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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Deuteronomy 33

 

 

Verse 1

Deuteronomy 33:1 And this [is] the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.

Ver. 1. Before his death.] The words of dying men are living oracles, they should therefore be pious and ponderous.


Verse 2

Deuteronomy 33:2 And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand [went] a fiery law for them.

Ver. 2. Went a fiery law for them.] This fire wherein the law was given, and shall be required, is still in it, and will never out; hence are those terrors which it flasheth in every conscience that hath felt remorse of sin. Every man’s heart is a Sinai, and resembles to him both heaven and hell. "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." [1 Corinthians 15:56]


Verse 3

Deuteronomy 33:3 Yea, he loved the people; all his saints [are] in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; [every one] shall receive of thy words.

Ver. 3. Yea, he loved the people.] With a general love, with a common philanthropy. But the love of God in Christ is that we must all labour after; such a love as doth better for a man than restore him to sight, or raise him when bowed down. [Psalms 146:8]

Are in thy hand.] And so in a safe hand. [John 10:29]

And they sat down at thy feet.] As attentive and tractable disciples. See Acts 22:3, Luke 10:39, 2 Kings 2:5. "Knowest thou not that the Lord will take thy master from thy head?" A phrase taken from their manner of sitting at the feet of their teachers.


Verse 4

Deuteronomy 33:4 Moses commanded us a law, [even] the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.

Ver. 4. Moses commanded us a law.] These are the words of those saints above mentioned, expressing their good affection to the law and to Moses, by whose mediation they received it.

Even the inheritance.] For perpetual use to us and our posterity. Indeed, the law lies not upon the righteous, {ου κειται, 1 Timothy 1:9} nor urgeth them, as it doth upon the wicked. To these the law is as chains and shackles; to those as belts and garters, which gird up their loins, and expedite their course the better. It confines them to live in that element where they would live, as if one should be confined to Paradise, where he would be, though there were no such law.


Verse 5

Deuteronomy 33:5 And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people [and] the tribes of Israel were gathered together.

Ver. 5. And he was king in Jeshurun.] A heroic king, reigning by virtue and justice only, not by force and violence: one that said not, εξεστι, but καηνκει; This I can do, but this is fit for me to do.

When the heads of the people, and the tribes.] Here was a government made up of king, lords, and commons. The best of governments, doubtless, so that the beam be kept right between sovereignty and subjection. The contention between prince and people, about command and obedience, ceased not till the Magna Charta, first obtained of King John, after of his son Henry III, though observed truly of neither, was in the maturity of a judicial prince, Edward I, freely ratified after fourscore years.


Verse 6

Deuteronomy 33:6 Let Reuben live, and not die; and let [not] his men be few.

Ver. 6. Let Reuben live, and not die.] Let him have a nail and a name in God’s house, notwithstanding the heinousness of his sin, and the severity of Jacob’s sentence. [Genesis 49:4] {See Trapp on "Genesis 49:4"}


Verse 7

Deuteronomy 33:7 And this [is the blessing] of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help [to him] from his enemies.

Ver. 7. And this is the blessing.] Simeon is not mentioned, but implied in Judah’s blessing, in the midst of whose inheritance lay his portion. [Joshua 19:1] Besides, that tribe was exceedingly defiled with fornication, spiritual and corporal, and by that means much decayed and diminished. [Numbers 26:14]

Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah.] Putting thy promises [Genesis 8:9-11] into suit by his prayers, and pressing thee for a performance.

Let his hands be sufficient for him, and be thou a help to him, &c.] Moses first prays for Judah, that "his hands may be sufficient for him": and then addeth, as there was need, "And be thou a help to him": for all "our sufficiency is of God," and that man is sure to come down that standeth on his own legs. Ithiel and Ucal are twins.


Verse 8

Deuteronomy 33:8 And of Levi he said, [Let] thy Thummim and thy Urim [be] with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, [and with] whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah;

Ver. 8. Let thy Thummin and thy Urim.] Sincerity of life and soundness of doctrine. {See Trapp on "Exodus 28:30"} There is great cause that ministers, of all men, should be much prayed for.


Verse 9

Deuteronomy 33:9 Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.

Ver. 9. Who said unto his father.] In that heroical fact, [Exodus 32:26; Exodus 32:29] in that terrible crisis about the golden calf. Not to be wryed or biassed by respect to carnal friends, is a high and hard point of self-denial. Mark was Barnabas’s sister’s son; hence he stood so stiff for him against Paul, his faithful fellow traveller. [Acts 15:37 Colossians 4:10] Moses, to please Zipporah, displeased God, and it went hard with him. [Exodus 4:24] Eli was too indulgent to his wicked sons; and so perhaps was Samuel too. [1 Samuel 8:1; 1 Samuel 8:3] How many of the holy martyrs denied themselves utterly in their dearest wives and children, either at the stake, or going thither! It is well observed, that the married martyrs, parents of many children, as Rogers, Watts, Guest, Rawlins, suffered with most alacrity.


Verse 10

Deuteronomy 33:10 They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar.

Ver. 10. They shall teach Jacob.] Apt and able to teach must all ministers be, as Paul. [Acts 20:18-35] Praedicationis officium suscipit, quisquis ad sacerdotium accedit, saith Gregory: He is no minister that is no teacher. Aidanus, the first bishop of Durham, A.D. 636, neglected no duty of a good pastor, travelling up and down the country, even on foot, to preach the gospel, giving whatsoever he could get unto the poor, and by the example of his own virtues instructing, as well as by word and doctrine. (a) Amongst the Greeks, tragedians and comedians were said, εις διδαχην ων προσηκεν εργαζομενοι, to labour in teaching the people. What should ministers then do?

They shall put incense before thee,] i.e., Pray for the people, as well as preach to them. So Acts 6:4. Augustine’s wish was, that Christ, when he came, might find him aut precantem aut praedicantem, praying or preaching. Bene orasse est bene studuisse, saith Luther.


Verse 11

Deuteronomy 33:11 Bless, LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again.

Ver. 11 And of them that hate him.] Ministers shall be sure of many enemies: they hate him that reproveth in the gate. Veritas odium parit; praedieare nihil aliud est quam derivare in se furorem mundi, said Luther: to preach is to get the world’s ill-will. "Ye are the light," saith our Saviour, which is offensive to sore eyes; "ye are the salt of the earth," which is bitter to wounds, and causeth pain to ulcerated parts.


Verse 12

Deuteronomy 33:12 [And] of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; [and the LORD] shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.

Ver. 12. The beloved of the Lord.] The Lord’s corculum, deliciae, darling; as their father Benjamin was old Jacob’s. [Genesis 42:4]

And he shall dwell between his shoulders.] These shoulders are those two holy hills, Moriah and Zion, whereon the Temple was built, four hundred and forty years after this prophecy.


Verse 13

Deuteronomy 33:13 And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD [be] his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,

Ver. 13. And of Joseph.] {See Trapp on "Genesis 49:2"}


Verse 14

Deuteronomy 33:14 And for the precious fruits [brought forth] by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon,

Ver. 14. And for the precious fruits.] So St James calleth them, "The precious fruits of the earth." [James 5:7] Diogenes justly taxed the folly of his countrymen, Quod res pretiosas minimo emerent, venderentque vilissimas plurimo, because they bought precious things, as grain, very cheap, but sold the basest things, as pictures, statues, &c., extremely dear, fifty pounds or more a-piece; though the life of man had no need of a statue, but could not subsist without grain. May not we more justly tax men for undervaluing the bread of life, and "spending money for that which is not bread?" [Isaiah 4:1]


Verse 15

Deuteronomy 33:15 And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills,

Ver. 15. And for the chief things.] Metals and minerals usually dug out of mountains, which are here called ancient and lasting, because they have been from the beginning, and were not first cast up, as some have held, by Noah’s flood. [Psalms 90:2]


Verse 16

Deuteronomy 33:16 And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and [for] the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let [the blessing] come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him [that was] separated from his brethren.

Ver. 16. And for the good will of him, &c.] {See Trapp on "Exodus 33:2"} The burning bush - the persecuted Church - was not consumed, because the good will of God, whereof David speaks, [Psalms 106:4] was in the bush. So it is still with his in the fiery trial, in any affliction. [Isaiah 43:1]

That was separated from his brethren.] To be a choice and chief man amongst them. Nobilis fuit inter fratres, saith Augustine, (a) vel in malis quae pendit, vel in bonis quae rependit.


Verse 17

Deuteronomy 33:17 His glory [is like] the firstling of his bullock, and his horns [are like] the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they [are] the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they [are] the thousands of Manasseh.

Ver. 17. His horns are like the horns of unicorns.] Justin Martyr (a) and some other of the ancients (b) have strangely racked and wrested this text, to wring out of it the sign of the cross, resembled and represented by the horn of a unicorn. At nihil hic de Christo, nihil de cruce.

He shall push the people together.] As General Joshua, of this tribe, did notably; so that Phoenicians ran away into a far country, and renowned his valour by a monument set up in Africa. Howbeit, Gratius ei fuit nomen pietatis, quam potestatis, as Tertullian saith of Augustus: He is more famous for his piety than for his prowess.


Verse 18

Deuteronomy 33:18 And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.

Ver. 18. In thy going out.] To trade and traffic by sea. [Genesis 49:13] Peterent coelum navibus Belgoe, si navibus peti posset, saith one. The lowcountry men are said to grow rich by war; it is sure they do by trade at sea.

And, Issachar, in thy tents,] i.e., In thy quiet life and country employments.

O fortunatos nimium, &c.

Regain aequabat opes animis, seraque reversus

Nocta domum, dapibus mensas onerabit inemptis. ” - Virg.

saith the poet, of a well contented countryman.


Verse 19

Deuteronomy 33:19 They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck [of] the abundance of the seas, and [of] treasures hid in the sand.

Ver. 19. They shall call the people to the mount,] i.e., To God’s house, situate on mount Zion. Though they be Littorales, men dwelling by the sea shore, which are noted to be Duri, horridi, immanes, omnium denique pessimi, the worst kind of people; and though they dwell farther from the Temple, yet are they not farthest from God, but ready with their sacrifice of righteousness, as those that have sucked of the abundance of the sea, and of treasures hid in the sand, which, though of itself it yield no crop, yet brings in great revenues, by reason of sea trading.


Verse 20

Deuteronomy 33:20 And of Gad he said, Blessed [be] he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head.

Ver. 20. He dwelleth as a lion.] That should make his party good with the enemy, upon whom he bordereth, and by whom he is often invaded. See Genesis 49:19, 11:5; 11:13, 1 Chronicles 12:8.


Verse 21

Deuteronomy 33:21 And he provided the first part for himself, because there, [in] a portion of the lawgiver, [was he] seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.

Ver. 21. In a portion of the lawgiver.] That portion that Moses the lawgiver assigned him on the other side Jordan. [Numbers 32:33]

He executed the justice of the Lord,] viz., Upon the Canaanites; which is so noble an act that even the good angels refuse not to be executioners of God’s judgments upon obstinate malefactors.


Verse 22

Deuteronomy 33:22 And of Dan he said, Dan [is] a lion’s whelp: he shall leap from Bashan.

Ver. 22. He shall leap from Bashan,] i.e., He shall suddenly set upon his enemies; as Ahithophel counselled Absalom, [2 Samuel 17:1-2] and this is called "good counsel"; [2 Samuel 17:14] and as Caesar served Pompey,

… Caesar in omnia praeceps,

Nil actum credens, dum quid superesset agendum,

Fertur atro … ” - Lucan.


Verse 23

Deuteronomy 33:23 And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the west and the south.

Ver. 23. Satisfied with favour, and full, &c.] Fulness of blessing is then only a mercy, when the soul of a man is satisfied with favour: when from a full table and a cup running over, a man can comfortably infer with David, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." [Psalms 23:6] One may have outward things by God’s providence, and not out of his favour. Esau had the like blessing as Jacob, but not with a "God give thee the dew of heaven," as he. [Genesis 27:28] Or, God may give temporals to wicked men, to furnish their indictment out of them; as Joseph put his cup into their sack to pick a quarrel with them, and to lay theft to them.


Verse 24

Deuteronomy 33:24 And of Asher he said, [Let] Asher [be] blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.

Ver. 24. Let Asher be blessed with children.] Let his wife be as the vine, and his children as olive plants, two of the best fruits; [Psalms 128:3] the one for cheering the heart, the other for clearing the face; [Psalms 104:15] the one for sweetness, the other for fatness. [ 9:9; 9:13]

Let him dip his foot in oil.] Like that of Job. [Job 29:6] Compare Genesis 49:20. {See Trapp on "Genesis 49:20"}


Verse 25

Deuteronomy 33:25 Thy shoes [shall be] iron and brass; and as thy days, [so shall] thy strength [be].

Ver. 25. Thy shoes.] Thou shalt have store of mines.

And as thy days shall thy strength be,] i.e., Thou shalt {as Eliphaz speaketh, Job 5:26} come in a lusty old age to the grave. This the Greeks call ευγηρια. And the Hebrews made a feast when they were past sixty, if any whit healthy.


Verse 26

Deuteronomy 33:26 [There is] none like unto the God of Jeshurun, [who] rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.

Ver. 26. Who rideth upon the heaven.] Having the celestial creatures for his cavalry, and the terrestrial for his infantry; how then can his want help?


Verse 27

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God [is thy] refuge, and underneath [are] the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy [them].

Ver. 27. The eternal God.] Heb., The God of antiquity, that "Ancient of days," that "Rock of ages," "who is before all things, and by whom all things consist," [Colossians 1:17] who is "the first and the last, and besides whom there is no God." [Isaiah 44:6]

And underneath are the everlasting arms.] A saint cannot fall so far as to fall beneath the supporting arms of God: [Song of Solomon 2:6] his hand is reserved for a dead lift.


Verse 28

Deuteronomy 33:28 Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob [shall be] upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew.

Ver. 28. Israel then shall dwell, &c.] {See Trapp on "Numbers 23:9"}

The fountain of Jacob.] Or as some read it, The eye of Jacob. The same word signifies both an eye and a fountain. He that, with Mary Magdalen, can make his eye a fountain to wash Christ’s feet in, shall be sure to have that fountain of Christ’s blood opened to wash his soul in. [Zechariah 13:1]


Verse 29

Deuteronomy 33:29 Happy [art] thou, O Israel: who [is] like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who [is] the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.

Ver. 29. Happy art thou, O Israel.] Or, Oh the happinesses of thee, O Israel! the μυριομακαριοτης, the heaped up happiness!

Who is like unto thee!] The saints are the world’s paragons, yea, such as the world is not worthy of; [Hebrews 11:1-40] that is, saith Chrysostom, Take all the men of the world, they are not worth one of the people of God, though never so mean in regard of outwards.

Shall be found liars.] Shall feign to be friends for fear, and shall yield a forced obedience. See Psalms 18:45.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/deuteronomy-33.html. 1865-1868.

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