Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, March 5th, 2024
the Third Week of Lent
There are 26 days til Easter!
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 33

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.

This is the blessing, wherewith Moses ... blessed the children of Israel. Conformably to what was alluded to formerly (see the note at Deuteronomy 31:24), some writers maintain that this chapter was put in a written record by a writer subsequent to, or at least other than, Moses. Kennicott, who espouses this view, supports it on the following grounds:

(1) Because in this Book of Deuteronomy, Moses usually speaks of himself in the first person, while here the third is assumed.

(2) Because, although "man of God" was an epithet applied to a prophet (1 Samuel 2:27), Moses was not likely to assume so high-sounding an epithet to himself.

(3) Because the recorder speaks of himself as one of the people, who was subject to the official authority of Moses.

On these and other grounds, he concluded that the following series of benedictions was recorded by a person who heard them pronounced by Moses, and prefixed the preface contained in Deuteronomy 33:1-5: "This is the blessing wherewith Moses blessed the children of Israel."

In this solemn act he delivered, like Jacob, ministerially, before his death, a prophetic blessing. The "blessing" consisted partly in praying, through faith, for a blessing upon them, and partly in preintimating the blessings which God would bestow upon each separate tribe. The prophets are frequently said to do what they only foretell would be done (Genesis 49:7; Jeremiah 1:1-19; Jeremiah 2:1-37; Jeremiah 3:1-25; Jeremiah 4:1-31; Jeremiah 5:1-31; Jeremiah 6:1-30; Jeremiah 7:1-34; Jeremiah 8:1-22; Jeremiah 9:1-26; Jeremiah 10:1-25; Ezekiel 43:3; Hosea 6:5).

Some critics allege that there is an inconsistency between this and the preceding chapter. But the object contemplated in the two passages is widely different. Deuteronomy 33:1-29 contains a very noble ode, in which the method of the divine judgments is unfolded, in order to vindicate the ways of Yahweh to Israel. The present chapter records a valedictory address of the venerable leader, who takes farewell of the people by pronouncing an appropriate benediction on each tribe in succession.

Verses 2-4

And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.

The lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them, [ laamow (H3807a), to them-the poetic singular]. Since no persons are mentioned before Yahweh's appearance here described, it has been conjectured, that the proper reading of the text should be [lª`amow], 'to his people.' But the conjecture is not supported by manuscript authority. [The Septuagint translators must have seen the Hebrew word laanuw (H3807a), in the first person plural, because they translate it as: heemin, 'to us.' So also do the Syriac and Vulgate versions, with the Targum of Onkelos. But this also is unwarranted.] There is no occasion for inserting 'to them' in our version; for, as Henderson ('On Inspiration,' p. 476) correctly remarks, 'the dative of the pronoun is here, as frequently, redundant after an intransitive verb of motion.'

And he came with ten thousands of saints, [ wª'aataah (H857) meeribbot (H7233) qodesh (H6944)] = ten thousand (Judges 20:10), and frequently any large, indefinite number (Genesis 24:60; Psalms 91:7; Song of Solomon 5:10; Ezekiel 16:7). [ Qodesh (H6944), holiness. Being governed by the preceding word, it is here equivalent to an adjective 'holy myriads;' and no objection can be made to this view on the ground of rªbaabowt (H7233) being in the feminine plural, since this numeral is feminine, and occurs in a similar connection with angels (Psalms 68:17). The Septuagint, however, having read qaadesh (H6945), translates sun muriasi Kadees, with myriads at Kadesh.

Kennicott ('Dissertations,' vol. 1:, p. 426) and Ewald ('Geschichte') adopt this interpretation, and taking both Hebrew words in a geographical sense, render them, 'from Meribah-kadesh.' They vindicate their translation --

(1) On the circumstance of the three preceding clauses containing names of places, and of the fourth having one, too, by the change of a single letter.

(2) That this name, Meribah-kadesh, occurs at the close of the last chapter;


(3) That the word constantly used for his saints is qªdoshaayw (H6918).]

From his right hand went a fiery law for them, [ miymiynow (H3225) 'eesh (H784) daat (H1881) laamow (H3807a)]. These words have occasioned much perplexity. Gesenius renders them, 'at His (Yahweh's) right hand, fire a law to them'-namely, to the Israelites; and we may understand, perhaps, 'the pillar of fire guiding their way in the desert.' This interpretation, however, is rejected as unsatisfactory; and the generality of critics have the phrase, 'a fire of law,' as equivalent to "fiery law." [Vulgate, 'legem igneam,' deeming it the intention of the sacred historian, by using this uncommon mode of expression, to give prominence to the awful phenomena that marked its promulgation.]

"A fiery law" - so called both because of the thunder and lightning which accompanied its promulgation (Exodus 19:16-18; Deuteronomy 4:11), and of 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 (Deuteronomy 33:3), 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 special privilege of the nation. Verse 3. All his saints are in thy hand, [ qªdoshaayw (H6918), his holy ones]. [ bªyaadekaa (H3027), in thy hand, is an idiomatic expression, signifying simply with thee.] There is observable here a very abrupt transition from the third person, "His" holy ones, to the second, "thy" hand. [The Septuagint has: ek dexioon autou angeloi met' autou, and on His right angels were with Him-a translation which, whatever may be said of it in other respects, preserves the parallelism with 'holy myriads,' in the preceding line.]

And they sat down at thy feet, [ tukuw (H8497), lay down (an hapax legomenon).] Gesenius, who regards [ qªdoshaayw (H6918)] "his saints" as meaning the Israelites, renders this clause, 'they are laid down (encamped) at thy feet' - i:e., at the foot of mount Sinai. But the major part of interpreters, considering this verse as a continuation of the preceding, apply it to the lowly prostration of the angelic hosts, 'They fall down, they bow at thy feet.'

Every one shall receive of thy words. Gesenius, of course, regards this as said of the Israelite people accepting the divine oracle; while others, who take the verb in its full signification, to take up so as to bear away, refer it to the ministry of angels at the delivery of the law (cf. Psalms 68:17).

Under a beautiful metaphor, borrowed from the dawn and progressive splendour 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 toward the peninsula (Robinson: cf. Judges 5:4-5; Psalms 68:7-8; Habakkuk 3:3).

Verse 4. Moses commanded us a law. So far as respected the agency of Moses, he acted as the commissioned legate of Yahweh.

The inheritance of the congregation of Jacob, [ mowraashaah (H4181), possession]. The law was so called as being one of the distinguishing privileges of Israel, the word implying a hereditary claim (Ezekiel 11:15; Ezekiel 25:4; Ezekiel 25:10: cf. Psalms 119:111, where the Psalmist speaks of the law as his heritage, a different word, however, being used).

Verse 5

And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.

And he was king in Jeshurun. On "Jeshurun" as a designation of Israel, see Deuteronomy 32:15. By the grammatical connection of this verse with the preceding, "he" must refer to Moses, who might in a certain restricted sense be called "king," as under God chief ruler (Judges 19:1; Jeremiah 19:3). But the tenor of the context excludes this interpretation; for the general assembly of "the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel" at the promulgation of the law pointed to their public and solemn assent to the national compact, which was ratified by the glorious theophany above described; and then Yahweh, while by virtue of His creative power and providential agency He is Sovereign of the universe, began, by the inauguration of the legal economy, to exercise the kingly office among His chosen people. He, therefore, must be recognized as "king in Jeshurun."

It is the opinion of the most eminent Biblical scholars that "Moses" has crept into Deuteronomy 33:4 through the error of a transcriber, and that thus confusion and obscurity have been introduced into a passage of which the manifestation and the acts of God, not of Moses, form the real and the leading subject (see Kennicott, 'Dissertation,' 1:; Michaelis, 'Commentary on the Laws of Moses,' art. 34).

Verse 6

Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.

Let Reuben live, and not die. Although deprived of the honour 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; Numbers 2:11), yet gradually sank into a mere nomadic tribe, which had enough to do merely to "live, and not die."

Josephus says ('Antiquities,' b. 4:, ch. 8:, sec. 48) that Moses blessed each one of the tribes; so that it may be concluded the name of Simeon must have been found in the text of his copy of the Pentateuch, although it is now omitted both in the Hebrew and Samaritan copies; and accordingly it stands in the Alexandrian manuscript of the Septuagint: kai Sumeoon estoo polus en arithmoo. But Apollinaris remarks, that 'the accurate copies do not contain the name of Simeon;' and Tischendorf has excluded it from his edition of the 'Codex Vaticanus,' although he places it, of course, among the various readings in his notes.

Professor Blunt ('Undesigned Coincidences.' p. 89) account for the omission by the preeminence of this tribe in the guilt of Baal-peor, (Numbers 25:1-18; Numbers 26:1-65.) The reading of our present text is in harmony with other statements of Scripture respecting this tribe (Numbers 1:23; Numbers 25:6-14; Numbers 26:14; Joshua 19:1).

And let not his men be few, [ mªtaayw (H4962) micpaar (H4557)] - men of number; i:e., easily counted, few (Deuteronomy 4:27; Genesis 34:30; Numbers 9:20; 1 Chronicles 16:19; Psalms 105:12; Jeremiah 44:28). 'In these words,' says Gesenius, 'a negative particle is implied from the preceding clause, so as to translate, "and let not his men be a number" - i:e., let them be many, innumerable.' This interpretation of Gesenius is supported by most of the versions [the Septuagint has: kai estoo polus en arithmoo, with the exception of the Vulgate, 'et sit parvus in numero.'

Verse 7

And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies.

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, especially during the war of invasion. Moses prefers a brief but earnest prayer for the victorious campaigning, as well as a happy return of this tribe (see the notes at Genesis 49:11).

Verses 8-10

And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah;

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; Deuteronomy 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 call (Exodus 32:26-28: cf. Malachi 2:4-6).

Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one. As to this remarkable engraving on the high priest's pectoral, see the notes at Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8. The words here assume the form of a direct prayer-the Thummim and Urim which are thine, O Lord. Let this consecrated breastplate, together with a possession of all the gifts and graces which that special breastplate implied, be with that tribe, and especially that high priest whom thou hast sanctified to thyself - "the holy one," in a sense-above the rest of the people; i:e., let the sacerdotal office be perpetuated in the family of Aaron.

Whom thou didst prove at Massah - i:e., although he was tried and rebuked, and excluded from Canaan for his misconduct at Meribah (see the notes at Numbers 20:10-13), yet he was not deprived of the pontificate. The import of the prayer is, that he, as representative of the tribe of Levi, might be still further honoured by being the honoured medium of diffusing light and truth among the people.

Verse 9. Who said unto his father ... - i:e., the person consecrated to thee. Aaron is still the subject of address, as representing the Levitical tribe, who, in the ardour of their zeal for the honour of God, sacrificed their natural feelings in the unsparing slaughter of their nearest relatives who had been guilty of idolatry (cf. Matthew 10:37).

Verse 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.

Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands. The prayer is continued that a special blessing may attend them in their official duty of custodiers of the Divine Word and public teachers of the laws and statutes of Yahweh (cf. Deuteronomy 17:18), ministering to diffuse through the great mass of the people the elements of moral and religious instruction (Deuteronomy 31:10).

Smite through the loins of them that ... they rise not again - in reference to the neglect and opposition the Levites would often experience (Deuteronomy 14:27-29; Deuteronomy 16:11-14; Deuteronomy 26:12).

Verse 12

And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; and the LORD shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.

Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord - so called from his being the fond object of Jacob's affection, and from his tribe being located, as Josephus says, in the richest part of the land. The Hebrew text [ yªdiyd (H3039) Yahweh (H3068)], beloved of Jehovah, which the Samaritan version has changed into [ Yahweh (H3068) yad (H3027) yad (H3027)] the hand, the hand of Yahweh shall dwell, etc. A distinguished favour was conferred on this tribe in having its portion assigned near the temple of God.

Between, his shoulders, [ kªteepaayw (H3802)] (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16, where it is applied to the hills about Jerusalem) - 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.

Verse 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,

Of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land. The territory of this tribe, which was situated in central Palestine, was fertile and picturesque, richer in varieties of natural produce than almost any other part of the country, and beautifully diversified by hill and dale.

For the precious things of heaven - i:e., a moist atmosphere, which was a real peculiarity of inestimable value in a country like Palestine.

For the dew - which was very copious (Judges 6:37-40).

And for the deep that coucheth beneath - i:e., the subterranean springs which abound there.

'The whole tract of country is emphatically "a good land;" the rocky slopes that run up into it from Judah and Benjamin are interrupted by wide fertile plains, by continuous tracts of verdure, and by vales with streams of water ('Handbook of Syria and Palestine,' p. 294).

Verse 14

And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon,

And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, [ yªraachiym (H3391), moons; Septuagint, kai kath' hooran genneematoon heeliou tropoon, kai apo sunodoon meenoon, for the fruits in season produced by the sun, and by the conjunction of moons] - i:e., the annual and monthly vegetation.

'From the time of the new moon to its becoming full, all plants and all kinds of young grain are said to gain more strength than at any other period. Some of the people think that the sap of trees rises according to the increase or waning of the moon' (Roberts, 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 131).

Verse 15

And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills,

And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills - "chief things" [ meero'sh (H7218)], the best gifts; orchards of olives, vines, figs, and grain, growing in rich luxuriance on the terraced sides of the hills, while the fertile plains and valleys appear winding like a network among those heights, also waving with grain, and fat with the olive and the vine (see Hengstenberg on Psalms 72:16). 'In the richest parts of our own country I have never met with such signs of agricultural prosperity' (Drew's 'Scripture Lands,' p. 95; Porter's 'Handbook of Syria and Palestine,' pp. 294, 330, 340; Van de Velde, vol. 1:, p. 386; Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine, p. 226; Olin's 'Travels,' 2:, pp. 340-342; Wilson's 'Lands,' 2:, p. 71; 'Tent and Khan,' p. 415; Bonar's 'Land of Promise,' p. 359).

Verse 16

And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.

For the good will of him that dwelt in the bush - i:e., every blessing that may be expected from the kindness of God, who formerly appeared to me in the bush, in order to manifest His interest in the emancipation and permanent prosperity of His people (see the note at Exodus 3:2).

Let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph ... - (see, for an explanation of this last clause, the note at Genesis 49:26.)

Verse 17

His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.

His glory is like the firstling of his bullock. This animal is remarkable for courage and fierceness. Gerard Vossius ('De Idolatria,' ch. 9:) has expended immense erudition in endeavouring to establish the position, that Joseph is here called an ox, because the figure of that beast was familiarly used in Egypt as a hieroglyphic of the illustrious patriarch, symbolizing his generosity, majesty, and usefulness.

But the vivacity and sportiveness, as well as the great power and indomitable energy of the animal, is what evidently forms the leading idea in this passage, the prominent point of comparison in the address. And the bull was probably chosen as the most appropriate image, since it was not only a familiar object, but reckoned among Semitic nations scarcely less formidable than the lion (Layard, 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 428).

And his horns are like the horns of unicorns, [ wªqarneey (H7161) rª'eem (H7214)] - horns of a rª'eem (singular, not plural, as our translators, to get rid of a difficulty, have rendered it in the text, although the correct translation is appended in the margin, probably by Hugh Broughton). [Septuagint, kerata monokerootos; Vulgate, unicorns, one-horned.]

What was the species of this animal, and whether it had a real existence, have been subjects of great diversity of opinion. Buffon and many eminent naturalists since his day have pronounced it entirely fabulous, and denied that a quadruped strictly entitled to be called a unicorn is mentioned in any part of the Bible. It has been alleged that a belief in its existence may have arisen from the horns of some animal seen in profile; for the Assyrian sculptors and painters represent the domestic ox with one horn, as the horses frequently have only two legs and one ear, because the ancient artists did not attempt to give both in a side view of the animal (Layard, 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 430).

[On the other hand, the Septuagint have translated the Hebrew word with the Greek word monokeroos (unicornis), in all passages where it occurs (Numbers 23:22; Job 39:9; Psalms 22:21-22; Psalms 29:6; Psalms 92:10-11), with the exception of Isaiah 34:6-7, where they substitute the vague Greek phrase, hoi adroi, the strong, fat, robust, animals; and it cannot be supposed that they would have adopted such a special rendering of rª'eem (H7214) had they not been familiar with the animal.]

Besides, many modern observers have asserted that they have seen it (Lobo's 'Travels in Abyssinia;' Winer's 'Realwort,' art. 'Einhorn;' 'Quarterly Review,' October, 1820). Notwithstanding the assertions of these travelers, however, it is certain that the animal they describe cannot be the rª'eem (H7214) of the Bible; for it is expressly stated in the passage under review that it had two horns: and, influenced by this statement, Biblical scholars have instituted earnest and laborious inquiries to asscertain what the animal really was.

Jerome, Pagninus, Bruce ('Travels in Abyssinia,' vol. 5:, p. 82), etc., held the opinion that it was the single-tusked rhinoceros (rª'eem, unicornis). Bochart, Rosenmuller, followed by Layard, etc., held that it was a wild goat (Oryx leucoryx), a fierce species of antelope; and that writer says, that Professor Migliarini, of Florence, informed him that the word rª'eem (H7214) itself occurs in the hieroglyphics over a figure of this antelope in an Egyptian sculpture ('Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 429). Schultens, De Wette, Winer, Gesenius, Robinson understand buffalo (Boa bubulus).

Of these the rhinoceros and the oryx are now generally rejected because not to dwell on various points in Of these, the rhinoceros and the oryx are now generally rejected, because, not to dwell on various points in which they do not answer the conditions of the sacred text, it is clear, from the parallelisms in this verse, and in all the poetical passages where the rª'eem (H7214) is mentioned, that it was an animal of the bovine species, and therefore there remains the claim of the buffalo only to be considered.

'There are large herds,' says Robinson ('Biblical Researches,' 3:, p. 306), 'of horned cattle in Palestine, among which are many buffaloes. In Egypt, as likewise in the center of Palestine, near Tiberias, and around the lake el-Huleh, they are mingled with the meat cattle, and are applied in general to the same uses. But they are a shy, ill-looking, ill-tempered animal. They doubtless existed anciently in Palestine, though probably in a wild state, or unsubdued to labour, as at the present day in Abyssinia. The actual existence of this animal in Palestine leaves little doubt that it is the rª'eem (H7214) of the Hebrew Scriptures-for which both ancient and modern versions have substituted the apparently fabulous unicorn.'

This opinion was generally acquiesced in until, in the recent scientific explorations of Mr. Tristram, a discovery among a mass of bone breccia in the rocks of the Dog River, near Beyrout, was supposed to be made, which has turned the scale strongly in favour of the bison (Bos priscus, or primogenitus). If future researches in Palestine should confirm this conjecture of Mr. Tristram-by the exhumation of other and more perfect specimens of the bison-a subject which has long been a quoestio vexata in Biblical literature will be satisfactorily determined.

With them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth. The verb [ yªnagach (H5055)] describes the action of horned cattle, which thrust with the horns; and it is here applied metaphorically to the tribes of Joseph, which would push away the Canaanite occupiers of the land, in order to effect a settlement for themselves. The possessions acquired by Ephraim and Manasseh extended on one side from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, and on the other from the Jordan to the border of Syria (cf. Joshua 17:14-18).

And they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh. In this clause the metaphor of the horns, which formed the "glory" of Joseph, he explained to mean the multitudes of the double tribe which sprang from the patriarch, as two horns from one head.

Verse 18

And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.

Rejoice, Zebulun, In thy going out - namely, on commercial enterprises and voyages by sea. For 'the tribe of Zebulun's lot included the land which lay as far as the lake of Gennesareth, and that which belonged to Carmel and the sea (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 5:, ch. 1:, sec. 22).

And, Issachar, in thy tents. This tribe would prefer a semi-nomad life, combining agricultural with pastoral occupations, and luxuriating in happy tranquillity and ease on the resources of their richly productive region (cf. Genesis 49:14-15). There is no parallelism in this verse: for the two clauses of which it consists refer to two distinct tribes; and the "going out" of the one is contrasted with the "tents" of the other. These two brothers are coupled in the prophetic blessings, because they were to be closely associated in their allotted territories. But it is observable that in this passage, as well as in Genesis 49:1-33, Zebulun, though the younger, is mentioned first, on account of the superior activity and prominence of his tribe.

Verse 19

They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.

They shall call the people unto the mountain, [ `amiym (H5971)] - the tribes of Israel. "The mountain" was probaly Tabor, which was on the border of Zebulun and Issachar (Joshua 19:22). There is no good foundation for the fancy of Herder, eagerly adopted by Stanley ('Sinai and Palestine,' p. 343; 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' p. 266), that Tabor was a common sanctuary for the northern tribes. The latter adds, that 'according to the Midrash Galkaton, Deuteronomy 33:19, Tabor is the mountain on which the temple ought of right to have been built ... had it not been for the express revelation which ordered the sanctuary to be built on mount Moriah' (quoted from Schwarze, p. 71).

On that mountain Deborah and Barak did "call the people" on the eve of the great encounter with Sisera; and there, probably, on their return from the victorious campaign, the noble thanksgiving ode (Judges 5:1-31) was sung. It might be, as is alleged, that, during the abnormal period of the Judges, when there was no national religious unity established in Israel, "the people" in the northern parts of the land congregated on the level verdant summit of "the mountain" to hold their festive assemblies. But the sacred history does not furnish any data to warrant such a conclusion, which rests on no better basis than conjecture about the traditional sacredness of Tabor as a place of religious observance (cf. Psalms 89:12 with Hosea 5:1).

This blessing, however, was fully realized in the last age of Jewish history, when "the people" were called-not, indeed, to Tabor-which is erroneously assumed to be the scene of the Transfiguration-but to many of the mountains in that northern corner, to listen to the ministry of the great Teacher, Christ.

For they shall suck of the abundance of the seas - namely the Mediterranean and the sea of Galilee (the lake of Gennesareth). Both tribes should traffic with the Phoenicians in pearl and coral ambergris, especially in murex, the shellfish that yielded the famous Tyrian dye.

And of treasures hid in the sand - grains of gold and silver, and particularly glass, which was manufactured from the sand of the river Belus, in their immediate neighbourhood. Jonathan, in his Targum, specifies mirrors, and such utensils as might be made from the sand. 'Two miles from Ptolemais (Acre) a very little stream runs by, called Belus, where, by the tomb of Memnon, is a wondrous place of 100 cubits. It is circular and hollow, and yields the sand for glass; after it has been emptied, many ship-loads having been taken, it is filled up again' (Josephus, 'Jewish Wars,' b. 2:, ch. 10:, sec. 2). Pliny says ('Natural History, 36:, 26), 'a shore of not above half a mile: it has sufficed for yielding glass during many centuries.'

Verse 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.

Of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad - either extends the borders of his territories, of which there was no need, as they were already ample enough; or rather, delivers him from the troubles in which he would be often involved from the attacks of the hostile tribes by which he was encompassed. The word rendered 'enlarge' bears this sense (Psalms 4:1: cf. Psalms 31:8). An instance of the annoyance occasioned to the pastoral tribes east of the Jordan by the surrounding Bedouins is given in Judges 11:1-40.

He dwelleth as a lion, [ shaakeen (H7931)] - couches, rests secure and fearless, though surrounded by enemies. In his forest regions, south of the Jabbok (Zerka), 'he dwelt as a lion' (cf. Genesis 30:2; Genesis 49:19). Gad was a very warlike tribe, and was distinguished for intrepid valour.

And teareth the arm with the crown of the head. [The Septuagint has: suntripsas brachiona kai archonta, crushing the ruler with the power of the enemy.] This is undoubtedly the metaphorical application of the words in this passage. But the phraseology is founded on the habit of the ferocious beasts of prey spoken of in the preceding clause, and which, like all ravenous animals, seize their prey at the shoulder-blade, at a particular point of the neck, near the skull, when a wound in the spinal marrow produces a speedy and apparently a painless death. (See this illustrated by Dr. Livingstone, 'Journal of Travels in Africa.' in his interesting account of his contest with a lion at Mabotsa.)

Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 22

And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan.

Dan is a lion's whelp, [ quwr (H6979) 'aryeeh (H738)] - a cub; differing from [ kªpiyr (H3715)] a young lion weaned, mud beginning to catch prey for itself. Dan is here called "a lion's whelp," in the knowledge or prophetic anticipation of his tribal character, when developed in future; and accordingly Burckhardt renders the clause.

He shall leap - i:e., after he shall have grown up and commenced looking out for prey.

From Bashan The territory allotted to Dan in the southwest of Canaan having been found insufficient he From Bashan. The territory allotted to Dan in the southwest of Canaan having been found insufficient, he, by a sudden and successful irruption, established a colony in the northern extremity of the land. This might well be described as a leap from Jebel-el-Heish, a mountain range in Bashan, to Laish, which, lying secure and unsuspicious of danger at the foot of this chain of hills, they attacked and took, giving it the name of Dan.

Verse 23

And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the west and the south.

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.

O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord. Well they might be satisfied; for 'the wooded mountains that sink down into the plain of the Huleh and to the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee, which fell to the lot of Naphtali, comprise some of the most beautiful scenery, as well as of the most fertile soil, in Palestine' (Porter's 'Handbook of Syria and Palestine,' p. 363).

Verse 24

And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.

Of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed. The same play upon the name, which means happy, was made at the birth of Asher. The condition of this tribe is described as combining all the elements of earthly felicity. His territory comprehended the western end of the rich plain, Esdraelon, with the beautiful Carmel, and a fertile lowland shore from that mountain to Zidon.

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.

Verse 25

Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.

Shoes shall be 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. The traveler can still see these ores if one explores the southern slopes of Lebanon (Porter's 'Handbook of Syria and Palestine' p. 363; Kendrick's 'Phoenicia,' p. 35; Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 265). (See the 'Parallel Prophecies of Jacob and Moses relating to the Twelve Tribes, with a Translation and Notes,' by D. Durrell, D.D., Principal of Hertford College, Oxford, p. 1764.)

Verse 26

There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.

There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun. The chapter concludes with a congratulatory address to Israel on their special happiness and privilege in having Yahweh for their God and Protector.

Who rideth upon the heaven in thy help [ bª`ezrekaa (H5828), in thy help, or as thy help (cf. Hosea 13:9); which the Septuagint adopts, ho epibainoon epi ton ouranon boeethos sou] - an evident allusion to the pillar of cloud and fire, which was both the guide and shelter of Israel.

Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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 fountain of Jacob - the posterity of Israel shall dwell in a blessed and favoured land.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-33.html. 1871-8.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile