The glorious majesty of God. (1-5) The blessings of the twelve tribes. (6-23) Strength to believers. (24,25) The excellency of Israel. (26-29)
Verses 1-5 To all his precepts, warnings, and prophecies, Moses added a solemn blessing. He begins with a description of the glorious appearances of God, in giving the law. His law works like fire. If received, it is melting, warming, purifying, and burns up the dross of corruption; if rejected, it hardens, sears, pains, and destroys. The Holy Spirit came down in cloven tongues, as of fire; for the gospel also is a fiery law. The law of God written in the heart, is a certain proof of the love of God shed abroad there: we must reckon His law one of the gifts of his grace.
Verses 6-23 The order in which the tribes are here blessed, is not the same as is observed elsewhere. The blessing of Judah may refer to the whole tribe in general, or to David as a type of Christ. Moses largely blesses the tribe of Levi. Acceptance with God is what we should all aim at, and desire, in all our devotions, ( 2 Corinthians. 5:9 ) prophecy, that God will keep up a ministry in his church to the end of time. The tribe of Benjamin had their inheritance close to mount Zion. To be situated near the ordinances, is a precious gift from the Lord, a privilege not to be exchanged for any worldly advantage, or indulgence. We should thankfully receive the earthly blessings sent to us, through the successive seasons. But those good gifts which come down from the Father of lights, through the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and the pouring out of his Spirit like the rain which makes fruitful, are infinitely more precious, as the tokens of his special love. The precious things here prayed for, are figures of spiritual blessing in heavenly things by Christ, the gifts, graces, and comforts of the Spirit. When Moses prays for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush, he refers to the covenant, on which all our hopes of God's favour must be founded. The providence of God appoints men's habitations, and wisely disposes men to different employments for the public good. Whatever our place and business are, it is our wisdom and duty to apply thereto; and it is happiness to be well pleased therewith. We should not only invite others to the service of God, but abound in it. The blessing of Naphtali. The favour of God is the only favour satisfying to the soul. Those are happy indeed, who have the favour of God; and those shall have it, who reckon that in having it they have enough, and desire no more.
Verses 24-25 All shall be sanctified to true believers; if their way be rough, their feet shall be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. As thy days, so shall thy strength be. The "day" is often in Scripture put for the events of the day; it is a promise that God would graciously and constantly support under trials and troubles, whatever they were. It is a promise sure to all the spiritual seed of Abraham. Have they work allotted? They shall have strength to do it. Have they burdens appointed? They shall have strength, and never be tempted above what they are able to bear.
Verses 26-29 None had such a God as Israel. There is no people like the Israel of God. What is here said of the church of Israel is to be applied to the spiritual church. Never were people so well seated and sheltered. Those who make God their habitation, shall have all the comforts and benefits of a habitation in him, Ps. 91:1 . Never were people so well supported and borne up. How low soever the people of God are at any time brought, everlasting arms are underneath them, to keep the spirit from sinking, from fainting, and their faith from failing. Divine grace is ( 2 Corinthians. 12:9 ) commanded. Thus believers are more than conquerors over their spiritual enemies, through Christ that loved them. Never were people so well secured and protected. Israel shall dwell in safety alone. All who keep close to God, shall be kept safe by him. Never were people so well provided for. Every true Israelite looks with faith to the better country, the heavenly Canaan, which is filled with better things than corn and wine. Never were people so well helped. If in danger of any harm, or in want of any good, they had an eternal God to go to. Nothing could hurt those whom God helped, nor was it possible the people should perish who were saved by the Lord. Never were people so well armed. Those in whose hearts is the excellency of holiness, are defended by the whole armour of God, ( Ephesians 6 ) . Never were people so well assured of victory over their enemies. Thus shall the God of peace tread Satan under the feet of all believers, and shall do it shortly, ( Romans 16:20 ) . May God help us to seek and to set our affections on the things above; and to turn our souls from earthly perishing objects; that we may not have our lot with Israel's foes in the regions of darkness and despair, but with the Israel of God, in the realms of love and eternal happiness.
Deuteronomy 33:1-28 . THE MAJESTY OF GOD.
1. Moses the man of God--This was a common designation of a prophet ( 1 Samuel 2:27 , 9:6 ), and it is here applied to Moses, when, like Jacob, he was about to deliver ministerially before his death, a prophetic benediction to Israel.
2-4. The Lord came--Under a beautiful metaphor, borrowed from the dawn and progressive splendor of the sun, the Majesty of God is sublimely described as a divine light which appeared in Sinai and scattered its beams on all the adjoining region in directing Israel's march to Canaan. In these descriptions of a theophania, God is represented as coming from the south, and the allusion is in general to the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai; but other mountains in the same direction are mentioned with it. The location of Seir was on the east of the Ghor; mount Paran was either the chain on the west of the Ghor, or rather the mountains on the southern border of the desert towards the peninsula [ROBINSON]. (Compare Judges 5:4 Judges 5:5 , Psalms 68:7 Psalms 68:8 , Habakkuk 3:3 ).
ten thousands of saints--rendered by some, "with the ten thousand of Kadesh," or perhaps better still, "from Meribah" [EWALD].
a fiery law--so called both because of the thunder and lightning which accompanied its promulgation ( Exodus 19:16-18 , Deuteronomy 4:11 ), and the fierce, unrelenting curse denounced against the violation of its precepts ( 2 Corinthians 3:7-9 ). Notwithstanding those awe-inspiring symbols of Majesty that were displayed on Sinai, the law was really given in kindness and love, as a means of promoting both the temporal and eternal welfare of the people. And it was "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob," not only from the hereditary obligation under which that people were laid to observe it, but from its being the grand distinction, the peculiar privilege of the nation.
6. Let Reuben live, and not die--Although deprived of the honor and privileges of primogeniture, he was still to hold rank as one of the tribes of Israel. He was more numerous than several other tribes ( Numbers 1:21 , 2:11 ). Yet gradually he sank into a mere nomadic tribe, which had enough to do merely "to live and not die." Many eminent biblical scholars, resting on the most ancient and approved manuscripts of the Septuagint, consider the latter clause as referring to Simeon; "and Simeon, let his men be few," a reading of the text which is in harmony with other statements of Scripture respecting this tribe ( Numbers 25:6-14 , 1:23 , 26:14 , Joshua 19:1 ).
7. this is the blessing of Judah--Its general purport points to the great power and independence of Judah, as well as its taking the lead in all military expeditions.
8-10. of Levi he said--The burden of this blessing is the appointment of the Levites to the dignified and sacred office of the priesthood ( Leviticus 10:11 , Deuteronomy 22:8 , 17:8-11 ), a reward for their zeal in supporting the cause of God, and their unsparing severity in chastising even their nearest and dearest relatives who had participated in the idolatry of the molten calf ( Exodus 32:25-28 ; compare Malachi 2:4-6 ).
12. of Benjamin he said--A distinguishing favor was conferred on this tribe in having its portion assigned near the temple of God.
between his shoulders--that is, on his sides or borders. Mount Zion, on which stood the city of Jerusalem, belonged to Judah; but Mount Moriah, the site of the sacred edifice, lay in the confines of Benjamin.
13-17. of Joseph he said--The territory of this tribe, diversified by hill and dale, wood and water, would be rich in all the productions--olives, grapes, figs, &c., which are reared in a mountainous region, as well as in the grain and herbs that grow in the level fields. "The firstling of the bullock and the horns of the unicorn" (rhinoceros), indicate glory and strength, and it is supposed that under these emblems were shadowed forth the triumphs of Joshua and the new kingdom of Jeroboam, both of whom were of Ephraim (compare Genesis 48:20 ).
18, 19. Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out--on commercial enterprises and voyages by sea.
and, Issachar in thy tents--preferring to reside in their maritime towns.
19. shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand--Both tribes should traffic with the Phoenicians in gold and silver, pearl and coral, especially in murex, the shellfish that yielded the famous Tyrian dye, and in glass, which was manufactured from the sand of the river Belus, in their immediate neighborhood.
20, 21. of Gad he said--Its possessions were larger than they would have been had they lain west of Jordan; and this tribe had the honor of being settled by Moses himself in the first portion of land conquered. In the forest region, south of the Jabbok, "he dwelt as a lion" (compare Genesis 30:11 , 49:19 ). Notwithstanding, they faithfully kept their engagement to join the "heads of the people" ( Deuteronomy 33:21 ) in the invasion of Canaan.
22. Dan is a lion's whelp--His proper settlement in the south of Canaan being too small, he by a sudden and successful irruption, established a colony in the northern extremity of the land. This might well be described as the leap of a young lion from the hills of Bashan.
23. of Naphtali he said--The pleasant and fertile territory of this tribe lay to "the west," on the borders of lakes Merom and Chinnereth, and to "the south" of the northern Danites.
24, 25. of Asher he said--The condition of this tribe is described as combining all the elements of earthly felicity.
dip his foot in oil--These words allude either to the process of extracting the oil by foot presses, or to his district as particularly fertile and adapted to the culture of the olive.
25. shoes of iron and brass--These shoes suited his rocky coast from Carmel to Sidon. Country people as well as ancient warriors had their lower extremities protected by metallic greaves ( 1 Samuel 17:6 , Ephesians 6:15 ) and iron-soled shoes.
26-29. There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun--The chapter concludes with a congratulatory address to Israel on their peculiar happiness and privilege in having Jehovah for their God and protector.
who rideth upon the heaven in thy help--an evident allusion to the pillar of cloud and fire, which was both the guide and shelter of Israel.
28. the fountain of Jacob--The posterity of Israel shall dwell in a blessed and favored land.