The glorious majesty of God. (Verse 1-5.)
The blessings of the twelve tribes. (Verse 6-23.)
Strength to believers. (Verse 24,25.)
The excellency of Israel. (Verse 26-29.)
Blessing the twelve tribes. There is a marked difference between the blessings of Moses and the blessings of Jacob as given in Genesis 49. Jacob gives the history of the action so his sons; Moses presents the actings of divine grace in them and toward them. Jacob views his sons in their personal history; Moses view them in their covenant-relationship with Jehovah.
1 And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.
[Gen 27:4, Gen 27:27, Gen 48:9, Gen 49:28, Heb 11:20]
2 And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.
though written by Moses about past Jewish history, as is true in so much of the OT there is a double reference to future prophecy. This verse describes both the historical journey of Israel out of the wilderness as well the future second advent of Jesus Christ
3 Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.
The blessings of God were upon them. There are several promises to be noted in the following verses. From God’s dealings, Moses infers that God loves His people (verse 3).
4 Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.
5 And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.
this passage is written in the third person “about” Moses, rather than “by” Moses. It was probably written down by Joshua, though it is Moses’ blessings to each of the tribes of Israel – for some reason, the tribe of Simeon is not given a blessing by Moses.
6 Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.
God is the one who buried Moses; the fact that no one could find his sepulchre may be related to the event described in Jude 9. There was some type of “dispute” between the devil and Michael about Moses’ body. It would appear that God resurrected Moses soon after his death and took him to heaven – this would account for why the devil would be disputing about the body of Moses (“he’s dead, the body belongs to me” scenario) and this would also account for Moses’ appearance in Matthew 17:1-6 when he should have been down in Abraham’s bosom/paradise (Luke 16) along with all of the other OT saints.
7 And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies.
8 And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah;
9 Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.
10 They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar.
11 Bless, LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again.
12 And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; and the LORD shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.
As Benjamin was loved by his father, Jacob, so God loves His people.
13 And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,
14 And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon,
15 And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills,
16 And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.
17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
18 And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.
19 They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.
20 And of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head.
21 And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.
22 And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion’s whelp: he shall leap from Bashan.
23 And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the west and the south.
This may refer to the great fertility of the country that fell to this tribe. However, there were other special blessings conferred on this tribe. The light of the gospel shone brightly here (Matthew 4:13-16). Christ’s chief residence was at Capernaum in this tribe (Matthew 9:1; Mark 2:1. cf. Matthew 11:23). It is generally allowed that the apostles were principally of this tribe
24 And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.
25 Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
26 There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.
27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.
28 Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew.
29 Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1-5 – To all his precepts, warnings, and prophecies, Moses added a solemn blessing. He begins with a description of the glorious appearances of God, in giving the law. His law works like fire. If received, it is melting, warming, purifying, and burns up the dross of corruption; if rejected, it hardens, sears, pains, and destroys. The Holy Spirit came down in cloven tongues, as of fire; for the gospel also is a fiery law. The law of God written in the heart, is a certain proof of the love of God shed abroad there: we must reckon His law one of the gifts of his grace.
Verse 6-23 – The order in which the tribes are here blessed, is not the same as is observed elsewhere. The blessing of Judah may refer to the whole tribe in general, or to David as a type of Christ. Moses largely blesses the tribe of Levi. Acceptance with God is what we should all aim at, and desire, in all our devotions, whether men accept us or not, 2nd Corinthians 5:9. This prayer is a prophecy, that God will keep up a ministry in his church to the end of time. The tribe of Benjamin had their inheritance close to mount Zion. To be situated near the ordinances, is a precious gift from the Lord, a privilege not to be exchanged for any worldly advantage, or indulgence. We should thankfully receive the earthly blessings sent to us, through the successive seasons. But those good gifts which come down from the Father of lights, through the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and the pouring out of his Spirit like the rain which makes fruitful, are infinitely more precious, as the tokens of his special love. The precious things here prayed for, are figures of spiritual blessing in heavenly things by Christ, the gifts, graces, and comforts of the Spirit. When Moses prays for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush, he refers to the covenant, on which all our hopes of God’s favour must be founded. The providence of God appoints men’s habitations, and wisely disposes men to different employments for the public good. Whatever our place and business are, it is our wisdom and duty to apply thereto; and it is happiness to be well pleased therewith. We should not only invite others to the service of God, but abound in it. The blessing of Naphtali. The favour of God is the only favour satisfying to the soul. Those are happy indeed, who have the favour of God; and those shall have it, who reckon that in having it they have enough, and desire no more.
Verse 24,25 – All shall be sanctified to true believers; if their way be rough, their feet shall be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. As thy days, so shall thy strength be. The “day” is often in Scripture put for the events of the day; it is a promise that God would graciously and constantly support under trials and troubles, whatever they were. It is a promise sure to all the spiritual seed of Abraham. Have they work allotted? They shall have strength to do it. Have they burdens appointed? They shall have strength, and never be tempted above what they are able to bear.
Verse 26-29 – None had such a God as Israel. There is no people like the Israel of God. What is here said of the church of Israel is to be applied to the spiritual church. Never were people so well seated and sheltered. Those who make God their habitation, shall have all the comforts and benefits of a habitation in him, Psalms 91:1. Never were people so well supported and borne up. How low soever the people of God are at any time brought, everlasting arms are underneath them, to keep the spirit from sinking, from fainting, and their faith from failing. Divine grace is sufficient for them, 2nd Corinthians 12:9. Never were people so well commanded. Thus believers are more than conquerors over their spiritual enemies, through Christ that loved them. Never were people so well secured and protected. Israel shall dwell in safety alone. All who keep close to God, shall be kept safe by him. Never were people so well provided for. Every true Israelite looks with faith to the better country, the heavenly Canaan, which is filled with better things than corn and wine. Never were people so well helped. If in danger of any harm, or in want of any good, they had an eternal God to go to. Nothing could hurt those whom God helped, nor was it possible the people should perish who were saved by the Lord. Never were people so well armed. Those in whose hearts is the excellency of holiness, are defended by the whole armour of God, Ephesians 6. Never were people so well assured of victory over their enemies. Thus shall the God of peace tread Satan under the feet of all believers, and shall do it shortly, Romans 16:20. May God help us to seek and to set our affections on the things above; and to turn our souls from earthly perishing objects; that we may not have our lot with Israel’s foes in the regions of darkness and despair, but with the Israel of God, in the realms of love and eternal happiness.