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Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ lcc/ deuteronomy-33.html. 1857-84.
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/
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THE BLESSING OF MOSES
1And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. 2And he said,
The Lord came from Sinai,
And rose up [brake forth] from Seir unto them;
He shined forth from Mount Paran,
And he came with [out of] ten thousands of saints [myriads of holiness]:
From his right hand went a fiery law for them [fire, law for them];1
3Yea, he loved [is cherishing] the people;
All his saints are in thy hand:
And they sat down [turn] at [after] thy feet:
Every one shall receive of [he rises up at] thy words.
4Moses commanded us a law,
Even the inheritance [possession] of the congregation of Jacob.
5And he was king in Jeshurun,
When [As] the heads of the people
And the tribes of Israel were gathered together.
6Let Reuben live, and not die;
And let not his [That his] men be few [numerable].
7And this is the blessing of [in reference to] Judah: and he said,
Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah,
And bring him [again] unto his people:
Let his hands be sufficient for him [With his hands he fights for it];
And be thou an help to him from [before] his enemies.
8And of [in respect to] Levi he said,
Let thy [Jehovah] Thummim and thy Urim be [belong, or be and remain] with
thy holy [favored] one,
Whom thou [Israel] didst prove at Massah,
And with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah [at Me-Meribah].
9Who said [of] unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him:
Neither did he [And did not] acknowledge his brethren,
Nor knew [And did not know] his own children [his sons];
For they have observed [Jehovah!] thy word,
And kept thy covenant.
10They shall teach2 Jacob thy judgments [rights],
And Israel thy law;
They shall put incense before thee [at thy nose],
And whole burnt-sacrifice [whole offering] upon thine altar.
11Bless, Lord, his substance [strength],
And accept the work [And let the work] of his hands [be well pleasing to thee];
Smite through the loins of them that rise against him,
And of them that hate him, that they rise not again.3
12And of Benjamin he said,
The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him;4
And the Lord shall cover him all the day long,5
And he shall dwell between his shoulders.
13And of Joseph he said,
Blessed of the Lord be his land,
For [Of] the precious things of heaven, for [of] the dew,
And for [of] the deep which coucheth beneath,
14And for [of] the precious fruits brought forth by the sun [precious produce of the sun],
And for [of] the precious things put forth [precious growths of the] by the moon [moons],
15And for [of] the chief things [head] of the ancient mountains,
And for [of] the precious things of the lasting [everlasting] hills,
16And for [of] the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof,
And for [And] the good-will of him that dwelt in the bush;
Let the blessing [it] come upon the head of Joseph,
And upon the top of the head [crown] of him that was separated from his brethren.6
17His glory is like the firstling of his bullock;7
And his horns are like [om. like] the horns of unicorns [the buffalo]:
With them he shall push [thrust] the people
Together to the ends of the earth;
And they are the ten thousands of Ephraim,
And they are the thousands of Manasseh.
19And of Zebulon he said,
Rejoice, Zebulon, in [over] thy going out;
And, Issachar, in [over] thy tents.
19They shall call the people [nations] unto the mountain;
There they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness;
For they shall suck of the abundance of the seas,
And of treasures hid [the hidden, of the hid treasures] in the sand.
20And of Gad he said,
Blessed [praised] be he that enlargeth Gad;
He dwelleth as a lion,8
And teareth the arm with [yea] the crown of the head.
21And he provided [chose] the first part [first fruits] for himself,
Because there, in a portion of the law-giver was he seated,9
And he came with [om. with] the heads of the people,
He executed [did, performed] the justice of the Lord,
And his judgments with Israel.
22And of Dan he said,
Dan is a lion’s whelp;
He shall leap from Bashan.
23And of Naphtali he said,
O Naphtali, satisfied with favor,
And full with the blessing of the Lord;
Possess thou10 the west [sea] and the south.
24And of Asher he said,
Let Asher be blessed with children11 [Blessed before sons is Asher];
Let him be acceptable to [among, of] his brethren,
And let him dip his foot in oil.
25Thy shoes shall be iron and brass;12
And as thy days, so shall thy strength [firmness]13 be.
26There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun [like God, O Jeshurun],
Who rideth [riding] upon the heaven in [with] thy help,
And in his excellency on the sky [clouds].
27The eternal God is thy refuge [Dwelling is the God of olden time],
And underneath are the everlasting arms:
And he shall thrust [thrusts] out the enemy from before thee;
And shall say [says], Destroy them.
28[And] Israel then shall dwell [dwells] in safety.
Alone the fountain of Jacob shall be,
Upon a land of corn and wine;
Also his heavens shall drop down dew.14
29Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee,
O people [a people] saved by [in] the Lord,
The shield of thy help,
And who is the sword of thy excellency [eminence]!
And thine enemies shall be found liars [shall deny themselves] with thee;
And thou shalt tread upon their high places.
For the Literature see Introd. pp. 44 and 45.
The Criticism.—See Introd. § 3. Gesenius and Maurer refer it to the exile; Graf, V. Lengerke to the times of the two kingdoms; Knobel: “When David, in flight from Saul, lived in exile;” Bleek, who earlier held this chapter as older even than Genesis 49:0, as perhaps genuinely Mosaic, in his Introduction to the Old Testament, concedes to the blessings of Moses only such a reference, by the author of Deuteronomy; that it must have risen in the period between the death of Solomon and the Assyrian exile, about 800 B. C. As to the reasons for these opinions, essentially the same remarks may be made as upon the criticism upon the song. Comp. Schultz, p. 682 sq.
The Mosaic origin is not placed in doubt, because the written publication is not, as with chap, 32, attributed to Moses. Not only Deuteronomy 33:4, but the general character and setting permits us to conjecture that another hand than that of Moses has composed this chapter [Introd. § 2). Moses was the speaker only, but we need not appeal to the usually retentive memory, e.g., of the Arabians, for the well-known attachment and faithfulness of Joshua, raises us above any and all anxiety as to the “accuracy of all that is essential.” Schultz: “It is here precisely as with all the discourses of our Lord in the New Testament.” Keil emphasizes correctly “the peculiar nature of the blessings of Moses as the strongest proof of their genuineness.” [In favor of the Mosaic authorship of this chapter it may be urged, not only that all the reasons which go to establish the Mosaic origin of the Book of Deuteronomy are of force here; but that the character of this song and its fitness to the circumstances in which it is said that Moses spake it, and its inappropriateness to any other circumstances, are independent proofs that it is the work of Moses. If the whole book expresses the tender care and solicitude of the leader for his people, of the father for his children; this blessing is just the final leave-taking of the departing Moses. Its hopefulness, its cheerful tone and aspect, especially in contrast with the song which it thus supplements, even its entire freedom from any caution or warning, are just what we ought to have expected from one who had spoken the song with its solemn warnings, and was now to leave the people for whose welfare he had spent his life. He could not leave them until he had thus blessed them.
On the other hand, there is not in this chapter one distinct reference to any circumstance in the after history of Israel; neither to the Assyrian period, nor to the time of the disruption of the kingdom, nor even to that of the Judges; and the absence of any such allusion is inconsistent with the supposition of its later origin. The assumed reference in Deuteronomy 33:7 to the desire for reunion, under the sceptre of Judah, of the divided kingdom, is obviously a mistaken and forced interpretation of that passage. And indeed all the objections to the Mosaic origin of this chapter proceed either upon erroneous interpretations of particular passages, or upon the denial of its prophetic character, or upon the assumption that its geographical or local allusions and details could not have been known to Moses. This latter assumption, of course, has no force, if the possibility of prophetic foresight is granted; a possibility which calls for no discussion here. The special interpretation will be considered in the exegetical notes. How unreliable these grounds are appears from the diversity in the views which rest upon them, as seen above.—A. G.]
The form of statement is in a verbal, as in a poetic and rhythmical point of view, peculiar, but with true Mosaic features, as a comparison with the other parts of Deuteronomy will show. We cannot understand how “this song should be viewed in any important sense as inferior in poetical merit to the earlier songs of Moses” (Herxheimer). On the contrary, the noticeable doubling—now of the first, now of the second clauses, even of both, with one corresponding clause standing by itself, refutes any such supposition. As to the rhetorical form, the discourse alternates between animated address, description, declaration, calls to those addressed, prayer to the Lord for them or still devout wishes for their good. See the exposition. Knobel calls this song “the most difficult section of the whole Pentateuch.”
Its relation to the blessings of Jacob. Knobel holds that they “are alike” in their original peculiarities and independence, and that “any imitation cannot be proved.” That the blessings of Moses contain references to those of Jacob is peculiarly clear with respect to the blessing upon Joseph, but they are also traceable elsewhere. But that the one is founded upon the other, and a confirmation of it (Keil), does not seem to be the most appropriate designation. Although Moses here blesses as a father, still “not as father simply, but as a lawgiver.” “No sons stand around the bed of the dying father, but Israel, with its hosts, lay before him.” The patriarchal, Genesis 49:0, appears, Deuteronomy 33:0, as a blooming, fruit-promising nationality. This natural progress and development gives less scope for “specific predictions” than for “the purely ideally depicted prophetic glances into the future,” as Keil has well remarked. The parallel between Judah and Joseph shapes and rules the blessings of Jacob, and that of Levi and Joseph the blessings of Moses, which is at the same time genuinely Deuteronomic (Introd. § 4, I.). Moses, “the beginning of the new time of the law, and still at the same time the bearer and the end of the time of the wilderness now coming to a close, blesses the people for this new time which he himself began, and for the future of which he gave the form, and which, in relation to the time of the wandering, should be a time of rest, of partial fulfilment, of the peculiar and now first possible political development of the nation” (Ziegler). “These circumstances,” says Herder, “give the tone and contents of this second blessing: they render an introduction necessary, which was not needful with Jacob. They give a close which is not found there—and for the most part also other necessities and other wishes, although it cannot be denied that the song of the patriarch floats before the mind of Moses.” Comp. Lange, Genesis, p. 649.
The import of the Mosaic blessings. “Moses, in his blessing upon Israel, sets forth “the fulfilment of its destination as the people of God” (according to Schultz), the only true and highest happiness,” to which fulfilment each tribe, according to its nature and peculiarities, already for the most part intimated in the blessings of Jacob, should take part. “Simeon, whose peculiarities did not authorize his distinct mention, and whose independence was therefore already removed, Genesis 49:0, forms the one exception. The same is true to some extent also with Reuben.” Intimations, “although entirely elementary, still sufficiently definite, reveal both how different are the problems in the kingdom of God on the earth, and how well the Lord knows how to use the different natural peculiarities in their realization.” One “problem is inward with respect to the people itself; another outward with respect to the Gentile nations.” As there are personal charisms or gifts, so also there are national, indeed tribal and family charisms. Israel, in this regard, is the symbol of the manifold grace of God (ποικίλη χάρις θεοῦ), as in it the idea of the kingdom of God the one charisms completes itself in the world. But work for the kingdom of God is in like manner a different work, and hence the arranging and grouping of the charisms, their alternations likewise, the leadership also of one or another charism, whence results the then existing spirit of the time in its divine definiteness in the kingdom of God. We observe, in connection with this, that the order of tribes in the blessings of Moses departs, not only from the natural order, but from that observed in the blessings of Jacob. Neither the geography (Knobel), nor any thing else external, gives a sufficient explanation for this departure. As this freedom, corresponding essentially to grace, has its position and value for the work, the work-day of the kingdom of God, so finally the issue of the Mosaic blessing (Deuteronomy 33:26 sq.) is significant in reference to the rest, which from eternity lies at the foundation of this labor, in reference to the Sabbath, in which this labor must issue as its termination. That is, in the beautiful words of Lange: “The kingdom of heaven is both the deepest foundation and the highest revelation of the kingdom of God.”
The relation to Deuteronomy 32:0. The unity. The glory and the praise of Jehovah is here as there the beginning, the end, and the fundamental thought. The difference. Herder, too sharply: “as that between the curse and the blessing.” Better, with Schultz: “the song and the blessing supplement each other as negation and affirmation.” In that the reality in Israel, what it actually is, is prominent, in this its ideality, what it ought to be.
Division.—Title, Deuteronomy 33:1. Introduction, Deuteronomy 33:2-5. The blessings upon the tribes, Deuteronomy 33:6-25. The close, Deuteronomy 33:26-29.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. The title, Deuteronomy 33:1, brings out prominently the character, contents, and significance of that which follows. If the law, because of sin, suspends over Israel the curse, Moses personally takes his departure from his people, blessing them. The designation איש האלהים, which is not found elsewhere in the Pentateuch, comp. Joshua 14:6; Psalms 90:0 in the title, points with the finger of an intimate cotemporary to the import of the person, and thus makes apparent the significance of his blessing. The expression denotes a personally near position to God, intercourse with Him, and hence is used to describe the official, prophetic qualification (1 Samuel 9:6; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Peter 1:21). Before his death (Genesis 27:4) presents the situation in its solemn earnestness. The repeated and still at last announced imminent death-penalty (Deuteronomy 32:48 sq.) illuminates the weight and value of the words which follow, the impression which they must make, as coming from one just about to die, and is also a time announcement, showing that Moses immediately after the song, and upon the same day, completed these blessings.
2.Deuteronomy 33:2-5. The introduction takes us up to the only true fountain of all blessing, to Jehovah revealed to Israel. Thus at the very beginning of Deuteronomy 33:2. The description of the law-giving through which Israel was and should be this nation, is geographically poetical, brought out through the figure of the sunlight in its glory streaming from every side, corresponding to the all-embracing majesty and greatness of the Lord, because its glory reveals itself from the most remote points at the same time, and consequently fills a wide horizon with the light and splendor of its manifestation. In order to state at once that of which he treats, and to which all further details are sub-servient—for it is scarcely possible that other manifestations of Jehovah can here be referred to (Knob.)—and as to those coming from Egypt, Sinai was the nearest eminence, so Sinai in the South is first named (comp. Deuteronomy 1:2). At midday here the eternal sun, as God, sets up his throne, and there his full light appears. The Edomite mountain region, שעיר, as it forms the eastward limits of the wilderness in which Jehovah found Israel (Deuteronomy 32:10) connects with this position in the figure here used, the breaking forth (זרה) of the light (Titus 2:11). פארנ (Deuteronomy 1:1) the mountain of Azazimeh, located in the North, and for the most part chalk-masses, and hence in their reflection of the blinding sunlight agreeing well with the shining forth here connected with them. Kadesh is located there, and thus—to remove any misunderstanding, since it might have been thought that the mountains of Et-Tih, lying not far above Sinai, were referred to by the term, the mountains of Paran—מרבבת קדש might be rendered with Herder, Knobel and Others, “from the heights of Kadesh,” but then we should have to read רְבָבוֹת ּקָדֵש does not require the rendering ten thousands (as רְבָבָה32:30), since רבב signifies to heap up, to extend. But the ordinary explanation also meets the parallelism. While the “heights of Kadesh” indeed would only supplement what was already expressed by the Mount Paran, the holy myriads, i.e., the angel hosts, well agrees with the geographical details, the earth localities, completing them by the reference to heaven, (Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2; Galatians 3:19), which is neither “a mere idle fancy,” nor “an idea elsewhere foreign to the Old Testament, nor even a thought too lately introduced here” (Knobel). In this latter view, indeed, the explanation alluded to gives the best transition to the last clause of the verse, (comp. Judges 5:4-5; Habakkuk 3:3; Psalms 68:17; Genesis 28:12; Gen 32:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:0, etc.Matthew 26:53; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11; Jude Deuteronomy 33:14). Since למו refers to the Israelites, they are clearly not the myriads. The מן is not to be taken as synonymous with עִם, in which case we should have to read instead of ןאתָה poet: to come forth, ואָתּוֹ with him out of holy myriads, namely those who came with him, in order to express the thought of such a following or attendance. [“The verse thus forms a poetical description of the vast arena upon which this glorious manifestation of the Lord in the giving of the covenant took place.” Bib. Com. And Keil well adds “this manifestation of God formed the basis for all subsequent manifestations of the omnipotence and grace of the Lord for the salvation of His people, Judges 5:4; Hebrews 3:3.”—A. G.]. The last and fifth clause completes those two doubled clauses, as answering the question why this manifestation? The thought is thus suggested that it is the giving of the law to Israel which was the object in view. But the expression from his right hand (thus going out from it) justifies the expectation of a gift, and scarcely any other than symbolically, the fire, really the law (Habakkuk 3:4 does not give a proper and full explanation). Comp. Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 4:36. But אֵשׁ דַּת cannot be rendered ungrammatically fiery law. It is either fire of law, [so the margin in the A. V.,—A. G.], or fire, as in apposition with the law, in connection with which the law was given. De Wette, and Others, refer it to the pillar of fire, for direction, i.e., through which their way was pointed out. But the assertion of De Wette Knobel, that דַּת is only a recent Hebrew word, adopted from the Persian, has been too readily accepted as true by Schultz, Keil, and Others. Comp. on the contrary Havernick’s Intro., I. 1, who argues in favor of a Hebrew derivation from דִין רוּן. It must be a primitive term as a comparison of languages shows, i.e., Sanscrit dhâ, Greek θε (τίθημι) German Thun. “Aramaisms or Chaldaisms testify, as well, in favor of a very early as of a late composition.” (L. Kœnig, Alttest. Studien II.) The very early form דַּת would correspond well with the poetic אתה. Knobel reads אַשֵׁדֹות and explains: out of his hand shoot forth lightning flashes (outpourings, Deuteronomy 3:17 Numbers 21:15). Keil reads with great confidence (after the conjecture of Böttcher), אִשֶּׁדֶת in the sense of “fire of throwing,” fire darting (Exodus 19:16). Schultz: fire missile. [The reference to the fire and lightnings which attended the giving of the law is clear. The supposition of the pillar of fire is entirely out of place, and must be rejected. But whether the words אש דת are to be read as one word, and if so how that word is to be pointed, is an open question. The reading proposed by Keil has in its favor some MSS. authority, and meets the necessities of the case so well that it seems now to be generally accepted.—A. G.].
Deuteronomy 33:3. אף. Confirming that which precedes. חבכ, found only here, and signifies in general to love—according to the meaning in kindred dialects. It is not however as Knobel holds, the conceiving of an affection once, but rather an enduring love. חֹב is the lap or bosom, and thus it expresses the cherishing love. (Others: the concealing, protecting) affection. עמים. The thought of other nations than Israel is here out of place; it appears in Deuteronomy 32:8 from the contrast of Israel to the nations. Although it should not be translated “the tribes of Israel,” Knobel, yet still they are specially to be thought of; but generally the word is to be taken in the sense of the promises to the patriarchs (Genesis 17:4; particularly Genesis 28:3, Genesis 35:11; Genesis 48:4; Genesis 48:19). According to the promise Jehovah cherishes in reference to Israel, nations in His bosom, i.e., in the purpose of His love. The subject clause is placed first, to which the three following members correspond. Since it is Jehovah who is spoken of, his saints can only be those of Jehovah, and as the holy myriads, Deuteronomy 33:2, so the all justifies the conjecture that the Angels of God are referred to; who are sent forth as the ministers of those who are the heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14. But as the discourse is of Jehovah, so in this blessing it is directed to Israel, and in thy hand, therefore leaving out of view the harshness sought to be justified from Psalms 49:19, can only refer to Israel. That the heavenly hosts are in Israel’s power, i.e., are devoted to his service, after Genesis 28:12; Genesis 32:2, after the allusion to them shortly before, for the law-giving at Sinai, after Deuteronomy 4:7, etc., cannot be regarded as too boldly spoken. תָכָה is to bend, turn, whither; and so explains the בידך of a service which the angels rendered. That the Israelites in the power of God followed at the foot of. the ark of the covenant, (Knobel), and the like, is saying far too little, in itself, and for this passage; and the words can scarcely be understood of being thrust down, prostrated, of being banded together, encamped, either as disciples (Herder) or as those swearing allegiance (Herxheimer). לרגלך, after thy footstep. Whither thou movest, the hosts of God from heaven move after His hosts upon the earth. Knobel in his perplexity assigns the last member to the following verse. Understanding it of Jehovah, which is the most obvious view, it strengthens the preceding thought in the highest measure. Keil takes ישא as distributive, i.e., each one of them rises up to receive thy utterances. But how can Israel be suddenly taken as the subject, as receiving from the words of God with Moses (the law), or even Moses (Knobel) since he received out of these revelations (the statutes of God)? מדברתיך on account of thy (Israel) discourses, utterances with God, i.e., prayers. Deuteronomy 4:7 gives an excellent explanation. Comp. Numbers 10:34 sq.; Exodus 14:19. Jehovah Himself rises up when Israel speaks to Him. [This ingenious exposition of Schroeder avoids the necessity for supposing any change of person, accounts for the singular ישא, and agrees well with the context. It is suggestive, and well worthy of consideration. Keil paraphrases the verse: “He embraces all nations in His love, has all His holy angels in His hand, so that they lie at His feet, and rise up at His word.” On the whole Schroeder’s view is the better.—A. G.]. After Deuteronomy 33:3 has in this way connected the glory of Israel with the glory of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 33:2), the communion of the two in the law follows now most appropriately in Deuteronomy 33:4. The Jews regard this verse as a citation, taken from the lips of Israel. Hengstenberg: “Moses forgets himself, as it were, places himself upon the standpoint of the people, who in thankful love should rejoice in the favor of God shown to him. Thus Habakkuk in the last verse of his prophecy. Psalms 20, 21. In the New Testament John 21:24. And we are familiar with similar examples in the Christian lyrists.” Comp. also Deuteronomy 32:31. The supposition, however, of a redaction, easily understood by a reference to the filial piety of Joshua, is natural, who instead of “He commanded Moses a law,” places “Moses commanded us a law.” [Moses however has so completely and uniformly identified himself with the people, that the supposition that he does so here, and actually spake the words as they are recorded, though he did not write them, is much more natural. The piety of Joshua would lead him to record the words, as they were uttered, not to give them any new form.—A. G.].The repetition of the ל is not necessary in the second clause. Comp. Deuteronomy 4:6 sq. (Romans 3:2); John 1:17; John 7:19. Upon קהלה comp. Deuteronomy 5:19; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:4; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 18:16. Deuteronomy 33:5. Jehovah is the subject, as this shows that Deuteronomy 33:4 was originally uttered as suggested above תּוֹרָח צִוָּה אֶת משֶׁה After the expression of the communion in the law, he closes now with that through the theocracy (Jeshurun, comp. upon Deuteronomy 32:15). The law Israel’s, the kingdom Jehovah’s (Exodus 15:18). Knobel, when he gathered the heads of the people, sq., comp. Deuteronomy 4:10, etc., (Exodus 19:24).
3.Deuteronomy 33:6-25. The easy natural connection of the blessings upon the individual tribes, with what precedes, arises out of the common relations to Jehovah, and the rich promises to Israel. Thus the Mediator of the law is the speaker of the blessings. And first
Deuteronomy 33:6. Reuben: A moderated wish and blessing for the first-born, but one who was already displaced, Genesis 49:8 sq. מספר is something easily counted (Deuteronomy 4:27; Genesis 34:30), and can scarcely therefore be taken to designate that which is innumerable. (Herder: His men should be numerous again). The negation appears clearly as an explanation of יהי, since a co-reference to ויהי in the following clause, cannot well be regarded as allowable. [See the rule, Ewald, § 351, as referred to by Keil, p. 500, who however disregards it here and carries the negation to the second clause.—A. G.]. The view of Knobel, and others is perhaps the best, because he had sunk down to a small number; still there remains a blessing therewith, and the natural claim of Reuben, according to the judgment of Jacob, as also the low note which Moses here struck, was not altered, (comp. Numbers 16:1 sq.; 1 Chronicles 5:3 sq.). He should not entirely disappear as a tribe, (Genesis 42:2; Genesis 43:8) should much more remain while Simeon is passed over in silence as dead. Some MSS. of the Sept. interpolate the name of Simeon in the second clause, and connect it with: ἔστω πολὺς έν�. Herxheimer speaks of a “happy life;” Knobel of a “prosperous condition.” Both remind us of Reuben’s local distant position, exposed to Moabitish and Arabian inroads.—[The Moabitish stone so lately discovered shows that the cities of the Reubenites assigned to them by Joshua, were for the most part taken by the Moabites. They seem also to have wrested in part some of the cities assigned to the more warlike and energetic tribe of Gad. Schlottmann, Die Siegesaule Mesa. The Moabite Stone by Christian De Ginsburg, LL. D., London, 1870.—A. G.]—According to Numbers 26:7 this tribe, and still more that of Simeon, had suffered considerable losses. Numbers 25:14 should be considered in connection with the latter tribe; but it still bad a continued existence (1 Chronicles 4:0), so that the circumstances of a later time give no occasion for the omission of this tribe in the blessings of Moses. But it is in accordance with the Messianic and redeeming character of Judah that it receives into itself, as it were, the tribe of Simeon, Judges 1:3; as indeed this tribe had its location within the bounds of Judah, Joshua 19:2 sq.—[Simeon shared in the general blessings; but as dispersed in Israel, he had no individual blessing. This tribe had not, like that of Levi, made any efforts to retrieve its position, or to remove the stain which rested upon it, but had added new sins to that which brought upon it the curse of Jacob. Although they did not perish utterly (1 Chronicles 4:24; 1 Chronicles 4:39-43), they were still regarded as included with the other tribes, especially with Judah, with whose “fate and objects,” as Schultz remarks, “they shared as far as possible.”—A. G.]
Deuteronomy 33:7. Judah. After the omission of Simeon, Judah as the head-tribe follows upon the nominally first-born (Reuben). This blessing is the first introduced through the peculiar formula (וזאת); it is distinguished also by the method of prayer used (Genesis 9:26). The striking brevity points to the rich details in the blessing of Jacob. The voice of Judah is not merely his prayer for a prosperous return after he had gone out into the earlier contests (Hengstenberg, Keil), but according to Lange’s finer feeling, something mysterious, i.e., the utterance of a desire after a return generally out of all, even the last struggle, into the glory of a peaceful dominion.—Unto his people embraces as Genesis 49:10, more certainly, than the Israelitish tribes. (Herder, perhaps too strongly: “a tribe which thirsts for the end of the pilgrimage”). Upon the pre-eminence of Judah comp. Numbers 2:7; Numbers 10:14; Numbers 23:24. Hengstenberg’s Christologie, 2 Edition I. s. 88. For the criticism upon the historical explanation see Knobel, p. 344. But his own view of this passage, as referring to the flight of David from before Saul is too personal entirely for a tribal blessing. Comp. Deuteronomy 33:12.—[Knobel, after an allusion to the explanation given above, which he rejects, discusses and lays aside one by one, the views that it refers to the days of Jehoiachin, to the disruption under Rehoboam, to the period of David’s residence as king at Hebron, and fixes as the only possible sense the time of David’s flight from Saul. The reasoning he adopts, viz. that the circumstances of the history at each of these periods cannot well be made to agree with the words in question, bears against his own assumption. “For” (Bib. Com.) “it is impossible, on his own principles, to explain how the disasters, apostacies and confusion of Saul’s reign and of the times of the Judges could have happened at a date not long preceding that in which the song was penned—a song which everywhere speaks of peace and plenty.”—A. G.]—Schultz strangely calls in question the idea of a return in בוא. As the preposition ב belonging peculiarly to this root denotes entrance (בית ,באה), so the verb signifies to enter. The Hiph. can only be either: to effect an entrance into his allotted inheritance in Canaan (J. H. Michaelis, Herder), with which the exalted character of the blessing upon Judah does not accord, because that was not less to be desired for all Israel, or: to make an entrance again to his home, and with this to his people with whom he dwells. That the separation from his people supposed, can be no other than that occasioned by his warlike expedition, is clear from what follows. There is here a similar mingling of war and victory (peace) as in Genesis 49:8 sq. (The explanation of Schultz: “give to him the people,” is very nearly the opposite of the text, which says: “bring him to his people,” and the אל is not so much: bring him to the king of his people, as: king over his people.) רב לו, scarcely (Deuteronomy 3:26) be sufficient for him, for if Judah’s own hand is sufficient for him, what need is there of the Lord’s help as immediately follows! Others: He has hands sufficient (!). Farfetched: He stretches out widely (רבב), or: upon his side, fights (ריב) for him. A participle from ריב to thrust, press, strive. לו: “for his people;” for himself, would not suit the connection. We might also refer תהיה from the end of the clause to ידיו. His hands, fighting for him, help, sq., be thou: Because contending for Israel, Judah is thought of as in straits, hence the prayer for help from his adversaries, and assistance against them. Deuteronomy 33:8-11. Levi: As Judah had the pre-eminence in external things, so the blessing of the tribe of Levi is clearly connected with it, on account of its pre-eminence internally, but it can only come after Judah, partly because, Genesis 49:7, Levi is scattered as a tribe, and partly for a criticism upon those who know so much of the hierarchy in the Old Testament. What Judah was for Israel, Levi was in Israel. The prevalent tone of this blessing in its reference to Jehovah points also to the connection of the two. For the Thummim and Urim comp. Upon Exodus 28:30. (Hengstenberg, Egypt., p. 154), a pluralis majestatis, the “medium through which Israel might have the advantage of light and infallible truth, as it designates the assemblage of all lights, and of all perfection and infallibility.” [The article in Smith’s Bib. Dict., by Prof. E. H. Plumptre, gives, perhaps, as clear and satisfactory a theory of the Urim and Thummim as we can now attain. It includes however conjectures and suppositions, which a fuller knowledge will probably show to be unfounded. The general end and purpose is clear, but how the divine will was manifested, is involved in uncertainty.—A. G.]. Thummim here, before Urim, as it does not occur elsewhere, brings into prominence (according to Hupfeld, viewed as having a positive import), “the sincerity of mind, the right position of the heart towards God and man,” because such perfection could be asserted of Levi. The divine illumination, for his judicial decisions (Deuteronomy 17:9) which belongs to him, is based upon this. Others regard it as a wish; let both be and remain with him. Of this tribe as an ideal person (Deuteronomy 33:9; Deuteronomy 33:11, plural) or of the idealized tribe-father (?) it is then said that he is חסידi.e., that Levi in all this, comes into view only as the bearer of the divine חֶסֶד, viz., as participating in the grace of God, standing in the covenant of grace with Jehovah, as His chosen one. [חסד designates Levi as the object of the divine choice and favor, and not his moral character. But still there has obviously, from the whole blessing here, when compared with that in Genesis 49:5-7, been a great change in the moral and religious character of this tribe. A change which the events in the intervening history illustrates; especially those recorded in Exodus 32:26 sq., and Numbers 25:11 sq.—A.G.]. After such an emphatic allusion to the distinguished honor of the tribe (comp. Intro., § 4, I.) with reference to the high-priesthood in Levi there follows an historical reference, for Levi must have changed the curse of Jacob first into a blessing through his standing (Exodus 17:0) as through his falling (Numbers 20:0) if indeed this latter reference is in place here. V. Gerlach cites Exodus 17:7 only, which is sometimes called both Massah and Meribah. [Both passages are referred to. The two provings by means of water are chosen, “because in their correlation there they were best adapted to represent the beginning and the end, and therefore the whole of the temptation.” Schultz.—A. G.]. תריבהוKnobel renders arbitrarily: “thou blamedst.” But if not on that account, still on account of the עַל־מֵי there may be a reference also to Numbers 20:13, a slight intimation of the sin of the two chief personalities of the tribe, i.e., of Moses as well as Aaron. If we hold that the probable address of Jehovah, in thy Thummim, sq., in connection with the seventh verse continues even in the second clause, then we must interpret the provings and strifes as introduced indeed by the people, but as fundamentally proceeding from Jehovah, according to Deuteronomy 8:2 sq. But in this latter passage it is the whole people who are spoken of, and indeed their humiliation and trial by the Lord; while here it avails peculiarly of Levi, and indeed his trial and strifes. This latter term sounds somewhat strange when used of God to Levi, while it is on the contrary classic with respect to the conduct of the people towards Moses and Aaron (Exodus 17:2; Numbers 20:3; Numbers 20:2), and toward Jehovah (Exodus 17:7 : Numbers 20:13). Comp. further Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 9:22. But why this difference? The reference to the Lord may very well, in the second clause, pass over into the address of Israel in order to return again at the close of Deuteronomy 33:9 sq. to Jehovah! With this most natural interpretation we gain perhaps a reference of the provings on the side of the people to the Thummim, and of their strifes to the Urim; and moreover a reason why the former precedes the latter here. Israel had proved or tested before all the faithfulness of Levi, of God, then truly also striven against the light of Levi and of God. The prominent reference in Deuteronomy 33:8 to Exodus 18:0 agrees well with Deuteronomy 33:9 also, as in any case the following references are on this supposition more appropriately added than if Numbers 20:0 still came between. He denies the strongest natural ties when the interest of Jehovah are concerned, Deuteronomy 13:7 sq. (Matthew 10:37; Matthew 19:29; Luke 14:26). The cases referred to: Exodus 32:26 sq. (Numbers 25:7 sq.). Knobel applies it only to the entire concession to his divine calling. Others refer to Leviticus 21:11, or understand it of his not accepting persons, of the impartiality of the Levitical criminal judge (Deuteronomy 1:17). כי gives a proof of the described disposition through his observing and guarding (Deuteronomy 32:10); because they held fast what God had spoken from Sinai, and had shown themselves to be the guardians of the covenant proclaimed there, even with the sword. Upon these historical events rests finally, as upon its basis, the description of Levi’s calling. Deuteronomy 33:10 relates chiefly to his duties as Deuteronomy 33:11 is full of promise. Comp. Deuteronomy 17:9 sq.; Deuteronomy 24:8. The incense service is in the holy place, the sacrificial service in the court.—(At thy nose) the nose as the prominent member for the face, thus the same as before thee; perhaps also with reference to his anger. חילו, not his substance, revenues, but the strength, which needs the divine blessing for resisting, as well as for working, e.g. in his judicial activity and office (Schultz). The work must on account of the תרצה refer here to the sacrifices. The loins (dual) of the lower part of the back come so far into view as with their crushing (Deuteronomy 32:39), whoever has risen up against him must become powerless and fall away; parallel to the first clause. קמיו (Exodus 15:7) especially those rising against his priesthood (Numbers 16:0) as against his judicial office (Deuteronomy 17:12).—The haters (Deuteronomy 32:47) should not indeed proceed to an actual revolt or outbreak. קמיו and יקומין, a play upon words. Their hatred is parallel to the favor, acceptance, of the Lord, in the second clause. מן occurs only here in this position [it usually stands before the infinitive.—A. G.]. As it is with Judah’s enemies, so with those who rise up and hate Levi; and thus the two blessings run parallel even to the end.
Deuteronomy 33:12. Benjamin.—As the blessing of the later born, Judah, precedes that of his brother Levi, so also of the sons of Rachel the younger comes before the elder, Joseph. This blessing lies directly in the face of the hypothesis of Knobel as to the origin of chap. 33 at the time of David’s flight, making Deuteronomy 33:7 relate to the desire for David, and Deuteronomy 33:11 an expression of the sharp, Stern wish against Saul, etc. Saul might indeed be for Benjamin what David should be for Judah. The beloved of Jacob (Genesis 44:20) here appears as the beloved of the Lord, and thus first truly as the son of prosperity (Genesis 35:18). This distinguishing relation to the Lord becomes to Benjamin a dwelling, and thus describes how he dwells and lives rather than where. For עליו, which Knobel designates as “very difficult,” cannot refer to a settlement by the temple, but if not, according to the fundamental view of chap. 32, to one grounded upon the Rock Jehovah, still in accordance with Deuteronomy 1:31 or Deuteronomy 32:11 to one whose existence is supported by Jehovah. שכן usually refers to the presence of the Lord (12. 5, 11, etc.) and hence this thought floats before the mind of expositors; but it occurs here, as in Deuteronomy 33:20, of the sleeping lion! It is scarcely possible that the participation of Benjamin in the place chosen for the sanctuary (Joshua 18:28) should be referred to here, nor even the mountain-district which fell to this tribe, and might symbolize its rest upon the eternal Rock. The founding [dwelling] upon Jehovah is not therefore anything local, but a property in which Benjamin stands as the representative of all Israel (comp. Deuteronomy 33:28), as the designation at the very beginning of the blessing also may apply to all the people (Psalms 60:5; Jeremiah 11:15). The Sept. reads עליו as if it were אֶלְיוֹן, and connects it with the following clause. The security [safety] which grows out of the dwelling founded upon the Lord is also not merely for Benjamin, but equally for the other tribes (Deuteronomy 33:28); and with this the reference of חפף is put beyond question. The peculiar word is without doubt connected with חבב (Deuteronomy 33:3); הוֹף is the edge, border; thus truly: surrounding, protecting. The עליו is repeated with marked emphasis: upon such a rock. Benjamin is a protecting tower for others. The connection with the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:27) is effected through כל־היום, which is equivalent to the “morning and evening” there. The warlike character ascribed to him there, appears now in the service of others, so that only the fruits of it, the enjoyment, come into view here. The third clause is parallel to the first, and confirms the security of Benjamin and of that which he protects, as it illustrates more fully the repeated עליו. The shoulders obviously come into view with reference to the bearing; the dwelling is of Benjamin, who is the subject here, so that His is equivalent to Jehovah’s. Comp. Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:11. As Jehovah appears as the Rock, so also as the eagle. The representative character of the last of the twelve sons of Israel with respect to the whole people gives rise to this feature in the blessing, which is also ascribed to Israel generally. (Knobel makes Jehovah the subject, and explains the dwelling as referring to the position of the tabernacle at Gibeon between the mountain-ridges of Benjamin.)—[Knobel’s view which he rests mainly upon the geographical position of Gibeon is certainly far less tenable, than that which explains the dwelling of the residence of Jehovah in the temple afterwards built in the land of this tribe. But the subject is clearly Benjamin, as Schroeder holds, although the comparison is rather with the father who carries his sons while tender and young, than with the eagle.—A. G.]
Deuteronomy 33:13-17. Joseph. We have here a fullness of details and of words as with Levi, which surely has its origin here, as also in Genesis 49:0, in the fact that it is a double blessing both of Ephraim and Manasseh. The elaborated and figurative language corresponds well with the fact that Joseph is Israel’s ornament and glory as over against the Egyptians (Herder: “The kindness of Joseph is still ever before the eyes of him who utters the blessing, and his sons are clothed in the rich beauty of their father”). As in all cases, especially in the dwelling of Benjamin, the reference to Canaan is predominant, so the progress from the blessing, Genesis 49:0, to that spoken here, is marked by the prominence given to his inheritance. The author of such blessings upon his land is Jehovah; the second causes (מן is equivalent to through or with) are given in the accumulated expressions which follow. The waters from beneath (richness in springs, Deuteronomy 8:7), as from above, according to Genesis 49:25, whence some have altered the explicative מטל into מֵעָל (Genesis 27:28). It is a question whether in Deuteronomy 33:18 the words treat of productions matured by the influence of the sun, and also by that of the moon in its different phases (Keil), or of the fruits which ripen only once in a year, and those which grow in each month, fruits of all seasons of the year (Knobel). ומראש, Deuteronomy 33:15, as ומתהום (Deuteronomy 33:13), unless מגד is to be supplied. Whether olive-groves, or vineyards, or merely the rich and beautiful wild forests, are referred to, is uncertain. The reference to Genesis 49:26 and the parallelism exclude the explanation of קרם (literally: what is before, used both in a local and temporal sense) as the east, although this in itself is allowable, and Johlson retains it here with reference to the easterly mountains of Gilead, assigned to Manasseh. The poetical expression celebrates the strength and sublimity of the mountain-region. Deuteronomy 33:16. Moses here first sums up still all that relates to the land, but makes prominent immediately after the earth: and all its fullness, significantly for the transition to the person of Joseph, the affection, grace and good-will of the Lord in a setting both genuinely Mosaic (Exodus 3:2), and at the same time, as Genesis 49:24 shows, in full harmony with that of Jacob. It is not, however, so much “an addition of the spiritual blessings of the covenant of grace to those merely natural,” as rather an addition to the needy (as Joseph himself had been in Egypt, as Israel always is) of divine mercy permanently shadowed forth, which, as is evident, forms the basis of all that is said, and is itself the very kernel of the whole remarkable utterance. Hence we have not now as before וּמִ־, but neither an accusative of the instrument, nor of a more precise definition (Schultz: “and indeed through the good-will,” etc.); but רְצוֹן is abstract, on which account, and because at the same time all is included, it is connected with the feminine form (תבואתה), as in a neuter sense. For the rest comp. Genesis 49:26. נזיר retains the reflexive signification: who has separated himself through the plan or disposition of his life upon which he devoutly entered, but is not to be taken in the moral sense Genesis 39:8, much less in the sense of a ritual abstinence, but rather in the sense of one who has consecrated himself to the Lord, as an instrument of His holy purposes with Israel, as he himself interprets or explains it to his brethren, Genesis 1:20. The expression has nothing to do with נֵזֶר, “diadem” (Johlson: “the crowned”). But even the signification, “prince” (Delitzsch), is not established at least by the reference to Lamentations 4:7. Schultz refers it “to the esteem in which he was held by the tribe-father, Jacob.”—The head and the top of the head (crown) point to the long hair of the Nazarite; but whether the divine good-will and all blessings are to be viewed as a garland upon the head is questionable. It is simply said to come upon him, that it may be his lot and portion. Deuteronomy 33:17. The description introduces here a figure corresponding to the fruitfulness of the land with reference to the firstling of Joseph, i.e. according to Genesis 48:14 sq., Ephraim; although the closing member shows that Manasseh, the first-born in the order of nature, is included, but in less power and potency. To refer it to Joshua (V. Gerlach, Schultz) is too personal; even in Levi Aaron is not individualized. The glory (majesty) which is attributed to Ephraim, or which is desired for him, should manifest itself, make itself felt through peculiar remarkable strength, hence the horns, as the pride and strength of the bullock, give the tone and coloring to the statement, especially the horns of the רְאֵם, the wild bullock, either from רָם, to be high, or רָעַם, the outbreaking, raging (comp. Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8; Psalms 22:21). After the results of such power have been extended even to the remotest nations, the ends of the earth (in apposition), unless together [even to] is to be supplied (“which easily appears as the most fearful power.” Schultz); the horns of the first born are explained at the same time as the thousands of Manasseh; an explanation which has a “joyful ring and tone.” Schultz (Joshua 17:14 sq.).
Deuteronomy 33:18-19. Zebulon and Issachar. After the two sons of Rachel, we have now the sixth and fifth sons of Leah. As Benjamin closing the births of Rachel comes before Joseph, so Zebulon closing those of Leah stands before Issachar; or it is as with Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Judah before Levi. Its purport is very similar to Genesis 49:13 sq.; but the address here is to Zebulon alone. So certain is the blessing, that each tribe is directly called upon to rejoice. Deuteronomy 33:18. Still the occasion, nature and object of this rejoicing is the peculiarity of each tribe, fixed already at the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:13 sq.), but almost directly the opposite the one to the other; in the one, the wide-world enterprise and efforts; in the other the comfortable enjoyment of home life (Genesis 25:27). This contrast serves to complete both. Graf, Keil, miss the characteristic feature of the picture when they explain the going out and tents as equivalent to labor and rest, and apply both, to both tribes. The parallelism of the clauses is the parallelism of the brothers. The outgoing is that of the shipping and commercial life of Zebulon; in the tents applies to the grazing and agricultural pursuits of Issachar. Schultz: In thy tents, i.e. “in order to furnish animals for the caravan-merchants, or to become the bearers of their goods.” (Herder: “The outgoing, as the contrast with Issachar shows, is the departure from the tents; Zebulon will use its vicinity to Sidon and the coast for the purposes of trade through a variety of industries abroad,” etc.). The peoples, Deuteronomy 33:19, without any precise definition, must refer to the other nations of the world, who in distinction from the aggressive method (as in Deuteronomy 33:17), are here in an attractive, but Still undefined way, called to the mountain. This calling is attributed to both tribes dwelling together: to Zebulon, because of his wide world commerce and intercourse; to Issachar, because from its easterly and southerly mountain-district, through which it is the beloved Land, and as it appears with its mountain-heights from the sea (Deuteronomy 3:25), it represents and symbolizes the mountain (chap. 7) in prospect as the dwelling-place of Jehovah (Exodus 15:17), and thus awakens a sursum corda in the seamen. (Keil: Moriah, Genesis 22:14.—[But Keil holds that while Moriah has thus been designated and sanctified by the sacrifice of Isaac required of Abraham, there is no distinct or direct allusion to this mountain in the words of Moses here,—A. G.]—Herder: Tabor; Knobel: Carmel.). The sacrifices [slain-offerings] offered there, not burnt-offerings, as is clear from the sacrificial meals connected with them, to which the nations are invited as guests, are זִבְחֵי־צֶדֶק, i.e. such as bring out clearly the moral quality of Israel as the people of the law (Deuteronomy 6:25; Deuteronomy 25:15), include praise and thank-offering of every kind; and thus serve to introduce what follows. Zebulon and Issachar have, namely, such an occasion for praise and thankfulness, and must give them a sacrificial expression, since they call masses, troops, to such communion with the God of Israel,—for, sq. שׁפע used of the bringing together, gain, wealth; “both by commerce and the catch of fish, purple snails, bathing-sponges,” (Knobel), “the abundance which the nations bring over the sea, Isaiah 60:5; Isaiah 60:16.” Schultz: “the riches and treasures of both sea and land, Isaiah 66:11-12,” Keil. Sand is then equivalent to strand, and the שְׁפֻנֶי טְמוּנֵי (a play upon words) is to be taken as: the treasures, jewels, or: the most hidden treasures. According to Knobel the author refers to the glass so highly prized by the ancients, which was found in the sand of the Belus southerly from Akko. ינק to apply closely to anything, here for the drawing in of the sea, as the mother’s milk. Comp. for the whole Psalms 22:27 sq., and for the distinction between the idea and the reality, which forms an insoluble difficulty here for the historical exegete, since Zebulon and Issachar afterwards never in reality reached to the Mediterranean Sea; see Schultz, p. 705. [The distinction involves no difficulty if we keep in mind the Messianic thought which is contained in the passage, and which receives its explanation and illustration in the Psalm above referred to. Comp. also Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 66:11-12.—A. G.]. Deuteronomy 33:20-21. Gad. The sons of the handmaidens follow, and first the first-born of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid. The praise of the Lord (Genesis 9:26) implies the existence already of that which was about to be said. Jehovah gave the tribe a wide inheritance in the region of Sihon, and unlimited space, (Genesis 26:22), also for further conquests. (Deuteronomy 12:20; Deuteronomy 19:8). For Gad appears already, Genesis 49:19, as a victorious warrior; here as a lion (Knobel, lioness) “who destroys even the last remnants of the Amorites” (Schultz), or as Knobel, “plunders and consumes those encamped in quiet security.—Arm is equivalent to strength, and the crown of the head to the command, leadership. ראשית, Deuteronomy 33:21, as the following שׁם shows, refers to the first portion of the land, which Gad held on the farther side of Jordan, (Numbers 32:0), which was conceded to him, and which he had to determine and organize as a leader and ruler; which was reserved to him as such; or according to Knobel: “Since the portion conceded to Gad for his bravery was especially only something preserved or kept, because the condition of Moses (Numbers 32:19) must first be fulfilled before the regular legal occupation could take place.” (Onkelos, Raschi: For there the grace of the law-giver (Moses) is concealed, and similar numerous explanations)! If it refers to Moses, it must be, that there the portion defined by the law-giver is preserved. (Johlson: “For there the portion of the leader is preserved”). [מְחֹקֵק might refer either to Moses or to Gad; but as Gad is said to have chosen the first portion for Himself, it can only refer here to Gad, who is called the leader, ruler, because of his activity and bravery in the conquest of the land. See Numbers 32:2; Numbers 32:6, and also Keil, p. 509.—A. G.]. The heads of the people is equivalent to the leader of the people, at its head, thus descriptively of the whole tribe; or Gad at the head of Israel, as the head of the nation, and thus before all (Deuteronomy 3:18; Joshua 4:12). Schultz, Keil: “to the heads of the people,” i.e., with them, joined himself to them.—The justice of the Lord is either: the Divine penal justice, and the judgments (his judgments) which he with the rest of Israel executed upon Canaan; or: because he performed before God and Israel, his duty, according to this command, he should not permit Israel to pass over alone.
Deuteronomy 33:22. Dan—the first-born of Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah. The serpent-like, Genesis 49:17, is now the lion-like, but still with the characteristic trait of unexpected cunning. זנק literally, to draw the feet together for a spring. Knobel, renders מן־הבשן, from the plain: the lion usually has his lair upon the mountains, in the forests and thickets, but here in the treeless plains, and for that reason the more dangerous. Schultz explains the allusion to Bashan from the fact that lions, leopards, abound in the northern mountain caves more than elsewhere. Keil: “in the easterly Bashan these enemies were very dangerous to the herds.” (Song of Solomon 4:8).
Deuteronomy 33:23. Naphtali.—The second son of Bilhah is still ever the graceful (Genesis 49:21) but with a more decided and fuller expression. ברכת יה confirms the explanation of רצון given in verse 16. Favours—not as Schultz, which he causes, makes, but the good-will which Jehovah has to him, as He gives him the blessing for his portion.—The West (Sea) and the South gives one an idea of the favors of Jehovah to Naphtali, and the Divine blessing; although his land lay in the North, far from the sea, it should still enjoy the healthful freshness of the sea, as well as the genial warmth of the South. He dwells upon the beautiful sea of Gennessaret, where tropical fruits are produced. Should this be ים? The address imperative. [The דָרוֹם does not necessarily refer to the South, bat rather to the natutural characteristics of the climate of a part of his inheritance, which bordered upon the Sea of Galilee, and which was a warm, sunny region. Robinson, Porter, and other travellers, call attention to the beauty and fertility of this region. And here, too, there is the same distinction as before between the idea and the reality, showing how impossible it is to interpret these blessings merely historically.—A. G.]. Deuteronomy 33:24-25. Asher.—The second son of Zilpah closes the blessings, a position for which his name was significant. (Blessedness). Deuteronomy 33:24. With children, rather before or above the sons, (Judges 5:24,)—i.e., above the sons who are blessed; standing at the close of the blessings of Moses, and parallel with אחיו in the second clause, it is naturally the sons of Jacob, above whom he is blessed. רצוי the favor of God (Deuteronomy 23:16). The rich picture of his oil possessions, or generally of his fat and fertile land, completes that given, Genesis 49:20. Deuteronomy 33:25. The promise of lasting security is added to all the rest and completes it. Iron and brass.—Knobel: “Thy castles and strongholds shall have their doors and bars of these materials.” Others: “Thy iron and brass containing mountains (Deuteronomy 8:9) are thy strongholds.” Keil: “As strong and impregnable are thy dwellings, as if they were built of iron and brass.” [Nearly all the recent expositors adopt the rendering of מנעלך, by bars or bolts. But that chosen in our version is consistent with the Hebrew, has in its favor the older versions, and presents in an expressive figure the strength and firmness of Asher.—A. G.]. But what if the fastnesses were such, and no strength behind or within them? Hence it follows, and as thy days, or as long as he lives; so long shall he himself remain firm and strong. (דָבְאֶךְ, Knobel: “Thy security.” Keil: “Rest.” Herxheimer and others: As thy days, so let thy prosperity increase).
4.Deuteronomy 33:26-29. At the close of the blessings we have a return (Deuteronomy 33:26) to their beginning, and thus the whole is beautifully finished.—There is none like unto the God, there is not as God—namely, a God beside (Deuteronomy 32:12; Deuteronomy 4:7). Jeshurun (comp. upon Deuteronomy 32:15) the one addressed. [The punctuation scarcely admits of the rendering in our version, and the parallelism is against it.—A. G.]. The following parallel clauses delineate the almighty power and exaltation of God as availing for Israel’s help and redemption.—Who rideth upon (in) the heavens. שחק, as “the grinding,” or “ground to pieces,” extended, designating the clouds harboring the thunder, and also the ether. עזר, as in Deuteronomy 33:7, with ב equivalent to; engaged in thy help, for the purpose of helping, as thy helper. The parallelism of ובגאותו with בעזרך, reveals the majesty of God as having risen up for Israel’s help. Hence in Deuteronomy 33:27, even God Himself is the (dwelling) refuge (Psalms 90:1), i.e., the permanent lodging (Knobel: Shelter, refuge, protection) because a God of the olden time, [the eternal God, A. V.], who has manifested Himself as God long before this time, (Deuteronomy 32:17) thus according to His eternity. Herxheimer, with an allusion to Deuteronomy 26:15, explains he heavens, the clouds, as the dwelling of the God of old against the parallelism, which as it introduces the heaven with אין כאל־, Deuteronomy 33:16, so now the earth with ומתחת ּמענה אלהי־ must therefore state the contrast underneath, upon the earth; but also from this side—not so much: holds out, extends or offers, as: underneath is he, and from thence the everlasting arm, thus a permanent support and preservation. It is not necessary to say for whom, as this is evident from the address to the people, and also from the following, which represents the activity of the hands for the poor or needy (Genesis 49:24). Almighty exaltation above, eternal love underneath. As קרם points to the past, so עולם to the future, the nearest as the most remote. With His hands, Israel’s hands prevail, Deuteronomy 20:16-17; Deuteronomy 31:4. (Knobel supposes a derivation from מתח, and renders, “and the outstretching of the eternal arms.” Mendelssohn: “the dwelling of the primeval God, and the everlasting arms of the lower world.” Others: A refuge hast thou in the God of old, and under the arms of the eternal God). In connection with the dwelling which God is to His people, and as a result of the expulsion and destruction of His enemies (especially the Canaanites) Israel should dwell, Deuteronomy 33:28. בטח, because בדד, i.e., not because separated from all nations through His law, but because through the protection of God, through victory in the strength of God, saved, secured, from his enemies, whom God has removed from him, he dwells safely (Deuteronomy 12:10). Thus we have here something more than Hengstenberg upon Numbers 23:9, “a quiet and guarded seclusion.” Comp. Hupfeld, Ps. I., p. 64. The connection of בדד with the foregoing, recommends itself, even without the accent, against Hengstenberg, Schultz, Keil, Knobel. Just as little is אֵין־, “the fountain of Jacob.” Without insisting upon the unfitness of the expression with reference to dwelling, is it not over bold here (but comp. Isaiah 48:1; Psalms 68:26) thus to represent Israel “as sprung from Jacob, in whom it has its source” (Keil) or, “in so far as it is one with Jacob, ever pouring forth from itself an increasing stream.” Schultz. Certainly Israel is no fountain in relation to Jacob, nor in connection with him, but Jacob must be the fountain of Israel. Generally, moreover, it is not so much here a parallel expression to Israel which is in view, as rather a parallel thought, to his secure, separate dwelling, and for this there is nothing more fitting (at the same time perhaps with a glance at מענה, Deuteronomy 33:27) than the eye of Jacob rejoicing in his secure dwelling, and one freed from enemies. The tribe-father directs, as it were, his eye satisfied to Israel, now come to its portion, to him in the promised land, striving after a look therein. (Even πηγὴ a fountain stands for: a corner of the eye). There is no perceptible destruction of the symmetry of the clauses of the verse upon this explanation. Comp. besides Deuteronomy 8:7 sq. [Schroeder’s view is ingenious, but he lays undue stress upon the phrase, “fountain of Jacob,” since that may obviously imply only that Israel is the fountain issuing from Jacob, and not necessarily the fountain from which Jacob flows. Keil meets the apparent impropriety in the construction of שכן with אל, “dwell into,” with the remark “that the dwelling involves the idea of spreading out over the land.” As this construction seems to preserve the parallelism, it is better to render, Israel shall dwell in safety. Alone the fountain of Jacob. To a land, etc.—A. G.]. אף the progressive relative clause, the heaven of this land or of Israel (Leviticus 26:19). Comp. Deuteronomy 33:13; Deuteronomy 11:14, (Genesis 27:28), Deuteronomy 32:2.Deuteronomy 33:29; Deuteronomy 33:29 closes the whole blessing with which the last, best, happy condition of Israel, resting upon such divine (Deuteronomy 33:26-27) and truly human and earthly foundations, should not lie buried in silence. (Herder: “What a law-giver who thus closes! What a people who have such a God, such help, such a law, and such promises”). Literally: Thy blessedness, O Israel. אשרי plural, as many abstract nouns. The involved idea of grades, adjustments, must be understood morally. No happiness for Israel except upon a basis of right; its physical prosperity rests upon its moral. Hupfeld rightly regards the interpretation as a salutation, (“Blessings to thee, Hail to thee”), as without good ground, it is “a simple utterance.” The blessedness with reference to Israel, the last words of Moses, offer the significant point of union for Matthew 5:0. Who is like unto thee—parallel to that, there is none like unto God, O Jeshurun (Deuteronomy 33:26). The people, “singular” (Schultz), as its God, (Deuteronomy 28:10); Deuteronomy 4:7. ביהוה in the Lord, embraces the salvation through him, and victory in him; (Keil: “saved in the Lord”), Isaiah 45:17. This is now explained upon the two sides: the defensive shield (Genesis 15:1), the offensive sword, (Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:21). Comp. Deuteronomy 33:7; Deuteronomy 33:26. The parallel to Deuteronomy 33:26 is unmistakable here, and so also in גאותך: Israel’s excellency, Jehovah’s excellency! In consequence of which (Niphal) the dissembling flattery of the enemies; the feigned, affected subjection, as the fear of the mighty instils itself into them, (Herxheimer) “as the Gibeonites, Joshua 9:0”). דָּרַךְ denotes a victorious, ruling tread and step of the foot. Comp. Deuteronomy 32:13. Others: Of the placing of the foot upon the necks of the conquered (Joshua 10:24). Michaelis: Of the idolatrous high places.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Moses the man of God, and Christ also the Son of God, leave the earth uttering blessings, (Luke 24:50 sq.).
2. It is characteristic for the law generally, but especially for the Deuteronomic law-giving, that Moses begins from Sinai, even when he will bless.
3. The Sinaitic law-giving was a sunrise upon humanity. What the world’s history relates besides of the law, is to this as the star-light to the sunshine. There the night lasts, while here there is the clear light of day.
4. What the light signifies figuratively, that the “saints” present without a figure, for the nature of Jehovah, setting forth His holiness not only in the contrast between heaven and earth, but also in both its searching and illuminating, its requiring and blessing majesty.
5. The law—Israel’s possession and wealth.
6. With Reuben it is a matter of life, and barely not death: such characters are usual in the kingdom of God.
7. As Simeon, so now one may live and still be dead as to the kingdom of God; truly also without winning any direct importance for it, and still as to his own person be blessed.
8. As Judah for Israel, so also among the tribes of those in the van. Germany may claim the warlike leadership. [How far? in what respects?—A. G.].
9. Upon the relation of Levi to Judah, in the blessing of Moses. W. Neumann, History of the Messianic Prophecies, 1865, p. 73 sq., says: “First the outward power of the ruler, then the inward, glorifying consecration of the priesthood. Until at Sinai all salvation is in the gold-glittering of the kingly diadem. The princely sceptre of Judah must, in the strength of his God, overcome all dangers which may prevent the people from rest. When the land is reached, has passed now into the actual possession of the people, then the silver splendor of the priestly diadem, consecrating the blessing of the promise, pours itself over the whole existence, glorifying it. The name Levi meets us upon the high-priestly official ornament, upon the ground of the flashing green emerald, whose doubled rays are such that according to the Arabian tradition the viper cannot look upon it without destroying its sight, discloses to the inquiring mind a significant element in the relation in which this green ground of the glittering light stands to the nature of that calling in which Levi serves. The hopeful green deepens there into such an overwhelming clearness, that it becomes a flashing light which destroys all the darkness of death. The resemblance to the calling of Abraham lies near at hand, when Levi appears freed from family ties and bands.”
10. There is indeed a foolish and very harsh (pietistic), but surely also a sacred regardlessness of ordinary ties, as Levi proves.
11. Benjamin individualizes the fundamental characteristics of Israel, resting upon Jehovah.
12. Prayer and work present themselves in Judah; blessing and victory in Joseph; there we have more prominently the subjective side of Israel—here the objective. In regard to blessing, Jacob has already determined the formula or measure for Israel, Genesis 48:20,—“as Ephraim and Manasseh.”
13. As Zebulon, in connection with Issachar, so the more varied temperaments, and the most diverse methods of life, unite in the service and honoring of God upon the earth (union—missions).
14. The significance of commerce for the kingdom of God (missionary aspect of commerce).
15. Not the service of Mammon, but of God.
16. “It is remarkable how the Israelitish consciousness, notwithstanding the realization of this side of its charge remains uncompleted, is still able to project itself so completely into the sea-life, as, e.g., Psalms 107:23 sq.” Baumgarten.
17. It claims our notice not barely for the approaching conquest of Canaan, but for the ecclesia militans, which Israel symbolizes, that through, out in the blessings of Moses, especially in that upon Gad and Dan, the military art and time, is so prominent.
18. As the warlike element runs through the blessings, so at the conclusion particularly the Sabbatic feature of favor, and blessing, and security, and enjoyment (in Naphtali and Asher), is not wanting.
19. If the Almighty power of God may be recognized in heaven, or from thence, so His lore upon earth, where He is the dwelling, and the everlasting arms for His own (especially in Christ, John 1:14).
20. In the world, but not with the world,—far from the world and so to dwell alone,—still securely, is found only in God, when He is our dwelling. As soon as we inwardly consent to the inclination for the world, it externally possesses and exercises power over us.
21. The blessing of the land has its spiritual import, although truly corn and wine are external bodily things, not barely in the sense of mens sana in corpore sano, but much more because the vivid living consciousness of God can scarcely be preserved in any other way.
22. The blessedness of Israel is peculiar and alone among the nations, ancient or modern. It is, however, not one belonging to a nation, but concerns the humanity which is in Christ, the Israel after the spirit. It is rather a blessedness which relates to humanity.
23. [The general Messianic character of this chapter is clear. The distinction between the ideal of Israel as here presented, and the actual condition of the literal Israel at any time in its history, is so broad that we are compelled to look for a spiritual Israel, in which the ideal shall be realized. But there is no spiritual Israel out of Christ. While it may not be true that “all these benedictions find their spiritual fulfilment in Christ or His Church, and must be so explained,” it is true that the interpreter who overlooks or ignores this relation will fail truly to understand them. The purely historical interpretation breaks down at every point. It fails to account for the omission of Simeon. It puts the narrowest and most forced explanation upon the blessing of Judah. It has no satisfactory solution for the utterances in regard to Zebulon, or Issachar, or Dan, or Naphtali, or Asher, while it is utterly impossible to assign any period of Israel’s history which corresponds with the general prediction in the 29th verse. The Messianic Psalms which give the exposition of this prophecy, e.g., Psalms 18, 66, confirm the Messianic import, not only of this particular verse, but of the whole chapter of which it forms a part.—A. G.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Deuteronomy 33:1. Berl. Bib.: “The blessings of Moses have this distinction from those of Jacob, that they are more purely blessings: Moses passes over the evil.” Deuteronomy 33:2 sq. Schultz: “He will also call attention to this, that God will fill, even the unfruitful, the wretched, that even which is fallen into the power of death, with His light of life; Psalms 68:5 sq., the widows, orphans, and needy, correspond to the wilderness. But He cannot, because true servants and worshippers were wanting to Him. His coming was rather a condescension, a self-humiliation corresponding to the after coming of Him who, Hebrews 12:2.” Baumgarten: “Raschi well says, it is the coming forth of the bridegroom to bring home His bride. He comes forth from the land where the fathers once had known Him, etc., where Jehovah’s altars and the fathers rest in their graves, and stepping in his own way (Amos 4:13; Micah 1:3 sq.), over the high places of the earth, meets His redeemed people. The loud blast of the war-trumpets of the heavenly hosts which was heard, Exodus 19:19, was a sign that Jehovah of hosts was descending with His hosts.” Berl. Bib.: “It proclaims the glory of God who never enters the soul alone, but always with numerous gifts and graces.” Zinzendorf: “The regular ordinary beginning which brings us to the grace of God is a much greater, sharper, more solemn law than that which was given upon Sinai. We have a fiery law, with glowing pinchers, written in the heart. Our conversion is no play-work and pretence.” Deuteronomy 33:4-5. Schultz: “They received not merely a specific law and king, but law and king generally,—at the basis of which lies the truth that there is no law, and no king besides.” “The law-giving on Sinai a sun-rise, a coronation.” Deuteronomy 33:8 sq. Schultz: “If the Lord takes one into a rigid school, He is wont to assign him to a peculiar office; those whom He humbles deeply, He is accustomed to exalt.” But Simeon not as Levi—there is always a distinction. Wurtb. Bib.: “Although the servants of God have many and powerful enemies, still God stands with them, so that they can in their sacred office do greater and greater service.” [Levi not only an example of repentance and recovery, but also shows us how, by the grace of God, even a calamity and judgment may be turned into a blessing. Deuteronomy 33:9. See Luke 2:49; Luke 14:26—A. G.] Deuteronomy 33:16. Schultz: “Poor and still rich in Himself, without form but for His own raying out the greatest blessings, thus is He the one dwelling in the bush. Fundamentally He appears poor only, because His own, whom He selects for His dwelling, are so. They are the thorn-bush. And that He does not consume them, that He only shines through them, glorifies them,—this is not His weakness, but His grace, His great glory.” Krummacher: “The wish for blessings at the new year: 1) the source, 2) the good itself, 3) the wish in its purpose.” “He dwells in the bush—a neglected manifestation of God, but its occasion the wretchedness, its purpose is the redemption of the people of God. It was—since God chose a thorn-bush for His dwelling, a still imperfect revelation of love, wherefore Moses must stand afar off, and fear; with which the Old Testament began. Still it was a figure of the manifestation of God in the flesh. The thorn-bush is the human nature, Christ crowned with thorns. And will He dwell in our hearts—what else is it than in a thorn-bush?” Wurtb. Bib.: “God richly rewards the good that was shown to parents.” Deuteronomy 33:17. Schultz: “Present work is only the beginning of that which will continue to the end of time.” Deuteronomy 33:18. Schultz: “Israel should not be limited to the good things of Canaan; as the people of God, the earth belongs to Him.” [Deuteronomy 33:25. Wordsworth: “All the blessings of Israel are summed up in Christ. His feet are compared to fine brass, Revelation 1:15. He is the true Asher or Blessed One. See Matthew 21:9; Matthew 23:39; Romans 9:5.”—A. G.] Deuteronomy 33:27. Osiander: “God’s words are deeds.” Deuteronomy 33:29. Cramer: “If we will be blessed, God must make us blessed.” Schultz: “For the soldiers of the Lord there is no more needful, but also no more glorious motive, than the certainty that they shall tread upon the flesh, the world, and the devil; that all shall become the kingdom of God and His Christ.” [See also Henry, whose notes are felicitous and instructive.—A. G.]
[Deuteronomy 33:2. The marginal reading is literal: a fire of law. But it is objected, that the text thus assumed cannot be correct here, because it gives no good sense, and because the word דַּת is not a Semitic word, but adopted from the Persian. Keil and others therefore read אשדת, fire of throwing, for the flashes of lightning which accompanied the promulgation of the law. The reading thus adopted is sustained by a considerable number of MSS. and editions.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:10. The marginal rendering here is not so close as that in the text. It is not a wish, but a declaration, covering the future of this tribe.—A. G.].
 [Deuteronomy 33:11. Schroeder more exactly:
Crush the hips of his adversaries,
And his haters that they may not rise.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:12. The ידיד יהוח is the subject of the verb; and the last words should be rendered literally upon him.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:12. The participle is expressive—is sheltering.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:16. Schroeder retains the Hebrew נזיר, the Nazarene.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:17. Literally: The first-born of his ox, majesty is to him. Our version brings ambiguity and confusion into the text.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:20. Gesenius, Keil, Knobel, render this word lioness, although it has a masculine termination; comp. Genesis 49:9. It is probably the lion, including both the male and female.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:21. Schroeder: For there [the same was] the leader’s portion, a thing kept. מְחקֵק, one who ordains, determines, commands, refers not to Moses, but to Gad, who is called the leader here because of his special activity and boldness in the conquest of the land.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:23. The verb is future, and expresses a promise rather than a wish or direction: he shall possess.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:24. The מ is comparative, away from, above the other sons. Asher, as his name imports, is blessed above—most blessed among the sons.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:25. Schroeder renders with Keil and others, מנְעָלֶךָ, bars, castles, from נעל, to bolt.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:25. דבא Ges. and most recent authorities render rest. Thy rest shall continue as thy days. Our version has the ancient authorities in its favor, and affords so good a sense that we may well adhere to it.—A. G.].
[Deuteronomy 33:28. The pointing in our version breaks up the parallelism of the original. Schroeder departs from the original also, and renders: the eye of Jacob is directed to a land, etc.—A. G.].