The blessing of Moses.
He pronounces them all blessed, in what God had done for them,
already, ver. 1 - 5.
He pronounces a blessing upon each tribe, ver. 6 - 25.
He pronounces them all in general blessed, on account of what God
would be to them, and do for them, if they were obedient, ver. 26 - 29.
1: Moses blessed Israel - He is said to bless them, by praying to
God with faith for his blessing upon them; and by foretelling the blessings
which God would confer upon them. And Moses calls himself here the
man of God, that is, the servant or prophet of God, to acquaint them
that the following prophecies were not his own inventions, but divine
inspirations. The children of Israel - The several tribes: only
Simeon is omitted, either in detestation of their parent Simeon's
bloody carriage, for which Jacob gives that tribe a curse rather than
a blessing, in (Ge 49:5-7). Or, because that tribe had no distinct
inheritance, but was to have its portion in the tribe of Judah,(Jos 19:1).
2: The Lord came - Namely, to the Israelites, manifested himself
graciously and gloriously among them. From Sinai - Beginning at
Sinai, where the first appearance of God was, and so going on with them
to Seir and Paran. And rose up - He appeared or shewed himself,
as the sun doth when it riseth. From Seir - From the mountain or land of
Edom, to which place the Israelites came, (Nu 20:14), &c. and
from thence God led them on towards the land of promise, and then gloriously
appeared for them in subduing Sihon and Og before them. But because
the land of Edom is sometimes taken more largely, and so reacheth even
to the Red - sea, and therefore mount Sinai was near to it, and
because Paran was also near Sinai, being the next station into which
they came from the wilderness of Sinai: all this verse may belong to
God's appearance in mount Sinai, where that glorious light which shone
upon mount Sinai directly, did in all probability scatter its beams into
adjacent parts, such as Seir and Paran were. And if so, this is
only a poetical expression of the same thing in divers words, and God
coming or rising or shining from or to or in Sinai and
Seir and Paran note one and the same illustrious action of God
appearing there with ten thousands of his saints or holy angels, and
giving a fiery law to them. Paran - A place where God eminently
manifested his presence and goodness both in giving the people flesh which
they desired, and in appointing the seventy elders and pouring forth his
spirit upon them. With ten thousands of saints - That is, with a great
company of holy angels, (Ps 68:17,Da 7:10), which attended upon him in
this great and glorious work of giving the law, as may be gathered from(Ac 7:53,Ga 3:19).
From his right hand - Which both wrote the law and gave it to men. An
allusion to men who ordinarily write and give gifts with their right hand.
A fiery law - The law is called fiery, because it is of a fiery nature
purging and searching and inflaming, to signify that fiery wrath which it
inflicteth upon sinners for the violation of it, and principally because it
was delivered out of the midst of the fire.
3: The people - The tribes of Israel. The sense is, this law,
though delivered with fire and smoke and thunder, which might seem to
portend nothing but hatred and terror, yet in truth was given to Israel,
in great love, as being the great mean of their temporal and eternal
salvation. Yea, he, embraced the people, and laid them in his
bosom! so the word signifies, which speaks not only the dearest love,
but the most tender and careful protection. All God's saints or
holy ones, that is, his people, were in thy hand, that is, under
God's care to protect, direct and govern them. These words are spoken to
God: the change of persons, his and thy, is most frequent in the
Hebrew tongue. This clause may farther note God's kindness to Israel,
in upholding them when the fiery law was delivered, which was done with so
much terror that not only the people were ready to sink under it, but even
Moses did exceedingly fear and quake. But God sustained both
Moses and the people, in or by his hand, whereby he in a manner covered
them that no harm might come to them. At thy feet - Like scholars to
receive instructions. He alludes to the place where the people waited when
the law was delivered, which was at the foot of the mount. Every one - Of
the people will receive or submit to thy instructions and commands. This
may respect either, the peoples promise when they heard the law, that they
would hear and do all that was commanded. Or, their duty to do so.
4: Moses - He speaks this of himself in the third person, which is
very usual in the Hebrew language. The law is called their inheritance,
because the obligation of it was hereditary, passing from parents to their
children, and because this was the best part of their inheritance, the
greatest of all those gifts which God bestowed upon them.
5: He was king in Jeshurun - Moses was their king not in title,
but in reality, being under God, their supreme governor, and law giver.
Gathered together - When the princes and people met together for the
management of public affairs, Moses was owned by them as their king
6: Let Reuben live - Though Reuben deserve to be cut off or
greatly diminished and obscured, according to Jacob's prediction,(Ge 49:4), yet God will spare them and give them a name and portion
among the tribes of Israel, and bless them with increase of their
numbers. All the ancient paraphrasts refer this to the other world, so far
were they from expecting temporal blessings only. Let Reuben live in
life eternal, says Onkelos, and not die the second death.
Let Reuben live in this world, so Jonathan and the Jerusalem
Targum, and not die that death which the wicked die in the world to come.
7: Hear, Lord - God will hear his prayer for the accomplishment of
those great things promised to that tribe, (Ge 49:8-12). This implies
the delays and difficulties Judah would meet with, that would drive him
to his prayers, which would be with success. Unto his people - When he
shall go forth to battle against his enemies and shall fall fiercely upon
them, as was foretold, (Ge 49:8,9). Bring him back with honour and
victory, to his people, to the rest of his tribe who were left at home
when their brethren went to battle: and to his brethren the other tribes of
Israel. Let his hands be sufficient for him - This tribe shall be so
numerous and potent that it shall suffice to defend itself without any aid,
either from foreign nations or from other tribes; as appeared when this
tribe alone was able to grapple with nine or ten of the other tribes.
From his enemies - Thou wilt preserve this tribe in a special manner, so
that his enemies shall not be able to ruin it, as they will do other tribes,
and that for the sake of the Messiah who shall spring out of it.
8: Let thy Urim - The Thummim and the Urim, which are thine,
O Lord by special institution and consecration, (by which he understands the
ephod in which they were put, and the high priesthood, to which they were
appropriated, and withal the gifts and graces signified by the Urim and
Thummim, and necessary for the discharge of that high - office) shall be
with thy holy one, that is, with that priest, whom thou hast consecrated
to thyself, and who is holy in a more peculiar manner than all the
people were; that is, the priesthood shall be confined to and continued in
Aaron's family. Whom thou didst prove - Altho' thou didst try him,
and rebuke him, yet thou didst not take away the priesthood from him.
At Massah - Not at that Massah mentioned (Ex 17:7), which is also
called Meribah, but at that other Meribah, (Nu 20:13).
Thou didst strive - Whom thou didst reprove and chastise.
9: I have not seen him - That is, I have no respect unto them. The
sense is, who followed God and his command fully, and executed the judgment
enjoined by God without any respect of persons, (Ex 32:26,27).
They kept thy covenant - When the rest broke their covenant with God by
that foul sin of idolatry with the calf, that tribe kept themselves pure
from that infection, and adhered to God and his worship.
11: His substance - Because he hath no inheritance of his own and
therefore wholly depends upon thy blessing. The work of his hands - All
his holy administrations, which he fitly calls the work of his hands,
because a great part of the service of the Levites and priests was done
by the labour of their hand and body, whereas the service of evangelical
ministers is more spiritual and heavenly. Smite - He pray's thus
earnestly for them, because he foresaw they who were to teach and reprove,
and chastise others would have many enemies, and because they were under
God, the great preservers and upholders of religion, and their enemies were
the enemies of religion itself.
12: Of Benjamin - Benjamin is put next to Levi, because the
temple, where the work of the Levites lay, was upon the edge of the lot
of this tribe. And 'tis put before Joseph, because of the dignity of
Jerusalem, (part of which was in this lot) above Samaria, which was
in the tribe of Ephraim: likewise because Benjamin adhered to the
house of David and to the temple of God, when the rest of the tribes
deserted both. The beloved of the Lord - So called in allusion to their
father Benjamin who was the beloved of his father Jacob; and because
of the kindness of God to this tribe which appeared both in this, that they
dwelt in the best part of the land, as Josephus affirms, and in the
following privilege. Shall dwell in safety by him - Shall have his lot
nigh to God's temple, which was both a singular comfort and safeguard to
him. Shall cover - Shall protect that tribe continually while they cleave
to him. He - The Lord shall dwell, that is, his temple shall be placed,
between his shoulders, that is, in his portion, or between his border's
as the word shoulder is often used. And this was truly the situation of
the temple, on both sides whereof was Benjamin's portion. And though
mount Sion was in the tribe of Judah, yet mount Moriah, on which
the temple was built, was in the tribe of Benjamin.
13: And of Joseph - Including both Ephraim and Manasseh.
In Jacob's blessing that of Joseph's is the largest. And so it is
here. His land - His portion shall be endowed with choice blessings from
God. Of heaven - That is, the precious fruits of the earth brought forth
by the influences of heaven, the warmth of the sun, and the rain which God
will send from heaven. The deep - The springs of water bubbling out of the
earth: perhaps it may likewise refer to the great deep, the abyss of waters,
which is supposed to be contained in the earth.
14: By the sun - Which opens and warms the earth, cherishes and
improves and in due time ripens the seeds and fruits of it.
The moon - Which by its moisture refreshes and promotes them.
Heb. Of the moons, or months, that is, which it bringeth forth in
the several months or seasons of the year.
15: The chief things - That is, the excellent fruits, as grapes,
olives, figs, &c. which delight in mountains, growing upon, or the precious
minerals contained in, their mountains and hills called ancient
and lasting, that is, such as have been from the beginning of the world,
and are likely to continue to the end of it, in opposition to those hills or
mounts which have been cast up by man.
16: And for - And in general for all the choice fruits which the land
produceth in all the parts of it, whither hills or valleys. Fulness
thereof - That is, the plants and cattle and all creatures that grow,
increase, and flourish in it. The good will - For all other effects of
the good will and kindness of God who not long since did for a time dwell or
appear in the bush to me in order to the relief of his people, (Ex 3:2).
Of Joseph - That is, of Joseph's posterity. Him that was
separated from his brethren - His brethren separated him from them by
making him a slave, and God distinguished him from them by making him a
prince. The preceeding words might be rendered, My dweller in the bush.
That was an appearance of the divine majesty to Moses only, in token of
his particular favour. Many a time had God appeared to Moses; but now
he is just dying, he seems to have the most pleasing remembrance, of the
first time that he saw the visions of the Almighty. It was here God
declared himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and so confirmed
the promise made to the father, that promise which our Lord shews, reaches
as far as the resurrection and eternal life.
17: His glory is like the firstling of his bullock - Or young bull,
which is a stately creature, and was therefore formerly used as an emblem of
royal majesty. This seems to note the kingdom which Ephraim should
obtain in Jeroboam and his successors. His horns - His strength and
power shall be very great. The people - All that shall oppose him, and
particularly the Canaanites. The ten thousands - Of the land of
Canaan. Though Manasseh be now more numerous, yet Ephraim shall
shortly outstrip him, as was foretold (Ge 48:17-19).
18: Rejoice - Thou shalt prosper and have cause of rejoicing.
In thy going out -
To war, as this phrase is often used.
To sea, in way of traffick, because their portion lay near the sea.
And in both respects his course is opposite to that of Issachar, who was
a lover of peace and pasturage. He is here joined with Zebulun, both
because they were brethren by father and mother too, and because their
possessions lay near together. In thy tents - Thou shalt give thyself to
the management of laud and cattle, living quietly in thy own possessions.
19: They - Zebulun of whom Moses takes more special notice.
And so having dispatched Issachar in two words, he returns to
Zebulun. The people - the Gentiles, either those of Galilee,
which was called Galilee of the Gentiles, who were their neighbours; or
people of other nations, with whom they had commerce, which they endeavoured
to improve in persuading them to worship the true God. The mountain -
That is, to the temple, which Moses knew was to be seated upon a
mountain. Sacrifices of righteousness - Such as God requires. Their
trafficking abroad with Heathen nations shall not make them forget their
duty at home, nor shall their distance from the place of sacrifice hinder
them from coming to it to discharge that duty. Of the abundance of
the sea - They shall grow rich by the traffick of the sea, and shall
consecrate themselves and their riches to God.
Hid in the sand - Such precious things as either
Are contained in the sand of the sea and rivers, in which sometimes there
is mixed a considerable quantity of gold and silver. Or,
Such as grow in the sea, or are fetched from the sandy bottom of it, as
pearls, coral, ambergrease. Or,
Such as being cast into the sea by shipwreck are cast upon the shore by
the workings of the sea.
It were well, if the enlargement of our trade with foreign countries, were
made to contribute to the spreading of the gospel.
20: Enlargeth - That bringeth him out of his straits amid troubles,
which he was often engaged in, because he was encompassed with potent
enemies. As a lion - Safe and secure from his enemies, and terrible to
them when they rouse and molest him. Teareth the arm - Utterly destroys
his enemies, both the head, the seat of the crown, their dignity and
principality, and the arm, the subject of strength and instrument of
action; both chief princes, and their subjects.
21: The first part - The first fruits of the land of promise, the
country of Sihon, which was first conquered, which he is said to
provide for himself, because he desired and obtained it of Moses.
Of the law - giver - Of Moses, whose portion this is called, either
because this part of the land beyond Jordan was the only part of the
land which Moses was permitted to enter upon: or because it was given
him by Moses, whereas the portions beyond Jordan were given to the
several tribes by Joshua according to the direction of the lot.
Seated - Heb. hid or protected: for their wives and children were
secured in their cities, while many of their men went over to the war in
Canaan. He came - He went, or he will go, to the war in Canaan,
with the princes, or captains, or rulers of the people of Israel,
that is, under their command and conduct, as indeed they did; or with
the first of the people; or, in the front of the people, as the
Syriack renders it; for this tribe and their brethren whose lot fell
beyond Jordan, were to march into Canaan before their brethren.
He executed - The just judgment of God against the Canaanites, as
the rest of the Israelites did.
22: A lion's whelp - Courageous, and generous, and strong, and
successful against his enemies. Which leapeth - From Bashan, because
there were many and fierce lions in those parts, whence they used to come
forth and leap upon the prey. Or this may refer either to the particular
victories obtained by Samson, who was of the tribe of Dan, or to a
more general achievement of that tribe, when a party of them surprised
Laish, which lay in the farthest part of the land of Canaan from
them. And the mountain of Bashan lying not far from that city, from
whence they probably made their descent upon it, thus leaping from
23: Satisfied with favour - With the favour of God. That only is the
favour that satisfies the soul. They are happy indeed that have the favour
of God; and they shall have it, that place their satisfaction in it.
And full with the blessing of the Lord - Not Only with corn, wine and oil,
the fruit of the blessing, but with the blessing itself, the grace of God,
according to his promise and covenant. Possess thou the west and the
south - Or, the sea and the south. This is not to be understood of
the place, that his lot should fall there, for he was rather in the east and
north of the land; but of the pleasures and commodities of the west or
of the sea, which were conveyed to him from his neighbour Zebulun;
and of the south, that is, from the southern tribes and parts of
Canaan, which were brought to him down the river Jordan, and both
sorts of commodities were given him in exchange for the fruitful rich soil
which he had in great abundance.
24: Let Asher - Who carries blessedness in his very name,
be blessed with children - He shall have numerous, strong and healthful
children. Acceptable to his brethren - By his sweet disposition and
winning carriage. In oil - He shall have such plenty of oil that he may
not only wash his face, but his feet also in it.
25: Iron and brass - The mines of iron and copper, which were in
their portion, whence Sidon their neighbor was famous among the Heathens
for its plenty of brass, and Sarepta is thought to have its name from
the brass and iron which were melted there in great quantity.
Thy strength shall be - Thy strength shall not be diminished with age,
but thou shalt have the vigor of youth even in thine old age: thy tribe
shalt grow stronger and stronger.
26: There us none - These are the last words that ever Moses
wrote, perhaps the greatest writer that ever lived upon the earth. And this
man of God, who had as much reason to know both as ever any mere man had,
with his last breath magnifies both the God of Israel, and the Israel
of God. Unto the God of Jeshurun, who to help thee, rideth upon the
heaven, and with the greatest state and magnificence, on the sky.
Riding on the heaven denotes the greatness and glory, in which he
manifests himself to the upper world, and the use he makes of the influences
of heaven and the products of the clouds, in bringing to pass his own
counsels in this lower world. All these he manages and directs, as a man
doth the horse he rides on.
27: The eternal God - He who was before all worlds, and will be, when
time shall be no more: Is thy refuge - Or, thy habitation or
mansion - house (so the word signifies) in whom thou art safe, and easy,
and at rest, as a man is in his own house. Every true Israelite is at
home in God: the soul returns to him, and reposes in him. And
they that make him their habitation shall have all the comforts and benefits
of an habitation in him. And underneath are the everlasting arms - The
almighty power of God, which protects and comforts all that trust in him, in
their greatest straits and distresses. He shall thrust out the enemy
from before thee - Shall make room for thee by his resistless power,
and shall say, Destroy them - Giving thee not only a commission but
strength to put it in execution. And, has he not given the same commission
and the same strength to believers, to destroy all sin?
Tho' they be alone, and have no confederates to defend them, but have
all the world against them, yet my single protection shall be sufficient
for them. Or,
Distinct and separated from all other nations, with whom I will not
have them mingle themselves.
The fountain - That is, the posterity of Jacob, which flowed from him as
waters from a fountain, in great abundance. The fountain is here put
for the river or streams which flow from it, as Jacob or Israel who
is the fountain is often put for the children of Israel. His
heavens - That is, those heavens or that air which hangs over his land.
29: The shield of they help - By whom thou are sufficiently guarded
against all assailants; and the sword of thy excellency - Or, thy most
excellent sword, that is, thy strength and the author of all thy past or
approaching victories. Those in whose hearts is the excellency of holiness,
have God himself for their shield and sword. They are defended by the
whole armour of God: His word is their sword, and faith their shield.
And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee - Who said they would
destroy thee: or at least, that they would never submit: and thou shalt
tread upon their high places - Their strong holds, palaces and temples.
Thus shall the God of peace tread Satan under the feet of all believers,
and that shortly.