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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Deuteronomy 33

 

 

Verses 1-29

The Blessing of Moses.

As the aged patriarch Jacob laid his blessing upon his sons in the form of prophecies, so Moses, before being gathered to his people, spoke a prophetic blessing upon the people whose leader he had been for forty years. By the inspiration of God he was able to foretell the fortunes of the individual tribes, both as an encouragement and as a warning to them.

v. 1. And this is the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, who was distinguished by this honoring title, blessed the children of Israel before his death.

v. 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 time ten thousands of saints. This is a description of the majesty and glory of God, as He appeared to Israel when He gave them the Law from Mount Sinai. While His majesty was concentrated on the summit of Sinai, the entire surrounding country reflected the wonderful light of His countenance. From Seir, the mountains of the Edomites on the east, to the cliffs of Paran in the west the entire wilderness glowed as at the rising of the sun. The Lord came forth from the midst, and was accompanied by myriads of angels, Act_7:53; Heb_2:2; Gal_3:19. From His right hand went a fiery Law for them, said of the fiery missiles of the bolts of lightning, as they emphasized the giving of the Law.

v. 3. Yea, he loved the people, or, How dearly He loved the people! All His saints are in Thy hand; He who has even the angels in His power, to do His will, cherishes a deep affection for all those that are truly His own, that belong to His spiritual Israel. And they sat down at Thy feet, ready to follow wherever the Lord led them; every one shall receive of thy words, prepared to arise and to serve Him in cheerful obedience.

v. 4. Moses, who here enters into the spirit of his blessing so thoroughly as to place himself entirely upon the standpoint of the people, commanded us a Law, even the in heritance of the congregation of Jacob, for the Law was to be the property, the treasure of Israel, to be guarded and observed by them with all faithfulness.

v. 5. And He, Jehovah, was King in Jeshurun, the people of righteousness, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together, namely, at Mount Sinai.

v. 6. Let Reuben live and not die, and let [not] his men be few. Reuben had forfeited his right of the first-born, Gen_49:3-4, and while his tribe did not become extinct in Israel, it was neither in number nor in power so great as many of the other tribes. Simeon is not mentioned at all, because this tribe, Gen_49:7, was divided in Canaan, receiving only a few cities within the boundaries of Judah for an inheritance.

v. 7. And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people, for this tribe, as the champion of the nation, was a leader in the wars and therefore would pray for a safe return; let his hands be sufficient for him, namely, in waging the wars of Jehovah; and be Thou an help to him from his enemies, saving him from their wrath. The underlying thought seems to be a longing for the time and the dominion of the Messiah with its eternal blessing.

v. 8. And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim, Exo_28:30, the guarantee that the Lord would ever protect the rights of His people by revealing to the priests His holy will and the manner in which they were to comport themselves, be with thy holy one, with the tribe of Levi, from which the high priest was consecrated to the Lord, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah, Exo_17:1-7; Num_20:1-13; for although the people, in either instance, murmured against the Lord, yet the Lord made use of both occurrences to test their faith;

v. 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. Not only once, but repeatedly the Levites proved that they were ready to deny the bonds of the nearest relationship in the interest of God's honor, as after the worship of the golden calf, Exo_32:26-29, and in the matter of the zeal of Phinehas, Num_25:8. Therefore Moses praises their service in the worship of Jehovah.

v. 10. They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments and Israel Thy Law; for that was an important part of their work, Lev_10:11; they shall put incense before Thee and whole burnt sacrifice upon Thine altar. Although only the priests, strictly speaking, offered sacrifices, yet the Levites were the ministering assistants, and therefore the entire tribe could here be mentioned.

v. 11. Bless, Lord, his substance, his strength or power, and accept the work of his hands, looking upon it with pleasure. Smite through the loins of them that rise against him, thus crippling them, rendering them utterly helpless, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again. Just as great as the blessings of Jehovah were upon Levi, so great was His curse to be upon those that presumed to question his priesthood.

v. 12. And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord, the special friend and darling of Jehovah, shall dwell in safety by Him, as a dwelling founded upon the Lord; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, be his constant Protector; and he shall dwell between His shoulders, as a son who is carried on his father's back.

v. 13. And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, the rich blessings which would come upon it from above, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, the waters under the ground, which fed the springs and rivers,

v. 14. and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, produced and matured by his kindly heat, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, matured in the course of the year, as one month followed the other,

v. 15. and for the chief things, the summits, of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills, the great forests and thickets clothing the mountain ranges,

v. 16. and for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof, whatever the earth produces in precious gifts, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Exo_3:2-4. Let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren, the most eminent or illustrious of the sons of Jacob.

v. 17. His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns, of the fierce wild-ox; he would occupy a position of such power as to be able to trample on all his enemies; 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. The power of Ephraim especially, but also of Manasseh, was afterwards such as to give to the tribe of Joseph the leadership in the northern nation.

v. 18. And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out, since he would be successful in his campaigns, as well as in his shipping and his commercial interests; and, Issachar, in thy tents, in the grazing and agricultural pursuits.

v. 19. They shall call the people unto the mountain, invite them to share their prosperity, to take part in their rich sacrificial meals on the hill of the Lord's Sanctuary. There they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness, bring such offerings as would establish their fellowship with Jehovah; for they, not only these two tribes, but the entire nation, shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand, the riches of both the sea and of the mines of the dry land would flow into the coffers of Israel.

v. 20. And of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad, the Lord who gave to this tribe a large and rich territory; he dwelleth as a lion, having the nature of a lion in battle, and taketh the arm with the crown of the head, he is so fierce in battle that he inflicts not only dangerous, but mortal wounds.

v. 21. And he provided the first part for himself, a place of habitation as befitted a leader of the tribes, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, of the leader, was he seated, this fine region was expressly set aside for him; and he came with the heads of the people, joined them in the campaign west of Jordan, he executed the justice of the Lord, and His judgments with Israel, in fulfilling the precepts of Jehovah, for herein the righteousness of the people consisted.

v. 22. And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion's whelp, with all the latter's fierceness and sinuous strength in battle; he shall leap from Bashan, as did the lions and leopards in attacking the herds of cattle in that land of rich meadows.

v. 23. And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, with the good will of the Lord, and full with the blessing of the Lord; possess thou the west and the south, a region which combined the advantages of a location near the sea, the Mediterranean, with a mild climate, for the Sea of Galilee was his eastern boundary.

v. 24. And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children, or, more fortunate than the sons, exceptionally blessed: let him be acceptable to his brethren, as their pod will and that of Jehovah rested upon him, and let him dip his foot in oil, namely, by the possession and enjoyment of a very rich inheritance in Canaan.

v. 25. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, his fortresses, castles, should be of strong metal, his dwellings should be as strong and impregnable as if built of iron; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be, he should preserve his youthful strength throughout his life and thus be able to defend himself successfully against all attacks. And now Moses, in summarizing, rises to the very heights of poetical fervor.

v. 26. There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, Israel, the people of righteousness, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in His excellency on the sky, always ready to hurry to Israel's assistance with almighty power.

v. 27. The eternal God is thy Refuge, literally, "dwelling is the God of eternity," of olden times; not only does He offer to His people the protection, the refuge, of His almighty power, but also that of a secure dwelling-place in Him who has proved His kindness and mercy a thousand times; and underneath are the everlasting arms; He who sits upon the throne of His majesty in the heavens is at the same time on the earth with all the loving care of a mother holding her children in her arms, or of an eagle bearing her young on her pinions, Deu_32:11. And he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee and shall say, Destroy him. This is true of all the enemies of Israel, of the congregation of the Lord.

v. 28. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone, separate from other people and secure in the protection of Jehovah; the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine, in a rich and fertile country; also his heavens shall drop down dew, provide sufficient moisture for all purposes, as much as the land required.

v. 29. Happy art thou, O Israel, endowed with salvation! Who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the Shield of thy help; and who is the Sword of thy excellency, a weapon both of protection and of attack? And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, they would simulate friendship in order to escape annihilation; and thou shalt tread upon their high places, in a great triumph over all opponents. The spiritual Israel, the congregation of believers in the New Testament, are the people of salvation in the full sense of the word, having been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, Eph_1:3.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/deuteronomy-33.html. 1921-23.

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