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THE BLESSING OF THE TRIBES
Though Deuteronomy is a book largely of admonition, yet all admonition is finished by the end of Chapter 32:47, and Chapter 33 beautifully closes God's message for Israel by pronouncing blessing that is high above all the demands of law.
This blessing is prophetic of the millennial blessing of Israel still future. It is introduced, however, with the Lord coming from Sinai, leaving behind the covenant of law and dawning on Israel from Seir, but shining forth from Paran (v.2). Paran means "their beautifying," a contrast indeed to Sinai, and reminding us that in the millennium "the beauty of the Lord God" will be put on Israel (Psalms 90:17).
Coming "with ten thousands of His saints" has reference to the Lord's coming in majestic glory in view of establishing His millennial kingdom. "From His right hand came a fiery law for them." This Hebrew word translated "law" is not the usual word, but is translated in the Numerical Bible as "mandate" For the first covenant (that of law) will give place to the New Covenant, under which God says, "I will put my law in their minds, and will write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:31-33). The Lord Jesus will certainly still be in authority, but Israel will find His yoke easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30).
"Yes, He loves His people" (v.3. This has always been true, but it will be realized by Israel then as it never has been before. "All His saints are in Your hand." This seems to distinguish between the Father and the Son, as is seen in John 17:9-10, where the Son speaks of the Father having given Him all saints. Thus, He holds them in His hand of power. They will then sit down at the feet of the Lord Jesus, ceasing from their own works. Every one at that time will gladly receive His words. What a change that will be in the previously rebellious nation!
Verse 4 recalls the giving of the law by Moses, the law being a heritage in which Israel should have rejoiced. But Moses was said to be "King in Jeshurun" Though he did have the place of authority, yet it is most unusual that he should be called "king." The answer to this is in the prophetic character of the blessing. Moses typified Christ, who will have the place of King in the coming day, when all Israel will be gathered in a unity they have never before displayed.
The blessing of Reuben is very brief. Reuben was the beginning of Jacob's strength (Genesis 49:3), that is, the strength of the flesh. Such strength must be brought down to nothing, yet grace would preserve his life: he would not die. Yet his men would be few, as is the proper translation (J.N.Darby). This reminds us ofRomans 9:27; Romans 9:27 in quoting from Isaiah, "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved."
Though Reuben (the firstborn) has been referred to first, the order of birth is not then followed, for Judah was actually fourth. But the Messiah was to come from Judah. God would hear Judah's voice, as indeed He hears every prayer of His beloved Son, and will bring Him to His people at the time they are reduced to utter helplessness. His hands will be sufficient for him. This can only be said of Christ, the works of whose hands are absolute perfection. God also would be His help against His enemies, defeating them in the day of His glory.
Simeon is left out of this list entirely, possibly because of Simeon's taking the lead in corrupting Israel in committing fornication with the Midianites (Numbers 25:14), while Levi has a great deal said about him. Levi was the third son of Jacob, and pictures resurrection blessing, therefore given the place of priesthood to draw specially near to God.. Levi's thummim and urim are said to be "with your holy One" (v.8). The meaning of thummim and urim is "perfections and lights," seen in the reflections of the precious stones in the ephod. This was used by the priests when inquiring of God when needs of discernment of His will arose. in the millennium Israel will gladly commit this entirely to God's Holy One, the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone is all-wise and discerning. Israel had proved Him at Massah and Meribah, finding in Him grace that far transcended the need they had and the contention they were guilty of in complaining against Him.
Levi had been chosen by God for the service of the sanctuary, therefore the things of God were paramount to him. Because of this he says of his father and mother, "I have not seen them" (v.9). He recognized no natural relationship that could compare with his relationship to God. This reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus at a time when He was told His mother and His brethren sought for Him. He answered, "Who is My mother, or My brethren?" (Mark 3:33). "And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother" (Mark 3:34-35). Every natural relationship must give way to a true spiritual relationship. This is emphasized in the words, "they have observed Your word and kept Your covenant."
Only those who thus put God first are fitted to be teachers of the people. So the Levites were to teach Israel (v.10). They should also lead Israel in worship, offering incense to God and burnt offerings. This is a solid basis for the following prayer, "Bless his substance, Lord, and accept the work of his hands," while on the negative side, God's judgment is asked against those who rise against him or who hate him.
One verse suffices for Benjamin, whose name means "Son of my right hand," and this speaks of a place of nearness and communion with God, beloved of the Lord and dwelling between God's shoulders. It is another characteristic of Israel which will be beautifully seen in the coming day of her glory. This is because Benjamin is primarily a type of the Lord Jesus, and today the Church of God shares in the blessing of identification with Him, dwelling between God's shoulders, a character that each individual believer has title to enjoy. It is sad that we do not more fully enjoy it.
Much more is said of Joseph, however, for Benjamin did not go through the deep suffering and pressure that Joseph did. This section speaks of the abundance of fruitful prosperity that Israel will yet enjoy in the age to come. Psalms 4:1 tell us, "In pressure Thou hast enlarged me" (JND), a truth beautifully true of Joseph, and indicative of the great blessing that Israel will yet receive as a result of their deep pressure of years, culminating in the Great Tribulation. God will show how He is able to bring about the greatest blessing from the greatest suffering. This has in fact already been seen in the sufferings of Christ and the great blessing of the Church of God now. But Israel will know the value of this only after her suffering the ordeal of the tribulation.
The Lord will bless the land with precious things of heaven (v.13), for even the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, the metropolis of God's creation, will have its twelve gates inscribed with the name of the tribes of Israel (Revelation 21:12). From that heavenly city the grace of God will pour its abundant blessing on the earthly people of God. The dew from heaven, typical of the Spirit of God, will moisturize the nation, to prosper the growth of fruit for God. "The deep lying beneath" seems to infer that depths of evil will be changed into depths of goodness, so that nothing will be against them, but everything ministering to the spiritual energy of bearing fruit.
As well as moisture, the sunshine must be added that there may be precious fruit (v.14). The sun is typical of the Lord Jesus, "the Sun of righteousness" spoken of inMalachi 4:2; Malachi 4:2 as arising on Israel with healing in His wings. "The precious produce of the months" connects withRevelation 22:2; Revelation 22:2, though that verse refers to the Lord Jesus as the Tree of life yielding twelve fruits, one each month. He Himself, the Tree of life, will be in heaven, in the midst of the Assembly, the Church of God. The twelve fruits are for Israel, while the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the Gentile nations. Wonderful prosperity!
Verse 15 adds another lovely feature of the fruitfulness of Israel, "With the best things of the ancient mountains, with the precious things of the everlasting hills." Ancient mountains speak of authority established from time immemorial. Israel will then recognize that the Lord Jesus is indeed "the Lord, the King of Israel," "the Redeemer, the Lord of hosts," who says, "I am the First and I am the Last; beside Me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6). When they accept His authority, which has been from eternity past, this submission will be a vital part of the fruit they bear for God.
Israel will also be blessed with the precious things of the earth and its fullness (v.16). Their land, their earthly possession, will bear fruit abundantly because of "the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush." This refers to Exodus 3:2, when Moses saw the bush burning but not being consumed. God called to him from the midst of the bush. The burning bush pictures Israel going through the fires of tribulation, but being preserved through it. This is another reminder that suffering is the means by which eventual fruit is borne for God.
All this blessing comes "on the head of Joseph, on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers." Joseph, separated from his brothers, is a type of the Lord Jesus, who, through His solitary sufferings and death, is the great Recipient of all blessing from God. Yet, as Joseph shared with his brothers the blessing that came to him in Egypt, so the Lord Jesus will share with Israel all these blessings that are said to be the portion of Joseph. Indeed, today He shares much more than this with the Church of God, giving her a heavenly inheritance and announcing her as His prospective bride. If Israel's blessings will be wonderful, how much more those conferred upon the Church, "which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23).
"His majesty is as the firstling of his ox" (JND). He is seen here as having strength to subdue every enemy, with horns like those of the wild ox. Thus He pushes all enemies before Him. This is Christ in His people Israel victorious over all the world. The two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, fathered the tribes that had this honor of representing Joseph, and indeed representing all Israel (v.17).
ZEBULON AND ISSACHAR
These two tribes are considered together, Zebulon in his going out and Issachar in his tents. But both are told to rejoice (v.18). We too should rejoice in going out to share Christ with others, and we should rejoice in the place of seclusion too, where we may enjoy communion with the Lord. The nation Israel will be privileged to enjoy both of these in the day of her glory.
In going out they shall call the peoples to the mountain, no doubt the mountain of the house of the Lord (v.19). And there the character of nearness to the Lord will have its place, with sacrifices of righteousness, sacrifices that will call to remembrance the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on Calvary. Sharing in this blessing will be precious, just as today it is precious to share with saints of God the enjoyment of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.
More than this, they shall partake of the abundance of the seas and of the treasures hidden in the sand. This speaks of the Gentile nations also contributing to the blessing of Israel. "The abundance of the seas" is a significant expression, for the population of the seas is tremendously great. It is said the insect population on earth far outweighs all the human, animal and bird population! It would require quite a number of mosquitoes to equal the weight of just one elephant! But the combined population of insects, animals, birds and humans is nothing compared to the weight of the population in the seas; for the seas cover over two-thirds of the surface of the earth, and there is marine life at every depth of the seas, while on earth there is only one level and huge expanses of earth are unpopulated by humans or animals. This wealth in the seas is only symbolical of the wealth that Gentiles will bring to share with Israel in the millennium.
The sand of the seashore (Genesis 22:17) also speaks of Gentiles, so that "treasures hidden in the sand" tell us that though the Gentiles have been previously strangers to the covenants of God, yet God has endowed them with hidden treasures that will eventually be brought into the open by the manifestation of the Lord Jesus, who will turn many Gentiles to Himself. Israel will share in the joy of this also. Cornelius (in our present Church age) is a lovely sample of this (Acts 10:1-4). He was virtually hidden until the preaching of Christ by Peter brought him out into the open to be greatly blessed in sharing with believing Israelites the preciousness of what God had been accomplishing in his heart before. Peter might well tell Cornelius then, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34-35).
Gad means "a troop," indicating a warrior character, which will be most evident in Israel when God restores them to their inheritance. God "enlarges Gad" (v.20) for it is those who take part in the good conflict of faith to possess their possessions who will in this way be enlarged. So Gad represents Israel in the conflict of gaining their inheritance, as a lion "dwells," not running away, but tearing the arm raised against him, and "the crown of his head," evidently the enemy's crown.
"He provided the first part for himself" (v.21). in this he seems to be typical of Christ, who is always the Representative of His people, but must be carefully distinguished from all others. He has the lawgiver's portion reserved for Him. This is not the law in the sense in which Moses gave it, but that of the New Covenant in His writing His laws upon Israel's heart (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
Thus "He came with the heads of the people; He administered the justice of the Lord, and His judgments with Israel." His administration will include others as heads of the people, but in contrast to all other administrations, His will be according to the perfect justice of the Lord. How wonderful a day indeed!
Dan means "judge," and thus is closely connected with Gad, and being "a lion's whelp" indicates power against enemies. But the meaning of Bashan is uncertain, so it is difficult to understand what is involved in this.
The prosperity of Naphtali is emphasized as representing the prosperity of Israel, "satisfied with favor and full of the blessing of the Lord." This is the result of God's work in the nation at that time, just as "in Christ" this is true of all believers today. But the tribe will specifically possess the west and the south of the land. The south speaks of favorable circumstances and the west, of beneficial circumstances. Thus the spiritual application will extend to all the tribes.
Asher, meaning "happy," appropriately concludes this interesting list. "Asher is most blessed of sons: let him be favored by his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil" (v.24). Again, all Israel is represented in the lasting joy of which Asher speaks. "They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10). Dipping his foot in oil speaks of the Holy Spirit (the oil) influencing his walk from this time onward.
"Your sandals shall be iron and bronze (or copper)." Iron speaks of strength and copper holiness. There will be no weakening of a consistent walk before God in holiness throughout the millennium. Their days will be "as the days of a tree" (Isaiah 65:22), continuing for the thousand years of the millennial age, and "as your days, so shall your strength be" (v.25). Their strength will not fail even after 1000 years!
A SUMMARY OF ALL
After dealing with each of the tribes and the blessing for Israel that they represent, Moses now gives a lovely summary of this. How appropriate that he emphasizes the greatness of the Lord Himself in this last message for Israel! "There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds" (v.26). Jeshurun means "the righteous one." Israel will be designated as "the righteous one" in that day, because her faith then will be counted as righteousness. Wonderful contrast to the condition she was in at the time of her rejection of Christ! From the height of heaven this great God will work in the hearts of the people to produce a marvelous change, and they will realize that "the eternal God" is their refuge, and underneath them the everlasting arms (v.27). How wonderful a revelation to their hearts that the Lord Jesus whom they crucified is the eternal God! His arms of eternal strength will uphold them.
In that day the enemy will not be able to stand: God will thrust him out, with the solemn sentence, "Destroy" Then only will Israel at last dwell in safety, with a fountain of never failing blessing, "alone," or secluded from any danger of pollution (v.28), in a land of grain and new wine, the best of food and unhindered joy. The heavens will also drop dew, not a downpour of rain, but sufficient moisture gently provided.
How happy will Israel be, depending on Him who is the shield of their help and the sword of their majesty, -- the shield for defensive warfare and the sword for that offensive. By His power Israel's enemies will submit to them in cringing servility, and Israel will tread down all their high places of false worship. They ought to have done this when they first entered the land, but sadly failed. What relief it will be for Israel when all these plausible forms of idol worship are destroyed!
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany