De 33:1-28. The Majesty of
1. Moses the man of God—This was a
common designation of a prophet (1Sa 2:27; 9:6), and it is here applied to Moses, when,
like Jacob, he was about to deliver ministerially before his death, a
prophetic benediction to Israel.
2-4. The Lord came—Under a beautiful
metaphor, borrowed from the dawn and progressive splendor of the sun,
the Majesty of God is sublimely described as a divine light which
appeared in Sinai and scattered its beams on all the adjoining region
in directing Israel's march to Canaan. In these descriptions of a
theophania, God is represented as coming from the south, and the
allusion is in general to the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai; but
other mountains in the same direction are mentioned with it. The
location of Seir was on the east of the Ghor; mount Paran was either
the chain on the west of the Ghor, or rather the mountains on the
southern border of the desert towards the peninsula [Robinson]. (Compare Jud 5:4, 5; Ps 68:7, 8;
ten thousands of saints—rendered by
some, "with the ten thousand of Kadesh," or perhaps better still, "from
a fiery law—so called both because of
the thunder and lightning which accompanied its promulgation (Ex
19:16-18; De 4:11), and the
fierce, unrelenting curse denounced against the violation of its
precepts (2Co 3:7-9).
Notwithstanding those awe-inspiring symbols of Majesty that were
displayed on Sinai, the law was really given in kindness and love
33:3), as a means of
promoting both the temporal and eternal welfare of the people. And it
was "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob," not only from the
hereditary obligation under which that people were laid to observe it,
but from its being the grand distinction, the peculiar privilege of the
6. Let Reuben live, and not die—Although
deprived of the honor and privileges of primogeniture, he was still to
hold rank as one of the tribes of Israel. He was more numerous than
several other tribes (Nu 1:21; 2:11). Yet gradually he sank into a mere
nomadic tribe, which had enough to do merely "to live and not die."
Many eminent biblical scholars, resting on the most ancient and
approved manuscripts of the Septuagint, consider the latter
clause as referring to Simeon; "and Simeon, let his men be few," a
reading of the text which is in harmony with other statements of
Scripture respecting this tribe (Nu 25:6-14; 1:23;
26:14; Jos 19:1).
7. this is the blessing of Judah—Its
general purport points to the great power and independence of Judah, as
well as its taking the lead in all military expeditions.
8-10. of Levi he said—The burden of this
blessing is the appointment of the Levites to the dignified and sacred
office of the priesthood (Le 10:11; De 22:8; 17:8-11), a reward for their zeal in supporting
the cause of God, and their unsparing severity in chastising even their
nearest and dearest relatives who had participated in the idolatry of
the molten calf (Ex 32:25-28; compare Mal 2:4-6).
12. of Benjamin he said—A distinguishing
favor was conferred on this tribe in having its portion assigned near
the temple of God.
between his shoulders—that is, on his
sides or borders. Mount Zion, on which stood the city of Jerusalem,
belonged to Judah; but Mount Moriah, the site of the sacred edifice,
lay in the confines of Benjamin.
13-17. of Joseph he said—The territory
of this tribe, diversified by hill and dale, wood and water, would be
rich in all the productions—olives, grapes, figs, &c., which
are reared in a mountainous region, as well as in the grain and herbs
that grow in the level fields. "The firstling of the bullock and the
horns of the unicorn" (rhinoceros), indicate glory and strength, and it
is supposed that under these emblems were shadowed forth the triumphs
of Joshua and the new kingdom of Jeroboam, both of whom were of Ephraim
18, 19. Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going
out—on commercial enterprises and voyages by sea.
and, Issachar in thy tents—preferring
to reside in their maritime towns.
19. shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and
of treasures hid in the sand—Both tribes should traffic with
the Phœnicians in gold and silver, pearl and coral, especially in
murex, the shellfish that yielded the famous Tyrian dye, and in
glass, which was manufactured from the sand of the river Belus, in
their immediate neighborhood.
20, 21. of Gad he said—Its possessions
were larger than they would have been had they lain west of Jordan; and
this tribe had the honor of being settled by Moses himself in the first
portion of land conquered. In the forest region, south of the Jabbok,
"he dwelt as a lion" (compare Ge 30:11; 49:19). Notwithstanding, they faithfully kept
their engagement to join the "heads of the people" [De 33:21] in the invasion of Canaan.
22. Dan is a lion's whelp—His proper
settlement in the south of Canaan being too small, he by a sudden and
successful irruption, established a colony in the northern extremity of
the land. This might well be described as the leap of a young lion from
the hills of Bashan.
23. of Naphtali he said—The pleasant and
fertile territory of this tribe lay to "the west," on the borders of
lakes Merom and Chinnereth, and to "the south" of the northern
24, 25. of Asher he said—The condition
of this tribe is described as combining all the elements of earthly
dip his foot in oil—These words allude
either to the process of extracting the oil by foot presses, or to his
district as particularly fertile and adapted to the culture of the
25. shoes of iron and brass—These shoes
suited his rocky coast from Carmel to Sidon. Country people as well as
ancient warriors had their lower extremities protected by metallic
greaves (1Sa 17:6; Eph 6:15) and iron-soled shoes.
26-29. There is none like unto the God of
Jeshurun—The chapter concludes with a congratulatory address
to Israel on their peculiar happiness and privilege in having Jehovah
for their God and protector.
who rideth upon the heaven in thy
help—an evident allusion to the pillar of cloud and fire,
which was both the guide and shelter of Israel.
28. the fountain of Jacob—The posterity
of Israel shall dwell in a blessed and favored land.