1. Moses the man of God--This was a common designation of a prophet (1Sa 2:27 9:6), and it is here applied to Moses, when, like Jacob, he was about to deliver ministerially before his death, a prophetic benediction to Israel.
2-4. The Lord came--Under a beautiful metaphor, borrowed from the dawn and progressive splendor of the sun, the Majesty of God is sublimely described as a divine light which appeared in Sinai and scattered its beams on all the adjoining region in directing Israel's march to Canaan. In these descriptions of a theophania, God is represented as coming from the south, and the allusion is in general to the thunderings and lightnings of Sinai; but other mountains in the same direction are mentioned with it. The location of Seir was on the east of the Ghor; mount Paran was either the chain on the west of the Ghor, or rather the mountains on the southern border of the desert towards the peninsula [ROBINSON]. (Compare Jud 5:4,5 Ps 68:7,8 Hab 3:3). ten thousands of saints--rendered by some, "with the ten thousand of Kadesh," or perhaps better still, "from Meribah" [EWALD]. a fiery law--so called both because of the thunder and lightning which accompanied its promulgation (Ex 19:16-18 De 4:11), and the fierce, unrelenting curse denounced against the violation of its precepts (2Co 3:7-9). Notwithstanding those awe-inspiring symbols of Majesty that were displayed on Sinai, the law was really given in kindness and love, as a means of promoting both the temporal and eternal welfare of the people. And it was "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob," not only from the hereditary obligation under which that people were laid to observe it, but from its being the grand distinction, the peculiar privilege of the nation. 6. Let Reuben live, and not die--Although deprived of the honor and privileges of primogeniture, he was still to hold rank as one of the tribes of Israel. He was more numerous than several other tribes (Nu 1:21 2:11). Yet gradually he sank into a mere nomadic tribe, which had enough to do merely "to live and not die." Many eminent biblical scholars, resting on the most ancient and approved manuscripts of the Septuagint, consider the latter clause as referring to Simeon; "and Simeon, let his men be few," a reading of the text which is in harmony with other statements of Scripture respecting this tribe (Nu 25:6-14 1:23 26:14 Jos 19:1). 7. this is the blessing of Judah--Its general purport points to the great power and independence of Judah, as well as its taking the lead in all military expeditions. 8-10. of Levi he said--The burden of this blessing is the appointment of the Levites to the dignified and sacred office of the priesthood (Le 10:11 De 22:8 17:8-11), a reward for their zeal in supporting the cause of God, and their unsparing severity in chastising even their nearest and dearest relatives who had participated in the idolatry of the molten calf (Ex 32:25-28; compare Mal 2:4-6).
12. of Benjamin he said--A distinguishing favor was conferred on this tribe in having its portion assigned near the temple of God. between his shoulders--that is, on his sides or borders. Mount Zion, on which stood the city of Jerusalem, belonged to Judah; but Mount Moriah, the site of the sacred edifice, lay in the confines of Benjamin.
13-17. of Joseph he said--The territory of this tribe, diversified by hill and dale, wood and water, would be rich in all the productions--olives, grapes, figs, &c., which are reared in a mountainous region, as well as in the grain and herbs that grow in the level fields. "The firstling of the bullock and the horns of the unicorn" (rhinoceros), indicate glory and strength, and it is supposed that under these emblems were shadowed forth the triumphs of Joshua and the new kingdom of Jeroboam, both of whom were of Ephraim (compare Ge 48:20). 18, 19. Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out--on commercial enterprises and voyages by sea. and, Issachar in thy tents--preferring to reside in their maritime towns. 19. shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand--Both tribes should traffic with the Phoenicians in gold and silver, pearl and coral, especially in murex, the shellfish that yielded the famous Tyrian dye, and in glass, which was manufactured from the sand of the river Belus, in their immediate neighborhood. 20, 21. of Gad he said--Its possessions were larger than they would have been had they lain west of Jordan; and this tribe had the honor of being settled by Moses himself in the first portion of land conquered. In the forest region, south of the Jabbok, "he dwelt as a lion" (compare Ge 30:11 49:19). Notwithstanding, they faithfully kept their engagement to join the "heads of the people" (De 33:21) in the invasion of Canaan. 22. Dan is a lion's whelp--His proper settlement in the south of Canaan being too small, he by a sudden and successful irruption, established a colony in the northern extremity of the land. This might well be described as the leap of a young lion from the hills of Bashan. 23. of Naphtali he said--The pleasant and fertile territory of this tribe lay to "the west," on the borders of lakes Merom and Chinnereth, and to "the south" of the northern Danites.
24, 25. of Asher he said--The condition of this tribe is described as combining all the elements of earthly felicity. dip his foot in oil--These words allude either to the process of extracting the oil by foot presses, or to his district as particularly fertile and adapted to the culture of the olive.
25. shoes of iron and brass--These shoes suited his rocky coast from Carmel to Sidon. Country people as well as ancient warriors had their lower extremities protected by metallic greaves (1Sa 17:6 Eph 6:15) and iron-soled shoes. 26-29. There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun--The chapter concludes with a congratulatory address to Israel on their peculiar happiness and privilege in having Jehovah for their God and protector. who rideth upon the heaven in thy help--an evident allusion to the pillar of cloud and fire, which was both the guide and shelter of Israel. 28. the fountain of Jacob--The posterity of Israel shall dwell in a blessed and favored land.