Gad, a Troop.-" Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord; that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed." Psa. 112:1, 2. Blessed is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed; but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." Psa. 127:5.
Ephraim, Fruitfulness.-" Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord: and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Psa. 1:1-3.
This Ephraim blessing primarily belongs only to the Lord Himself, the true fruitful One, from whom all others derive their fruit. The blessed Jesus is the only one who has never walked in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners, or sat in the seat of the scornful: and of Him alone can it be said, " Whatsoever he doeth it shall prosper." But if we abide in Him, we also may bear much fruit. We may realize the blessing of Jeremiah, 17:7," Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." " Those that be planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age: they shall be fat and flourishing." Psa. 92:13, 14.
_Manasseh, Forgetfulness.-Although we cannot directly appropriate to ourselves the blessing of Psa. 1 yet we have the same word " blessed " bestowed on us in Psa. 32 the blessing of righteousness reckoned to us without works, even the blessing of God, being able to say-" Thy sins and thine iniquities will I remember no more."-His power to forget and forgive. " Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered: blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile."
What a wondrous mercy it is, that after having wearied God with our iniquities, and after having made Him to serve with our sins, He should draw the veil of oblivion over the past, and for His own sake declare" I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, and will not remember thy sins." Isa. 43:25.
Benjamin, Son of the right hand.-All blessing be ascribed to the Son of God's right hand: all glory, power, might, and strength, are His. " Worthy is the Lamb that was. Slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." Rev. 5:12, 13. And we, being heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, shall inherit the blessing obtained for us by the mighty power of God's own Son in conquering death, and him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and ascending on high; raised far above all principality and power, Head over all things to the church.
Dan, Judging.-" Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times." Psa. 106:3. The blessing of being able to discriminate between darkness and light, to separate the precious from the vile, as well as of enforcing the will of God, and governing righteously, belongs to Dan; and appertains to the Lord's people who listen to His voice, and seek to walk in His ways.
Naphtali is the last tribe, and will be alluded to shortly.
In Deut. 33:24, Moses concludes his blessing very appropriately with Asher. " Let Asher be blessed with (or rather, in his) children: let him be acceptable to his brethren: and let him dip his foot in oil." A threefold prosperity. Blessed through his children; the faithfulness and love of those whom he had begotten, reflecting back blessings on their parent. His presence and counsel received with favor by his brethren; and his foot, or path, constantly enriched with fatness.
The believer, who serves in the gospel of the grace of God, would desire this blessing, that he may say of those whom he has begotten in the gospel, what the Apostle says to the Thessalonians: " For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy." 1 Thess. 2:19, 20; and of the Philippians: " My brethren dearly beloved and longed for; my joy and crown." Phil. 4 I. The Apostle John also expresses himself in similar language: " I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." 3rd John 4.
The Lord Himself takes the pre-eminence in this Asher blessing, when standing in the midst of His saints, He points to Himself and to those around Him, redeemed by His blood, saying, Behold I and the children whom God bath given me. Heb. 2:13.
" Let him be acceptable to his brethren." This blessing also Paul desired when he said, " Receive us: we have wronged no man.... 2 Cor. 7:2. Indeed, his epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians breathe out his earnest desire that he might be welcomed to their hearts, and might stand amongst them as a brother as well as teacher, accepted by them.
" Let him dip his foot in oil." This seems to apply more to the individual walk of the believer; so following the Lord, that he may find the fatness which His paths drop: for " all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies." Psa. 25:10. The feet, shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, will surely be as if dipped in oil; carrying the riches of grace wherever they tread, and beautiful upon the mountains, because bringing from a far-off heavenly country, good tidings, publishing peace." Isa. 52:7.
" Thy shoes shall be iron and brass: and as thy days, so shall thy strength be." Deut. 33:25. Some translators have altered the word " shoes " into "bars," supposing the metaphor to refer to the bolts and bars upon a door. But our translation would seem more in accordance with the truth contained in the whole passage, and is preserved by Robertson (Clay. Pent.) although he notices the other renderings.
There is a beautiful contrast between the shoes armed with iron and brass, and the foot dipped in oil; the latter, the gracious walk of the believer; the former, the destructive power which he will receive hereafter over the enemies of God.
We find the Lord Himself occupying these two positions. Grace and truth came by Him. The Son of Man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And yet when presented as hereafter to be revealed, He is seen with the feet of fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace. He will rule with a scepter of iron, and dash his foes in pieces like a potter's vessel. The feet also of His saints will be as if shod with iron and brass; for the God of peace shall bruise Satan under their feet shortly. Rom. 16:20.
It is seldom that we have the latter part of this verse, Deut. 33:25, correctly quoted. The ordinary way is as if it were written, As thy day is, so shall thy strength be. Whereas our translation reads, " As thy days, thy strength." And if we retain this translation, it gives quite a different meaning from the ordinary application of the passage; which is generally understood to imply, that according to the necessity in which a believer may find himself through trials or difficulties, according to the day of temptation; so strength will be ministered to him from the Lord. A very blessed and indisputable truth; but not declared in this passage of Scripture, which does not contemplate a time of weakness or trial, but one of triumph, happiness, and prosperity.
If we retain the word strength, the meaning would seem to be, As thy days of age are prolonged, thy strength and vigor will increase instead of diminishing; contrary to the course of nature, when ordinarily with old age comes infirmity. But the word translated strength, is by able biblical critics believed to mean rest, or affluence. And this would appear exactly to accord with the beautiful passage, (Prov. 3) where, in v. 13, the word asher occurs, or the happinesses, blessednesses of the man that findeth wisdom; and amongst other blessings, length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand, riches and honor-riches and honor commensurate with length of days. "As thy days, thy rest, or affluence."
In the conclusion of the blessing, the word asher again occurs: " Happy (or blessed) art thou, 0 Israel: who is like unto thee? 0 people saved by Jehovah the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency. Thine enemies also shall yield thee feigned submission, and thou shalt tread upon their high places."
A glorious prospect thus awaits that people, when their Jehovah, the Lord of hosts, shall come and rescue and save them. Already these blessings are ours as belonging to the Israel of God-a people saved by Jehovah Jesus, the shield of our help, and who is also the glorious weapon of our might; who makes us in all things to be more than conquerors, and gives us a resurrection victory in the midst of our circumstances here, to end in the triumph of resurrection at His return.
At the end of the 8th of Romans we have the shield as well as the sword: " If God be for us, who can be against us?" If Jehovah be our shield, who can assault us? and again: " In all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us." He that hath loved us, and given Himself for us, is the sword of our excellency; causing us not only to be conquerors, but more than conquerors; to take the spoil as well as gain the victory.
We may close these allusions to the name of Asher with the priestly blessing. Num. 6:24 -27.
"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee.
The Lord make his face shine on thee, and be gracious to thee.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them."