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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 33

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

Verse 1

Blessing. The Fathers, St. Augustine, (q. 56,) &c., explain this of the Christian Church, rather than of the Synagogue. (Theodoret) --- Man of God. A title given to a prophet, 1 Kings ii. 27., and ix. 6. The prophets often speak of things to come, as if they were past, as we have seen in the conduct of Balaam, Numbers xxiv. 3. Moses here delivers his last testament, and speaks as one no longer in the world, so that there is no reason to affirm that this chapter has been added by another hand; (Calmet) though Kennicott thinks it probable. He suggests, that the first verses of this blessing have been corrupted in the Hebrew and should be translated: 2. He, Jehovah, came from Sinai, and he arose upon them from Seir; (Judges v. 4.) 3. He shone forth from Mount Pharan, and he came from Meriba-Cadesh. (Numbers xx. 1. 13.) From his right hand a fire shone forth upon them. 4. Truly he loved the people, and he blessed all his saints. 5. For they fell down at his feet, and they received of his words. 6. He commanded us a law, the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. 7. and He became king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were assembled, together with the tribes of Israel. See (Dis. i. p. 423,) the arguments which he produces in favour of this version. (Haydock)

Verse 2

Pharan. Habacuc iii. 3, mentions this apparition. See also Psalm lxvii. 9. --- Saints. God was accompanied by legions of angels, when he delivered the law to the Israelites, who are styled a nation of saints, Numbers xvi. 3. Septuagint, "he hastened from Mount Pharan, with ten thousands to Cades. At his right hand are his angels attending." (Haydock) --- Kodesh does not mean saints, but holiness, or the city of Cades; and the preceding word, which Protestants translate, with ten thousands, more probably refers to another title of the city, as it is specified Meriba-Cadesh, chap. xxxii. 51., and Ezechiel xlviii. 28. (Kennicott) --- Law. Chaldean, "from the midst of the fire he has given us a law, written with his own hand." We may translate, "He hath shone from Mount Pharan, and multitudes accompanied him. The Holy One, who hath in his hand fire and the law." See Isaias vi. 3. God conducted his people, like a victorious general, through the wilderness, frequently appearing to them to strike terror into the rebellious. (Calmet) --- When he first descended upon Sinai, his glory shone on Pharan and Seir, as it were in its progress thither. (Menochius) --- The law is styled fiery, not only because it was given from the midst of flames, but also because it was to be put in execution with the utmost rigour. (Haydock) --- But doth is Chaldean, and no where else used for the law in the books written before the captivity, nor is it acknowledged by the Septuagint, Syriac, &c. Perhaps it was originally aur, as it is in the Samaritan version, "shone forth," conformably to a similar passage, Habacuc iii. 4. "His brightness was as the sun, horns, or rather splendours (issuing forth) from his hand," &c. (Kennicott)

Verse 3

People, (populos.) God loves and watches over all, but particularly (Calmet) over the nation which he has chosen. (Chaldean) See Wisdom iii. 1., and Isaias xlix. 16. --- Doctrine. It was formerly the custom for disciples to sit at their master’s feet, (Acts xxii. 3,) as it is still in the Eastern countries. (Bellon. iii. 12.) Septuagint, "and these are under thee;" (Haydock) subject to thy orders. (Calmet) --- Hebrew is here extremely confused: "Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand, and they eat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words." Moses here addresses the Lord. How could he say therefore, all his, &c.? whose saints, and in whose hand? The Vulgate and Chaldean have not the same difficulty, as they read, in his hand, bidu. but the Syriac has, "and he blessed all his saints." Boroc is not very unlike the present Hebrew bidoc, (Kennicott) r and d being frequently mistaken for each other, and i as often neglected by the Hebrew copyists. (Haydock) --- the Samaritan version confirms this alteration; and the text also has the v, and, at the beginning, which makes the whole to be clearly connected, particularly if we allow that c, which stands for thy, has been substituted for v, his, in the following words, thy feet and thy words, which ought to be his, as all the context speaks of God in the third person. This is agreeable to the Vulgate and to the Septuagint also, in the last instance. In the former, the Hebrew is printed thy foot, though the Samaritan and several manuscripts read thy feet. Instead of yissa, "he shall receive," (Haydock) the plural ought to be substituted, v being omitted both at the beginning and end, as it is in the name of Benaihu, 1 Paralipomenon xi. 22. See 2 Kings xxiii. 20. The Samaritan, Syriac, and Arabic, read and they received, (Kennicott) and the Vulgate, they shall receive. The Septuagint seem to refer this to Moses, "And Moses received from his words, the law which he enjoined to us." (Haydock) --- That Moses should speak of himself, in this manner, seems very unaccountable, and therefore a word may perhaps have crept in, on account of its resemblance with the following term, Mursse. If it has not, Moses must have assumed the title of king, (ver. 5,) which he seems nevertheless to have disclaimed; (chap. xvii. 14,) and there was none in Israel before Saul, 1 Kings viii. 7. (Kennicott) --- We may, however, supposes that he puts these words in the mouths of the people, who would repeat this blessing after he was dead, and mention with gratitude how Moses had delivered to them so excellent a law, and administered the affairs of state with all the power and dignity of a king. (Haydock)

Verse 4

Moses. He expresses himself as if the people were speaking. The change of persons is very frequent in this discourse. --- Inheritance. So the psalmist (Psalm cxviii. 111,) says, I have purchased thy testimonies for an inheritance for ever. (Calmet)

Verse 5

He shall, &c. Erit rex, may perhaps be as well rendered indefinitely, "There shall be a king;" or, with the Septuagint, "And there shall be over the beloved a ruler," as (Haydock) some understand this of Moses, others of Saul, though it most probably refers to God himself, who gave the law, and was acknowledged, in the most solemn manner, for the king of Israel. --- Right. Hebrew yishurun, a term which St. Jerome translates, with the Septuagint, (Calmet) chap. xxxii. 15, the beloved, as it is supposed to be a diminutive of Israel, to express greater tenderness. Thus Cicero called his daughter Tulliola. (Haydock)

Verse 6

Number. This is conformable to the prophecy of Jacob, who deprived Ruben of his birth-right, on account of incest. He is even treated with indulgence, in being permitted to form one of the tribes. Yet some copies of the Septuagint, Syriac, (Theodoret q. 42,) and many interpreters, take this in quite a contrary sense, "let him be numerous, or not few;" the negation being supplied from the former part of the verse, which is not unusual in Hebrew. See Genesis ii. 6., Psalm ix. 19., and Proverbs xxxi. 1, &c. The tribe of Ruben was in effect more numerous than those of Gad, Joseph, or Benjamin. Simeon receives no blessing, probably on account of the crimes for which so many of that tribe were exterminated, (Numbers i. 23., and xxvi. 14.; Calmet,) and particularly Zambri, one of the chief princes, Numbers xxv. (Worthington) --- But Grabe’s Septuagint applies to Simeon what the rest apply to Ruben. "And let Simeon be many in number." No solid reason can be given why he should be passed over entirely, as, notwithstanding the infidelity of some of his children, and his own cruelty in not endeavouring to rescue Joseph, &c., he was to form a tribe among his brethren. (Haydock) --- Some, therefore, imagine that he was to share in the blessings of Ruben, or of Levi, (with whom he is joined by Jacob, Genesis xlix. 5,) or of Juda, near whom he had his allotment of the promised land. Part of the tribe of Simeon afterwards dwelt in the territories of Juda, Josue xix. 1., 1 Paralipomenon iv. 42., and Judges i. 3. But (Calmet) it is more likely that the name has been omitted or changed in the original, by the mistake of some early transcriber, in like manner as the tribe of Manasses, included in that of Joseph, seems to have been placed for that of Dan, which otherwise would be omitted, Apocalypse vii. 6, 8. Some have recourse to a mystery in both these places. (Haydock)

Verse 7

Of Juda, "when he goes to war, and bring him back in peace to his people." (Onkelos) --- The general made a solemn prayer on such occasions; and the Psalm xix. was composed, and is still used, to draw down God’s blessing in times of war. Moses thus clearly insinuates that the tribe of Juda should obtain the sovereign authority, though it would not be without opposition, that Israel would submit to David. He begs that God would remove all obstacles. This tribe was always distinguished for its valour. It was directed by God to attack the Chanaanites, under Othoniel, Judges i. 2. But its chief glory appeared under the reigns of David and Solomon. The other tribes were scarcely a match for the single tribe of Juda. (Calmet) --- And he, God. (Menochius) --- If God be for us, who is against us? (Romans viii. 31.) (Haydock)

Verse 8

Holy man. Aaron and his successors in the priesthood. (Challoner) --- They were adorned with the Urim and Thummim, which are here rendered perfection and doctrine. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "give to Levi his insignia, (delous) and his truth, to the holy man, the same whom they tried at the temptation, they spoke ill of him at the waters," &c. It was in consequence of the seditious conduct of the Israelites that the two brothers betrayed a want of confidence in God, and were excluded from the land of promise, as Moses often reminds them, chap. iii. 26. (Haydock) --- Temptation. The place which goes by this name is at Raphidim, near Horeb, Exodus xvii. 6. But the word here probably includes all the other places, where the Hebrews tempted God, and particularly that, where so holy a man as Aaron was permitted to fall. (Calmet) (Numbers xx. 12.) --- The priesthood is the peculiar blessing and honour of the tribe of Levi. (Menochius)

Verse 9

Who hath said, &c. It is the duty of the priestly tribe to prefer God’s honour and service before all considerations of flesh and blood: in such manner as to behave as strangers to their nearest akin, when these would withdraw them from the business of their calling. (Challoner) --- The Levites shew no mercy to such of their brethren as had adored the golden calf, Exodus xxxii. 28, 29. The Chaldean, and many able interpreters, consider them here as judges, who must not be biased in passing sentence, by any natural affection. (Vatable) --- Others think they must not assist at the funerals of their relations, Leviticus xxi. 10. (Calmet) --- But the two former opinions seem much better. (Haydock) --- Covenant. Priests ought to be more exemplary in their conduct than other men. (Worthington) --- It is their duty also to instruct others, and to inculcate the observance of the law, as Hebrew and Septuagint more clearly specify. "They shall teach thy judgments to Jacob, and thy law to Israel." (Haydock) --- They were appointed judges (chap. xvii. 8., and xix. 17,) and monitors, Osee iv. 6., &c.

Verse 10

Wrath. He seems to allude to the action of Aaron, Numbers xvi. 46. (Calmet) --- Hebrew has, "incense before thee," (Haydock) as it is explained by the Chaldean, Septuagint, &c. --- Holocaust, of flour, &c., calil; that of beasts was styled aule. See chap. xiii. 16. (Calmet)

Verse 11

Rise. The martial prowess of the Machabees, who were of this tribe, was conspicuous. (Menochius) --- As the Levites had no portion with the rest, but were to live by tithes, &c., Moses begs that God would bless their labours, (Calmet) and suffer none to defraud them of their right. (Haydock)

Verse 12

Shall dwell, &c. This seems to allude to the temple being built in the confines of the tribe of Benjamin, (Challoner) on the northern part of Jerusalem. The southern division of the city was in the territory of Juda; and hence Jerusalem is attributed to both, Josue xv. 63., and Judges i. 21. (Calmet) --- He rest. The temple was situated on Mount Moria, which was higher than the rest of the city, as the head is above the shoulders. (Menochius) --- Chaldean, "The majesty of the Lord shall dwell in his land." This was the sure ground of confidence to Benjamin. As long as God continued with his people, they had nothing to fear, no more than in a bride-chamber, being under the protection of the most High. (Haydock) --- As Benjamin had been the object of his father’s love, so God chose the first king out of his tribe; (Menochius) and by protecting his temple in a more particular manner, secured him. (Worthington)

Verse 13

Fruits. Hebrew, "for the precious things of heaven, for the dew," &c., so also it has precious, ver. 14, &c.

Verse 14

Moon; both those which are annual, as wheat, and those which come every month. (Chaldean) The sun and moon greatly contribute to nourish (Haydock) and to bring fruit to maturity. (Pliny, [Natural History?] ii. 100. (Calmet) --- Both the tribes of Ephraim and of Manasses inhabited a fertile region. (Menochius)

Verse 15

Everlasting hills. Chaldean, "which never fail" to produce an abundant crop. (Haydock) --- The hills of the Israelites were very productive. But when they rebelled against their God, in very deed the hills were liars, and yielded little or nothing, Jeremias iii. 23.

Verse 16

Thereof, whatever the earth can produce, particularly wheat, &c. The fruits of heaven, (ver. 13,) may denote such as grew on trees. (Calmet) --- Bush; God, who appeared to Moses. (Haydock) --- Nazarite. See the note on Genesis xlix. 26. (Challoner) --- Joseph was distinguished by God, by his father, and by the king of Egypt, in a particular manner. The high priest was the Nasir in the house of God, (Leviticus xxi. 12,) as Joseph ws the chief officer, at the court of Pharao. The eastern kings still give this title to their prime minister. (Chardin. Perse. T. ii. 5, p. 136.)

Verse 17

Bullock, or cow. Shor, denotes all the species, chap. xv. 19. --- Firstling, is likewise often put for the most excellent. Thus "his beauty, like the finest bullock." The Egyptians had a high esteem for bulls; and Elian (ii. 10,) informs us that Mnevis, one of their kings, ordered the people to adore the bull, as the most beautiful of animals. Moses points at the kingdom of Israel, which was chiefly governed by the tribe of Ephraim; or perhaps he alludes to Josue, (Calmet) who was to succeed him, and to conquer the nations on the other side of the Jordan, with so much resolution and ability. (Haydock) --- Rhinoceros, as stronger and more penetrating. See Numbers xxxii. 22. (Calmet) --- Horns, designate strength and beauty, Psalm lxxiv. (Menochius) --- Push, alluding to the manner in which bulls attack their opponents, and hurl them into the air, sparsa ad pugnam proludit arena. (Georg. iii.) (Calmet) --- Some of the Fathers have explained this passage of Jesus Christ, the first-born of the creation, who is possessed of all the treasures of wisdom (Haydock) and beauty, whose strength drew all things to himself, after he had lifted up the nations on his cross, as it were with horns, and rescued them from the power of the devil. (St. Augustine, q. ultra[last]) (Calmet) --- Manasses. To these two tribes, the blessings of their father, Joseph, belong; and their multitudes shall render them very formidable to the nations around them, as long as they obey their God. (Haydock) --- The younger brother, Ephraim, is preferred before the elder, Genesis xlviii. (Worthington)

Verse 18

Out to sea. (Calmet) --- The territory of Zabulon had the Mediterranean sea on the west, and the lake of Tiberias, into which the Jordan flowed, on the east. (Haydock) --- By the advantages of their situation, and by the example of the Tyrians, the people were induced to engage in commerce, and to study the art of navigation. --- Tabernacles. Issachar preferred staying at home to cultivate his rich soil, Genesis xlix. 13. (Calmet)

Verse 19

Mountain. Full of gratitude to God, who has bestowed such advantages upon them, these tribes shall go with zeal to the place which the Lord shall choose, (Haydock) and invite the people, on the road, to go along with them, to offer sacrifice. (Menochius) --- Perhaps this may allude also to their conduct in the war against Jabin, in which they were particularly active, appointing the place of rendezvous at Mount Thabor, where, though the Scripture be silent, it is probable they would offer a sacrifice of thanks, as they had the prophetess, Debora, along with them, (Calmet) in like manner as Samuel immolated a calf at Bethlehem, (1 Kings xvi.) and Elias a bullock on Mount Carmel, 3 Kings xviii. (Haydock) See 1 Kings xiii. 12. --- Sands. This blessing chiefly regarded Zabulon, who received the riches of the sea by commerce, bringing home the gold dust which is found among the sand of some rivers. The river Belus, near Ptolemais, was particularly famous for a sort of sand, of which glass was made. Josephus (Jewish Wars ii. 17,) says, that near the tomb of Memnon, a bed of such sand is found, about 100 cubits long, which, though many vessels have been filled from it, has never been exhausted. See Pliny, [Natural History?] v. 19., and Strabo, xvi. --- The discovery of glass is supposed to have been the effect of chance; some merchants having placed a nitrous stone under their pot, as soon as it grew hot, and mixed with the sand, which is found near the shore of Tyre, a transparent substance was formed, which the Greeks called ualos, "glass," perhaps in imitation of the Hebrew eul, or "sand," of which it was chiefly composed. (Calmet) --- The Septuagint render this verse, "They shall destroy the nations, and you shall call thither, and there you shall sacrifice,....because the riches of the sea shall suckle thee, and the merchandise of those who inhabit the sea shore." These tribes greatly contributed to overthrow the army of Sisara beside the torrent of Cisson, which divides their territories, Judges iv., and v. (Haydock)

Verse 20

Breadth. The tribe of Gad, &c., slew or drove the Agarites from their neighbourhood, and seized their country, 1 Paralipomenon v. 18, 22. Hebrew, Septuagint, and Chaldean, "Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad," which was verified in Jephte, Josue xi. 33. (Calmet)

Verse 21

He saw, &c. The pre-eminence of the tribe of Gad, to which this alludes, was their having the lawgiver, Moses, buried in their borders; though the particular place was not known. (Challoner) --- Protestants, "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," &c. Septuagint, "And he saw his first-fruits," (the first conquered country of Sehon and of Og,) because there the land of the princes was divided, the leaders of the people being assembled, or who were assembled with the leaders. (Haydock) --- Gad and the two other tribes petitioned for that part of the country, and obtained their request of Moses, Numbers xxxii. 27. --- Israel. This is generally understood of Moses; but it may be explained of the tribe of Gad, which complied with the conditions imposed on him, and on his brethren, by the Lord, when he allotted the land of Galaad to them, chap. iii. 18. (Calmet) --- Hebrew, "he executed the justice of the Lord," &c. Septuagint, "the Lord did justice and his judgment with Israel," approving his choice. (Haydock)

Verse 22

Basan. As the Jordan rushes with impetuosity (Haydock) from Lais, which was seized by some of this tribe; (Judges xviii.) and as a lion falls on its prey from the mountains of Basan, so shall this tribe give birth to Samson, who was stronger than a lion, (Calmet) and terribly harassed the Philistines, Judges xiv. 5, 14, &c. When the Danites found themselves straitened for room, they sent a colony, (Haydock) which took possession of Lais, and called it after their own name: one of the fountains of the Jordan was in this place, the other was called Jor, (Menochius) though the river may have a more distant and obscure source in the lake of Phiala, whence Josephus says (Haydock) it runs, by a subterraneous passage, to a fountain of Dan. As it then takes its course through the promised land, of which it is the principal river, Dan may thus be said to supply waters abundantly for the whole country. (Menochius) --- But the Hebrew and Septuagint have, "he shall leap from Basan," which must be understood of the lion, since the territory of Dan was very remote from that mountain. (Haydock)

Verse 23

The sea. The lake of Genesareth. (Challoner) --- South. That lake forms the southern extremity of the tribe of Nephthali. (Haydock) --- The Mediterranean, and the countries south of Palestine, are commonly understood in this manner, but they cannot be understood here. (Calmet) --- By means of their neighbours of Tyre and Sidon, (Menochius) and of Zabulon, who lay on the west, (Haydock) they would be supplied with all the luxuries of the sea and of the south. (Menochius)

Verse 24

Blessed. He alludes to the name of Aser, which has this signification. (Haydock) --- This tribe had been upon the increase in the desert, (Calmet) and now comprised 53,000 warriors. (Haydock) --- The province of Galilee, where Aser dwelt, was one of the most fertile of all Chanaan, and noted for abundance of oil, Genesis xlix. 20. (Josephus, Jewish Wars iii. 2., and ii. 22.) (Calmet) --- Oil. So Job (xxix. 6,) says, When I washed my feet with butter. (Menochius)

Verse 25

Iron and brass, to denote the warlike disposition of this tribe. Goliah[Goliath], and the heroes before Troy, wore boots of brass, 1 Kings xvii. 6. (Homer) --- The greatest part of the army of Antiochus had even golden nails in their shoe soles, (Val. Max.) while the Romans contented themselves with iron. (Josephus, Jewish Wars vii. 3.) --- But this custom was not peculiar to the soldiers. People of all descriptions did the like, either for ornament, or to make their sandals last longer. Empedocles wore brass at the bottom of his sandals; (Laertius viii.) and as one of them was thrown out from the top of Mount Etna, it was discovered that he had destroyed himself in that volcano, to make people suppose (Calmet) that he was a god, and had gone up to heaven. (Haydock) --- Clement of Alexandria (Pœd. ii.) complains, that some wore such gaudy ornaments in his days. (Calmet) --- This passage is interpreted in a figurative sense by some, as if Aser would trample under his feet and despise the instruments of war, (Jansenius) and would turn those metals to the purposes of agriculture. Others render the Hebrew, "Thy bars shall be of iron and brass, and thy reputation (strength, repose, or sorrow) shall endure as long as thy life; or May they, " &c., in the form of a wish. Moses desires that Aser may be secure against his enemies, as if he had a mind to insinuate, that this tribe would be led captive among the first by Teglathphalasar, 4 Kings xv. 29. Many of the cities of this tribe were strongly fortified. (Josephus) --- If we adopt thy sorrow shall, &c., we must observe, that the neighbourhood of Phœnicians exposed the people to continual incursions, (Calmet) and the king of Assyria at last came to complete their ruin. (Haydock)

Verse 26

Rightest, (rectissimi.) Hebrew yeshurun, "the beloved," Israel. (Haydock) --- Thither, as messengers. Hebrew, "The clouds are in his elevation," like so many steps to his throne. Who makest the clouds thy chariot, (ascensum tuum) who walkest upon the wings of the winds, Psalm ciii. 3. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "He is the great ornament of the firmament." None is like to him in power and majesty. (Haydock)

Verse 27

Underneath are the everlasting arms. Though the dwelling of God be above in heaven, his arms are always stretched out to help us here below. (Challoner) --- Hebrew, "The eternal God is thy refuge; or, From eternity is the abode of God, or in fine, the protection of the Lord is before, and his eternal arms underneath;" so that nothing can hurt you. (Calmet)

Verse 28

Alone, without standing in need of the assistance of any other but God. See Numbers xxiii. 9. (Haydock) --- Some of the ancient Germans would have no communication with any other nation; and they depopulated the country around, to keep all at a distance. (Calmet) --- The Chinese seem to be at present nearly of the same disposition, as well as those who inhabit Japan, &c. --- The eye of Jacob. His posterity, by whom he sees the transactions of the world. (Haydock) --- Hebrew the fountain, is taken in the same sense. The country which his descendants enjoyed, was well watered with springs, Numbers xxiv. 7. --- Dew, it will be so abundant. Chaldean, The heavens will drop down dew, chap. xxxii. 2.

Verse 29

Deny thee. Break their word and most solemn treaties. Hebrew, "shall lie unto thee," which will afford thee a just reason to seize their effects. (Haydock) --- Some translate, "the efforts of thy enemies shall be frustrated." --- Necks. Thus Josue ordered the five kings to be treated, (Josue x. 24.) and Tamerlane used Bajazet as a footstool, when he had to mount his horse. (Calmet) --- This fierce Tartarian conqueror, the enemy of the Christian name, humbled the pride of the Turkish emperor, by confining him in a cage of iron, A.D. 1403. (Haydock)

Verse 52


Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/deuteronomy-33.html. 1859.
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