The blessings of Moses (Deut 33:1-33:39)

“This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. He said.

‘Yahweh came from Sinai,

He dawned from Seir upon us.

He shone forth from Mount Paran.

With him were myriads of holy ones,

At his right, a host of his own.

Indeed, O favorite among peoples,

All his holy ones were in your charge.

They marched at your heels,

They accepted direction from you.

Moses charged us with the law,

As a possession for the assembly of Jacob.

There arose a king in Jeshurun,

When the leaders of the people assembled

The united tribes of Israel!”

Once again this is a famous death bed blessing. Yahweh has been good to them, leading them forward. Each of the tribes will get a blessing in this ancient text that may come from the time of the kingdom, since there is a mention of the king in Jeshurun or Israel. It also speaks of Moses in the 3rd person when it is supposed to be Moses speaking.

“Let Reuben live, and not die out,

Even though his numbers are few.”

Reuben was the first born. The Reubenites had already taken their land on the east side of the Jordan River. There is only this simple statement that his tribe might continue or live on, which means that it may have been dying out at the time of the kings. There is no mention of his brother Simeon, since this tribe may have already vanished by the time of the kings.

“This he said of Judah.

O Yahweh, give heed to Judah,

Bring him in to his people,

Strengthen his hands for him,

Be a help against his adversaries.”

Apparently Judah was going off on its own and needed the help of his brothers.

“Of Levi, he said.

Give to Levi your Thummim,

Your Urim to your loyal one,

Whom you tested at Massah,

With whom you contended at the waters of Meribah.

Who said of his father and mother

I regard them not.

He ignored his kin,

Did not acknowledge his children.

They observed your word,

Kept your covenant.

They teach Jacob your ordinances,

And Israel your law.

They place incense before you,

And whole burnt offering upon your altar.

Bless, O Yahweh, his substance,

Accept the work of his hands.

Crush the loins of his adversaries,

Of those that hate him,

So that they do not rise again.”

Levi gets a long blessing, since they are now the loyal priestly class. The Thummim and Urim were priestly items. The Levites were willing to ignore their families. However, Moses asks Yahweh to bless them. Remember that Deuteronomy may have been written by the priestly class of Levites. The tribe of Levi had risen to a higher status compared to the problems that Levi himself had in Genesis.

“Of Benjamin he said.

The beloved of Yahweh rests in safety.

The High God surrounds him all day long.

The beloved rests between his shoulders.”

Benjamin was the youngest, so that there is this simple statement about being loved and safe.

“Of Joseph he said.

Blessed by Yahweh be his land,

With the choicest gifts of heaven above,

And of the deep that lies beneath,

With the choice fruits of the sun,

And the rich yield of the months,

With the finest produce of the ancient mountains,

And the abundance of the everlasting hills,

With the choice gifts of the earth and its fullness,

And the favor of the one who dwells on Sinai.

Let these come on the head of Joseph,

And on the brow of the prince among his brothers.

A firstborn bull – majesty is his!

His horns are the horns of a wild ox.

With them he gores the peoples,

Driving them to the ends of the earth.

Such are the myriads of Ephraim.

Such are the thousands of Manasseh.”

This is a long section on Joseph, who has had received a special blessing to get the best of everything from the land, in the sky, and what lies beneath. He will conquer all, especially with the mention of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh who are the beneficiaries of this blessing.

“Of Zebulun he said.

Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out.

Issachar, in your tents,

They shall call peoples to their mountain.

There they offer the right sacrifices.

They suck the affluence of the seas

And the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Zebulun and Issachar are the two commercial tribes, one by land and other by sea.

“Of Gad he said.

Blessed be he the enlargement of Gad!

Gad lives like a lion.

He tears at the arm and the scalp.

He chose the best for himself,

For there a commander’s allotment was reserved.

He came at the head of the people.

He executed the justice of Yahweh,

And his ordinances for Israel.”

Gad got the best land on the east Jordan and was a great fighter and follower of the law.

“Of Dan he said.

Dan is a lion’s whelp.

That leaps forth from Bashan.”

There is not much about Dan. He seems to get very little land.

“Of Naphtali he said.

O Naphtali, sated with favor,

Full of the blessing of Yahweh,

Possess the west and the south.”

Naphtali was in the Sea of Galilee area.

“Of Asher he said.

Most blessed of sons be Asher.

May he be the favorite of his brothers,

May he dip his foot in oil.

Your bars are iron and bronze.

As your days, so is your strength.”

Asher is strong and prosperous.

“There is none like God,

O Jeshurun,

Who rides through the heavens to your help,

Majestic through the skies.

He subdues the ancient gods,

He shatters the forces of old.

He drove out the enemy before you,

And said, Destroy.

Israel lives in safety.

Untroubled is Jacob’s abode

In a land of grain and wine,

Where the heavens drop down dew.

Happy are you, O Israel!

Who is like you,

A people saved by Yahweh,

The shield of your help,

The sword of your triumph!

Your enemies shall come fawning to you.

You shall tread upon their backs.”

Yahweh is truly magnificent in his love for Israel and what he has done for them and what he will do for them.

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