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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 33

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary


Deuteronomy 31-34. Moses’ last words and the closing events of his life. The narrative parts (based on JE and in part on P) resemble chs. 1– 3, and are probably by the same author or compiler. Deuteronomy 32:1-4 (the Song of Moses) and Deuteronomy 33 (the Blessing of Moses) are independent pieces of unknown origin.

Verses 1-29

Deuteronomy 33. The Blessing of Moses.— Of this poem (quite unconnected with the context) the following statements may be made: ( a) It was composed during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786– 746 B.C.) A date after the disruption is required by Deuteronomy 33:7; a period of prosperity by Deuteronomy 33:13-17. Prior to 786 B.C. Israel had been ruled by petty kings, and after 746 B.C. the Northern Kingdom had a long and disastrous struggle with Damascus. ( b) The writer belonged to the Northern Kingdom, and therefore gives far more prominence to Israel (Joseph) than to Judah. ( c) He was a member of the priestly class ( Deuteronomy 33:8-11). Accepting the above conclusions, it follows that Levi was a priestly tribe long before the date of D; Steuernagel and Bertholet hold that Deuteronomy 33:6-25 (the blessings) form an independent piece by a native of the north who lived in the prosperous days of Jeroboam II; Deuteronomy 33:1, at least, must go with Deuteronomy 33:6-25. Moses could not be the author of Deuteronomy 33:12; Deuteronomy 33:27 b. Besides, the whole chapter implies the non-existence of enemies.

Deuteronomy 33:2 f. For the theophany here described, see Judges 5:4, Habakkuk 3:3, Psalms 68:8 f.

Deuteronomy 33:2. Yahweh came from His abode in Sinai (Exodus 31) to Palestine to His people’ s help.— from the ten thousands of holy ones: render, “ from Meribah of Kadesh” ( Deuteronomy 32:51). The late Jewish tradition ( Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19, Hebrews 2:2) arose through a misunderstanding of the original text.— At . . . them: read “ From his right hand was a burning fire for them.”

Deuteronomy 33:3 . peoples: read (with LXX) “ the people.”— saints better, “ holy ones.” Driver (Kittel’ s text) for the rest of the verse, which is very corrupt, reads, “ and he supports thy lot and keeps his covenant with thee.”

Deuteronomy 33:5 . king: i.e. “ Yahweh.”— Jeshurun: Deuteronomy 32:15 *.

Deuteronomy 33:6-25 . Moses’ blessings on the tribes. This passage should be compared with Jacob’ s blessings on his twelve sons in Genesis 49 J (see notes, and for a thorough discussion ICC, pp. 507ff.). The present section bears marks of dependence and is therefore later. Simeon, now absorbed into Judah, is here unmentioned.

Deuteronomy 33:7 d. Read, “ with thy hands strive thou for him.”

Deuteronomy 33:8 . Thummim . . . Urim: pp. 100f.— godly: render, “ favoured,” i.e. Levi.— Massah: see Deuteronomy 6:16 *, Exodus 17:1-7.— Meribah: see Numbers 20:2-13 *.

Deuteronomy 33:10 . Levi’ s duties.— incense (in the older sense) means the smoke of ordinary sacrifice.— whole burnt offering: see Deuteronomy 12:6 *.

Deuteronomy 33:12 . by him: take these words with the next line and read, “ the lofty one covereth ( i.e. defends) him.”— his ( i.e. Benjamin’ s) shoulders: i.e. the mountains amid which the Temple was erected. This verse implies that the Temple was already built.

Deuteronomy 33:13 . heaven . . . dew: read, “ heaven above.”— the deep: a personification; hardly a reference to the Babylonian Creation Myth, see Oxford Apoc. i. p. 653.

Deuteronomy 33:16. Render, “ May the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush” ( Exodus 3:2-4 *) “ come upon Joseph’ s head.”— separate: render “ crowned.”

Deuteronomy 33:17 . Read “ May he” (Joseph) “ be glorious and his horns as those of a wild ox” ( Numbers 23:22 *, Cent.B, Psalms 92:10): “ with them may he gore the nations, even all the ends of the earth together.”

Deuteronomy 33:19 . call: i.e. summon to such religious festivals as accompany fairs, etc. in the East.— mountain: sacred site.— hidden . . . sand: probably small shell-fish from which dyes were made.

Deuteronomy 33:20 . lioness: see Genesis 49:9.

Deuteronomy 33:22 . lion’ s whelp: cf. Laish (= lion), which Dan seized ( Joshua 19:47).

Deuteronomy 33:23 . west: read (transposing and slightly changing) “ the district of the sea” (of Galilee).

Deuteronomy 33:24 . Render, “ most blessed” ( i.e. fortunate) “ of sons be Asher” (=fortunate one).— let him dip . . . in oil: i.e. may his territory abound in olive-trees.

Deuteronomy 33:25 a. i.e. “ may thy bars” (of city gates) “ be strong.”

Deuteronomy 33:26-29 . Israel’ s Good Fortune (conclusion of poem).

Deuteronomy 33:26 . Read (with VSS), “ the God of Jeshurun” ( Deuteronomy 32:15 *)

Deuteronomy 33:27 . Read (changing slightly), “ Above is the God of olden time, and below are the everlasting arms.”

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/deuteronomy-33.html. 1919.
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