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The song of Moses (31:30-32:47)
Being aware of the people’s tendency to rebellion against God (see v. 29), Moses left with them a song that he wanted everyone to take notice of (30). The song reminded the people of God’s loving care for them and of the need for faithfulness on their part towards him. It dealt with the future as well as the past, and reminded the people that in justice God would punish them and in mercy he would forgive them.
As rain benefits young grass, so Moses’ words should benefit Israel (32:1-3). Like a rock, God gave Israel (Jeshurun) protection and stability; as their Father, he gave them an honoured place among the nations and a land for an inheritance; but through stubborn selfishness they ruined themselves and disgraced their Father (4-9). God cared for Israel with love and tenderness, giving his people all they needed for a life of contentment; but instead of being thankful, they treated him with contempt. Instead of worshipping him, they worshipped other gods (10-18). Therefore, in his righteous anger, God punished them (19-25).
However, God would not allow the nation to be completely destroyed, lest people thought that they, and not God, controlled Israel’s destiny. If they had any understanding, these nations would realize that they could have no victory at all over Israel unless Israel’s God allowed it (26-30). Israel’s God was just and mighty; the enemies’ gods were wicked, immoral and cruel (31-33).
Yahweh was still the supreme ruler. Even when he used other nations to punish his people, he would also punish those nations, along with their gods, for their own wickedness. Then Israel too would see the uselessness of false gods. They would return to Yahweh, and he would heal them (34-43).
The people were to memorize and sing this song, so that it would remind them to keep God’s law and warn them of what would happen if they ignored it. God gave the law for their good, and by keeping it they would enjoy life in the land he had given them (44-47).
The blessing of Moses (32:48-33:29)
As God had announced earlier, the time for Moses to die had come (48-52; see Numbers 27:12-14). The prophetic blessings that he gave Israel before he died foresaw the favours that God would give the various tribes. But first Moses recalled the giving of the law at Sinai. God appeared in flaming majesty, bursting forth in glory brighter than the rising sun. Accompanying him were multitudes of heavenly servants who carry out God’s purposes in the lives of individuals and nations. This one, Israel’s King, was the one who gave his law to his assembled people (33:1-5).
The tribe of Reuben, though it had lost the rights of the firstborn, was not to allow itself to become weak (6; cf. 1 Chronicles 5:1). Judah was the most powerful tribe, but besides protecting itself from enemies, it was to help other tribes when they were in trouble. (Simeon, not mentioned here, became absorbed into the tribe of Judah) (7). Levi, the tribe to which Moses and Aaron belonged, had responsibility for religious services and the teaching of the law. Men of this tribe had passed God’s test at Massah and proved their covenant faithfulness at Sinai, but had rebelled at Meribah (8-11; cf. Exodus 17:1-7; Exodus 32:25-29; Numbers 20:10-13). (For the Urim and Thummim see notes on Exodus 28:15-30.)
Benjamin had its special blessing when the temple in Jerusalem was later built in its territory, though the rest of Jerusalem was in Judah’s territory (12). The Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to inherit the best part of Canaan. The God who once appeared in the burning bush would give them special power, so that they would become the leading tribes in the northern kingdom (13-17).
Zebulun and Issachar would prosper through the commercial activity and agricultural richness that characterized their region (18-19). The people of Gad chose their land east of Jordan, but they kept their promise to help other tribes conquer Canaan. They were fierce fighters (20-21). Dan would prove to be a treacherous tribe (e.g. Judges 18:1-31), but Naphtali would be content with a quiet life in the fertile highlands around the Lake of Galilee. Asher would live in a well protected fertile area that would become famous for its olives and the high quality oil they produced (22-25). Protected and blessed by God, all Israel would enjoy victory, prosperity and happiness (26-29).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany