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CRITICAL NOTES.—Moses now performs the last great act of life and blesses the tribes of Israel. “The blessing opens with a solemn conclusion of the covenant and giving of the law at Sinai, by which the Lord became King of Israel, to indicate at the outset the source from which all blessings must flow to Israel (Deuteronomy 33:2-5). Then follow the separate blessings upon the different tribes” (Deuteronomy 33:6-25).—(Keil). Compare these blessings with those of Jacob (Genesis 27:40-46; Genesis 1:27). Nothing special in the order.
Deuteronomy 33:1-5. Introduction. Man of God (cf. Joshua 14:6; 1 Samuel 9:6; Psalms 90:0.—(Heading). Deuteronomy 33:2 describes the vast area over which God’s glory shone in giving of law, from Sinai. Seir and Paran—in thunder, fire and heavenly retinue. Saints, lit., from myriads of holiness, i.e., holy angels (Zechariah 14:5). People, lit., peoples, i.e., the Gentiles or the twelve tribes. Saints, God’s people just spoken of or holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2). Thy hand, change from third to second person, and vice versa, common in Hebrew poetry (cf. Psalms 49:19). Hand, His power. He (Deuteronomy 33:5) God, not Moses (Jesh. cf. Deuteronomy 32:15).
Deuteronomy 33:6. Reuben’s blessing. The rights of Reuben withheld in Jacob’s blessing (Genesis 49:3); Moses prays for continuance and prosperity. Simeon is passed over, scattered abroad he lost individuality as a tribe, yet lived in the midst of the tribe of Judah and shared its general blessings. Few, lit., a number, easily counted, a negative implied from preceding clause, “let not his men be few,” i.e., let them be many. (Gesenius).
Deuteronomy 33:7. Judah’s blessing. Royal tribe, from whom sceptre must not depart (Genesis 49:10). Judah was to lead in war, be brought back in safety and triumph. Sufficient to preserve independence.
Deuteronomy 33:8-11. Blessings of Levi. Addressed as petition. Thum. and Urim. i.e. “thy Right and Thy Light,” cf., Exodus 28:30). Holy One. Levi as head of tribe. Prove, two events mentioned, one at beginning, the other at end of forty years wandering, represent the series of trials to prove the faith of this chosen tribe. Mas. (Exodus 17:1-7). Mar. (Numbers 20:1-13). Said a reference to Exodus 32:26-29; cf. Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26. Teach. Deuteronomy 33:10, dignity of priesthood conferred upon them, and to them belonged office of instructors. Hence favour needed and strength to smite the loins, i.e. the seat of power and foil the enemy.
Deuteronomy 33:12. Benjamin’s blessing. A favourite with his father, was cared for by the Lord. Dwell in safety, resting upon him. Cover, shelter. Shoulders, on his sides or borders, figure from “fathers carrying their sons while young and tender.”—(Calvin). (cf. Deuteronomy 1:31). “Upon the back,” equivalent to “between shoulders” (1 Samuel 17:6).
Deuteronomy 33:13-17. Blessing of Joseph (including Ephraim and Manasseh). A resemblance, yet not a reproduction of that pronounced (Genesis 49:25-26). In both fertility of districts allotted to them is a leading feature. Deep (Deuteronomy 33:13) springs of water. Chief things (Deuteronomy 33:15), best gifts Mountains, the sheltered sides of which were covered with vine, olive and fig, etc. Fulness, all good that earth could produce. Good will. Covenant blessings added to natural. Bush, a manifestation of God to Moses (Exodus 3:0.) Separated, consecrated, or distinguished (Genesis 49:26). In the strength of this blessing Joseph would be powerful and tread down nations. Glory (Deuteronomy 33:17). Render, “The firstborn of his i.e. Joseph’s) bullock is his glory.” Reference to Ephraim raised by Jacob to honours of firstborn (Genesis 48:8), and here likened to the firstling of Joseph’s oxen, i.e., of Joseph’s offspring, the singular noun (shor) taken collectively.—(Speak. Com.) Ox, an emblem of power generally (Genesis 49:6; Psalms 22:12; Jeremiah 46:21); Unicorn. Wild bull (cf., Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8). Thousands (cf. Genesis 48:19). (1 Samuel 18:7-8).
Deuteronomy 33:18-19. Blessings of Zebulun and Issachar. Chiefly a repetition of Genesis 49:13-15. Going out in commercial enterprise. Zebulun dwelt on sea shore, Issachar possessed a fertile inland district, dwelt at home and prospered in agricultural pursuits. Mountain, of the Lord’s inheritance (Exodus 15:17), upon which the Lord was about to plant His people and build His sanctuary. They would offer thank offerings themselves and invite to sacrificial meals other nations.—(Keil.) Righteousness not merely legal sacrifices conforming to ritual, but those offered in right spirit, well-pleasing to God (Psalms 4:6; Psalms 51:19.—(Keil). Suck. The treasures of both sea (Mediterranean and sea of Galilee) and land shall be theirs; purple dye from the shell of the oyster and mirrors and glass vases from the sand.
Deuteronomy 33:20-21. Blessing of God. Enlargeth by extending territory, or delivers from trouble, from attacks by hostile and surrounding tribes. Lion rests securely and fearlessly though surrounded by enemies. The verse indicative of warlike character. First part of conquest of Israel made by Gad and Reuben at request of Moses (cf. Numbers 32:0) Portion the leader’s portion reserved, i.e there was reserved the fitting portion for God as leader in war.—(Speak. Com.) Heads, i.e., joined other leaders to fulfil God’s commands respecting conquest of Canaan (Numbers 32:17; Numbers 32:21; Numbers 32:32; Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12).
Deuteronomy 33:22. Dan’s blessing. Whelp, a cub; differing from a young lion weaned and beginning to catch prey for itself. Shall leap after it has grown up. Springs suddenly upon its prey. Bashan abounding with cares. Dan’s territory was insufficient; by a sudden and successful irruption northwards he established a colony.
Deuteronomy 33:23. Naphtali’s blessing. Satisfied, his lot some of the most beautiful scenery and most fertile soil in Palestine (cf. Porter’s Handbook of Syria). Fruits ripen earlier here than anywhere else.
Deuteronomy 33:24-25. Blessing of Asher. Acceptable, let him be the favoured one of his brethren, i.e., the favoured of God. The blessing an exposition of the name. Asher, the prosperous (cf. Genesis 30:15).—(Keil). Dip. The process of extracting oil by foot presses; or allusion to fertile district adapted to culture of olive (Job 29:6; cf. Genesis 49:20). Shoes. This verse continues the figure of preceding, and represents strength and firmness of Asher, as is shod with iron and brass (cf. Revelation 1:15). Iron-soled shoes worn by warriors and suitable to rocky country. Days. “Thy strength shalt be continued to thee as long as thou shalt live: thou shalt never know feebleness and decay.”—(Speak. Com.)
Deuteronomy 33:26-29. Conclusion. “God’s glory and power, and consequent safety and prosperity of God’s people, form the climax as they do the basis, of the blessing which the law giver has to pronounce.” None like unto God, O Jeshurun. Rideth with unlimited power in, i.e., as thy helper. This God a refuge (Deuteronomy 33:27), dwelling place for protection to homeless wanderers (Psalms 90:1; Psalms 91:9; Habakkuk 1:12). Underneath, i.e., God on earth below as well as in heaven above. Fountain, a designation of Israel, who came from Jacob as waters from a fountain (cf. Isaiah 48:1; Psalms 68:26). Deuteronomy 33:29, unparalleled protection, deliverance and victory, hence Israel congratulated. Happy! Saved, not mere deliverance from danger and distress, but salvation in general (like Zechariah 9:9; cf. Isaiah 45:17), coming from Jehovah.
THE FORMATION OF THE KINGDOM.—Deuteronomy 33:1-5
The glory of the covenant, the elevation of Israel as a nation, and the majesty of the King and his law set forth.
I. The revelation of the king. God appears in forms awful and impressive.
1. In streaming light. “He shined forth”—like the rising sun, filling all around, and tipping the mountains with splendour. God is light, illumines every valley, and covers all places with His presence and truth.
2. In burning fire. “Went a fiery law.” “The Lord descended in fire.” “Is not My word like a fire?” (Jeremiah 29:22).
3. In terrible thunder. “There were thunders and lightnings.” God robes Himself in clouds of smoke or flames of fire to impress the senses and speak to the heart “Whose voice then shook the earth?”
4. In splendid retinue. “He came with ten thousands of saints.” “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even many thousands of angels. The Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place” (Psalms 68:17). Thus did God reveal Himself to Israel. “Who is a God like unto Thee?” If mountains trembled, and Moses feared and quaked, how reverent and deeply touched should we be?
II. The number of his subjects. Jehovah is the universal King. His sway is over the meanest and mightiest. All agencies and all creatures are at His service.
1. Myriads in heaven above. “Angels, and authorities, and powers” are subject to Him (1 Peter 3:22). “Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” (Daniel 7:9-10) as executors of justice or ministers of mercy.
2. The inhabitants of the earth beneath (Deuteronomy 33:3). Israel, the Gentiles, and all nations of the earth. “Saints,” holy ones especially, stand in His presence, constitute His train, and enter His spiritual kingdom. Submission to Him essential to happiness and heaven.
III. The assumption of Royalty. These splendours of royal state illustrate the majesty of the king, and the method of establishing his kingdom.
1. By enactment of law. Law needful, and the medium of blessing in every kingdom. Order and supremacy only secured by good government. “Sovereign law sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill.” “The law came by Moses,” “was given by the disposition (ministration) of angels” (Acts 7:53).
2. By appointment of representatives. “Moses commanded us a law,” was God’s viceregent, and a subordinate king. Moses was “the man of God,” and the minister of God. Consecration to God’s service gives real worth and dignity. True kings and priests those who trust and obey. No supremacy, no reigning without love to God and service to men. This should be our ambition. “I would rather be king over the French than king over France,” said Louis XIV.
3. By consent of the people. Israel stood in attitude of reverence and attention. At His “feet,” willing to hear and ready to obey. “All that the Lord shall say we will do.” Our wills must be subdued and consent before we become subjects, disciples of Jesus. In vain do we profess or teach, if disobedient. “He that is of God heareth God’s words.”
THE MAJESTY OF GOD’S LAW
The giving of the law was the design of this manifestation. “Moses personates the listening nation, and not only speaks of himself in the third person, but does so by identifying his own person with the nation, because he wished the people to repeat his words from thorough conviction, and because the law which he gave in the name of the Lord was given to himself as well, and was as binding upon him as upon every other member of the congregation” (Keil).
I. In the source from which it was revealed. “From his right hand,” &c. The law from God; a revelation of his mind and authority. Hence not mere counsel or advice, but given from a source which he cannot question; imposing obligations which are strongest, and enforced by sanctions which none can resist.
II. In the splendour in which it was revealed. This event, unparalleled in the history of man, no nation, whatever its legends or traditions, ever conceived of the God of heaven proclaiming law to them “out of the midst of fire”—light unapproachable hiding his person from the gaze of man. These outward signs of majesty, power and authority will not be witnessed again until the great day “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with the angels of His power in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
III. In the design for which it was revealed. Law designed to reveal the claims and preserve the knowledge of God among men; to convince of sin, offences against the order of society and the authority of the Creator; to enforce moral principles and educate to moral duty. Hence—
1. To enrich God’s people. “The inheritance of the congregation” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Good laws peculiar to Israel, and distinguished them from other nations (Psalms 14:7; Psalms 14:7; Romans 3:2), are the best wealth and treasure; the Scriptures and the means of grace a goodly heritage to any people.
2. To bless all nations. “This is the blessing” (Deuteronomy 33:1)—(a) In revealing God’s love. “He loved the people” (Deuteronomy 33:3). (b) In transmitting God’s will. Be thankful for this inheritance of law. Remember, obligation to keep it is hereditary, passing from parents to children. Receive it as a legacy of love and truth. “Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage for ever” (Psalms 119:111).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 33:1. The man of God.
1. A special friend of God. “Speaking face to face, enjoying direct intercourse with God.”
2. A distinguished servant, holding high position and engaged in glorious work.
3. A famous legislator, giving divine laws and requiring implicit obedience.
4. A medium of blessing to his people in life, example, and teaching.
Deuteronomy 33:2. A fiery law.
1. In its bright origin.
2. In its searching nature.
3. In its purifying effects.
4. In its awful sanctions. He shined forth. God resting and journeying with his people as light, shield, and defence. Sinai, Seir, and Patan. Special providences in special places. Manifestation of God’s presence, the gift of flesh, appointment of 70 elders and bestowment of Holy Spirit.
1. God’s love to his people.
2. God’s rule over his people.
3. God adored by his people. In thy hand.
1. To be formed into a people.
2. To be preserved as a people (John 10:2; John 10:8).
3. To be ruled as a people. At thy feet.
1. The place of humility.
2. The place of security.
3. The place of instruction, sitting like scholars to receive instruction and ready to obey. “Every one shall receive of thy words.” Yea, he loved the people. No doubt of this with regard to Israel. Often reminded of it, and told why he set his love upon them. Not for greatness, they were the fewest of all; not for goodness, for they were stiff-necked; but because the Lord had a favour towards them. He chose, redeemed them, provided for them, and distinguished them by miracles and privileges. His love is of three kinds—A love of benevolence, which consists in wishing and designing them good. A love of beneficence, consisting in doing them good. This appears in a thousand instances, chiefly remembering them in their low estate, and sending his Son that they might live. A love of complacency. The love of benevolence and of beneficence regarded them as unworthy and miserable; the love of complacency regards them as mere creatures. He cannot take pleasure in those destitute of his image and enemies by wicked works. But he prepares them for delighting in them and holding intercourse with them. What can I wish more? Do men reproach? I have been precious in his bight, honourable, and he has loved me. Let them curse, he will bless. One smile of God’s is better than life, and will more than balance a universe of frowns. Let my portion and the portion of mine be—“The goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush.”—Jay.
REUBEN, OR THE BLESSING OF EXISTENCE.—Deuteronomy 33:6
This is a prayer for the continued existence of Reuben and suggests things that imperilled this existence.
I. Existence prolonged in danger. Reuben was endangered by surrounding nations—their leaders were far in advance of them, and little ones left behind (Numbers 32:27; Joshua 4:12). Individual and family life dependent upon God, exposed to risks. Need to pray for each as Abraham, “O that Ishmael might live before thee.”
II. Existence prolonged in sin. Reuben had a threefold honour (Genesis 49:3), as firstborn, might of Jacob’s strength and naturally pre-eminent. He forfeited these blessings and fell into dishonour. He grievously transgressed (Genesis 49:3-4) and rebelled with Korah (Numbers 16:1). Sin brings disgrace, shortens life and exposes to judgment. “Preserve thou those that are appointed to die.”
III. Existence prolonged with prosperity. “Let not his men be few.” Judging from the first census after deliverance from Egypt and that on plains of Moab nearly forty years after, this tribe was reduced in number. The prayer includes continued existence, increase of number and perpetual remembrance. “The Lord shall increase you more and more.” “I will increase them with men like a flock.” Lessons from Reuben’s history. Learn:
1. Not to insult the fallen and disgraced.
2. Not to perpetuate marks of wickedness. “To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it.”
3. To take warning. Occupied with herds and flocks they lost early energy; could not be roused against Jabin (Judges 5:15-16); dissipated strength in distant expeditions (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:10-18), and did not care to complete their conquests (cf. Numbers 32:0.)—(cf. Speak. Com.)
4. Pray for personal life, family increase and church prosperity, that all may be given to God.
JUDAH: THE BLESSING OF SUPREMACY.—Deuteronomy 33:7
This reference is rich, peculiar, and suggestive. Judah, the royal tribe; the prayer for its settlement, security, and supremacy.
I. Supremacy through conflict. Judah, prominent in battle, in order of marching and encampment, hence danger, conflict, and suffering. All knowledge and virtue gained through difficulty and contest. The earth is subdued and sovereignty over men acquired by warfare. Supremacy ever through conflict.
II. Supremacy by God’s help in conflict. “Be thou an help to him.” God strengthened his hands, gave warriors sufficient to support the tribe and vindicate its rights. Without him no strength, no triumph. “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help.”
III. This help in conflict secured by prayer. “Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah.” Conscious of weakness, he cried to God. Prayer never out of place. Greatest soldiers often devoutest men—Cromwell, Havelock, and Hedley Vicars. A prayerful posterity and people ever eminent and supreme. But prayer and work, self-help and reliance upon God must go together (cf. 2 Chronicles 13:14., 2 Chronicles 13:15.). Labour and pray, then in husbandry, art, and war we prevail. “Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him camo the chief ruler” (1 Chronicles 5:2).
LEVI: THE REWARDS OF SERVICE.—Deuteronomy 33:8-11
I. Service in defence of Eight. After the defection at Sinai the sons of Levi, not in mere heat of pious zeal, but at the command of Moses and under divine direction, obeyed readily, attacked courageously, and slew idolators. They defended God’s honour, supported God’s cause, and punished God’s enemies. “Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said who is on the Lord’s side? And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him, &c.,” Exodus 32:26-28.
II. Service rendered in a noble spirit. The value of service estimated by the difficulties and the spirit in which it is given—lovingly or reluctantly.
1. In a spirit of faithfulness. They alone were true; all the rest broke the covenant. Holy amidst idolators; upright when multitudes bowed like reeds before the wind. “Among the faithless, faithful only he.”
2. In a spirit of impartiality. Best friends and nearest relatives were not spared. Zeal for God prevailed over love for father and mother. This is the spirit of the Master. (Matthew 12:48.)
3. In a spirit of self-denial. Levites often absent from home, engaged in constant attendance at the altar, and could not defend their families as other Israelites. They preferred fulfilment of duty to indulgence in grief at the loss of kindred, (Leviticus 21:11-12.), and obedience to God to natural affection.
III. Service severely tested in its performance. Their history had been critical and sad.
1. Tested by the people. “Moses and Aaron, in whom the whole tribe was proved, had grievously failed. “Massah” and “Meribah” represent the feelings of the people, and the purpose of God to try their leaders. The whole journey was a probation and a test.
2. Tested by the enemy. They met with hatred and opposition, “them that rise against him, and of them that hate him.” Those who teach and reprove others, who uphold and preserve religion, meet with enemies. Korah and his company were envious, (Numbers 16:1); Saul rose up against the priests (1 Samuel 22:18) and were overcome.
IV. Service abundantly rewarded in its results. Levi was the holy one, the consecrated to God. He was rewarded.
1. With official honour. “Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one.” They were to retain the priesthood and be endued with knowledge and uprightness to discharge its duties. These were lost in the captivity and not restored to the second temple, but are perpetuated for ever in Him of whom Aaron was a type.
2. With personal acceptance. “Accept the work of his hands, Deuteronomy 33:11. Holy administrations done by hands and body hence fitly described. God accepted them with favour. Acceptance with God the greatest blessing to minister or people, and worthy of aim. “That we may be accepted of him,” 2 Corinthians 5:9.
3. With continual prosperity. “Bless Lord his substance,” special allotments and ample provision came easily. Increased fertility of land brought increased substance. Thus the blessing of God was upon their work, and the providence of God was their inheritance. Those who depend most upon God’s blessing work most faithfully in God’s service, shall never be disappointed. “A sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God.”
THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD.—Deuteronomy 33:8; Deuteronomy 33:10
Levi represents the head of the tribe whose crowning glory was the priesthood and possession of Thummim and Urim.
I. Its divine allotment. Every man a calling in which to abide, a vocation from heaven. The Christian ministry the highest and noblest, not the gift of Bishops, Presbytery or Council, but an appointment of God. “None but He who made the world can make a minister of the Gospel” says Newton. “The sons of Levi receive the office of the priesthood” (Hebrews 7:5.)
II. Its necessary qualifications. “Thy holy one” Holy, pure in life and character, consecrated in work, incorrupt in doctrine and consistent in all things. Intelligent “able to teach others,” judgment to Jacob and law to Israel (Deuteronomy 33:10). Truthful, “The law of truth must be in his month.” The true minister will resolve like the missionary Eliot to leave something of God, heaven and religion in all that he does.
III. Its sacred duties set forth in three functions.
1. To teach. “They shall teach Jacob, &c.” Knowledge must be sought, possessed and communicated “They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 44:23.) “The law shall not perish for the priest, nor counsel for the wise, nor the word from the prophet” (Jeremiah 18:18.)
2. To offer incense. “They shall put incense before thee.” To offer prayers for the people, present gifts, gratitude, and praise. “He shall burn incense upon it (the golden altar) a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations” (Exek. Deuteronomy 30:7-8.)
3. To present sacrifices. “Whole burnt sacrifices upon thine altar.” God approached by sacrifice, for men have sinned and need mercy—Christians generally “a royal priesthood” to offer up spiritual sacrifices
(1. Peter Deuteronomy 2:5-9.)
IV. Its distinguished success (Deuteronomy 33:2.) Those who rightly serve God and instruct men will reap reward.
1. Their work is accepted. “Accept the work of his hands.”
2. Their character is vindicated. Men may ridicule enthusiasm, suspect motives, and assail character. But God defends them, vindicates their conduct and society, and smites their enemies so “that they rise not again.”
BENJAMIN—BELOVED AND SECURED.—Deuteronomy 33:12
Benjamin beloved by Jacob his father (Genesis 49:27). In this parental love Moses sees a reflection of God’s love so free and tender.
I. By an endeared relationship. “The beloved of the Lord.” This name not an empty title, nor a description of human merit, but an expression of God’s regard for holy character, genuine service and devout attachment to his cause. If we cannot be rich, we may be useful. If we do not receive honours from men, we may be dignified with the title “Sons of God.”
II. By distinguished privileges. God’s presence would overshadow, protect, and exalt them by position and influence in central government and religous worship.
1. By special advantages. His inheritance included Moriah, the mount on which the temple of God was built. Future generations dwelt near the oracle of God and had easy accsss to the ordinances of public worship. In Israel’s eventful history this tribe shone with conspicuous honour. It gave birth to the first King and was the pride of the greatest apostle (cf. Romans 2:1; Philippians 3:5).
2. By divine protection. “Shall dwell in safety by him.” If the words apply to the temple, then even Benjamin “was covered all the day long” under the security of the sauctury (Psalms 125:2) often described as a place of refuge (Psalms 27:4-5; Nehemiah 6:10). God’s singular comforts and constant safeguards ever towards those he loves. The welfare of his children is always the care of his heart. In weakness and danger “they dwell between his shoulders.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 33:6. Live. Learn—
1. Sin endangers life and its blessings. Reuben’s impoverished life and diminished numbers through ancestral sins (cf. Genesis 35:22; Genesis 49:4).
2. God in answer to prayer preserves forfeited blessings. “Not die.” Though deprived of the honour and privileges of firstborn, yet he retained rank, became more numerous than many other tribes (Numbers 1:21; Numbers 2:11), yet gradually sank into a nomadic tribe which had enough merely to “live and not die.”
Deuteronomy 33:7. Voice. Putting thy promises (Genesis 8:9-11) into suit by his prayers, and pressing thee for a performance (Trapp). Three things were expressed—
1. That the tribe of Judah, conscious of weakness, shall depend upon the Most High, and make supplication to him.
2. That God will near such prayer.
3. That his hands shall be increased, and that he shall prevail over his enemies. This blessing has striking affinity with that which this tribe received from Jacob (Genesis 49:9), and both may refer to our blessed Lord, who sprang from it, who conquered our deadly foes by his death, and whose praying posterity ever prevail through his might (A. Clarke). In the verse we have a prayer—
1. For unity. Bring him unto his people; let them be united and permanent.
2. For strength. “Let his hands be sufficient.” No work of any kind without strong hands. “The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.
3. For success. “Be thou a help to him from his enemies.” Pray and obey, for “good success have they that do his commandments” (Psalms 111:10).
Deuteronomy 33:8; Deuteronomy 33:10. The blessing of the Christian ministry.
1. As a medium of God’s will.
2. As teachers of God’s law.
3. As intercessors for God’s people.
Deuteronomy 33:12. Beloved. God’s special love.
1. Tender—like a father carrying his child between his shoulders.
2. Sufficient—“cover him.”
3. Lasting—” all the day long.” The safety of the beloved of the Lord. Of Benjamin three things are here said which will beautifully apply to all God’s people—I. He was the special object of the Divine affection, “beloved of the Lord.” God especially loves his spiritual children with a love of—
2. Manifestation; “He gives them love tokens and pays them love visits.
3. Distinction. II. He was to dwell near to the Lord, “by Him.” All God’s people are near to Him—
1. By grace.
2. In providence.
3. In reference to His ordinances.
4. With regard to the prevailing impressions of the mind. III. He was to abide in perfect security. God’s chosen dwell in safety from
(1) the curses of the Divine law;
(2) the judgment day.—Dr. Burns.
JOSEPH; OR PLENTY AND POWER.—Deuteronomy 33:13-17
Moses waxes eloquent and poetical at the mention of Joseph. Out of the fulness of his heart his mouth speaks. “He desires for this tribe the greatest possible abundance of earthly blessing and a vigourous manifestation of power in conflict with the nations.”—(Keil).
I. Exuberant fertility bestowed. No scarcity in any department. A fertile country, a prolific seed and a balmy clime.
1. Precious fruits of earth. “The precious things of the earth” (Deuteronomy 33:16). Its trees and pasturage, and the cattle that feed upon it; for all of which Joseph’s land was famous.
2. The genial influences of heaven. “The precious things of heaven.” Its dew, sunshine and showers. “God give thee of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth and plenty of corn and wine” (Genesis 27:28).
3. Fruits in due season. Fruits matured by light and warmth, from sun and moon. Once in a year by the sun, annual productions as corn, barley and grapes. Monthly productions, as grass and herbs, figs and olives, of which many crops in a year by the moons.
4. Varied productions of land. “The ancient mountains,” yielded their “chief things,” and “the lasting hills” their useful ores. “The deep couched beneath” in perennial fountains and flowing streams. “Blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, etc.” (Genesis 49:25).
II. Regal authority established. “His horns are like the horns of unicorns,” emblems of strength and royal authority.
1. Established by aggressive power. “With them he shall push the people together.” Drive out Canaanites and overcome all opposition “to the ends of the earth.” The most distant nations.
2. Established in great security. The stately bullock an emblem of quiet, patient strength. Its horns natural weapons of defence and security.
3. Established in prolific numbers. “The ten thousands of Ephraim,” but “the thousands of Manasseh.” “Truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” (Genesis 49:19; cf. Numbers 1:33-35).
4. Established in signal honour. Joseph “was illustrious among his brethren,” separated in the sense of consecrated or distinguished. A dignity received for his affectionate conduct to his father. We may gain this honour and emulate Joseph in temper, taste and purpose.
III. Spiritual blessings added. “The good will of him that dwelt in the bush.” To the blessings of heaven and earth spiritual mercies are desired. What is life, wealth, and earthly blessings without divine favour? God’s presence better than large estates, splendid revenues, military glory, and pushing energy. “The good will” is more desirable than natural productions. God is more than His gifts. “With thee is the fountain of life.”
But oh, Thou bounteous giver of all good,
Thou art of all thy gifts Thyself the crown!
Give what thou canst—without Thee we are poor,
And with Thee rich, take what Thou wilt away.
Zebulun; or, Business Pursuits and Religious Worship.—Deuteronomy 33:18-19
Commercial pursuits and sacrificial offerings are here connected. “Life is described in its two aspects of work and production, rest and recreation.” “Going out” (enterprise and labour) 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 poetical parallism of the causes, and the whole is to be understood as applying to both in the sense suggested by Graf, ‘י Rejoice, Zebulun and Issachar, in your labour and your rest” (Keil). Learn—
I. The providence of God in the spheres of men. As the tribes of Israel were located in Canaan, so now men’s “fortunes” are at God’s disposal. “What is chance to man is the appointment of God,” says one. The lot “in the lap” at the bottom of an urn determined important matters. Work was appointed, dwellings fixed, and officers chosen. “The lot cast” at, peradventure, carrying a show of casualty (Bp. Hall) is under a certain disposal; “the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
1. In trade, with its special tastes, skill, and success.
2. In residence, with its surroundings and comforts. Each man’s sphere of life, and each nation’s place on earth, are adapted to character under the originating cause and controlling power of God, “who hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
II. The joy springing from a right discharge of duty in these spheres. “Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out, etc.” If we do our duty in that station of life in which it hath pleased God to call us, we may be happy. God’s blessing can rest on commerce and agriculture. Prosperity without this may be a misery, and not a joy. Secular pursuits should develop a spirit of gladness. Profits in trade, comforts of home, and the callings of life are means of pleasure and the gifts of God. “Every man also, to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour, this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19).
III. The expression of this joy in religious worship. “They shall offer sacrifices of righteousness.” Ties of affinity bound these two tribes together. The same feeling, purpose, and zeal ruled in both, and displayed in the worship of God. God was acknowledged in business pursuits, and success prompted to consecration, and afforded gifts of corn, fruit, and oil to God. “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, etc.” (Proverbs 3:9-10).
1. They worshipped God themselves. Business no excuse for neglect and staying at home. To others they set an example in liberality, praise, and energy. Their sacrifices were well-pleasing to God. “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”
2. They invited others to join them. “They shall call the people unto the mountain.” Alive themselves, they stirred up others (Zechariah 8:21). Their zeal was contagious. Their neighbours at home (“in thy tents”) were not forgotten; their merchants abroad (“going out”) were missionaries of God. A spirit of earnestness and personal resolve will incite others, and meet with a ready response. “The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily (go, going, implying earnestness and constancy) to pray before (entreat the face of) the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts: I will go also” (Zechariah 8:21).
Zebulun and Issachar
I. The dependence of one class of society upon another. In warfare some pray upon the mount, while others fight in the valley; in commerce some “go out” and others stay at home. Society in its various parts, pursuits, and interests is a school of mutual help. Persons most prominent and obscure, most easy and most enterprising, trades most attractive or most humble, depend upon each other. “The carpenter encourages the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smites the anvil” (Isaiah 61:7).
II. The blessings of unity in benevolent enterprises. Numbers accomplish what individuals cannot. Men combine to increase resources and surmount obstacles. In the development of trade and in the propagation of truth “unity is strength.”
1. It guarantees success. “They shall suck of the abundance of the seas.” Treasures of sea and land shall be theirs. The soldier falters alone, but with comrades he advances with confidence to victory. “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labour” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
2. It creates joy. “Rejoice” not only in success but in co-operation to secure it. Richer is the enjoyment of the common good when mutual efforts promote it. “That both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice.”
III. The honour gained by those who rightly co-operate in benevolent enterprises. “They shall call the people unto the mountain.” God will fix his seat on the mount in their midst; they shall invite others to worship, be honoured as missionaries to neighbours and distant nations. God will hold fellowship with them, and many shall participate in their joy and sacrificial meals; honoured in privileges, calling, and social intercourse. “Them that honour me I will honour.”
OUTGOING AND HOME-KEEPING: A SERMON POR SUMMER.—Deuteronomy 33:18-19
Issachar the fifth, and Zebulun the sixth son of Jacob and Leah. When born their mother selected their names, and gave thanks to God. In one case “God hath given me my hire; and she called his name Issachar. In the other, “God hath endued me with a good dowry; and she called his name Zebulun.” These words describe the different spheres and the common duties of Zebulun and Issachar, and suggest ideas respecting ourselves suited to the season of summer.
Zebulun. An itinerating tribe. Their distinct habit and relative position was going out. Their territory to Mediterranean, with its ports as “a haven for ships.” They are commemorated as first who adventured skiffs on ocean, and who acquired skill in fishing. They engaged in foreign commerce and defensive war, became mariners and merchants, deriving wealth from productions of other countries and from beings “which suck the abundance of the seas” and enriched “with treasures hid in the sand,” perhaps gems, corals, and pearls from bottom of sea by diving. Issachar. A district entirely inland, and purely agricultural. Its soil so rich that most indolent invited to cultivate it. Its valleys covered with corn, hills rejoiced on every side, and vast plains ornamented and enriched with trees. A home-keeping tribe; like Jacob a plain man dwelling in tents, occupied with breeding cattle. Their toil rewarded them with sufficient supply for personal wants and public revenue. Loth to leave they “acquitted themselves better in the subsidy than in the muster-roll.” Others went out to battle; they “abode among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks.”
These different spheres and occupations find parallel in modern England, with its diversities and divisions, its population of various orders and classes. Many go out; business calls them abroad. They traverse the kingdom for purposes of commerce, and circumnavigate the globe in the interests of science. Ships incessantly sail in all seas. Exports and imports enormous. Others go out in quest of health; jaded workers needing relaxation, students in search of knowledge, adventurous men, or teeming thousands in cheap excursions. Still there are stayers at home—devotees of the dwelling—domestic hermits—so tenacious of tent that they never go anywhere. More fond of retirement than roaming, who believe that “as the bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.” In choice of these different conditions and varied pursuits he sees traces of human will and Divine appointment. Inclination for each kind of life may be God’s work. He predisposes some for the quietude of the hamlet and monotonous labour of the homestead; fits others for the city full of stir, for the port crowded with strangers, and for travel with its everchanging events.
Zebulun and Issachar, who occupied different spheres, were directed to perform common duties. Both to rejoice, call people to the mountain, and to offer sacrifices of righteousness. Zebulun to be contented and cheerful in going out, not to repine at exposure to danger and fatigue; but bravely encounter perils of sea, and patiently endure the bustle of port. Not permitted to envy brethren passing their lives in safety and inland position. The other tribe equal reason to rejoice and be cheerful, for their tents fixed in most fertile parts of fruitful land. Every country has its attractions to those within its boundaries. Denizens may find delight where travellers see no beauty. There is mercy in every place, and if we have an eye to see it and a heart to rejoice in it, no place will be underrated or dispraised. If not good enough, strive to make it better. Poor it may be, and we shall prove our unworthiness by leaving it worse than we found it.
Wherever we live, in town or country, near lively coasts or far inland, we should be mindful of our religious duties and acts. These duties prescribed to Zebulun and Issachar, “call the people to the mountain,” the centre of general assembly and seat of religious worship. The duty of convoking people the official act of Levites, but a mutual service among people themselves. Those in retired regions must call each other out of tents, those who travelled and traded must commend worship of God to those whom they met and with whom they did business. In our day the mountain is near us. Sanctuaries open to all classes. Those who go out find them in places of sojourn; those who stay in see them within reach from their dwellings. With mountain always accessible at home and abroad, our duty to call each other to it. We shall thus diversify home keeping, sanctify outgoing by public exercise of religion—what these exercises are, learned from the text, “the sacrifices of righteousness.” Sacrifices of many kinds varying from the great propitiatory offering of Jesus once for all, to humblest presentation of joy and praise by the people he has redeemed. We are “a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, &c.” Our prayers and songs, preaching and teaching, gifts for God’s treasury, good deeds in general and communications for special need may all become sacrifices of righteousness well pleasing to God. The work of the Lord should always be done and worship maintained. He must have an altar in our tents and an offering in our tour. Before every outgoing His presence should be asked and in return to the delights of home we should repair to the sanctuary of God. This prophecy of Moses may have suggested by same Holy Spirit the double duty enjoined by David. “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”—Rev. W. Underwood, D.D.
GAD; LEADERSHIP, AND VALOUR.—Deuteronomy 33:20-21
“In the blessing of Noah (Genesis 9:26), the God of Shem is praised, so Moses praises the Lord who enlarged Gad, i.e., who not only gave him broad territory in the conquered kingdom of Sihon, but furnished generally unlimited space for his development (cf. Genesis 26:22), that he might unfold his lion-like nature in conflict with foes” (Keil).
I. Wonderful enlargement of Territory. “Enlargeth Gad.” Extends the borders of his territories by Jephtha (Judges 11:33) ana by the victories over the Hagarenes (1 Chronicles 5:18-21), or delivers out of distress, which is called enlarging. Spiritually God enlarges individuals. “Thou hast enlarged (relieved me) in my distress” (Psalms 4., cf. Psalms 31:8). He enlarges the Christian church. “The Lord hath made room (lit. broad space) for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22).
II. Strength in self defence. When territories were gained they could be kept and defended. “He dwelt as a lion,” couched and rested, fearless and secure; was annoyed by surrounding tribes (Jude 1:11.), but overcame them. No force could prevail against them; they shattered “the arm,” the instrument of strength, and destroyed “the head,” the policy, and rule of every foe.
III. Valour in Leadership. When they had chosen their own lot, they helped to secure that of others. They were distinguished not for ease and selfishness, but for valour, promptitude, and energy.
1. They fought in obedience to God’s commands. “He executed the justice of the Lord.” Executed the decree to extirpate inhabitants of Canaan (cf. Numbers 32:0.)
2. They fought in the front ranks. “Came with the heads of the people,” the chiefs of other tribes, were leaders in the war. Many skulk behind in fear and reluctance. Be prominent and courageous in the good fight of faith.
3. They fought bravely. They fulfilled their promise to Moses. “We ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel until we have brought them unto their place” (Numbers 32:16-17). Be helpful to others and valiant through God for right. Courage is required in every war. This crowned the efforts of Joshua with success (1, 5, 8) and raised Hezekiah to unequalled eminence among the kings of Judah (2 Kings 18:5-7). “Be strong and of good courage”.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 33:16. Separated.
1. By the treatment he received from them.
2. By the providence of God which exalted and distinguished him. Joseph, a type of Christ, separated in personal character, in evil treatment and divine exaltation. Good will of him that dwelt in the bush.
1. The Dweller in the Bush. Not an angel, but God himself (Exodus 3:2). Hence God’s favour desired better than man’s favour, fickle, uncertain, and worthless.
2. The good will of the dweller in the bush. Israel’s condition sad, helpless and hopeless. God appears.
1. To confirm his promise.
2. To accomplish deliverance.
3. To pledge his presence. Or,
1. A pleasing retrospect. Moses never forgot the bush, deeply impressed and marvellously strengthened by its appearance. Past experience should teach and help.
2. A wonderful revelation. “Good will.” Love, condescension and power to redeem. A revelation of God suited to Moses and to Israel. “A great sight.”
3. A solemn pledge. God had not forsaken his people nor forgotten his promise. “He heard their groaning, remembered his covenant, looked upon Israel (with watchfulness and sympathetic feeling), and had respect unto them” (Exodus 2:24-25.) “The burning bush, the persecuted church, was not consumed, because the good will of God, of which David speaks (Psalms 106:4), was in the bush. So it is still with His in the fiery trial, in any affliction” (Isaiah 43:1)—Trapp.
Deuteronomy 33:17. Glory. A bullock was the most excellent of animals among the Jews, not only because of its acceptableness to God in sacrifice, but because of its great usefulness in agriculture. There is something peculiarly noble and dignified about the ox, and his greatest ornament are his fine horns. These the inspired penman has in view, as the following clause proves, and it is well known that in scripture language, horns are the emblems of strength, glory, and sovereignty (Psalms 75:5; Psalms 75:10; Psalms 89:18; Psalms 89:25; Psalms 112:9; Daniel 8:3; Luke 1:69; Revelation 17:3.—Clarke.
Push. Pushing in life. In God’s strength and by God’s opening. No push without strength, and no opening without God. “Through Thee will we push down our enemies” (Psalms 44:5.)
Deuteronomy 33:18. In thy tents. Issachar, a powerful, sagacious tribe capable of great exertion and warlike achivements, in danger of luxuriant repose and subjection to more heroic men, because given to quiet pursuits and fat meadows. We must conquer and serve. “Be a hero in the strife.” “Put on the dauntless spirit of resolution.”
Deuteronomy 33:21. With the Heads.
1. God’s cause in its nature. Holy and more sacred than the rescue of Jerusalem from infidel Turks by Crusaders.
2. God’s cause in its requirements.
(1.) Courageous leaders.
(2.) United ranks.
3. God’s cause in its rewards.
(1.) It secures the “first portion,” a choice purchased by bravery.
(2.) It gains the commendation and prayers of good men. “Blessed be he, &c.”
Dan; activity in Conflict.—Deuteronomy 33:22
Jacob had compared him to a serpent for subtlety, that suddenly darts at the horses’ heels and throws the rider. Moses gives prominence to strength and activity. We have:
1. The agility of youth. “He shall leap.” Springing and leaping, signs of agility. “Spring like a lion on his prey and spread consternation around him.”
2. Strength in attack. “Dan is a lion’s whelp.” The tribe remarkable for strength and prowess, courage and resolution—Samson from this tribe. Strength rightly used a blessing. The more we attack sin and act for God, the more we are enabled to do. “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright.”
3. Swiftness in action. “He shall leap.” Promptitude in decision, boldness in action most needful. Leaders in war are nimble and adventurous. Joshua exercised stratagem and courage, was prompt in action and obedient to God. “O God be thou strong in our weakness that we may be ever steady in thy strength.” Bp. Hall.
NAPHTALI; SATISFACTION IN DIVINE BLESSING.—Deuteronomy 33:23
1. Satisfied in acquisition of suitable territory. “The possession of the sea and the south, i.e., an inheritance which should combine the advantages of the sea—a healthy sea breeze—with the grateful warmth of the south.” Keil. Possess thou the west and the south.
2. Satisfied in possession of God’s favour. If the favour of men; this in return for courteous and obliging conduct; as the graceful hind, zealous for liberty and kind words (Genesis 49:21). “Kind words never die.” As a man sows will he reap. If God’s favour, this the sublimest of all possessions. It is sufficient, “full with the blessing.” It gives contentment. “Satisfied with favour.” With this we have enough, and desire no more. This satisfies heart, conscience and intellect. God’s blessing satisfies all human instincts. All misery and delusion without him. Delighting in him, all things minister to our comfort. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
“My soul which flies to thee, her trust, her treasure,
As misers to their gold, while others rest.—Young.
ASHER: FULNESS OF BLESSINGS.—Deuteronomy 33:24-25
“Asher, the prosperous (cf. Genesis 30:15), was justly to bear the name. He was to be a child of prosperity, blessed with earthly good; he was to enjoy rest all his life long in strong fortresses. It is evident enough that this blessing is simply an exposition of the name Asher, and that Moses here promises the tribe a verification of the omen contained in its name.”—(Keil).
I. Numerous offspring. “Blessed with children,” blessed among, or more than the rest of the sons. He shall have numerous, strong and healthy children. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
II. Social prominence. “Acceptable to his brethren.” Not merely beloved among his brethren, but the one specially favoured and elevated by the Lord. Asher above tribal suspicion and animosity. His influence supreme and respected.
III. Abundant prosperity. “Let him dip his foot in oil.” Oil for the face and oil for the feet; abundant and most famous. Like Job, he “washed his steps with batter (cream or thick milk), and the rock poured out rivers of oil (alongside of me wherever I went, like the refreshing stream which followed Israel in the desert) (Job 29:6). God provided necessities and dainties. This rich tribe had plenty in its borders and exported to other places. “Out of Asher his bread snail be fat and he shall yield royal dainties” (Genesis 49:20).
IV. Security in the enjoyment of this prosperity. “Thy shoes iron and brass.” The reference not to the feet, nor to mining, but a poetic figure for impregnable strength and defence. Their strength shall be as iron and their fortresses as brass; closed and well defended. “The mountains (barriers) were mountains of brass” (Zechariah 6:1),
V. Strength in proportion to need. “As thy days” last so shall thy strength continue. Thou shalt never diminish in number, nor decay in vigour. Thy youth shall be renewed and flourish in old age. As a tribe they should not meet with disaster, but grow stronger and stronger. It may be applied to rest. Constantly exposed to irruptions and pillage, God would give confidence and security. As “thy days,” circumstances, vicissitudes and efforts, “so shall thy rest be.” When faithful to God no evil can touch, no enemy overcome us. “God is my defence, I shall not be greatly moved.”
STRENGTH EQUAL TO THE DAY.—Deuteronomy 33:25
Many great temporal blessings promised to Asher, none like this which is superior to all others. Strength for the day.
I. Natural strength as duration of the days. Some laid by in life through infirmities and accidents, but others vigorous and strong to the last. “The back is made to meet the burden.” The eye of Moses was not dim, nor his natural force abated (Deuteronomy 34:7). Caleb at four-score and five was as strong and ready for war as in the day Moses sent hint to view the laud (Joshua 14:10-11). “Fat and flourishing in old age to show that the Lord is upright.”
II. Varied strength as the character of the days. Days vary in complexion. Days of light and darkness, of duty and warfare. Present days, the age in which we live, with its philantrophies, enterprises and missionary ardour. Future days, whatever they may be or bring. “He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”
III. Spiritual strength as long as days and duties last. The strength of the sufferer to bear “the ills of life” in patience and submission to God; of the speaker to restrain and to put forth his energy; of the soldier for aggressive and courageous warfare, for complete and constant victory. We need strength to sit still in this restless and feverish day; strength to obey when commanded to act. Strength as the condition of rest and the success of work. “All your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Let me but bear my Saviour say,
Strength shall be equal to thy day;
Then I rejoice in deep distress,
Leaning on all sufficient grace.
STRENGTH ACCORDING TO THE DAYS.—Deuteronomy 33:25
I. It is not the design of these words to suppress forelooking and foreplanning in secular things. II. Nor are they designed to teach men that God will maintain a providence of miracles on their behalf. III. They teach us that we cannot know beforehand what help will spring up from our circumstances. IV. They also teach us that anxiety for the future is labour lost. Apply the
subject to those who—
(1) Follow conscience against their interests.
(2) Wish to reform from evil habits, but fear they will not be able to hold out.
(3) Look wistfully on a Christian life, but doubt if they would be able to maintain it.
(4) Are exceedingly troubled in regard to expected events.
(5) Are troubled about relative afflictions.
(6) Are troubled about their own death.—H. W. Beecher.
THE MAJESTY OF ISRAEL’S GOD.—Deuteronomy 33:26-29
Conclusion of blessings corresponds with introduction. The kingdom was founded in Jehovah the salvation of his people. So in conclusion Jehovah is their eternal refuge, and they are blessed in Him. These probably the last words Moses wrote. The next chapter added by another writer. God’s majesty and power set forth in splendid imagery.
I. Inimitable in his perfections. Not like the vanities of nations; if real, they cannot be compared with the Almighty.
1. Eternal in existence. “The eternal God”—not of yesterday; before time, before all worlds; ever was, is, and will be the same unchangeable, wise and holy being, “the everlasting God.”
2. Unequalled in majesty. “None like unto the God of Jeshurun.” “Every nation boasted of its God, but none had such a God to boast of as Israel had.” “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?”
II. Powerful in His protection. “Thy refuge.”
1. Arms to sustain. “Underneath are the everlasting arms”—arms which never relax their embrace, never get weary and strong as omnipotence, bearing up, carrying and keeping from falling the weakest child that trusts them.
2. Strength to overcome. “He shall thrust out the enemy.” God drove out the heathen to plant them (Psalms 90:1). He will dislodge our enemies, open up the way, conquer principalities and powers, and put us in possession of heaven.
3. Confidence in security. “Israel then shall dwell in safety.” When planted by God, he is a strong tower and protection, without earthly bulwarks, alliances, and resources; even in opposition and danger God gives confidence and security. “He shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks” (Isaiah 33:16).
III. Constant in oversight. God never forgets, nor forsakes. No people so well provided for as Israel.
1. Abundant provision. “The fountain of Jacob” overflows in streams of mercies and never dries.
2. Useful provision. Corn, wine, and oil to sustain and refresh; the products of earth, “wheat and barley, vines and fig-trees,” and the blessings of heaven, everything needful and substantial, “God give thee of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth.”
3. Constant provision. “The heavens shall drop down dew.” The early and latter rain and fruits in season; no stint, no scarcity. “Bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure” (Isaiah 33:16).
IV. Merciful in deliverance. “A people saved by the Lord.” Rescued from Egypt, preserved in the desert, and ever kept from harm. This not by Israel’s sword nor Israel’s skill, but their salvation bought and defended by Jehovah. If we take the glory of national deliverances, admire and applaud the courage that gained them and the wisdom that planned them, our right hand will become palsied, and victory may be followed by shameful defeat. “O Israel, trust thou in the Lord, he is their help and their shield.”
V. Victorious in contest. When God undertakes, no one can contend with him; this adds madness to folly. “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!”
1. Victory is easy. “Thine enemies found liars” who predicted failure.
2. Victory is complete. “Thou shalt tread upon,” subdue all opposition; assail “their high places” and level them to the dust. Satan to be trod upon shortly, death and the powers of hell subdued. Free, complete, everlasting victory. “Salvation is of the Lord.”
THE HAPPINESS OF ISRAEL IN GOD.—Deuteronomy 33:29
God is “blessed for ever” and the source of blessing to his people. He derives no happiness from them but imparts it to them. “Happy art thou, O Israel.”
I. Happy in the presence of God. Who is their home, refuge and dwelling place. Man wants rest and blessedness, a centre of unity, a perfect home. These only found in God. Earthly home, a mere shadow, a type of eternal home. In seeking this home, God is with his people. “My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest.”
II. Happy in the salvation of God. “O people saved by the Lord.” Israel’s deliverance a type of salvation in Christ—Christians like ancient Israel, a people separated, saved and exalted. “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name and to triumph in thy praise.”
III. Happy in the protection of God. “The eternal God is thy refuge.” He was the shield of their help—Israel “dwelt safely alone” among enemies. Without treaties and alliances with other nations. God protects—
(1) In defensive War, “their shield,” which nothing can pierce or turn aside. “With favour wilt thou compass (crown) him as with a shield” (Psalms 5:12.)
(2) In offensive War, “their sword.” To slay their foes, ensure their progress and gain them eminence. “The sword of thy excellency.”
IV. Happy in the triumph of God. God’s wonders were terrible in reality and report.
1. Fear put the enemy to flight. “The terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob” (Genesis 35:5; cf. Exodus 23:27; Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 11:25).
2. Fortifications were no defence. God, higher than the loftiest bulwark, “rideth upon the heaven” in splendour, power, and supremacy. Is this God your God? Then His heavenly favour, protection, and triumph, are yours. “Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 33:23. Satisfied.
1. Men thirst, are not happy, dissatisfied.
2. God’s favour alone can satisfy, things seen and heard give no permanent enjoyment, Ecclesiastes 1:8. “Our own will, although it should obtain its largest wish, would always keep us in un-easiness” (Pascal). “Satisfied with favour.” He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
Deuteronomy 33:26. Rideth to help.
1. The source of help. “Heaven,”
2. The swiftness of help. Riding as one one on horse, coming with irresistible might.
3. The majesty of help. Rides in state and splendour, in magnificence of clouds and awful grandeur.
4. The variety of help. Heaven and earth united, thunder and lightning, hail-stones and artillery, “excellency on the sky.” “Having the celestial creatures for his cavalry, and the terrestrial for his infantry; how then can his want help” (Trapp).
5. The sufficiency of help. “None like him” in power and disposition.
Deuteronomy 33:27. The eternal God, Heb., the God of antiquity, that “ancient of days,” that “Rock of Ages,” “who is before all things, and by whom all things consist” (Colossians 1:17), “who is the first and the last, and besides whom there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6) Trapp. Thy Refuge, God the home of the soul.
1. Man a homeless creature. A wanderer in the wilderness, seeking habitation and rest.
2. God a home, for shelter, provision, and rest. “Our dwelling place in all generations.” Everlasting arms.
1. Long enough to embrace eternity.
2. Strong enough never to get weary.
3. Ready enough to embrace any that come.
4. Yet “stretched out” in patience, perseverance and love, to “disobedient,” rebellious “children,” “all day long,” Romans 10:21. What a tender, compassionate attitude of God towards sinners! The glory of God’s forbearance a bitter ingredient of misery at last. The words a description of God’s power also. Power to lift up the lowest and most degraded, to protect and shelter the weakest and most timid. “As the arm is the emblem of power, and of power in a state of exertion, the words here state that an unlimited and unconquerable power shall be eternally exerted in the defence of God’s church, and in the behalf of all those who trust in him.” A. Clarke.
1. The duty. “Destroy them,” spare no sin, no enemy. Not merely maim, utterly irradicate them and leave nothing undone.
2. The strength to perform it. “He shall thrust out, &c.” God goes before in providence, accompanies in person and equips for success.
Deuteronomy 33:29. Happy.
1. God’s people happy in this life. Trusting in God they have contentment, hope and security. All things work together for their good, a real, solid, happiness, not momentary joy or feverish excitement. “Happy art thou, O Israel.”
2. Happy in death. Guilt and fear taken away, death and hell conquered. “The end is peace.” “The battle is fought,” said Dr. Payson, “and the victory is won for ever, I am going to bathe in an ocean of purity, and benevolence, and happiness to all eternity.”
3. Happy in the world to come. Heaven a place of peace and felicity. No discord nor disorder there. A realization of Howe’s conception, “the blessedness of the righteous,” and Baxter’s “Saints’ Everlasting Rest.”
Man’s sickly soul, though turned and toss’d for ever
From side to side, can rest on nought but thee;
Here, in full trust; hereafter, in full joy.
On thee, the promised, sure eternal down Of spirits, toil’d in travel through this vale.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 33
Deuteronomy 33:2. Shined. Contemplate the exalted attributes of Deity; the displays of His glory; the splendours of His throne; the amplitudes of His dominions; the angelic orders of His kingdom; the richness of His gifts, and the untouched ocean of happiness yet in reserve for His people (J. Wilson). Saints. The interest felt by the angels in all that concerns the Gospel and the eternal interests of men put on their probation, form a very humbling contrast to our cold indifference.—Adams.
Deuteronomy 33:4. Law. A law is valuable, not because it is law, but because there is right in it; and because of this rightness it is like a vessel carrying perfume; like the alabaster enclosure of a lamp.—Beecher.
Deuteronomy 33:6. Live. Every man’s life lies within the present, for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain.—Antonius.
Deuteronomy 33:9-11. Observed Thy word—
How fond it were to wish for such a King,
And no obedience to His sceptre bring,
Whose yoke is easy, and His burthen light;
His service freedom, and His judgments right.
Deuteronomy 33:12. Beloved of the Lord. Two gentlemen were once riding together, and as they were about to separate, one said to the other, “Do you ever read your Bible?” “Yes; but I get no benefit from it, because, to tell the truth, I do not feel that I love God.” “Neither did I,” replied the other, “but God loved me.” This answer produced such an effect upon his friend that he said, “It was as if one had lifted him off the saddle into the skies.” It opened up to his soul at once the great truth, that it is not how much I love God, but how much God loves me.
Deuteronomy 33:18-19. Going out. Trades exemplify dependence and mutual help. Precisely because no man can reach perfection in all the arts, and be a proficient in every profession, the progress of civilization requires the division of labour; not division in the sense of hostility, but a division of works with a common will—many departments with one interest, “diversities of operation with the same spirit.” Not more completely does the wheel of the engine depend upon the boiler, or the rod upon the valve, than one individual upon another in the more intricate and wondrous mechanism of society.
Heaven forming each on other to depend,
A master, or a servant, or a friend,
Bids each on other for assistance call,
Till one man’s weakness grows the strength of all.—F. D. Huntington, D.D.
Deuteronomy 33:20. Lion. Wonderful is the case of boldness in civil business. What first? Boldness. What second and third? Boldness.—Bacon.
Deuteronomy 33:23. Satisfied with favour. “My soul hath found inexpressibly,” said John Brown, of Haddington, “more sweetness and satisfaction in two words such as these—thy God and my God—than all the pleasures found in the things since the creation could equal.”
Give what thou canst, without thee we are poor,
And with thee rich, take what thou wilt away.
Deuteronomy 33:25. Strength. Dr. Doddridge was one day talking, much depressed, his very heart desolate within him; but, says he, passing a cottage door open, I happened at the moment to hear a child reading, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” The effect on my mind was indescribable. It was like life from the dead.—Jay.
Deuteronomy 33:27. Thrust out.
Rouse to some work of high and holy love,
And thou an angel’s happiness shall know.
Deuteronomy 33:28. Shield. If heaven and earth shake God hath ordained and secured that his children shall be protected as they need and when they need. When the enemy is most strongly assaulting, at the last extremity, when every other refuge shall have been swept away.—Bridges. Creature extremity can never reach beyond the help of Omnipotence.
Deuteronomy 33:29. Happy art thou, O Israel.
O Israel, blest beyond compare;
Unrivalled all thy glories are.
Jehovah deigns to fill thy throne,
And calls thine interest His own.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent