Scripture Query and Answer: What Ground Is There for the Rhemish Version and Note: Staff or Bed?

Hebrews 11:21  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
A. The difference between the Hebrew copies and the sense given by the Septuagint is simply a question of the points (i.e., between ncp, a staff, and מנוח, a bed, both being derived from the root rrca which means to lead as well as to stretch.) There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the “bed” in the Old Testament. The staff was in his hand while he bowed himself upon the bed's head. Aquila and Symmachus gives κλινψ, while the LXX. have ράβδου. Indeed, so far there is a difference; the Rhemish is stronger than the authorized in excluding from Gen. 47:3131And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head. (Genesis 47:31), anything but the absolute and supreme worship of God. “Israel adored God, turning to the bed's head,” whereas the English Bible simply states that he bowed himself, doubtless, in worship, upon the bed's head. This, then, is not the question, which is, whether the Septuagint, or rather Hebrew xi. 21, intimates that Jacob also paid relative honor to Joseph's scepter, as a figure of Christ's royal dignity. Now waiving for the moment the question to whom the rod belonged, it is admitted in the Rhemish note to Gen. 47:3131And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head. (Genesis 47:31), that “Jacob, leaning on Joseph's rod, adored turning towards the head of his bed.” This shows that the Rhemish translators perfectly understood the real force of προσεκϋνησεν kirl το άκρον της ράβδου avrout How came they to know that Jacob so leaned? The Hebrew does not say so, but the Greek. How came they, then, to understand the same Greek words in Hebrews, quoted from this very passage? The only true answer is, that they sought the appearance of Scripture sanction for their idolatry. But God has caught them in their own craftiness; for the words cited prove that they knew the real meaning of the Greek, justify the authorized version, and retort the charge of corruption on their own heads. The truth is, that the Greek will not bear “worshipped the top,” but “upon the top,” as every version known to me has it, save the Vulgate, or those made from it. As to the meaning, it is clearly leaning on it, as the Rhemish Annotator himself confirms in his note to Gen. 47:3131And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head. (Genesis 47:31). The reader may compare 1 Kings 1:4747And moreover the king's servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and make his throne greater than thy throne. And the king bowed himself upon the bed. (1 Kings 1:47), where the Septuagint has προσι;κύνησεν ό β. Μ ττ]ρ κοίτψ, the Vulgate, adorat in lectulo suo, and the Douay “adored in his bed.” Now, the construction is precisely the same as in Heb. xi. 21.
Another thing seems plain—that if by leaning on the top of the rod is meant that Jacob worshipped the rod, equally so by turning to the bed's head must be meant that he worshipped the bed. But, as in the latter case, (Gen. 48) the Douay version understands that Jacob adored God, turning to the bed's head; so in the former case, (Heb. xi.) they ought to understand that he adored God, [leaning] upon the top of the rod. But it would be intolerable, even to the Romanist, to suppose that Jacob adored the bed. Consistency, however, requires it. The grammatical construction is imperative. Either he adored both rod and bed; or he worshipped God leaning upon the top of the staff and turning towards the bed's head.
It may be added, that there is not the least ground for making the rod or staff to be Joseph's. It was Jacob's. With his staff he had passed over Jordan once a poor outcast, as we are told by himself (Gen. 32:1010I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. (Genesis 32:10)) when he returned with two companies and feared before Esau. Now, in Egypt, before Joseph and his sons, even though he were next unto Pharaoh, and, leaning upon the staff, which had been the companion of his own weary wanderings, the dying pilgrim worships the God whose faithfulness he had proved all the way through. What more striking than his faith which could bless the children of his now exalted son, seeing the true worth of Egyptian splendor in the light of the glory of the promised, land; and what more affecting than the worship of his happy heart, as he leaned upon the witness of his many toils and sorrows! CONTENTS.