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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 33

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXXIII.

Moses, blessing the twelve tribes of Israel, foretels the future state of each tribe, and congratulates Israel in having the Lord for their defence.

Before Christ 1451.


Verse 1

Ver. 1. And this is the blessing The word blessing is to be understood according to the custom of those ancient times, when fathers, about to die, blessed their children: whence, whatever fathers spoke to their children, as their last words, was called a blessing, though sometimes cursings were mixed with the blessings: for, as Jacob did not bless all his sons, so neither did Moses bless all the tribes. See Genesis 49:28. Dr. Durell is of opinion, that the words, the man of God, were added after the death of Moses. "Though Moses," says he, "generally speaks of himself in the third person, and the title of man of God is frequently given in Scripture to prophets, yet, as this is the first place where Moses is thus characterised, it looks very much as if these words were added after his death. This phrase is nearly the same as the Arabs use when they speak of Moses, viz. the inspired man, or, the prophet of God; (see Hotting. Speg. Or. c. viii. p. 485. & lib. i. c. 3. p. 8c.) and it is not very unlike our manner of speaking of a great and good man, when deceased, whom we call of blessed, or pious memory. Moses, indeed, was highly deserving of being called the man of God, in whatever sense the words can be taken; yet, his known modesty would hardly have suffered him thus to speak of himself at any time; but more particularly at this juncture, when he knew, by revelation, that he was at the point of death; and might also have known, by the same channel, that his sepulchre would be hidden, with a view that his brethren, always prone to idolatry, might not pay him divine honours. In these circumstances, therefore, it is not probable, that this wise lawgiver should incautiously give a handle to frustrate the designs of Providence, which he would, in some measure, have done if we could suppose him at this time thus magnifying his high office."—For my own part, I cannot help differing from this learned writer, and being of opinion, that there is nothing improper in supposing Moses to give himself this appellation of the man of God, i.e. the prophet of God, when he is about to deliver, at the last moment of his life, one of the most solemn and important prophesies respecting the chosen people of God. The ingenious writer abovementioned observes, that, "as Moses had before composed a long to celebrate the miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea; so his view in this song seems to have been, to commemorate God's gracious dealings with them since that time." A more proper subject could not have been thought of, in order to awaken their attention, and raise a due sense of gratitude in all Israel, before the several tribes heard from the mouth of their great prophet, now speaking for the last time, what Providence intended to do farther for each of them. In the first three lines of this song, Moses reminds the Israelites of the several places, where God had been pleased to manifest himself in a wonderful manner to them: he afterwards suggests, that God's great love ought to be repaid by them with adoration and obedience; and concludes with setting before them the great and lasting advantages which they had in common, in consequence of the covenant they had entered into with God, who vouchsafed to become their lawgiver, after they had expressly stipulated to elect Him for their king.


Verse 2

Ver. 2. The Lord came from Sinai Moses endeavours, in the first place, to make the Israelites sensible of that most signal benefit which God had bestowed upon them, in assuming them to be his peculiar people: as if he had said, "Israel is the favourite nation to whom God was pleased, with most awful solemnity, to declare his laws, and take them into special covenant with himself at mount Sinai;" which mountain, as it was celebrated for the most awful display of the Divine Majesty, and for the grand covenant there made, has here the first place. As fire was a symbol of the Divine Presence, its moving from one place to another before the Israelites in their journies, is obliquely compared to the sun's rising: he rose up; he shined forth. Seir and Paran, and the other places mentioned in Habakkuk 3:3 either denote some of the principal encampments of the Israelites in the wilderness; or if, as many learned men think, they are only different parts of the same ridge of mountains as Sinai, they may be considered only as an amplification of what went before. Houbigant, whom Durell follows, reads unto us, instead of unto them. The change of persons, concerning which we spoke in the preceding chapters, is very frequent in this prophetic ode.

He came with ten thousands of saints, &c.— Houbigant renders this, He came with ten thousands of his saints, who are at his right hand, and minister unto him. Durell renders it,

The Holy One came with multitudes; From his right hand issued streams unto them:

That is, says he, streams of light; God having been represented before as rising like the sun, then shining forth, and now issuing thunderings and lightnings from his right hand, as was the case at the delivery of the law. For his critical explanation of the Hebrew word, we refer to his note; which word, thus explained, he observes, will make this law answer exactly to part of the 4th verse of the song of Habakkuk above-mentioned. There were rays of light (diverging from a point, not unlike a horn) issuing out of his hand. According to the common interpretation of the passage, the sacred writer refers to the ministering angels who attended at the giving of the law, therefore called fiery, because it was given out of the midst of the appearance of fire. See the passages in the Margin of our Bibles, and Exodus 16:18. Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 5:33.


Verse 3

Ver. 3. Yea, he loved the people Durell, in agreement with Houbigant, after the Samaritan, renders this verse thus;

O loving Father of the people! All the saints are at thy hand; They shall fall down at thy feet; They shall receive of thy words.

All the saints seem to mean, the most righteous among the multitudes of the house of Israel, the people, mentioned in the line preceding. At thy hand may be either rendered so, or near thy hand: to indicate the waiting and constant readiness of good men to perform God's commands; or it may be rendered, under thy hand; i.e. under thy care and protection. See Noldius, ב 6. & 30.


Verse 4

Ver. 4. Moses commanded us a law, &c.— He commanded as a law, To be the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.


Verse 5

Ver. 5. And he was king in Jeshurun, &c.— DURELL.

Dr. Kennicott endeavours to shew the great inconsistency of making Moses the speaker of the passage as it stands in our version. Aware of this difficulty, Jonathan, and the author of the Jerusalem Targum, put these words in the mouth of the children of Israel. The children of Israel said, Moses commanded, &c. Indeed the word Moses cannot be retained in the text with any propriety, but on the supposition that Moses taught the Israelites this song with a view that they might sing or repeat it in their own person. See Kennicott's first Dissertation, p. 434. As משׁה Mosheh is the last word in the Hebrew line, might it not be rendered very properly, He enjoined, or delivered us, a law by Moses. We find it thus rendered in the Arabic.

Ver. 5. And he was king in Jeshurun It is not agreed among critics to whom these words are to be referred. Selden and Grotius make them relate to Moses, the last antecedent, as it stands in our texts: but, although this may be more agreeable to grammar, it is not so agreeable to Scripture. We do not find that Moses was ever crowned; that he ever had this title; or ever enjoyed, properly speaking, any one royal prerogative: the contrary is rather strongly intimated, ch. Deuteronomy 17:14. 1 Samuel 8:5-7; 1 Samuel 8:22; 1 Samuel 12:19. And as to those who consider the passage as a prophesy of the kingdom of Judah, or of that of the Messiah, they seem not to have sufficiently attended to the scope of this song. It cannot, I think, be doubted from the context, that this alludes to the institution of the theocracy, which happened about the time of the delivery of the law; whence, as it is most probable, that God, who is frequently called King, should have the title given him on this occasion; so, likewise, it is improbable that Moses should now take it to himself for the first time, for the reasons above given. Add to this, that, at the close of Moses's first song, Exodus 15:18 it is said, ימלךֶ יהוה Iehovah iimlok, the LORD shall reign, &c. The words, when the heads of the people, &c. seem to refer to the solemn assembly of the elders, who were convened to deliberate on God's message, when he proposed to be their king, and to the answer given by them and the rest of the people. See ch. Deuteronomy 18:16 and Exodus 19:7-8.

REFLECTIONS.—Moses, being now to leave them, in token of his warm affection towards them, notwithstanding their ingratitude, pronounces over them his parting benediction. As a man of God, a good man, he prays for their felicity; as a prophet, he foretels the blessings that God had in store for them. 1. He reminds them of the glorious appearance of God on Sinai, whence the brightness of his presence shone so powerfully, that the distant mounts of Seir and Paran were illumined thereby. Ten thousand holy angels, an innumerable multitude, surrounded the King of Glory, when through their shining ranks the law went forth from the throne of the Divine Majesty. 2. He mentions the fiery law which was given them from his right hand: fiery, because not only given from amidst the fire of Sinai, but also because, like the powerful operations of this element, it burns the conscience, and torments it with a sense of guilt. Note; The sinner who breaks God's law will still find it consuming fire. 3. The regard and love of God towards them. No nation so distinguished; separated to be a peculiar people, covered and protected by the hand of Omnipotence, drawn to his feet to hear and learn the way to life and happiness, and to receive the words which make wise unto salvation. Happy art thou, O Israel. Note; (1.) God's people are a peculiar and chosen generation. (2.) They are all taught of God, and sweetly drawn to his feet, to learn his will and to obey it. (3.) The people acknowledge their obligation to God for giving them such a holy law, which was their best inheritance, and, whilst they observed it, would insure the land to their posterity unto the latest ages. Note; (1.) To have God's law written in our hearts is our best treasure. (2.) We can never be thankful enough to God for bringing our hearts into subjection to his will.


Verse 6

Ver. 6. Let Reuben, &c.— Moses speaks immediately of Reuben, without prefacing, as he does of the other tribes before their respective parts; the reason of which I imagine to be, that the ode we have thus far examined was sung by a company of Israelites, to whom Moses taught it: for, as he enters directly upon the subject of a particular tribe, and begins with the elders, on whom the attention of the congregation was naturally fixed, there seems, in that case, to have been no occasion for mentioning that patriarch's name beforehand, as the interval of time, and the different manner of delivering the ode and the prophesy concerning Reuben, would be a sufficient distinction. In this light, Reuben's part may be considered, in some measure, as connected with the title of the chapter; and if we look upon this chapter as left in writing by Moses in the form wherein we now have it, in this view, likewise, a title to this part may not appear very necessary; for there seems to be a greater distinction between the general song, and a particular branch of the prophesy, (or, in other words, between what is said of GOD and Reuben,) than there is between any two particular parts or tribes. Some of the titles which we shall meet with are absolutely necessary to their respective parts to avoid a confusion; viz. to Levi, Benjamin, and Joseph, whose names are not mentioned in the several parts relating to them. Durell.

Live, and not die When a thing is intended to be described in a striking manner, this is generally done in the Hebrew by a repetition of the same terms a little varied; or, what comes to the same, by being expressed both affirmatively and negatively, as here, and in many other places. Genesis 43:8.

Psalms 118:17. Isaiah 38:1; Isaiah 38:22. The word חיה chaiah, to live, is used for being refreshed after trouble, or dejection, Genesis 45:27. Judges 15:19 and for being happy, Psalms 133:3. In either of these senses it may be applied to the Reubenites, who, notwithstanding their ancestor had forfeited the right of primogeniture, obtained one of the first portions of the conquered country, abounding with all the necessaries, and most of the conveniences of life. Thus Durell. Houbigant, however, thinks, that the words merely promise to the Reubenites a continuance in being, as a tribe, divested of all those prerogatives which their ancestor by his crimes had forfeited; which, he observes judiciously, agrees best with Jacob's prophesy respecting this tribe, Genesis 49:3 and which it cannot be supposed that Moses intended to contradict in this place.

And let not his men be few Interpreters are wholly divided respecting this passage. The word not is not in the original, and there seems evidently to be something wanting. Houbigant, whom Durell follows, renders it, and let Simeon be few in number. All interpreters, says he, take notice of the omission of Simeon in this blessing of the twelve tribes. Some suppose, that he was designedly omitted by Moses; while others include him in one of the three first-mentioned tribes. Theodoret and Diodorus Tarsensis observe, that Reuben was blessed on account of his brotherly love, and Levi because Moses was descended from him; but that Simeon could have no pretence to a blessing. But if by brotherly love they mean, as they probably do, Reuben's love to Joseph, why did not that good act of his rather operate on Jacob than on Moses? And as it does not appear to have been judged by his father a counterbalance to his incest, surely it could have had no effect on the lawgiver some centuries after. The reason alleged in behalf of Levi seems rather groundless; (see on ver. 8-11.) so that it cannot well be hence concluded, that either Reuben or Levi had better pretensions to a blessing than Simeon. Others say, that this patriarch was not blessed by Moses because of the murder of the Sichemites; or, as being principal in the cruel resolution to kill Joseph. But as these crimes, allowing the second to be well founded, did not prevent his being mentioned by Jacob, why should they have been the cause of his being passed over in silence by Moses? They who include Simeon in Levi's blessing, because they are joined together by Jacob, should consider, that, on their own principles, it should follow, that all that Moses says of Levi should be equally applicable to Simeon; which cannot be: neither can Simeon be included in what is said of Judah; not only for the reason before given, but (as this opinion is founded on Simeon's having his inheritance in Judah's portion) because it would follow that Dan, for the same reason, might have been included in the same tribe. They argue more speciously, who comprehend this patriarch in the prophesy relative to Reuben: for they may urge, that, as they were both guilty of great crimes, what is predicted of the one may be supposed to relate equally to the other; and that, as they were the two eldest of the family, they are properly considered together in the first place. However, the question still recurs, why Simeon's name should not rather have been mentioned, which would have removed all this embarrassment. That this name was originally read in the text is probable; and when we find it preserved in the Alexandrian manuscript, the most ancient and valuable one extant, and in the Complutensian and Aldine editions of the LXX, there seems little room to doubt an error in our texts. They, therefore, who say that no accurate copy of that version makes mention of Simeon are much mistaken. Ambrosius says expressly, that Moses blessed Reuben and Simeon; vivat REUBEN & non moriatur, & SIMEON sit multus in numero: and Josephus and Philo plainly assert, that Moses blessed every one of the tribes. Antiq. lib. iv. c. viii. p. 40. Phil. Vit. Mos. l. iii. p. 696. What has been thus far advanced will be strengthened by the considerations following. The words, let his men be few, cannot relate properly to Reuben; that tribe was by no means the least numerous: on the contrary, they are strictly true of Simeon, the most inconsiderable of all the tribes in that respect; for, from 59,300, their number on leaving Egypt, instead of increasing, as most of the others did, they diminished to such a degree, that about forty years after, when they were numbered in the plains of Moab, they amounted only to 22,200, Numbers 26:14.; and though some branches of the tribe increased, others had not many children, neither did all their families multiply as the children of Judah. 1 Chronicles 27:34. And, at a time when many of the tribes sent out 40,000 armed men, Simeon furnished only 7100, 1 Chronicles 12:25 which is another probable mark of their inferiority in number. There is, moreover, no great coherence in the sense of these two lines, Let Reuben live and not die:—but let his men be few, if the latter words be referred to Reuben; but if they be referred to Simeon, the sense will be clear, and each of the patriarchs will have a distinct part.


Verse 7

Ver. 7. And this is the blessing of Judah This is more properly rendered by Houbigant and Durell, and this he said of Judah; the word blessing not being in the original, or in any other version than ours and the Vulgate. Durell renders the rest of the verse thus:

Hear Lord, the voice of Judah, And make him go before his people: Let his hand contend for him, And be thou an help against his enemies.

And, I. He observes upon it in general, that Jacob had promised Judah, that the sceptre would be established, and would long continue in his land, which was to be a remarkably good one, &c. To which blessings having probably nothing material to add, Moses here prays God that he would be propitious to him; that he would send him at the head of his brethren to fight against the Canaanites; and that, by assisting against them, they all might gain possession of that country which was the great object of their hopes. It has been asked, What could be the subject of these prayers, which Moses entreats God to hear from this tribe? Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah. To which question a general reply may be sufficient, that such things must necessarily be supposed to be meant as were proper for them to ask, and for God to grant; but that nothing is so likely to have engaged their attention in particular as what has been suggested, namely, the accomplishment of Jacob's promises to them. It is further asked, Why does Moses make this and the following petitions in behalf of this tribe, rather than of any other? Because not only Judah, but all Israel, were immediately concerned in having them granted; he being, as it were, the heart which gave life to the other members, by taking the lead in all military expeditions. See Genesis 49:9. עמו אל el ammo, rendered unto his people in our version, is rendered by Durell, before his people; and the particle al, he observes, is not unfrequently thus used: or it may be rendered together with. What the meaning of the common version of this place is, I cannot comprehend; for it is obvious, that it cannot here signify to his country. The phrase, his people, is not to be confined to the tribe of Judah, (as it is to the tribe of Dan, Genesis 49:16.) but must be extended so as to take in all the other tribes; which, as they were in some sort subordinate to this tribe, are not for that reason improperly so called. Thus far Durell. II. Bishop Sherlock, in his excellent Dissertation on the Blessing of Judah, observes, that this benediction cannot relate to the time when it was given; for then Judeah's hands were very sufficient for him, this tribe being by much the greatest of the twelve tribes, as appears by two different accounts of the forces of Israel in Numbers 1:26 : and there was more reason to put up this petition for several other tribes than for Judah. The bishop, therefore, refers it to the prophesy of Jacob, and to the continuance of the sceptre of Judah, after the destruction of the other tribes. Judah, in Moses's time, consisted of 74,600, reckoning only those of twenty years old and upward; see Numbers 2:6. But upon the return from Babylon, Judah, with Benjamin, the Levites, and the remnant of Israel, made only 42,360, Ezra 2:64.; and they were in so weak a state, that Sanballat in great scorn said,, what do these feeble Jews? Nehemiah 4:2. Now Moses, in the spirit of prophesy, seeing the desolation of all the tribes; seeing the tribes of the children of Israel carried away by the Assyrians, and the people of Judah by the Babylonians; seeing that Judah should again return, weak, harassed, and scarcely able to maintain himself in his own country; conceives for him this prophetic prayer: Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people, &c. III. Houbigant supposes that this prophesy immediately refers to CHRIST, the Judeah here spoken of, to whom these words agree, hear, Lord, &c. as Jesus Christ says, I knew that thou always hearest me. Nor can the words, bring him to his people, be applied to any other. Moses well knew, in the blessing of the patriarch Jacob, that Judah was the Messiah; wherefore, he also accommodates Judah to the Messiah. This learned writer goes on to shew, that the words cannot properly be applied to Judah as a tribe; and concludes, "these words, therefore, entirely belong to that Judah, concerning whom Jacob says, Judeah, thou art He whom thy brethren shall adore; which Judah Moses wishes to come to his people, that is, to come into this world, and converse amongst men."

Note; (1.) With Judah's prayers, we may expect Judah's blessing. (2.) Christ, the lion of the tribe of Judah, hath prayed and fought, and conquered for us; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, will keep us safe from the fear of evil, in time and in eternity.


Verses 8-11

Ver. 8-11. And of Levi he said Moses, having finished that part of his prayer which related to Judah, enters rapidly on a new subject, and offers his petitions in behalf of his own tribe. He begins by entreating the Almighty that the sacerdotal office might continue in this tribe, in which he had been pleased to appoint it, notwithstanding that they, together with the rest of Israel, had twice very remarkably displeased him through their disobedience and want of faith. But, as they had manifested a great zeal for the service of the Lord on another remarkable occasion, and had duly punished all offenders without the least respect of persons, he prays that it might still be their province for the future both to administer justice, and to offer sacrifices: and though they were exempted from war, yet, as the time would come when this tribe would produce some of the greatest champions that Israel ever saw, he implores that God would grant them success equal to their valour, and assist them in making an entire conquest of those enemies who would endeavour to reduce the Jewish nation to their yoke. This is Durell's general account of the prophesy respecting Levi. Houbigant gives a very different turn to it: the passage is certainly extremely difficult. We will first lay before the reader Durell's version and interpretation of it; and, secondly, that of Houbigant.

I. "Ver. 8. Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be to thy holy one,—whom thou didst prove at Massah,—and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; 9. Who said to his father,—and to his mother, I have not seen you;—neither did he acknowledge his brethren,—nor know his own children:—for they observed thy word,—and kept thy covenant:—10. They shall teach Jacob thy judgments,—and Israel thy laws:—they shall put incense before thee,—and whole burnt-sacrifice on thine altar:—11. Bless, LORD, his forces,—and accept the work of his hands:—smite through the loins of them that rise against him,—and let not his enemies rise up again." Thy Thummim and thy Urim, ver. 8 are here manifestly used, by a metonymy, for the priesthood; and are properly called God's, as they were made by his appointment, and were a means of intercourse between him and his people. There is some difficulty in these three verses 8, 9, 10 to ascertain who the general subject of them is, and to whom the pronouns are relative; besides, that there twice occurs in them an enallage of number. In respect of the first of these points, it is generally supposed that the 8th verse relates to Aaron, and to his successors the priests, only; and the 9th and 10th to the rest of the tribes. But there seems to be no ground for such a distinction; for Aaron is not said to have been particularly concerned in the first temptation at Rephidim, Exodus 17:2 as he was in the latter here referred to, at Kadesh, Numbers 20:3-4. On both these occasions, God made a general trial of the faith of his people; and they were all, excepting perhaps Joshua, Caleb, and Eleazar, found guilty: and though this cannot be understood here, as it is generally, of all the Israelites, it may be more applicable to the Levites than to any others, who, as they were God's more immediate ministers, incurred a proportionably greater condemnation. But how can a whole tribe be called the holy one of the Lord? We answer, With as much propriety, perhaps, as Aaron can: for חסיד chasid, does not always signify a complete character of virtue and piety, but is as frequently used for such as were objects of God's favour, or whose office was sacred; which is as true of the Levites in general as of their first high-priest. But, did not the privilege of using the Urim and Thummim belong to Aaron in particular, and to his line? We grant that it did: but the point in question seems to be, whether these were not rather discriminative of the whole tribe from the rest, than of one part of it from the other. And with regard to the singular number being here used, it is no more than is done in respect to all the other tribes; and therefore I think Levi must be the general subject throughout these verses, whether expressed by the singular or plural, which is indifferent, as the word is a noun of multitude. Secondly, as to the person to whom this discourse is addressed, it cannot be Levi, as Le Clerc says; for, in that case, thy Holy one must be understood either of GOD or of Aaron: if of GOD, though it is true that Levi proved him at the places before mentioned, HE must be the subject of ver. 9 which is absurd; and if understood of Aaron, how did Levi in particular tempt him in Massah and Meribah? Besides, ver. 9 when applied to him only, is false. It is much more reasonable, therefore, to consider all that is said here, as a prayer addressed to God, mentioned in the verse preceding this 8th. For, however divided the learned may be respecting this verse, they must all agree, that the six pronouns in the two verses following relate to God, though his name is at a much greater distance there than here. I read in the 9th verse, I have not seen you; for the Hebrew, followed by our version, cannot surely be the true reading, him having either no antecedent, or such a one as cannot agree with it. The LXX read, I have not seen thee; and the Vulgate and Arabic, I have not seen them; joining thereby both father and mother, which the other version takes separately. Not to see, plainly implies here the same as in the instances referred to; namely, not to acknowledge or regard. See Genesis 29:32. 1 Chronicles 17:17. It is said of the Levites, ver. 10. They shall teach thy judgments, &c. The Levites are not only commissioned to instruct the people in the law of Moses, but were also appointed by that very law to be judges and interpreters of it in civil as well as religious cases. Leviticus 10:11. Deuteronomy 17:8-9. They actually enjoyed this power in its full extent for many centuries. 2 Chronicles 30:22; 2 Chronicles 31:2; 2 Chronicles 35:3 and though they were abridged of it afterwards in some respects, they still had a considerable share of it about the time of the dissolution of their national polity. John 18:31. Acts 23:3; Acts 23:35. The other expressions in this verse refer to the duties of the sacerdotal office. The Hebrew word חיל chaiil, rendered substances in our version, ver. 11. I render forces, as it is almost universally used in a military sense for valour or strength, whether in a single person, or a whole army. The distinguished exploits of the Maccabean princes seem to be alluded to in this place. This is the most shining part in the character of this tribe, and it gives a lustre which exceeds that of all the other tribes. It is difficult, I apprehend, to assign a reason, consistent with Moses's character, why he should pray so ardently for the prosperity of this tribe in particular; and to shew how the two last lines are connected with the two preceding ones of this verse, according to the common interpretation; whereas the sense here given frees Moses from partiality, enlarges his object from a small tribe to a whole nation, and accounts, in some measure, for the enallage of the numbers in this and the foregoing verse. Thus far Durell.

We will now, II. lay before the reader Houbigant's version and interpretation. "Ver. 8. Thy Thummim and thy Urim is of thy holy one,—whom thou didst tempt at the place of temptation,—whom thou didst reproach at the waters of contention. 9. He shall say to his father and his mother, I have not seen him;—he shall not know his own brethren;—he shall not acknowledge for his sons any other than those—who shall observe thy word, and keep thy covenant.—10. These same shall teach Jacob thy judgments—and Israel thy law.—They shall put incense before thee,—and whole burnt-offerings on thine altar:—11. Bless, O LORD, his strength,—and favour the work of his hands:—Let him wound the loins of his enemies,—and let those who hate him not rise up again." Upon which passage, this writer observes, that, in the first place, thy holy one cannot be applied to Aaron; which, Durell having approved also, we shall take for granted. Secondly, he observes, that it is impossible to apply to Levi all that is said in this prophesy; for Moses, blessing the twelve tribes, foretels their future state, and the peculiar disposition of each tribe: but it was not the state nor the disposition of the tribe of Levi, for children not to acknowledge their parents; on the contrary, the priests and Levites invited their relations to partake of the sacrifices and tithes, so that the words, who said unto his father, &c. ver. 9 cannot belong to them. Nor would Moses have said, Bless, LORD, his strength or forces; for the sacred history nowhere informs us that the Levites excelled the other Israelites in strength; nor can the strength of war be meant, because the Levites were exempted from war. Neither can it be determined to what work of the Levites we may refer the words favour the works of his hands. Certainly, the victims offered by the Levites and all their ministry is not usually called the work of the hands of the Levites: and then the last of these words, wound the loins of his enemies, &c. cannot be peculiar to the tribe of Levi, which had no enemies but such as were common to all the tribes. These, which are not the least difficulties of this passage, lead the attentive reader, as it were, by the hand, and almost compel him to think that, in this blessing of Levi, the Levitical priesthood is opposed to the future priesthood of the MESSIAH this being the meaning of Moses's words: "Thy Thummim and thy Urim is of, or from, thy Holy One, whom thou hast tempted. That perfection and that doctrine which thy priests possess is not thine, that thou mayest either have it from thyself, or impart it to others: it will be the prerogative of thy Holy One; of Him, whom the Lord will not suffer to see corruption; whom thou hast tempted; the same of whom St. Paul says, nor let us tempt Christ; whom Moses tempted, when, hesitatingly, he struck the rock; whom both Aaron and Moses, when Moses said, can we bring water for you from this rock?—Who shall say to his father and his mother, I have not seen, i.e. known him; the same who said—who is my mother? He that doeth the will of my Father, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." In perfect conformity to which, it is said, he will not know any other for his sons, than those who shall keep thy word. In the line, who shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law, the discourse is turned to GOD, as appears from the following verse, Bless, LORD, &c. They who teach the judgments are the same who keep the word, namely, those whom the Holy One will acknowledge as his own; who were to promulge the light of the Gospel, and to offer an acceptable sacrifice to God. His strength was to be blessed by God's favouring the work of his hands, and wounding the loins of his enemies; those same enemies, of whom it is said, Psalms 110:5. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.


Verse 12

Ver. 12. And of Benjamin he said After an account had been given of the priesthood, and of the general duties of the Levites, the place where those duties were to be exercised comes properly to be next considered. The first and second temple were, doubtless, built in a portion to which Benjamin had a right; and it is with reference to this circumstance, that what Moses here predicts of him is to be understood, viz. that God's providence would remarkably continue over him until the dissolution of their state; and that he would, for a season, vouchsafe to dwell (by his visible representation) in his inheritance. Durell.

The beloved of the LORD This expression does not occur in any other place of Scripture. The words in the original are יהוה ידיד iediid Jehovah. When the syllables of the former word are separated, it is read יד יד iad, a hand: the Samaritan text and manuscript separate the two syllables; in which they are followed by most of the versions made from them. Such a repetition, to raise attention, and give a greater weight to what is said, is not unusual in Scripture; particularly, when God is addressed himself, or when he is introduced as speaking or acting. That the phrase is justifiable, no one will doubt, who considers that the word hand, when applied to God, signifies the divine agency or influence; and that the expression, the hand of the Lord is upon or against any one, when he assists or opposes them, is very common: and therefore, when he chooses to continue for a long time with any person in any place, He, or the divine energy, may properly be said to dwell there. Accordingly, we render the passage, The hand, even the hand of the LORD—shall dwell in safety upon him. From the verb שׁכן shakan, dwell, which occurs twice in this verse, comes המשׁכן hammishkan, the tabernacle, or THE RESIDENCE, κατ εξοχην ; and likewise שׁכינה or שׁכינא shekinah; by which the later Jews understand the Divine Presence, which from the tabernacle removed to Solomon's temple, where it continued till the Babylonish captivity, after which period it never returned. The words, in safety, seem to imply, that the temple would be fixed in this lot, and not be ambulatory, as the tabernacle was. The verb ףּחפ chopep, rendered cover, signifies, in the Chaldee, Arabic, and Samaritan, to cover by way of protection. Capellus observes, that it conveys the idea of brooding, as a hen covers her chickens. In this sense, it is very applicable to the hand of God, particularly as followed by the preposition עליו alaiv, over him: but those who follow the present printed Hebrew text, sensible that ידיד iediid, the beloved, should be, regularly, the nominative case to the verb; and not being able to make any sense from that connection, they either substitute another nominative case as in our version, or give the verb another sense. All the day long, signifies as long as the law of Moses and the theocracy shall continue. And he shall dwell between his shoulders implies, that God should rest upon, or between Benjamin's shoulders. Some interpreters observe, that the word translated shoulders, is, in Numbers 34:11 rendered borders; and Le Clerc translates the word hills: but if we take the word rendered beloved to signify the hand, every difficulty will vanish, and the sense will be, It [the hand] covers him all the day long, and dwells upon his shoulders. It cannot be doubted, but that Jerusalem belonged originally to this tribe; Joshua 18:28. Judges 1:21 and though in process of time it came to be generally considered as one of the cities of Judah, yet it is not improbable, that when the temple was built, the spot on which it was erected, and the environs, were still regarded as a part of Benjamin's portion. However, this is certain, that God intended these two tribes to share in the same fortune, and to continue the enjoyment of their property and privileges longer than any of the other tribes, as the prophesies plainly intimate; and this may be the reason why we cannot easily trace what belongs to each separately. Durell. I would just observe, that Houbigant, reading עליון elion, the Most High, instead of עליו alaiv, renders the verse, in agreement with the LXX, (whose interpretation he much approves,) The beloved of the LORD shall have a secure dwelling-place: the Most High shall overshadow him; he shall hang all the day long over his shoulders. In which words, says he, God is compared to an eagle descending from on high, hovering over the shoulders of Benjamin, and protecting him with his wings.


Verses 13-17

Ver. 13-17. And of Joseph he said, &c.— Whether we consider Joseph with respect to his situation in the land of Canaan, or to the eminent dignity by which his descendants were distinguished, he is here in his proper rank. Moses, in blessing him, copies after Jacob: he promises him the choicest things which the heavens or the deep had in store; the most precious produce of the earth, whether annual or monthly; whatever the hills or vales could boast of; and, in short, the greater profusion of all earthly and heavenly blessings: and having touched upon the distinguished rank of this patriarch, he takes occasion to describe, under the image of a bull spreading terror wherever he comes, the great exploits by which the numerous posterity of his two sons would signalize themselves. Durell renders this benediction as follows: "Ver. 13. Blessed of the Lord be his land,—with the precious things of heaven above,—and with the deep lying beneath:—14. And with the precious fruits of the sun,—and with the precious produce of the moon:—15. And with the chief things of the eternal mountains,—and with the precious things of the everlasting hills:—16. And with the precious things of the earth, and its fulness,—and with the favour of him that dwelt in the bush:—Let these be on the head of Joseph,—and on the crown-of-the-head of the prince of his brethren.—17. His glory is the firstling of a bullock;—and his horns are the horns of rhinoceroses:—With them he shall gore the nations,—and in like manner the ends of the earth:—and these are the ten thousands of Ephraim,—and these the thousands of Manasseh." Earth, in the 16th verse, being opposed to hills and mountains in the 15th, seems to imply a champaign country; and the fulness thereof to signify a most plentiful champaign country. This sense will appear still more probable from the event: for, besides the great plain near Jordan, which Joseph had in common with some other tribes, and the plain of Sharon, near the Mediterranean sea, there seems to have been another great plain near Samaria, which Josephus calls "the great plain of Samaria;" and near mount Ephraim was "the valley of fatness." See Bell. Jud. l. ii. c. 2. Univ. Hist. b. i. c. 7. The expression, Him that dwelt in the bush, answers very well to the description given of that bush, Exodus 3:2 that it burned with fire without being consumed. Moses might choose to use this periphrasis, to remind the Israelites of what passed between God and himself at the extraordinary manifestation to which this alludes; when, among other things, God gave them repeated assurances that they should possess the land of Canaan. Respecting the phrase, the crown-of-the-head of him that was separated, &c. see on Genesis 49:26. The firstling of a bullock, ver. 17 may either signify, in general, a choice bullock, ch. Deuteronomy 12:6 or it may have reference to Joseph's having obtained Reuben's birth-right; and because a bullock is the best emblem of power among beasts of pasture, it seems used here to denote the superior honour and dignity of the house of Joseph, above the rest of the tribes of Israel. As the word ראם reem, is singular in the Hebrew text, our version, to avoid a contradiction in terms, reads unicorns. See on Numbers 24:8. By horns here, which, in the Scripture language, denote power and might, are very properly represented Joseph's two sons, each of whom was the founder of a very numerous and considerable tribe. Ephraim and Manasseh are spoken of in the order their grandfather prophesied they should be considered; namely, the younger before the elder. The Jerusalem Targum expounds the words, with them he shall gore the people, &c. of the victories gained over the Canaanites by Joshua and Gideon, who were both of this family; to whom might have been added Jephthah, for the same reason, who also distinguished himself in a signal manner in the war against the Ammonites. Judeges 11. The expression, the ends of the earth, is frequently used in the Old Testament for the remotest inhabitants of the land of Canaan; as οικουμενη is in the New. Durell. Houbigant observes, that, as the expression of the elder serving the younger, refers to the church of the Gentiles and the Jews; so what has gone before in this blessing is too magnificent to be understood of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, of whom it could not strictly be said, they should wound the people to the ends of the earth, though we understood by the earth or land, no other than the land of Canaan; nor could it be said strictly of Joseph, that he should be the king ( נזיר nazir) or the most excellent of his brethren. But these things are spoken, as truly as magnificently, of that Joseph, concerning whom St. Matthew informs us it was foretold, he shall be called a Nazarene; thus referring Christians to the blessings of Jacob and Moses, in both of which Joseph is called נזין nazir, a Nazarene.

REFLECTIONS.—The temporal blessings promised to these two tribes are the least part of their happiness; the good-will of God, as their covenant God, who appeared to Moses in the bush, is better to them than all the rest. This he prays for, and promises them, and then they could want nothing to complete their felicity. Note;

(1.) God has blessings in abundance to bestow on his people, not only of the basket and the store, but the unspeakably more valuable ones of the gifts, graces, and consolations of his Blessed Spirit. (2.) The true enjoyment of all earthly good things is, to have the blessing of him who dwelt in the bush upon them; and even in the want of there, this alone will satisfy the soul abundantly.


Verse 18-19

Ver. 18, 19. And of Zebulun he said Hitherto some probable reason might be assigned for the order in which the six tribes last mentioned were placed; but now we seem quite in the dark in that which respects the six following ones. None of the commentators that I have seen have attempted a solution of this point: but may it not be supposed, that Moses had regard to the future situation of the twelve tribes in the Land of Promise; and that he here speaks of them in their chorographical order, beginning with the south-eastern and south-western extremities, and thence proceeding onwards on both sides of the Jordan, till he arrives at the northern points? The six foregoing tribes are placed in this order; and though other causes have been assigned for that circumstance, yet it makes this supposition probable. The situation indeed of Zebulun, whom we are now to consider, is an exception; for Issachar should have come before, here, as well as in Jacob's prophesy: but as this is the only exception to the order observed in both places, it may weaken, but does not destroy, the general rule. After having left there two brethren, we cross the Jordan, and come next to the country of Gad; and from thence having travelled through the land of Bashan, we arrive at last on the frontiers of Dan, who is fixed between Naphtali and Asher, having one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

I. Zebulun and Issachar are here joined together. They were uterine brothers; but the disposition of their respective posterity was to be very different. These, it is here intimated, would delight in agriculture, and those in commerce: by trade and manufactures the descendants of Zebulun would enrich themselves, as the others might by disposing of the produce of their farms; by which means they might be enabled to offer large burnt-offerings at the solemn festivals, an hospitably receive the people whom they invited to go up with them to Jerusalem. This is the general argument. In particular, it is said of Zebulun, rejoice in thy goings out; i.e. in voyages with respect to trade. See Genesis 49:13. Of Issachar, rejoice in thy tents; by which is meant their remaining in their own country, and applying themselves to husbandry. The prophesy points out two remarkable circumstances further; namely, that this people should go up to sacrifice at Jerusalem; They shall call the people unto the mountain: and that they should enjoy great advantages from their maritime situation; they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, &c. The two tribes are hitherto spoken of in the prophesy conjointly; but what remains is to be restricted to the tribe of Zebulun only; and in the Samaritan text, and five manuscripts, the next verb is in the singular number. The advantages which the tribe of Zebulun were to receive from their maritime situation are these: they were to suck of the abundance or overflowing of the seas; by which may be signified in general, that they should grow rich by traffic: or it may have a particular reference to the murex, celebrated in dying purple, and which was taken on the coast of Tyre, bordering on Zebulun. Besides this, they were to suck of the hidden treasures of the sand; by which some understand the art of making glass from sand. Jonathan paraphrases the words thus: "They shall dwell near the Great Sea, and feast on the tunny fish, and catch the chalson, [or murex,] with whose blood they will dye of a purple colour the threads of their clothes; and from the sand they will make looking-glasses, and other utensils of glass." Durell. The reader will find an account of these glassy sands in Strabo, lib. 17: p. 251. Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. 36: cap. 26. Tacit. Hist. lib. 5: cap. 11. However, treasures hid in the sand may import, I think more naturally, the same as sucking the abundance of the seas; i.e. enriching themselves by naval commerce. See Shaw's Travels, p. 174.

II. Houbigant, upon this prophesy, remarks, that Moses preserves the same order with Jacob; naming the youngest first; and for the same reason. The youngest was to rejoice in his going out, or departure; but the elder in his tents; i.e. the Jews, who were the elder, were not to leave their tents when becoming Christians, because Christ came to fulfil the law, not to dissolve it; but the church of the Gentiles, the younger, could not rejoice, unless she forsook her tents, rejecting the worship of false gods, and turning herself to the true religion; in which religion both of them call to the mountain, and offer the sacrifices of righteousness. That the legal sacrifices are not meant, appears hence, that it was not the office of the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar to call men to the mountain of Jerusalem to offer sacrifices; much less עמים ammim, the people, which word is never applied to the Jewish nation alone; so that it is plain this mountain can mean no other than the Christian Church.


Verse 20-21

Ver. 20, 21. And of Gad he said This warlike tribe, having applied to Moses for the country of Sihon king of the Amorites, and obtained it, is not improperly compared by him to a lion resting after he is satiated with his prey. Moses seems indirectly to commend their prudence in having chosen so large and so good a tract of land for themselves; and concludes with reminding them of the conditions on which their grant of it was founded, viz "That, after they had built cities for their wives, their children, and their flocks, they should lead the armies of the Israelites, and not return to their houses, until they had completed the conquest of the devoted inhabitants of Canaan." Conformably to the ideas given in this general argument, Durell renders the passage thus;—Ver. 20. Blessed is Gad with a large country:—he hath rested as a lion,—and hath torn the shoulder with the head:—for he provided the first part for himself.—21. When there, in the decreed portion, he was secured;—then he went with the heads of the people;—he executed the righteousness of the Lord,—and his judgments with Israel." That Gad's was a large country will appear to any one who examines it. That the tribe answered to the allegory of a lion resting after being satiated with his prey, will appear from 1 Chronicles 5:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8. See Genesis 49:9. Tearing the arm, or the shoulder, with the head, implies the destruction of princes with their power; for princes are the arms of the state, and kings the head. What the righteousness of the Lord and his judgments were, the context plainly points out; namely, the extirpation of the seven nations of Canaan, whose sins, being grown to maturity, called aloud for the hand of justice to root them out before they spread their baneful influence farther.


Verse 22

Ver. 22. And of Dan he said Moses seems here to prophesy, that part of this tribe, too closely confined within the bounds of the portion originally assigned them, would attack, like lions, the secure inhabitants of a place, of whose situation he gives them a general idea; and thereby intimates that they would form a colony distinct from the rest of the Danites. The words, therefore, may be rendered "Dan is a lion's whelp:—he shall leap or make excursions, beyond Bashan." Bashan was a large country to the south of Libanus, belonging to the half tribe of Manasseh. This was the most northern part (at least eastward of Jordan), in the possession of the twelve tribes, till a party of the Danites surprised Laish, and settled there; which city they afterwards called Dan; hence we meet frequently with this expression, from Dan to Beer-sheba, i.e. the two extremities to the north and south of Palestine. The exact time when this expedition was undertaken, is not easily fixed. We have an account of it at the end of the books of Joshua and Judges; but in both it is out of its proper chronological place. It is most probable, that it happened during the anarchy which ensued on Joshua's death. See Joshua 19:47. Judeges 18 and Calmet on the place. Durell.


Verse 23

Ver. 23. And of Naphtali he said Jacob appears to have promised the Naphtalites a delightful country, under the image of a fine spreading tree. And here Moses predicts, in clear terms, that their portion would answer to that figurative description, and withal points out where it would be situated in the Land of Promise; namely, in the country afterwards called Galilee, a part of which fell to the lot of this tribe, and which is allowed to have been extremely fertile. See Genesis 15:21.

REFLECTIONS.—The blessing of Naphtali is rich, indeed! satisfied with favour, happy in the regards of his brethren, and more happy still in the love and favour of God, which is the fountain of all blessedness; full of the blessing of the Lord, not only enriched with a temporal provision, but blessed with the richer mercies of the covenant of grace. Possessed of the west, or rather as the word signifies, the sea of Gennesaret, which was its border, and the south, from the tribe of Dan. The favour of God's people is a singular mercy, but the favour of God himself is that which can alone fully satisfy the soul.


Verse 24-25

Ver. 24, 25. And of Asher he said Moses prophesies, that the Asherites would be numerous; and wishes that there might always be a perfect harmony between them and the rest of the Israelites. He tells them, that their country should be very fruitful, particularly in oil. He intimates, that they should have the advantage of rich mines; and prays, that there might not be wanting a great number of men of valour in their tribe, as long as it existed. The blessing may properly be rendered thus: "Let Asher be blessed with children;—let him be acceptable to his brethren;—and let him dip his feet in oil;—under thy shoes let there be iron and brass,—and as thy days, so let thy mighty men be." Which last clause Houbigant renders, thy mighty men shall not be wanting all thy days. These verses contain a wish and a prophesy: the wish is expressed in the second line, let him be acceptable, entreating for the public, as the former petition does for the private happiness of Asher, to whose name it alludes. See on Genesis 49:20. The predictions, though four in number, we shall treat of under the three following heads: 1st, That this tribe would have a numerous posterity, and a great many men of valour. 2nd, Abundance of oil. And, 3rdly, Mines of iron and copper. First, With respect to its numerousness, we find, that at its going out of a Egypt, it amounted to no more than 41,500; when numbered in the plains of Moab, it had increased to 53,400; a little before David's reign, they had no less than 26,000 princes, all choice and mighty men of valour. See Josephus Bell. Jud. lib. 3: cap. 3. Secondly, That Asher's portion was very fertile in corn, wine, oil, &c. has been shewn on Genesis 49:20. Thirdly, The mines, which seem promised to this tribe, agree with what Moses had before asserted, chap. Deuteronomy 8:9. Iron and brass are frequently represented as being common in this country. As the portion of this tribe extended to Libanus, and Antilibanus, it was the best situated for mines. We read, that David bought great quantities of brass, which, doubtless, were extracted from their bowels. Dan, which was contiguous to this tribe, traded with Tyre in iron; and Homer himself celebrates the Sydonians, on account of the plenty of brass to be met with in their country. Odyss. lib. 3: ver. 424. Durell. The reader who is curious in these subjects will find much entertainment by referring to Scheuchzer's Observations on the Mines of Judea; Physique Sacree, tom. 4: p. 47.


Verse 25

Ver. 25. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, &c.— Or, Thy bolts shall be iron and brass, and thou shalt have peace all thy days. Le Cene. See Calmet, and 1 Kings 4:13.

See commentary on Deuteronomy 33:24


Verses 26-29

Ver. 26-29. There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun Moses, having made an end of declaring to each tribe some of the particular circumstances which would distinguish them from the rest, and having prayed for their respective prosperity, as far as the holy spirit suffered him, now concludes the whole with a general benediction. This beautiful ode begins with representing God Almighty, who had vouchsafed to become the tutelary Deity of Israel, as being far superior to any local gods: for the heavens and all the creation obeyed him; and though he was so highly exalted, yet he condescended to assist them, and humbled himself so far as to reside among them in symbols, that they might be satisfied that they were under his more immediate care. God is next described as the leader of the armies of his chosen people; and, after having openly declared his approbation of their valour, he puts them in possession of the enemies' country, a country in which they would live separate from the rest of the world, and might rest secure under his protection, without soliciting any foreign aid; a country, moreover, remarkable for its excellent fountains, fruitful dews and showers, and abounding in all manner of corn, wine, and oil. Here Moses, unable to conceive greater temporal blessings for any race of men, breaks out into pathetic exclamations, reminds them of their inexpressible happiness, and peculiar privileges in being the subjects of an Almighty LORD and as he knew them to be a rebellious people, too forgetful of God's goodness, he concludes the whole with repeating, that as God was their friend, their patron, and protector, they might rest assured, that they would conquer their enemies, and triumph in the possession of their land. I render the whole passage thus: Ver. 26. "There is none like God, O Jeshurun,—riding on the heavens to thy help,—and on the clouds in his excellency.—27. Thou art the habitation of the eternal God,—and under his everlasting arms;—and he shall drive the enemy before thee,—and shall say, He hath destroyed, and he shall dwell.—28. Israel is alone in safety;—the fountain of Jacob is upon a land of corn and wine, (and oil;)—and his heavens shall drop down dew.—29. O happy Israel! who is like thee,—O people saved by the LORD? Who is the shield of thy help.—and who is the sword of thine excellency:—and thine enemies shall submit themselves to thee;—and thou shalt tread on their high places." In the 27th verse, I render mouneh, habitation, as God is frequently said in Scripture to have his habitation among the Israelites; sometimes in Jerusalem, and sometimes in Sion; and he had at that time his dwelling, if I may use the expression, among them. Hence the Israelites are called the habitation of justice, Jeremiah 31:23. See Psalms 90:1. Durell.


Verse 28

Ver. 28. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone The word בדד badad, signifies to live alone, and I suppose its signification may be extended to living separate. The Israelites were separated from the rest of the world by their peculiar institutions, religious and civil; and they were sufficiently secure, without entering into leagues offensive or defensive with any power. What is here said, seems to be an allusion to that part of Balaam's prophesy, where he says, Israel shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Numbers 23:9. Among the various expositions of the words יעקב עין ain iaakob, the fountain of Jacob seems to be the best: for fountain is manifestly opposed to dew; and the expression, the fountain of Jacob is upon a land of corn, &c. implies that the land (of promise, or) of Jacob, is a land of fountains, of corn, &c. according to the description of it, chap. Deuteronomy 8:7. When Moses says, HIS heavens shall drop down dew, it is conformable to his mode of expression in other places. Thus he calls the air of the land of promise, in speaking to the Israelites, thy heaven that is over thy head; ch. Deuteronomy 28:32 and in the 12th verse of the same chapter, the Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, THE HEAVEN, to give THE RAIN unto thy land. See Genesis 27:28. Durell. By the fountain of Jacob, many interpreters understand the Israelites, the numerous progeny of Jacob or Israel; all sprung from him as streams from a copious fountain. The expression at least is used in this sense, Psalms 68:26 and Isaiah 48:1. In this view, the verse might well and consistently be rendered thus; "Israel shall dwell in safety alone;—[i.e. separated by its religion and polity from all the world]—the fountain [or posterity] of Jacob, [corresponding to Israel] in, or upon a land of corn and wine:—Even his heavens shall drop down dew." In which the sacred writer expresses, 1. The peculiar privilege of Israel in its separation from the rest of the world, under the protection of Jehovah. 2. The natural fertility of the country which that Jehovah would give them. And, 3. The providential care of Jehovah to bless them with kindly and fruitful seasons.

See commentary on Deuteronomy 33:26


Verse 29

Ver. 29. Happy art thou, O Israel! See ver. 26, &c. GOD is there said to have none like Him; so is Israel here: HE is superior to all created beings, because they obey Him: they are superior to other nations, because he has saved them: in both places they are represented as being under his particular providence, assisted by Him in conquering their enemies, and admitted by Him into their country. Might not this song, therefore, have been penned with a view to be sung in different parts: the first part by the men, the other by the women, as was done in that song which celebrates the miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea? What is rendered, thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, I render, shall submit themselves; the word כחשׁ kichesh, besides the signification of denying, or concealing the truth, signifies also, to submit oneself, and is accordingly thus rendered in many places by our translators. See 2 Samuel 22:45. Psalms 18:44; Psalms 66:3; Psalms 81:15 and Castelli Lexicon. Though high-places, במות bamoth, generally denotes such as were appropriated to the religious rites of idolaters, it is likewise used for intrenchments, or fortifications on eminences, and it is most probably to be understood here in both senses. The Jerusalem Targum renders the sentence, thou shalt tread upon the necks of their kings. See 2 Samuel 19:25; 2 Samuel 22:34. Durell. We just observe, respecting the word כחשׁ kichesh, that, according to Parkhurst, its primary signification is, to fail, be deficient, or wanting; and therefore it may be rendered literally, thine enemies shall fail before thee. See Hosea 9:2. Habakkuk 3:17.

REFLECTIONS.—He concludes his long with a high character of Israel's God, and a glorious account of God's Israel. 1. Israel's God is glorious above all gods; the heavens are his chariot, shewing his majesty and honour, under his government, and armed to execute his orders: eternal in his self-existent essence, almighty in power and universal dominion. Note; We can never sufficiently exalt and extol the God of glory; for, when we have raised our conceptions and praises to the highest pitch, he is still far above all blessing and praise. 2. The Israel of God is glorious too, in the love, care, protection, and blessing of such a God. He is their refuge or dwelling-place; a refuge to fly to, as the man-slayer did, for deliverance from sin, death, and hell. A mansion, where the soul may rest, comfortable and secure, under the shadow of a covenant God. And underneath are the everlasting arms, to embrace and comfort them, to protect and preserve them. He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; strongly entrenched and powerful as their armies may be, the commission is signed for their destruction; he shall say, Destroy them. In judgment, the Canaanites must perish, and Israel be the executioner of divine vengeance. Note; Christ Jesus has, by once dying, destroyed the devil and his works, and all his redeemed people go forth under his banner, conquering and to conquer. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone; for what can disturb their repose, who have God for their refuge? With his presence, they never can be solitary; and, whilst detached from the idolatry around them, are thus secure from fear of evil. Note; The more separate we are from the world, generally speaking, the safer; little compliances often bring on great and dangerous consequences. The fountain of Jacob, the people derived from him their source, and, flowing downward still to future generations, shall be upon a land of corn and wine, with which Canaan, their happy lot, abounded: also his heavens shall drop down the dew, refreshing and timely showers shall impregnate the earth with fertility: thus Jesus causes the dew of his heavenly influences to descend on his people's hearts, which makes them revive as the corn, and grow as the vine. Well may it be said after such an assemblage of blessings, Happy art thou, O Israel, Who is like unto thee? whom no foes can approach, because a people saved of the Lord; covered from every assault by him, who is the shield of thy help; and armed with those offensive weapons, whose piercing edge no tempered armour can resist, even the sword of his excellency. Note; Every spiritual Israelite is clad in the divine panoply: the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, and the helmet of salvation, secure him from danger, enable him to fight and subdue every enemy of his soul. Thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, their proud vauntings shall be confounded, and their threatened rage disappointed; and thou shalt tread upon their high places, triumphantly reign over them, casting down their strongest-holds, and treading under foot their idols, whose groves and temples were usually on the high places, and thus shall God do for his believing people, bruising Satan under their feet, casting down imaginations, and every high thought which exalteth itself within them, and bringeth the whole man into the obedience of Christ, who shall reign in the believer's heart as their king on earth, before they are brought to reign with him as kings in glory everlasting.

See commentary on Deuteronomy 33:26

 


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/deuteronomy-33.html. 1801-1803.

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