Deuteronomy 33

 

MOSES’ BLESSING

 

 

Before ascending Mount Nebo, to take a view of the land he was not

permitted to enter and then to die, Moses took farewell of the people he

had so long guided and ruled, by pronouncing on them a blessing in their

several tribes. This blessing was probably spoken on the same day as the

song recorded in the preceding chapter, and to the same assembly. The one

may be regarded as the counterpart of the other. In the song, Moses dwells

chiefly on the calamities that were to befall the people because of their

apostasy; in the blessing, he depicts the benefits that were to be enjoyed by

them through the Divine favor. The tone of the one is somber and

minatory; the tone of the other is serene and cheering. The one presents the

darker side, the other the brighter side, of Israel’s fortunes. Both were

fitting utterances for the occasion: the one the farewell warning, the other

the farewell benediction, of him who had so long proved them and known

their ways; who, whilst he desired their welfare, feared they might forfeit

this by their folly and sin; and who sought, both by warning and by blessing,

to encourage them to pursue that course by which alone prosperity and

happiness could be secured.

 

The blessing consists of a series of benedictions on the several tribes (vs. 6-25),

preceded by an introduction (vs.1-5), and followed by a conclusion (vs.26-29).

 

 

Introduction (vs. 1-5)

 

The blessing opens with an allusion to the making of the covenant and the giving

of the Law at Sinai, when the Lord revealed Himself in glory and majesty as the

King of Israel, in order at the outset to fix the minds of the people on the source

whence alone blessing could come to them. God’s love to Israel is celebrated,

and the intention and end of His choice and elevation of Israel to be His people

is declared.

 

1 “And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God” - This appellation

is applied to Moses only here and in Joshua 14:6 and the heading of Psalm 90. The

phrase, “man of God,” indicates one favored with Divine communications, and

employed as God’s messenger to men (compare I Samuel 9:6; I Kings 12:22). In

this heading, the author of the blessing is clearly distinguished from the person

by whom it was inserted in this place - “blessed the  children of Israel before

his death.”

 

2 “And he said,” - Here begin the words of Moses. He commences by depicting

the majesty of Jehovah as He appeared to Israel when He came to make the

covenant with them and give them his Law - “The LORD came from Sinai, and

rose up from Seir unto them;” - Seir is the mountain land of Edom to the cast of

Sinai.  “He shined forth from mount Paran,” - is probably the range of

lofty hills which form the southern boundary of the Promised Land to the

north of the desert of Et-Tih. These places are not mentioned as scenes of

different manifestations of the Divine glory, but as indicating the extent to

which the one manifestation given at Sinai reached. The light of the Divine

glory that rested on Sinai was reflected also from the mountains of Seir and

Paran (compare Habakkuk 3:3; Judges 5:4) - “and He came with ten thousands

of saints:” – rather, he came from ten thousands of holy ones; literally, out from

myriads of holiness; i.e. “from His celestial seat, where myriads of angels

 surround his throne” - The rendering “with,” though that of the Targum,

Septuagint, and Vulgate, cannot be retained; nor does Scripture represent

God as attended by angels when He comes forth to manifest His glory to men.

They are represented as surrounding His throne in heaven (I Kings 22:19; Job 1:6;

Daniel 7:10), as His servants awaiting His behest, and His host that do His pleasure

(Genesis 28:12; 32:2-3; Psalm 103:21); and God is represented as dwelling in the

midst of them (Psalm 68:17). Hence He is represented here as coming forth from

among them to manifest Himself to His people -  “ from His right hand went a

fiery law” -  There is a various reading here; instead of tDμ vae, fire of law,

many codices have tdva in one word, and this is supported by the Samaritan

text and other authorities, and is accepted by most critics and interpreters. It is

a fatal objection to the textual reading that tD" is not a Semitic word, but one

of Persian origin, brought by the Jews from Babylonia, and found only in the

post-exilian books (Esther 1:8, 19; 2:8, 12; 3:8, 14; 4:11, 15; Ezra 7:12, 21; 8:36;

Daniel 2:9, 13, 15; 6:5, 9, 13, 16); and in them as applied to the Law of God only

by heathens. It is, therefore, altogether mprobable that this word should be found

in any Hebrew writing anterior to the Captivity. Besides, what is the sense of

tD" vae, supposing td to mean “law?” The words cannot be rendered, as in the

Authorized Version, by “fiery law;” they can only be rendered by “a fire, a law,”

or “a fire of law,” and What either of these may mean it is not easy to see. The

ancient versions vary here very considerably: Septuagint, ejk dexiw~n aujtou~

a]ggeloi met aujtou~ - ek dexion autou angeloi met autouVulgate, fin dextera

ejus ignea lex; Targum of Onkelos, “Written by His right hand, from the midst

of the fire, a law gave he to us;”  Syriac, “With myriads of His saints at His right

 hand. He gave to them, and also caused all peoples to love them.” The best

Hebrew manuscripts have tdva as one word. The Masoretic note is, “The

Chatiph is one word, and the Kri two.” The word tdva is best explained as a

compound of vae, fire, and adv, an Aramaic word signifying to throw or dart;

the Syriac <ARABIC>, or the Hebrew hd;y;, having the same signification, so

that the meaning is “fire-dartings:” from His right hand went rays of fire like

arrows shot forth (compare Habakkuk 3:4; Exodus 19:16). for them.”

To them; i.e. to the Israelites, to whom this manifestation was vouchsafed.

 

 

3 “Yea, He loved the people;” – The proper rendering is, He loveth peoples

(μyMi["). This is generally understood of the tribes of Israel; but some would

understand it of nations in general, on the ground that such is the proper meaning

of the word, as in ch.32:8 and other places. A reference to nations at large,

however, would seem incongruous here; and the use of the word in relation to

Israel in such passages as Genesis 28:3; Judges 5:14; Isaiah 3:13; Hosea 10:14;

Zechariah 11:10, justifies the taking it so here - “all His saints are in thy hand:” –

The people of Israel are here called God’s saints, or holy ones, because they were

chosen by and consecrated to Him. It is not probable, as some suggest, that the

angels are here intended. The change from the third person to the second is not

uncommon in Hebrew poetry (compare ch.32:15; Psalm 49:14) -   “and they sat

down at thy feet;” – The verb rendered “sat down” here (WKTu) is found

only in this passage, and is of uncertain meaning. Some of the explanations are:

they united or assembled together to follow thy steps;”“they wandered at thy feet,”

they lie down at thy feet.”  It is understood of Israel’s following the lead of

Jehovah in the wilderness, when the ark of the covenant preceded them in their

march; -  “every one shall receive of thy words.”  Some render here, they rise

up at thy words; but though the verb ac"n; is sometimes used intransitively, it is

properly an active verb, and there seems no reason why it should not be so

regarded here: every one receives [the singular, aC"yi, used distributively] thy

words.

 

4 “Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of

Jacob.”  Moses here, identifying himself with the people, uses the third

person, and includes himself among those to whom the Law was given; Psalm 20.,

21., where David not only speaks of himself in the third person, but addresses

such prayers for himself as could only be offered by the people for their king

(compare also Judges 5:12, 15; Habakkuk 3:19) -  Even the inheritance of the

 congregation. The “even,” which the translators of the Authorized Version

have inserted here, were better omitted; the words are in apposition to “law.”

The Law which Moses communicated to Israel was to remain with them as

the inheritance of the congregation. The Bishops’ Bible and the Geneva

Version have, more correctly, “for an inheritance of the congregation.”

 

5 “And He was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the

tribes of Israel were gathered together.”  Some refer this to Moses, but Moses

was never recognized as king in Israel: he “was faithful in all his house as a

servant (Hebrews 3:5); but Jehovah alone was King (Exodus 15:18; Psalm

47:6-7).  Jeshurun (compare ch.32:15). The gathering together refers to the

assembling of the people at Sinai, when Jehovah came forth as their King

to give them His Law.

 

 

Blessings on the Tribes Individually (vs. 6-25)

 

 With these may be compared the blessing which Jacob pronounced on his sons as

representing the tribes of which they were the heads. The two resemble each other

in many points; the differences are such as naturally arose from the different

relations of the speakers to the objects of their address, and the changes in

the condition and prospects of the tribes which during the lapse of centuries

had come to pass.

 

6 “Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.”  The negative,

though not expressed in the Hebrew, is to be carried into this clause from the

preceding. Though the rights of primogeniture had been withdrawn from

Reuben, and Jacob had declared that he should not excel, Moses here

assures the tribe of continuance, and even prosperity. Their number was

not to be small; which was, perhaps, said to comfort them, in view of the

fact that their numbers had greatly diminished in the course of their

wanderings in the desert (compare Numbers 1:21 with 26:7). At no time,

however, was this tribe numerous as compared with the others; nor was it

ever distinguished either by the enterprise of its members or by the eminence

of any of them in the councils of the nation or the management of affairs.

 

 

Life Impoverished Through Ancestral Sins (v. 6)

 

For a blessing, there seems something unusually weak in that pronounced

on Reuben. Continuance — a preservation from being blotted out of

existence — is all that the man of God seems to hope or expect from him.

The English reader may wonder to see that the word “not” is in italics, as

not being in the Hebrew, but supplied by the translators. It is, however,

wisely done in this case, as will be seen if the reader will put stress

sufficient on the word “not” in the following rendering to carry the force of

the negative on to the end of the sentence: — “Let Reuben live; and not die

and his men be few;” i.e. if his men became a mere handful, the tribe would

be virtually extinct; and Moses desires that this may not be the case; so

that, according to English idiom, the insertion of the italic not is required to

preserve the meaning of the original. The gist of the blessing then is, let not

the tribe have such a paucity of men as to sink out of sight altogether. Bare

continuance; — this is all that is prophesied concerning that tribe. This is,

as far as we can follow its history, in strict correspondence with its after

experience. There may be noted again and again a decrease in its numbers;

Numbers 1:21; 26:7; I Chronicles 5:18, from which it appears that the tribe had

decreased since the Exodus, and also that in later times its numbers, even when

counted with the Gadites and the half of Manasseh, were fewer than that of the

Reubenites alone at the census of Numbers 1.  They took possession of a large

and fertile district east of Jordan. Occupied with their flocks and herds, they appear

soon after the days of Joshua to have lost their early energy: they could not be roused

to take part in the national rising against Jabin (Judges 5:15-16). They do not seem to

have cared to complete the conquest of their own territory; and even the cities

assigned them were wrested from them by the Moabites. From this tribe came no

judge, prophet, or national hero arose to redeem it from insignificance.  We are not

at a loss to account for this.  The gross wickedness of the head of this tribe

left a stain upon its name which not generation after generation could

wipe out, and destroyed at once the prestige of birth, and the spirit of leadership.

(see Genesis 35:22; 49:4).

 

  • THERE ARE NO SINS WHICH WORK GREATER HAVOC IN A

MAN THAN THOSE TO WHICH REUBEN GAVE WAY. The

desperately wicked act recorded of him indicates with too much certainty a

previously formed habit of self-indulgence, in which he had suffered the

reins of self-control and self-respect to fall from his hands. The effect of

such habits in a physiological point of view is disastrous. But more

grievous still are their moral issues. They lower the man himself in his own

eyes. They lower his view of mankind at large. They lead inevitably to the

association of thought with what is lowest in human nature, rather than

with what is highest and best. And, unless renounced, these sins will drag

the whole man after them, and make of him a wreck and a ruin. Hence

the terrific warning of our Savior in Matthew 5:29. Nothing will sooner

becloud and deaden the moral sense than indulgence in sensual sins.

 

  • THE EVIL EFFECT OF SUCH SINS STOPS NOT WITH THE

MAN HIMSELF. With regard to those whose good opinion and respect

are most worth having, it is impossible for them to look on one who

indulges in such sins otherwise than with profoundest pity and shame, and

even with disgust! They see that one who by his sex is meant to be the

guardian of woman’s purity, honor, and joy, is basely tampering with them

all! Not even Jacob, though the tenderness of the old patriarch under such

circumstances must have been at its height, could bring himself to

pronounce a rich blessing even on his firstborn, whose life had been thus

DISFIGURED and DISGRACED.   Reuben’s whole family and tribe

shared in the STIGMA of their father’s sin; not as being guilty in like

manner, but because the name of their sire could not henceforth be

dissociated from the thought of base and treacherous lust.

 

  • NOR DOES THE ILL EFFECT OF SUCH SINS EXPIRE WITH

THE GENERATION IN WHICH THEY WERE COMMITTED.

The foul odor of Reuben’s crime rises up before Moses.Tis not named

indeed. But he has no blessing for his tribe of any richness or depth. “May he

not become so weak as to be lost sight of altogether!” Such is the gist of it.

The descendants of Jacob’s firstborn were long, long under the gloomy

shadow cast on them by the sins of their sire! There is nothing in this

record of the Word of God which does not frequently find its COUNTER

-PART IN THE GENERATIONS OF MEN NOW!   Many, many there

are who inherit some physical ill, some mental weakness, or some moral

incapacity or obliquity, through a constitutional taint from sins long gone by!

 

 

Ø      Even though guilty of sensual sins, God invites every man to come

to Him through His Son Jesus Christ, that sin, as guilt, may be forgiven;

and that, as disease, it may be cured.

 

Ø      Wherever God’s invitation is accepted, His grace will cancel guilt and

cure corruption; thus imparting health and soundness for the life that

now is, and promising the life to come.

 

Ø      To this each one may well be urged, not only on the ground of his

individual well-being, but also on the ground that the streams of purifying

grace, cleansing his nature, may do much to check the onward flow of

the poison he inherits, and to help towards a sounder life in those

who shall follow him.

 

7 “And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of

Judah, and bring him unto his people:” -  The blessing on Judah is in the form

of prayer to Jehovah. As Jacob had promised to Judah supremacy over his

brethren and success in war, so Moses here names him next after Reuben, whose

preeminence he had assumed, and prays for him that, going forth at the head of

the tribes, he might return in triumph, being helped of the Lord.  let his hands

be sufficient for him;” - rather, with his hands he contendeth for it (to wit, his

people). br"here is not the adjective much, enough, but the particle of the verb

byri, to contend, to strive; and wyd;y; is the accusative of instrument. The

rendering in the Authorized Version is grammatically possible; but the

meaning thereby brought out is not in keeping with the sentiment of the

passage; for if Judah’s hands, i.e. his own power and resources, were

sufficient for him, what need had he of help from the Lord? -  “and be

thou an help to him from his enemies.”

 

The blessing on Levi is also in the form of a prayer. In Jacob’s blessing,

Simeon is joined with Levi, but Moses passes him over altogether, probably

because, as Jacob foretold, he was to be scattered among his brethren (Genesis

49:7), and so lose his tribal individuality.  Simeon, however, is included in the

general blessing pronounced on Israel; and as this tribe received a number of

towns within the territory of Judah (Joshua 19:2-9), it was probably regarded

as included in the blessing on that tribe.

 

8 “And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim” – thy Right and thy

Light (compare Exodus 28:30). The high priest wore the breast-plate on which

these were placed when he went in before the Lord; and this is here represented

as the prerogative of the whole tribe. Thy holy one; i.e. Levi, the tribe-father,

representing the whole tribe to which the blessing applies; hence in the following

verses the verb passes into the plural -  “be with thy holy one, For “holy one,”

it would be better to read “pious” or “godly one;” literally, the man thy pious

one. Some would render “the man thy favored one,” or “the man of thy friendship;”

but this is wholly arbitrary, the word (dysij;) has no such meaning. To explain

this more particularly, reference is made to the trials at Massah and the waters of

Meribah (strife), when the people rebelled and murmured against Moses and Aaron,

whereby the piety of these men was put to the test, and in them, the heads of the

tribe of Levi, the whole tribe was proved – “whom thou didst prove at Massah,

and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah;” -  (On Massah,

see Exodus 17:1-7; and on the waters of strife, see Numbers 20:1-13.) In these

trials, Levi had proved himself faithful and godly, having risen up in defense of

the honor of Jehovah, and in support of His covenant, though in the latter case

both Moses and Aaron stumbled. 

 

9 “Who said unto his father and to his mother,” - This refers to what is narrated in

Exodus 32:26-29, when the Levites drew their swords against their brethren at the

command of Moses, to execute judgment without respect of person, because of the

sin of the people in the matter of the golden calf (also  in the matter of Baal-Peor in

Numbers 25:1-9) and, for the principle here implicitly commended, see Matthew 10:37;

19:29; Luke 14:26). Because of their zealous devotion to the claims and service of

the Lord, the dignity of the priesthood had been conferred on this tribe; and to

them belonged the high office of being instructors of the people in Divine things, and

of presenting the sacrifices of the people to the Lord. For those entrusted with such an

office, nothing was more to be desired than that they should be blessed with power

rightly to discharge the duties of their office, that their service should be accepted with

favor, and that their enemies and haters should be foiled and rendered impotent; and

for this Moses prays on their behalf. “I have not seen him; neither did he

acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed

thy word, and kept thy covenant. 10 They shall teach Jacob thy judgments,

and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice

upon thine altar.  11 Bless, LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his

hands; smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them

that hate him, that they rise not again.”

 

 

12 “And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in

safety by Him;” - Benjamin, the beloved of his father, is also the beloved of the

Lord, and would be cared for and protected by Him - shall dwell securely upon

Him, i.e. resting on him - “and the Lord shall cover” -  The word rendered “cover”

(pp"j") occurs only here; construed with l[", upon, it conveys the idea of sheltering:

He continually is sheltering him -“ him all the day long, and he shall dwell

between His shoulders.”  To be between the shoulders” is to be carried on

 the back (compare I Samuel 17:6); and as a father might thus bear his child, so

should Benjamin be borne of the Lord.  There can be no doubt that Benjamin

is the subject of this clause; to understand it of Jehovah dwelling on the shoulders

of Benjamin, in the sense of having the temple, the place of his rest, within the

territory of Benjamin, is too violent and far-fetched an interpretation to be admitted.

In the change of subject in the three clauses of this verse, there is nothing

strange, since such a change repeatedly occurs, and is found even in prose,

as e.g. II Samuel 11:13. “To dwell upon God, and between His shoulders,

means as much as to lean upon Him; the similitude being taken from fathers

who carry their sons while yet small and tender!

 

13 “And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD be his land, for the precious

things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,” - The

blessing on Joseph by Moses closely resembles that pronounced by Jacob on his

favorite son; he solicits for him the utmost abundance of temporal blessing, and the

riches of the Divine favor. There is this difference, however, between the two blessings,

that in that of the patriarch it is the growth of the tribe in power and might that is chiefly

contemplated; whilst in that of Moses it is the advance of the tribe in wealth, prosperity,

and influence that is chiefly indicated. Jacob described the growth of Joseph under the

figure of a luxuriant branch of a fruit tree planted by the water; whilst Moses fixes his

eye primarily upon the land of Joseph, and desires for him the richest productions.

14 “And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious

things put forth by the moon,” - Several codices, for lfm, “for dew,” read l[m,

above“the precious things of heaven above;” and this reading, some critics of

eminence adopt. Probably, however, this is only a correction, to bring this passage

into accordance with Genesis 49:25.  The Targums and the Peshito combine both

readings. Instead of “for the precious things,” it is better to read “with,” etc., and so

throughout vs. 13-16. Literally, it is from, dg,M,mi, the m expressing the instrumental

cause of the blessing, of which THE LORD IS THE ESSENTIAL CAUSE! 

The noun dg,m,, literally, excellency, preciousness, occurs only here and in Song of

Solomon 4:13, 16 and 7:13, where it is rendered by “pleasant.” The precious fruit

of the heavens is the dew, which, with the waters stored up in the recesses of the

earth, furthers the growth of the earth’s produce, ripened by the influences of

 sun and moon.

 

15 And for the chief things of the ancient mountains,” -  literally, and from the

 head of the mountains of old. The precious things of the mountains and hills are

the vines and olive trees with which the lower slopes are adorned, and the forests

that crown the loftier - “and for the precious things of the lasting hills,

16 And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for

the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush:” - The reference is to the appearance

of Jehovah to Moses in the bush at Horeb (Exodus 3), when He manifested

Himself as the Deliverer of Israel, whose good pleasure it was that they should be

redeemed from bondage and favored with blessing - “let the blessing come

upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that

was separated from his brethren.”  Separated in the sense of consecrated, or

distinguished (ryzin;, from rz"n;, to consecrate), from among his brethren.

 

17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock,” -  rather, the firstborn of his

oxen, majesty is to him. The singular, rwOv, is here used collectively, as in ch.15:19.

The oxen are Joseph’s sons, all of whom were strong, but the firstborn excelled the

rest, and was endowed with majesty.  It is Ephraim that is referred to, whom Jacob

raised to the position of the firstborn (Genesis 48:8-20) -  “and his horns are like

the horns of unicorns:” -  literally, and horns of a reem are his horns. The reem is

supposed to be the aurochs, an animal of the bovine species, allied to the buffalo,

now extinct, but which the Assyrian bas-reliefs show to have been formerly hunted in

that region (compare Job 39:9; Psalm22:21. By his strong power, Ephraim should

thrust down nations, even the most distant. with them he shall push the people

together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim,”

and these are, etc.; i.e. in such might will the myriads of Ephraim come forth. To

Ephraim, as the chief, the myriads are assigned; to Manasseh only the thousands -

 and they are the thousands of Manasseh.”

 

18 “And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and,

Issachar, in thy tents.”  Zebulun and Issachar, the two last sons of Leah, are taken

together by Moses; and Zebulun, though the younger son, is placed first, in

accordance with Genesis 49:13. Success in enterprise, and felicity at home, are

assured to both.  Although ‘going out’ (enterprise, labor) is attributed to Zebulun,

and ‘remaining in tents’ (the comfortable enjoyment of life) to Issachar, in accordance

with the delineation of their respective characters in the blessing of Jacob, this is to be

attributed to the poetic parallelism of the clauses, and the whole is to be understood as

applying to both!

 

19  They shall call the people unto the mountain;” -  rather, they shall call nations

to the mountain, i.e. the mountain of the Lord’s inheritance (Exodus 15:17-18), the

place of His sanctuary - “there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness:” -  i.e.

sacrifices offered according to God’s Law, and in a manner and a spirit well pleasing to

Him  (Psalm 4:6; 50:21) - “for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and

of treasures hid in the sand.”  The treasures of both sea and land should be theirs.

The Targumist Jonathan Ben Uzziel explains this as referring especially to the

obtaining of the rich purple dye from the shell of the oyster (murex Syrius), and the

producing of mirrors and glass vases from the sand. The existence of vitreous sand on

the coast of Zebulun is attested both by Strabo (lib. 16. p. 757) and Pliny

(‘Nat. Hist.,’ lib. 36. c. 286).

 

20 “And of Gad he said, Blessed be He that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth

as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head.” As in the blessing

of Shem by Noah, God is praised for Shem’s prosperity (Genesis 9:26), so here

God is praised for the enlargement of the warlike tribe of Gad (compare Genesis

49:19). He dwelleth as a lion; rather, as a lioness. Though the noun aybil; has a

masculine termination, usage shows that it was the female and not the male that

was thereby designated (see e.g. Genesis 49:9; Numbers 24:9, where it can hardly,

be a mere synonym; and Job 4:11; 38:39, where the reference to the young of the

animal accords better with the lioness than with the lion.

 

21  ”And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a

portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads

of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with

Israel.”  This verse refers to Gad’s obtaining an inheritance for himself from Moses

beyond Jordan. And he provided the first part for himself; literally, and

he saw for himself (i.e. chose) the first, i.e. either the most excellent part

or the firstfruits of the conquest. Because there, in a portion of the

lawgiver, was he seated; rather, for there the portion of the leader was

reserved. The word rendered, lawgiver,” or “leader” (qqejom]), signifies

primarily one who ordains or appoints, and is used in both the above senses

(compare Exodus 33:22; Judges 5:14); it is here applied to Gad, because

that tribe displayed such promptitude and energy at the head of the tribes in

the conquest of the land, that it might be regarded as their leader. An

entirely different view of the passage has been taken by some, who by the

mechokek understand Moses as the lawgiver, and his portion as the place

of his grave, which was concealed, but was within the inheritance of Gad.

But it is a fatal objection to this view that not only is the word rendered

portion” (tq"l]j,) nowhere used of a grave, but the grave of Moses on

Mount Nebo was in the territory of Reuben, not in that of Gad.  Gad chose

for himself a portion on the east of Jordan, and the portion he had chosen

was sacredly kept for him, though he went with his brethren to the conquest of

Canaan. And he came with the heads of the people; i.e. his place of marching

was with the leaders; his place was at the head of the tribes (Numbers 32:17,21,

32, and Joshua 1:14; 4:12). He executed the justice of the Lord, etc.; i.e. he

did what God required of him, obeying His commands, and thereby fulfilling all

righteousness (Matthew 3:15; Philippians 3:6). With Israel; in the fellowship

of Israel.

 

22 “And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion’s whelp: he shall leap from

Bashan.”  In Genesis 49:17,  Jacob compared Dan to a serpent that suddenly

springs forth by the way, and bites the heels of a horse so that the rider falls

backward.  Moses here compares the tribe to a young lion that suddenly leaps

from its lair in Bashan on the object of its attack. Both similitudes relate to the

vigor and force which the tribe should display in conflict.

 

23 “And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full

with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the west and the south.” 

In Jacob’s blessing, Naphtali appears invested with the attributes of freedom,

gracefulness, and graciousness (Ibid. v. 21); here Moses assures that tribe of

the Divine grace and blessing, and promises to it prosperity and felicity.

Possess thou the west and the south. The word rendered “west” here (μu;)

properly means sea, and came to signify “west” from the fact of the

Mediterranean, or Great Sea, lying to the west of Palestine. The proper meaning

of the word is to be retained here. As the territory of Naphtali lay in the north of

Canaan, and was far from the sea, the blessing here pronounced upon him must

be understood generally of prosperity and felicity. He was to possess riches as

of the sea, and genial and fructifying warmth as of the south.

 

 

24 “And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children;” -  Asher, the

prosperous one, as his name implies, was to be rich, and honored, and strong, and

peaceful. Blessed with children; rather, blessed among the sons; i.e. either

blessed more than the rest of the sons, or blessed by the sons who were to reap

benefit from him. From what follows, the latter explanation seems the one to be

preferred. The preposition ˆmi is constantly used as indicating the source whence

anything proceeds, or the agent by whom anything is done - “let him be

acceptable to his brethren,” -  This tribe should find itself in so advantageous

and luxurious a condition that the other tribes should have delight and pleasure in it –

and let him dip his foot in oil.”  This points to a land abounding in olives, and

generally richly fertile, a fat land and yielding rich dainties, such as Jacob promised

to Asher (Ibid. v.20).

 

25  Thy shoes shall be iron and brass;” - The word rendered “shoes”

(l[;n]mi) occurs only here. It is a derivative from l["n;, to bolt or shut fast,

and is to be taken in the sense of a fastness or fortress, a place securely

closed: iron and brass shall be thy fortress; i.e. his dwelling should be

strong and impregnable. The rendering “shoes” is from a supposed

derivation of the word from l["n", a shoe.  “and as thy days, so shall thy

strength be.” - literally, as thy days, thy rest; i.e. as long as thou livest, so

long shalt thou have rest and quiet. The noun rendered “strength” (abedo) in

the Authorized Version. occurs only here, unless it be found in the proper

name ab;d]ym, (Me-deba), and has no Cognate in Hebrew; but the Arabic

supplies a root for it in (deba), to rest.

         

 

               Asher’s Blessing; Strength as the Day (vs. 24-25)

 

There are several features in this blessing to Asher. He is to have a

numerous seed: to enjoy above his brethren the favor of the Lord; to be

surrounded with plenty; to be guarded with bars of iron and brass; and to

have strength according to the days. (The Hebrew word translated “days”

is so rendered or explained by the Targum, Boothroyd, and Parkhurst. The

Septuagint  renders it ijscuv ischusstrength -  the French version has

it to force;  Gesenius renders it “rest.” In this Homily we follow the Septuagint

and accept our translation,“strength.”) However great the temporal blessings

may be which are here promised to Asher, this last-named one is surely the greatest

of all, yea, greater than any merely earthly blessings could possibly be. And perhaps

there is no promise of God’s Word which has more deeply touched the hearts of His

people, or more frequently proved itself a balm in care, than this one. For that it was

made to Asher first, need not shut off any child of God from taking the

comfort of it.  There is a distinct promise made to Joshua, “I will not fail thee,

nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5); but yet the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews

bids the people whom he is addressing to make that promise their own. And so

assuredly may the people of God in every age and land do with the promise

 before  us. (Hebrews 13:5).  They have done so hitherto, and will do so till the end.

Let us meditate on it now, presenting, as it does, this topic STRENGTH

PROMISED FOR THE DAY!

 

  • WHAT DOES THE PROMISE INCLUDE? It suggests truths of which

we are often reminded, viz.: That we have to live day by day. In one sense

we can do no otherwise. We can never with certainty look over the rim of

one day so as to see what will happen tomorrow. Then each day has its

own peculiar alternations and variations of light and shade. One day all is

smiling; the next, perchance, all is in gloom. Every hour, every place has

hues of its own fresh borrowed from the heart.” Consequently, each day

brings its own demands with it. And for each day we require new

adaptations.  Moreover, the strength of each day will not serve for the

next. Now, these are the facts which this promise is intended to meet. How

does it meet them?

 

Ø      It assures us of strength as varied as the day. Whatever kind of

Strength is wanted, that kind of strength will be given — whether for

work or war, pain or sickness, poverty or temptation, bereavement or

death. “They that wait on the Lord shall renew [i.e. change] their

 strength.” (Isaiah 40:31)

 

Ø      It is a promise of strength as sure as the day. No day shall come

Without its due measure of might to enable us to meet its demands. He

who hath taught his children to cry, Give us day by day our daily

 bread,” in teaching them so to pray reveals His purpose to fulfill the

prayer He has taught. We shall never find a day when the Savior’s

grace is wanting.

 

Ø      It pledges strength as long as the days shall last. So long as any

demands are made upon us, so long will God’s grace be sufficient to

enable us to meet them. We need not look wistfully and anxiously

ahead.  Our Father cares. One whose words are more to us than

thousands of gold and silver has said, “Take no thought for the

 morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of

itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34)

And an inspired writer has given us an impregnable argument, “He that

spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how

shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  

Romans 8:32)

 

  • WHAT IT IS WHICH GIVES THIS PROMISE A SPECIAL VALUE?

“As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” The words remind us of a

picture drawn by Mrs. Stowe, in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ of a slave weary

and worn with toiling in the sultry sun. One quotes the words, “Come unto

me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!”

(Matthew 11:28)  Them’s good words,” is the reply, “but who says em?

Obviously all depends on that — so it is here. The words are said by:

 

Ø      One who knows what our days will be.

Ø      One who orders our days.

Ø      One who measures our days.

Ø      One who loved us from everlasting days.

Ø      One whose love changes not with the days.

Ø      One who has infinite resources on which we can draw

throughout the days.

Ø      One whose love as revealed in Christ is a pledge that He will be

with us to the end of the days.

 

Is anything wanting to heighten the value of a promise if it comes from

such a Promiser?

 

  • OUGHT NOT SUCH A PROMISE TO HAVE GREAT POWER

OVER US? Yea, verily. A triple power.

 

Ø      It should stimulate to holy obedience.

Ø      It should prepare us to look onward with holy calmness. “I will

trust, and not be afraid.” (Isaiah 12:2)

Ø      It should embolden us to meet emergencies with a valiant heart.

Ø      It should lead us to look upward with a waiting, expectant eye.

 

As Moses commenced by celebrating the glorious majesty of Jehovah when He

appeared to establish His covenant with Israel, so in the last four verses he

concludes with a reference to GOD AS THE ETERNAL REFUGE AND

SAVING HELP OF HIS PEOPLE!

 

26 “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun,” - The points

and accents direct that this should be read, There is none like God, O

Jeshurun; and though all the ancient versions read as does the Authorized

Version, the Masoretic punctuation is vindicated here by the following “thy

help”, which shows that Israel is here addressed - “who rideth upon the

heaven in thy help, and in His excellency on the sky.”

 

27 “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting

arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall

say, Destroy them.”  God is the Refuge or Dwelling-place of His people, their

Protection amid the storms of life, and the unfailing Source of comfort and

blessing to them in their pilgrimage state. Over them is His sheltering

protection, and underneath them the support of His everlasting arms.

 

 

 

The Eternal God a Refuge (v. 27)

 

  • THE SUBLIMITY OF THIS PROMISE. Is there one who can open his

mind sufficiently to take in anything like the grandeur of this thought? To

think with comprehension of God at all is to many a difficulty. It shows how

little we do think of Him; how habitually our minds are occupied with other

objects; that when we wish to bring even His existence clearly before our minds,

we find it difficult to do so. It is not a difficulty which would be felt if our

relations with God were close and intimate, if our communion with Him

was habitual, if we were trying to live continually as in His presence and

under His eye. “I believe in God the Father Almighty!” (The Apostles

Creed)  Is not that just what most of US do not do? Is there one who would

not tremble far more in the presence of many of his fellow-mortals than he

ever does at the thought of standing in the presence of his God? What sort of

a belief is it which leaves us so destitute of all real apprehension of what God is,

and even of a habitual realization of the feeling that He is? We think of Him,

but often how coldly, how distantly, how notionally, how unbelievingly! We

speak of “revivals,” but, sooth to say, we need a revival of living belief in the

first article of the Creed. We need to have our eyes opened, thought set to

work, faith made more real. If that were given, then should we know, as

we had never known before, how wonderful, how sublime, how

infinitely grand a thing it was to have this GOD AS OUR REFUGE

 and to know that underneath us were these everlasting arms. If it is

difficult to attain to a steady persuasion even of God’s existence, vastly more

difficult is it to frame a just conception of HIS ETENITY!   Before worlds

were, GOD EXISTED; when they shall have waxed old and disappeared,

HE SHALL EXIST STILL!  Time flows, but, like the rock in the midst of the

stream, which, from its stable base, laughs at the flood whose impetuous course

it overlooks; so, amidst the flow of ages, God endures, “the same yesterday,

today, and forever.”  (Hebrews 13:8)  Does it not, then, seem as something

incredible that this eternal God should constitute Himself a Home and Refuge for

weak, sinning, mortals; should even stoop to press Himself on such mortals as

a FRIEND, SAVIOUR, PROTECTOR, SUPPORT, HELPER? If we

see nothing strange in this, it is impossible that anything should seem strange to

us; if we can believe this, we need not stumble at much else in revelation. For

THIS IS THE CENTRAL TRUTH THE BIBLE HAS TO TELL! It tells

of A GOD, INFINITE, EVERLASTING, ALMIGHTY, INFLEXIBILY

RIGHTEOUS, UNUTTERABLY PURE, INCOMPREHENSIBLY

GREAT AND WISE AND GOOD; from whom men have indeed

wandered in numberless paths of error; but who has revealed Himself for

the very purpose of bringing them back to Himself, that they may be saved

from death and may enjoy eternal life; who will by no means clear the guilty,

but who waits to be gracious to every penitent sinner returning to His care; and

who has provided all means for that return in the atonement of His Son, our

Savior Jesus Christ, and in the grace of his Holy Spirit. That is the

message the Bible has to bring, and it is nothing else than the Almighty and

Eternal God offering Himself, in His grace, as a Refuge for our otherwise

defenseless souls; stretching out, those everlasting arms of which the text

 speaks, to draw us to Himself and save us from otherwise inevitable ruin.

Say not, you do not need this refuge! The son of man is not yet born who does

not need it, and who will not one day, whether he does so now or not,

acknowledge that he needs it.  And say not, you will delay in seeking it! For

even could a day or a year be guaranteed in which to rethink the question now

proposed, it is plainly folly in itself, and grievous dishonor done to God,

 that so vast and glorious an opportunity should stand for a single day

unimproved; that God should sue to you, and you refuse His gracious invitations.

Rather, “seek the Lord while He may be found, CALL UPON HIM

WHILE HE IS NEAR” (Isaiah 55:6).  (I recommend How to Be Saved

# 5 - this web site – CY – 2012)

 

  • THE COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THIS PROMISE. View it in three

relations. In relation:

 

Ø      To our temporal existence. Having God as our Refuge does not

Indeed imply that we are to have a great abundance of this world’s

possessions, or be absolutely free from cares and sorrows. It does

not secure that we are to be either the richest or the least tried of all

around us. God knows how often it is otherwise. Some of the best of

God’s saints have been, like Paul, the worst off of humankind.

“They were stoned, they were sawn asunder,”etc. (Hebrews 11:37).

Was God therefore not the “Refuge” of those saints because they were

so ill off in this life, or did the “everlasting arms” not sustain them? Or

was it not in the midst of these “great fights of afflictions” (Ibid. ch.

10:32) that they first realized how true a Refuge God was to them?  When

Paul was at his work, “in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in

perils of robbers, in perils of his countrymen, in perils of the heathen,

 in perils of the city, in perils of the wilderness, in perils of the sea, in

perils of false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings

 often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness”

(II Corinthians 11:24-28), had God in these circumstances falsified His

promise, and failed to be a Refuge to him? The question needs only to be

put to be its own answer. Yet it is certain that, even in outward things,

God is a Refuge for His people, and that under His care they ordinarily

enjoy both unusual blessing and a quite especial protection. Jesus

teaches us to trust our Father in heaven, while of course using the means

He gives us, for all our temporal necessities (Matthew 6:25-34). He

pledges Himself that, so long as it is the Father’s will that we

should live in the world, we shall be protected from harm, and

suitably provided for.  This was David’s confidence, expressed in many

of the psalms, and IT HAS BEEN THE CONFIDENCE OF ALL

GOD’S PEOPLE!  Experience verifies that the good man’s dwelling is

the “munitions of rocks;” his bread is given him, his water is sure

(Isaiah 33:16).

 

Ø      To our spiritual existence. God is the soul’s:

 

o       spiritual Savior. Though our Lord and Judge, it is only in His

bosom, in His forgiving grace, we can find refuge from our sins,

from the unhappiness they cause us, and from the ruin they

have brought upon us. The child that has offended his parent

may seek the whole world through in vain for the rest he can find

at once by coming back, confessing his sin, and being forgiven.

GOD HAS DEVISED MEANS  that His banished be not

expelled from Him” (II Samuel 14:14). The way is open.

“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help”

(Hosea 13:9).

 

o       unfailing Retreat in trouble. No matter what storms beat

without, what blessings of an outward kind are given or withheld,

what threatening forms the enmity of man may assume, the soul

has in GOD A RETREAT, A PLACE OF RESORT AND

REFUGE, WHICH NEVER FAILS! There it dwells in a

region of love, breathes an atmosphere of peace, holds a

communion with the Father of spirits, which only grows the

sweeter the longer life lasts, and the more the outward cup is

bitter to the taste. In this inward home of the spirit it renews its

strength and drinks of living waters, has meat to eat which the

world knows not of, finds satisfaction for its deepest needs

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall

fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and

the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off

from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my

Salvation.”  (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

 

o       unfailing Support. He upholds the soul. Has the believer trials

to come through? He is upheld to bear them. Has he temptations

to face? He is upheld to conquer in them. Has he work to do?

He is upheld and strengthened to perform it. Has he enemies to

fight? His courage is sustained, and he is made “more than

 conqueror (Romans 8:37).  But for the upholding of

the “EVERLASTING ARMS” how many of God’s saints

would never have come through what they have

experienced!

 

Ø      To our eternal existence. “The eternal God is thy Refuge.”

Heavenly and eternal existence are wrapped up in this promise.

God does not make His eternity a refuge for beings of a day. There

would be an utter disproportion between an everlasting dwelling-

place and a creature of some three score years and ten. All eternal

good is here implied, and this crowns the promise and carries it

beyond all comprehension of its greatness. “Eye hath not seen,

nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,

the things which God hath prepared for them that love

Him.”  (Isaiah 64:4; I Corinthians 2:9)

 

 

28 Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall

be upon a land of corn and wine; also His heavens shall drop down

dew.”  The clauses of this verse are parallel to each other; their symmetry will

be seen if we render and arrange thus:

 

“And Israel dwelleth securely,

Alone, the fountain of Jacob,

On a land of corn and new wine;

His heavens also drop down dew.”

 

The fountain of Jacob is parallel to Israel. Israel is so designated

because they came forth from Jacob as waters from a copious source

(Isaiah 48:1; Psalm 68:26).

 

 29 “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by

the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!

and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon

their high places.”  This concluding verse comprehends the whole blessing. Israel

is to be congratulated and praised because, through the true God, it has

unparalleled protection, salvation, and triumph. Thine enemies shall be found

 liars unto thee; literally, shall feign unto thee; i.e. shall pretend to be thy friends,

in order to obtain favor with thee. The verb conveys the idea of fawning upon a

person with a feigned humility and submissiveness (compare Psalm 18:44; 66:2;

81:15). Thou shalt tread upon their high places; i.e. shalt wholly subdue them

and triumph over them (ch.32:13; Amos 4:13; Micah 1:3)

 

 

God, the Crown of Israel’s Glory (vs. 26-29)

 

As soon as Moses touches upon this theme, language seems too poor to

express the greatness of his thought — too cold to convey the glowing

ardor of his love. Here all metaphors fail; all comparisons are vain.

GOD IS ABOVE ALL IMAGERY, OR METAPHOR, OR

ILLUSTRATION!  As there is none like Him, so nothing can fitly express

His deeds towards His chosen, His conduct is, like Himself, ineffable.

As heaven is loftier than earth, so do God’s thoughts and ways transcend

human conception.  (Isaiah 55:9)

 

  • OBSERVE ISRAEL’S SOURCE OF GREATNESS. Without question,

Israel’s source of greatness is GOD.   Inconceivable as it is to mortal minds,

the eternal Sovereign of the universe has come into intimate alliance with

His chosen people. He is not simply God — the abstract Deity — He is the

“God of Jeshurun.” His eternity is brought into human use — is available

for human needs. In the eternal and unchangeable God we may dwell. He is

our Refuge, our Dwelling-place, our Sanctuary. All the resources of His

omnipotence are for us: beneath us “are the everlasting arms.” But hath

God arms? Hath He human members and organs? “He that formed the eye,

shall He not see?” (Psalm 94:9)  He that fashioned our arms and hands, hath

He no instruments with which to support our sinking frame? Yea, “in Him we

live and move and have our being!”  (Acts 17:28)  All the activities of His

providential government are for us. “He rideth upon the heavens,” like a

king in his chariot, for our help. This is true, both for Israel collectively, and

 for every individual believer. In every decree that issues from His throne,

He has us in view. All the machinery of His extended providence works with

one design, viz. our advantage. He thinks, and plans, and executes, and

overturns for one main end — THE FINAL REDEMPTION OF HIS

PEOPLE!   God and we are one.  “And ye are Christ’s; and Christ

Is God’s.  (I Corinthians 3:23)

 

  • ISRAEL’S SAFETY. “Thou shalt dwell in safety alone.” From the

foregoing premise, this is a sound and certain conclusion. “If God be for

us,” who can assail us successfully? (Romans 8:31)  What can prevail against

omnipotence?  What can penetrate the thick bosses of Jehovah’s shield? Fear

in such a case is unreasonable disloyalty. This globe must be shivered into a

thousands of atoms, all the forces in God’s universe must be rendered powerless

and ineffective, the scepter of Jehovah must be broken, before any danger can

touch the elect of God. Safe, beyond the specter of a fear, are those whom God

defends.

 

  • ISRAEL’S ABUNDANCE. “The fountain of Jacob shall be upon a

land of corn and wine.” Jacob is represented as the fount or source of many

people, all of whom shall find an abode in the land of corn and wine. Every

want shall be met.   “And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts

make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees,

of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.  And He

will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people,

and the veil that is spread over all nations.  He will swallow up death in

victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and

the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: FOR

THE LORD HATH SPOKEN IT.  And it shall be said in that day, Lo,

this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the

LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His

Salvation.”   (Isaiah 25:6-9)  (Charles Spurgeon talked of this great feast

in many of his sermons – some of which are on this web site – CY – 2012)

In the paradise of God there flourishes on both sides of the stream, the

tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yieldeth her fruit

every month. (Revelation 22:2)  Here is a perennial supply and satisfying

variety. And though this is expressed by material images, it sets forth substantial

and eternal truth — the very truth of God. In the kingdom of God there is

provided whatever can please the eye, delight the ear, regale the appetite,

relieve a need, gratify a sense. For perpetually does the voice of the King

ring out a hearty welcome, “Eat, O friends; yea, drink abundantly, O

beloved.”

 

  • ISRAEL’S TRIUMPH. God’s triumph is Israel’s triumph also. God

will not dissociate Himself from His people. “His covenant is an

everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure” (II Samuel

23:5).  Yea, God’s conquests are not separate and distinct from ours.

He conquers through us — yea, by means of us. If we belong to the true

Israel, God’s foes are our foes, God’s weapons are our weapons, God’s

interests are our interests. Our excellent Sword in this warfare is God; He

Himself is “the Shield of our help” (Psalm 33:20).  The contest may be

protracted, severe, wavering; success may seem to hang in suspense; but

beyond the smoke and dust and uncertainty of battle, faith clearly sees the

final triumph, and hears the immortal pen, “Thou shalt tread upon their

 high places.”

 

  • ISRAEL’S TRANSCENDENT HAPPINESS. “Happy art thou, O

Israel; who is like unto thee?” Surely, their happiness is complete, and

impossible of enlargement, who repose themselves in the very heart of

God, and dwell perpetually in His love! The utmost capacity of human

speech is impotent to express their DEEP AND SATISFYING JOY!

 It is a thing to be experienced, not expressed. Such joy hath no vocabulary,

no tongue. It is “JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY!”

(I Peter 1:8).  What the noonday sun is to a glowworm’s spark, so is the

joy of the righteous compared with the joys of earth. God’s own joy is

conveyed to godly hearts.  (His joy is expressed in singing over us –

“He will joy over thee with singing.”  - Zephaniah 3:17 – CY – 2012)

 

 

 

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