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This chapter relates the blessings Moses pronounced upon the people of Israel a little before his death; first, in general, on account of their having a law given them in so glorious a manner, ( Deuteronomy 33:1-5); then, in particular, each of the tribes distinctly is blessed, Reuben, ( Deuteronomy 33:6); Judah, ( Deuteronomy 33:7); Levi, ( Deuteronomy 33:8-11); Benjamin, ( Deuteronomy 33:12); Joseph, ( Deuteronomy 33:13-17); Zebulun and Issachar, ( Deuteronomy 33:18,19); Gad, ( Deuteronomy 33:20,21); Dan, ( Deuteronomy 33:22); Naphtali, ( Deuteronomy 33:23); Asher, ( Deuteronomy 33:24,25); and the chapter is concluded with some strong intimations of what God was unto the people of Israel in general, and of what he had done and would do for them; all which are expressive of their great happiness, ( Deuteronomy 33:26-29).
Ver. 1 . And this is the blessing wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death .] Namely, what is related in the following verses, this being the general title to the chapter: Moses is called “the man of God”, being raised up of God, and eminently qualified by him with girls for the work he was called unto, and by whom he was inspired to say what is after expressed: it is a title given to prophets, ( 1 Samuel 9:6-8); and so Onkelos here paraphrases it, “Moses the prophet of the Lord,” and Aben Ezra observes, that this is said to show that he blessed Israel by a spirit of prophecy, and which he did a little before his death, when very near it; and, as the same writer says, on the very day of his death.
Ver. 2 . And he said , etc.] What follows, of which, in some things, he was an eye and ear witness, and in others was inspired by the Spirit of God, to deliver his mind and will concerning the future case and state of the several tribes, after he had observed the common benefit and blessing they all enjoyed, by having such a law given them in the manner it was: the Lord came from Sinai ; there he first appeared to Moses, and sent him to Egypt, and wrought miracles by him, and delivered his people Israel from thence, and when they were come to this mount he came down on it, as Aben Ezra, from Gaon, or he came “to” it; so to Zion, ( Isaiah 59:20), is “out of” or “from Zion”, ( Romans 11:26); here he appeared and gave the law, and from thence went with Israel through the wilderness, and conducted them to the land of Canaan: and rose up from Seir unto them : not to the Edomites which inhabited Seir, as say Jarchi, and the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, but to the Israelites when they compassed the land of Edom; and the Lord was with them, and gave them some signal proofs of his power and providence, kindness and goodness, to them; particularly, as some observe, by appointing a brazen serpent to be erected for the cure those bitten by fiery ones, which was a type of the glorious Redeemer and Saviour, and this was done on the borders of Edom, (see Numbers 21:4,8); for the words here denote some illustrious appearance of the Lord, like that of the rising sun; so the Targum of Onkelos, “the brightness of his glory from Seir was shown unto us;” and that of Jonathan, “and the brightness of the glory of his Shechinah went from Gebal:” he shined forth from Mount Paran : in which the metaphor of the sun rising is continued, and as expressive of its increasing light and splendour: near to this mount was a wilderness of the same name, through which the children of Israel travelled, and where the Lord appeared to them: here the cloud rested when they removed from Sinai; here, or near it, the Spirit of the Lord was given to the seventy elders, and from hence the spies were sent into the land of Canaan, ( Numbers 10:12 11:24 12:16 13:3); in this wilderness Ishmael and his posterity dwelt, ( Genesis 21:21); but it was not to them the Lord shone forth here, as say the above Jewish writers, and others f629 ; but to the Israelites, for here Moses repeated the law, or delivered to them what is contained in the book of Deuteronomy, (see Deuteronomy 1:1); beside, in a literal sense, as these mountains were very near one another, as Saadiah Gaon observes, the great light which shone on Mount Sinai, when the Lord descended on it, might extend to the other mountains and illuminate them, (see Habakkuk 3:3); and he came with ten thousands of saints : or holy angels, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, and so Jarchi; which sense is confirmed by the authorities of Stephen the protomartyr, and the Apostle Paul, who speak of the law as given by the disposition of angels, they being present, attending and assisting on that solemn occasion, ( Acts 7:57 Galatians 3:19 Hebrews 2:2); (see Psalm 68:17); the appearance of those holy spirits in such great numbers added to the grandeur and solemnity of the giving of the holy law to the people of Israel, as the attendance of the same on Christ at his second coming will add to the lustre and glory of it, ( Luke 9:26 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8); from his right hand [went] a fiery law for them : the Israelites; Aben Ezra thinks the phrase, “his right hand”, is in connection with the preceding clause; and the sense is, that fire came from the law, thousands of saints were at the right hand of God to surround Israel, as the horses of fire and chariots of fire surrounded Elisha; and the meaning of the last words, “a law for them”, a law which stands or abides continually; and so the Septuagint version is, “at his right hand angels with him:” no doubt that law is meant which came from God on Mount Sinai, by the ministration of angels, into the hand of Moses; called a fiery law, because it was given out of the midst of the fire, ( Deuteronomy 5:26); so the Targum of Onkelos, “the writing of his right hand out of the midst of fire, the law he gave unto us;” and because of its effects on the consciences of men, where it pierces and penetrates like fire, and works a sense of wrath and fiery indignation in them, by reason of the transgressions of it, it being the ministration of condemnation and death on that account; and, because of its use, it serves as a lantern to the feet, and a light to the path of good men: this law may include the judicial and ceremonial laws given at this time; but it chiefly respects the moral law, and which may be said to come from God, who, as Creator, has a right to be Governor of his creature, and to enact what laws he pleases, and from his right hand, in allusion to men’s writing with their right hand, this being written by the finger of God; and because a peculiar gift of his to the Israelites, gifts being given by the right hand of men; and may denote the authority and power with which this law came enforced, and Christ seems to be the person from whose right hand it came: (see Psalm 68:17,18 Acts 7:38).
Ver. 3 . Yea, he loved the people , etc.] The people of Israel, of which his giving the law to them in such a glorious manner was an instance, and was a distinguishing blessing which other nations were not favoured with, (see Deuteronomy 4:6,8 <19E719> Psalm 147:19,20 Romans 9:4); how much more is the love of God shown to his spiritual Israel and special people, by giving them his Gospel, the precious truths, promises, and ordinances of it, and, above all, in giving them his Son to be the Redeemer and Saviour of them, as revealed therein! these he embraces in his arms and in his bosom, as the word here signifies; admitting them to great nearness and familiarity with him, to commune with Father, Son, and Spirit, to a participation of all the blessings of grace here, and to the enjoyment of glory hereafter: all his saints [are] in thy hand ; not the sons of Levi, who were round about the ark, as Aben Ezra interprets it; rather all the people of Israel, who were chosen to be an holy people to the Lord above all people, and who were the care of his providence, protected by his power, and guided with his right hand; and were in a wonderful manner kept and preserved by him, both at the time of the giving of the law, and in their passage through the wilderness; it is eminently true of the chosen people of God, who are given to Christ, and made his care and charge, as all such who are sanctified and set apart by God the Father are, they are preserved in Christ, ( Jude 1:1); and these are sanctified in and by Christ, and by the Spirit of Christ, and so may be truly called his saints; and they are in the hands of Christ, as dear to him as his right hand, highly valued by him, held in his right hand; they are in his possession, are his peculiar people, portion, and inheritance, they are at his dispose, under his guidance and direction; and are in his custody and under his protection, and where they are safe from every enemy, and can never be snatched, taken, or removed from thence; (see John 10:28,29); here they are put by the Father, as an instance of his love to them, and care of them, though not without the consent and desire of the Son, and this was done in eternity, when they were chosen in him: and they sat down at thy feet ; which may respect the position of the Israelites at the bottom of Mount Sinai, while the law was giving, which may be said to be the feet of the Lord, he being on the top of the mount, (see Exodus 19:17,18 24:10); all the Targums interpret it of the feet of the cloud of glory, they pitching their tents where that rested, ( Numbers 9:17,18); some think it an allusion to scholars sitting at the feet of their masters to receive instructions from them, (see Acts 22:3); so the disciples and followers of Christ sit at his feet, attending on his word and ordinances with calmness and serenity of mind, with much spiritual pleasure and delight, and where they continue and abide; and which may denote their modesty and humility, their subjection to his ordinances, and readiness to receive his doctrines, and their perseverance in them, (see Mark 5:15 Luke 10:39 Song of Solomon 2:3); the word signifies, in the Arabic language, to sit down at a table f630 , and so the word is used in the Arabic version of ( Matthew 8:11 Luke 11:37); and the ancient manner being reclining, the guests might be said to sit at the feet of each, especially at the feet of the master; so Christ sits at his table, and his people with him at his feet, ( Song of Solomon 1:12); [everyone] shall receive of thy words ; of the words of the law, as the Israelites, who heard them and promised obedience to them, ( Exodus 24:7); and would hear and receive them again, ( Joshua 8:34,35); and so Christ’s disciples, everyone of them that hath heard and learned of the Father, and comes to him, and believes in him, receives the words or doctrines given him by the Father, ( John 17:8); so as to understand them, approve of them, love them, believe them, and act according to them; these they receive into their hearts as well as into their heads, with all readiness, gladness, and meekness; even everyone of the persons before described or loved by the Lord, are in the hands of Christ and sitting at his feet.
Ver. 4 . Moses commanded us a law , etc.] The law was of God, it came forth from his right hand, ( Deuteronomy 33:2); it is of his enacting, a declaration of his will, and has his authority stamped upon it, who is the lawgiver, and which lays under obligation to regard it; but it was delivered to Moses, and by him to the children of Israel, on whom he urged obedience to it; and so it is said to come by him, and sometimes is called the law of Moses, (see John 1:17 7:19,23 8:5); [even] the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob ; which either describes the persons who were commanded to keep the law, the tribes of Jacob or congregation of Israel, who were the Lord’s people, portion, and inheritance, ( Deuteronomy 32:9); or the law commanded, which was to be valued, not only as a peculiar treasure, but to be considered a possession, an estate, an inheritance, to be continued among them, and to be transmitted to their posterity, (see <19B9111>Psalm 119:111); these are the words of the people of Israel, and therefore are thus prefaced in the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, “the children of Israel said, Moses commanded, etc.” they were represented by Moses.
Ver. 5 . And he was king in Jeshurun , etc.] That is, in Israel, or over the people of Israel, of which name of theirs, (see Gill on “ Deuteronomy 32:15”); either God, as Jarchi; for the government of the Israelites was a theocracy, and their laws were immediately from God, and by him they were guided and directed in all things; wherefore, when they were so importunate for a change in their government, and to have a king over them, they are said to reject the Lord, that he should not reign over them, ( 1 Samuel 8:7); or Moses, as Aben Ezra on the place, Maimonides f631 , and others f632 ; who, under God, had the civil government of the Hebrews; both may be received, God was the supreme Governor, and Moses the chief magistrate under him: when the heads of Israel [and] the tribes of the people were gathered together ; at Mount Sinai, to hear the law there and then given, or to hear it repeated by Moses, as in this book of Deuteronomy, who were at different times convened together for that purpose, (see Deuteronomy 1:1 5:1); next follow the particular blessings of the several tribes, beginning with Reuben the firstborn.
Ver. 6 . Let Reuben live, and not die , etc.] As a tribe, continue and not be extinct, though they should not excel, because of the sin of their progenitor; and it may have a special regard to the preservation of them, of their families on the other side Jordan, while they passed over it with their brethren into Canaan, and of them in that expedition to help the other tribes in the conquest of the country and the settlement of them in it; which Jacob by a spirit of prophecy foresaw, and in a prayer of faith petitioned for their safety: all the three Targums refer the words to a future state, as a wish for them, that they might live and enjoy an eternal life, and not die the death of the wicked in the world to come; and which they call the second death, and from whom the Apostle John seems to have borrowed the phrase, ( Revelation 2:11) ( Revelation 20:6 21:8); Reuben signifies, “see the Son”; and all that see the Son of God in a spiritual manner, and believe in him with a true faith, as they live spiritually now, shall live eternally hereafter, and never die the second or eternal death; on them that shall have no power, (see John 6:40); and let [not] his men be few ; or, “though his men be few?” as Bishop Patrick chooses to render the words, and as they will bear, w , “vau”, being sometimes so used, of which Noldius gives instances; and the number of men in this tribe were but few in comparison of some others; and so those that see the Son of God and believe in him are but a small number; for all men have not faith. ( 2 Thessalonians 3:2) Ver. 7 . And this [is the blessing] of Judah , etc.] Which follows; the same supplement of the words is made in the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; but Aben Ezra thinks it refers to what goes before, that this, the same thing prayed for or prophesied of Reuben, belongs also to Judah, that he should live and not die; it may be in the wars in which that tribe would be and was engaged: and he said, hear, Lord, the voice of Judah ; in prayer, as all the Targums paraphrase it, which was eminently fulfilled in David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and other kings, which were of this tribe; who, when in distress, lifted up their voice in prayer to God, and were heard and delivered, as the Lord’s people in all ages are: Judah signifies professing, confessing, praising, etc. this tribe was both a praying and praising people, as all good men be; they profess the name of the Lord, and their faith in him; they confess their sins and unworthiness; they praise the Lord for his mercies, temporal and spiritual, and pray to him for what they want; and their voice is heard with pleasure, and answered: particularly Judah was a type of Christ, who was of this tribe, and whose voice in prayer for his people has been always heard: and bring him unto his people ; in peace, often engaged war, so all the Targums: and as it may refer to Christ his antitype, it may respect his incarnation, when he came to his own and was not received by them; and to his resurrection from the dead, when he appeared to his disciples, to their great joy; and to the ministry of the Gospel among the Gentiles, when to him was the gathering of the people; and will be further accomplished at the last day, when he shall return and appear to them that look for him, a second time, without sin unto salvation: let his hands be sufficient for him ; both to work with, and provide for themselves all the necessaries of life, and to fight with their enemies, and defend themselves against them; so Christ’s hands have been sufficient, or he has had a sufficiency of power and strength in his hands, to combat with and overcome all his and our enemies, to work out the salvation of his people, and to supply all their wants: and be thou an help [to him] from his enemies : which this tribe often experienced in their wars with their enemies, being very warlike and courageous, successful and victorious, both before they had kings and in the several kings of their tribe, as David, Jehoshaphat, and others; and was remarkably fulfilled in Christ, whose helper the Lord was as man and Mediator, (see Isaiah 1:7-9 49:1-26); no mention is made of Simeon, because of the affair of Baalpeor, in which that tribe had a great concern, ( Numbers 25:1-18); as Aben Ezra observes; or because, according to Jacob’s prophecy, it was to be scattered in Israel; though the same is also said of Levi, who yet is here blessed; rather therefore the reason is, because Simeon had his inheritance in the midst of the tribe of Judah, and so was blessed in it, (see Joshua 19:1); thus the Targum of Jonathan expresses it here, “and he joined in his portion and in his blessing, Simeon his brother;” some copies of the Septuagint version, as that in the king of Spain’s Bible, make mention of him at the end of Reuben’s blessing, “and let Simeon be much in number.”
Ver. 8 . And of Levi he said , etc.] That is, Moses said of the tribe of Levi, as both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem: [let] thy Thummim and thy Urim [be] with thy Holy One ; with Aaron, as the same Targums interpret it, who was of the tribe of Levi, and was a holy good man, a saint of the Lord, as he is called, ( <19A616> Psalm 106:16); of the Urim and Thummim, which were with him and with every high priest, (see Gill on “ Exodus 28:30”); and though they were not in use under the second temple, yet had their fulfilment in Christ the antitype of Aaron, who may be chiefly here intended; who is after called the Lord’s Holy One, as he is, both as God and man, holy in both his natures, divine and human, and in his life and actions; and with him are the true Urim and Thummim, lights and perfections, the light of nature, grace and glory, and all perfections, both divine and human; (see Gill on “ Exodus 28:30”) f634 : whom thou didst prove at Massah, [and with] whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah ; which, as it may respect Aaron, may be understood either of the Lord’s proving him and contending with him, by suffering the children of Israel to murmur against him and Moses, at the said places; when, according to the three Targums, he stood in the temptation, and was perfect and found faithful; or of Levi, who, with the rest of the tribes, tried him, and strove with him at the same places; though Jarchi says they did not murmur with the rest that murmured: as it may refer to Christ the antitype of Levi, the sense is, that the Urim and Thummim should be with the Holy One, the Messiah, whom thou, O Levi, with the rest of the tribes, tempted and strove with at the places mentioned; for it is expressly said, they tempted the Lord, ( Exodus 17:7); and which is interpreted of Christ, ( 1 Corinthians 10:9).
Ver. 9 . Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him , etc.] Which some understand of the high priests who were of this tribe, and according to the law were not to defile themselves, or mourn for a father or mother, ( Leviticus 21:11); or rather, as others, of their having no respect to them in judgment, but determining all causes that came before them according to the law of God, and the rules of justice and equity, in the most impartial manner, without having any regard to the nearest relations to them: with this compare what Christ the antitype of Levi says, in ( Matthew 12:49,50); neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children ; had no respect to persons in judgment, though ever so nearly related: many restrain this to the affair of the golden calf, when the tribe of Levi gathered together, girded their swords on their thighs, and slew every man his brother, companion, and neighbour, guilty of that idolatry, ( Exodus 32:26,27); for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant ; the law of God, spoken by him, and had the nature of a covenant with the people of Israel: this the tribe of Levi observed, not only what respects the worship of God, and the contrary to it, idolatry, but all other moral and religious duties; Christ fulfilled the whole law, and did always and all things what pleased the Lord, ( John 8:29).
Ver. 10 . They shall teach Jacob thy statutes, and Israel thy law , etc.] The priests and Levites, being dispersed among each of the tribes, having cities in them allotted to them, taught the people the laws, statutes, and ordinances of the Lord, moral, civil, and ceremonial, (see Malachi 2:6,7); they shall put incense before thee ; upon the altar of incense, which none but a priest might do, as the case of Uzziah shows; and which, the Jews say f635 , he might do but once: the same priest might not offer incense twice; a new priest was always employed: in this they, were typical of Christ, the only Intercessor who is always at the golden altar, to offer up the prayers of all saints with his much incense, ( Revelation 8:3,4); and whole burnt offerings upon thine altar ; the altar of burnt offering, typical of Christ, who is both altar, sacrifice, and priest.
Ver. 11 . Bless, Lord, his substance , etc.] Which lay in tithes, firstfruits, etc. for the priests and Levites had no share in the division of the land; unless this can be understood of the cities and suburbs which were given them, or of houses and fields devoted, which fell unto them, or rather of their cattle, for the use of which they had suburbs appointed them; for otherwise in husbandry and merchandise they were not employed: some render it “an host” or army f636 , their service being a militia, or warfare, ( Numbers 4:3); Jarchi refers this to the Hasmonaeans or Maccabees, which were of this tribe; and accept the work of his hands ; in offering incense and sacrifices, and all other administrations of the office of priests and Levites; thus the righteousness and sacrifice of Christ are of a sweet smelling savour, and very acceptable to God; and all the spiritual sacrifices of the saints who are priests unto God, as of prayer and praise, are acceptable to him through Jesus Christ: smite through the loins of them that rise against him ; such as were the companies of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and in all ages faithful ministers of the word meet with many enemies, whom they would not be, able to withstand were not the Lord to appear for them, and protect them from them, and smite them thoroughly: and of them that hate them, that they rise not again ; destroying them with an utter destruction, so that they are not able to make any other efforts upon them; for such who are enemies to the priests of the Lord are enemies to him, and to true religion, enemies to God and Christ, to the law and to the Gospel, to the word of God and to the ordinances of it, and therefore to be severely handled and thoroughly punished: Christ’s enemies shall all be subdued under him; (see <19B001> Psalm 110:1,5,6).
Ver. 12 . [And] of Benjamin he said , etc.] The tribe of Benjamin, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; which is taken notice of next to Levi, because, as the priesthood was in the tribe of Levi, the temple in which the priests officiated was in the tribe of Benjamin, or near it; and is observed next but one to Judah, and before his elder brother Joseph, because his tribe lay between Judah and Joseph, ( Joshua 18:11); and Levi having no inheritance in the land: the beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him ; this is commonly understood of the tribe of Benjamin, beloved by the Lord, as the head of the tribe was by his father Jacob; the first king of Israel being of that tribe, and the temple built in it, or on the edge of it, and its land the most fat and fertile of the land of Canaan, as Josephus observes; and may be said to “dwell by him”, the Lord, because the tabernacle of the Lord was so near that tribe, and so to dwell “in safety” under his protection, and which was the means of preserving it from apostasy, when ten tribes revolted: though the Messiah may be intended, the Son of God, and man of God’s right hand, the antitype of Benjamin, the beloved of the Lord, and dear son of his love; his Benjamin, who is now in human nature exalted at his right hand: and this may denote his inhabitation in the flesh, and dwelling by or near Benjamin, being born at Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah, bordering on Benjamin, and frequently had his abode in Jerusalem, which was in the tribe of Benjamin, ( Joshua 18:28); and where he was in safety amidst his enemies, they not having power to lay hold on him until his hour was come: [and the Lord] shall cover him all the day long ; for ever, as Jarchi notes, because that, after Jerusalem was chosen, the divine Majesty dwelt in no other place: this may be understood either of the Messiah covering Benjamin and protecting him, as he is the covert of all his Benjamites and beloved ones, from all their enemies, from all evils and dangers, from all storms and tempests, and everything troublesome and distressing, (see Isaiah 32:2); or the Lord’s covering his beloved One the Messiah; as he did in his infancy, from the designs of Herod upon his life, and from the attempts of others before his time was come; he hid him in the shadow of his hand, ( Isaiah 49:2); and he shall dwell between his shoulders ; either the Lord shall dwell between the shoulders of Benjamin; the temple in which the Lord dwelt was built on Mount Moriah, in the tribe of Benjamin, in the highest part of his land, as Jarchi notes; the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase the words, “in his border the Shechinah (or the glory of the Shechinah of the Lord) shall dwell,” for if the temple was not within the tribe of Benjamin, yet it was certainly on the borders of it: or Benjamin shall dwell between the shoulders of the Lord, being bore up and supported by him: Christ dwells in the hearts of his people, and over them as an head, and they dwell upon his shoulders, on which the care and government of them lies, ( Isaiah 9:6); in the Talmud this passage is applied to the days of the Messiah.
Ver. 13 . And of Joseph he said , etc.] The tribe of Joseph, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem: blessed of the Lord [be] his land ; as the lands inherited by his sons were extremely fruitful, the countries of lead and Bashan by Manasseh, and the fields of Samaria by Ephraim: Jarchi says, “there was not in the inheritance of the tribes a land so full of all good things as the land of Joseph;” typical of the church of Christ, the antitypical Joseph, which abounds with all good things through him, or of the better country in heaven: for the precious things of heaven ; that is, the pleasant, precious, and excellent fruits, reproduced by the influence of the heavens, particularly showers of rain which descend from thence; emblems of the grace of God, and Gospel of Christ, which bring spiritual blessings to the sons of men on earth, and make them fruitful in every good word and work: for the dew; which descends also from heaven, and is of unspeakable use to the fruits of the earth, and is sometimes used as an emblem of the favour and goodness of God to his people, ( Hosea 14:5); and for the deep that coucheth beneath ; that is, beneath the earth, and breaks out upon it, and waters it, and makes it fruitful, which happiness the land of Joseph had, as well as the rain and dew of heaven: this is to be understood of springs and fountains that flow out of the earth to the enriching of it; and so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase the words, and may be applied to Christ and to his Gospel, ( Song of Solomon 4:15 Isaiah 12:3 Joel 3:18).
Ver. 14 . And for the precious fruits [brought forth] by the sun , etc.] Which has a wonderful influence upon many and most of the fruits of the earth, to produce them out of their seeds in it, to bring them forward, to ripen and perfect them, and to make them rich and excellent. Jarchi says, “the land of Joseph lay open to the sun, and it sweetened the fruits of it;” it improved them, and made them more valuable; and this is spiritually true of Christ the sun of righteousness, to whose influence are owing the blessings of grace, redemption, peace, pardon, and justification, and the graces of the Spirit, faith, hope, and love, and by what believers are filled with, the fruits of righteousness, (see Malachi 4:2 Philippians 1:11); and for the precious things put forth by the moon ; the fruits which the moon helps forward by its coolness and moisture; and those the above Jewish writer says are cucumbers and gourds; and as various creatures are affected by the moon, it is observed by a naturalist f639 , that onions, when the moon waxes old, increase, and flag when it is young; and Pliny says f640 , that at the increase of the moon all sort of corn grows bigger and larger; but a late learned writer remarks, that though upon the pressure of the moon on the globe many things depend, as the ebbing and flowing of the sea, epileptic and convulsive paroxysms, yet it does not appear that this pressure exerts its power on plants, so as to thrust them forth, and therefore thinks this respects the ejection or protrusion of monthly fruits; for the word here used is in the plural number, and signifies “months”; and so Onkelos paraphrases the words, “it produces precious fruits at the beginning of every month;” or ripe fruit at the beginning of every month, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; for the spiritual meaning, (see Revelation 22:2).
Ver. 15 . And for the chief things of the ancient mountains , etc.] Which were from the beginning of the world, and for which the land, possessed by the children of Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim, were famous; as the mountains of Gilead and Bashan, inherited by the former, and Mount Ephraim, and the mountains of Samaria, by the latter; which produced, besides great quantities of grass and corn, also vines, figs, olives, etc. and for the precious things of the lasting hills ; which will endure as long as the world, the same as before in other words; and which precious things may be emblems of the spiritual blessings of grace, provided in an everlasting covenant, and given to Christ for his people before the world began, or any mountains and hills were formed, and which are as lasting and as immovable as they are; (see Proverbs 8:22-31), ( Isaiah 54:10 2 Timothy 1:9 Ephesians 1:3).
Ver. 16 . And for the precious things of the earth, and fulness thereof , etc.] Corn of all sorts produced out of the earth, and grass that grows out of it, and cattle that feed upon it; for all which some part of the land of Joseph, particularly Bashan, was famous; as for the oaks that grew on it, so for the pasturage of it, and the cattle it bred, ( Deuteronomy 32:14); (see Psalm 22:12); and [for] the good will of him that dwelt in the bush ; the angel of the Lord, the Word and Son of God, who appeared to Moses in the bush, and made himself known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and expressed his good will to Israel, by sending Moses to deliver them out of their bondage: and the favour and good will of the same divine Person is here wished for, and which has appeared in his assumption of human nature, obedience, sufferings, and death, ( Luke 2:14). The bush was an emblem of Israel, and the state they were then in, and of the church of Christ; of which (see Gill on “ Exodus 3:2”); and where Christ may be said to dwell, as he did among men, when he was made flesh, and does dwell in the midst of his churches, and in the hearts of his people by faith: let [the blessing] come upon the head of Joseph ; that is, in all things, as Onkelos; or all these blessings, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; all before mentioned, let them come openly and visibly, and in great plenty, upon the posterity of Joseph, who was a type of Christ, the head of the righteous, on whom all the blessings of grace are, and from whom they descend to all his spiritual offspring, ( Proverbs 10:6 Ephesians 1:3); and upon the top of the head of him [that was] separated from his brethren ; when he was sold by them into Egypt; the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem are, “and was shining in the glory of his brethren;” that is, when he was a ruler in Egypt, and had honour from his brethren there, and was beautiful and glorious among them, as a Nazarite, as the word here used signifies, (see Lamentations 4:7); and may he applied to Christ, who was chosen from among the people, and separated from sinners, and called a Nazarene, ( Psalm 89:19 Hebrews 7:26 Matthew 1:23).
Ver. 17 . His glory [is like] the firstling of his bullock , etc.] Such as were in Bashan, a country possessed by the posterity of Joseph, (see Psalm 22:12 Amos 4:1); and so might be called “his” bullock, or a young bull, was reckoned both comely and majestic; so Menis or Mnevis, king of Egypt, preferred a bull above all animals to be worshipped, because the most beautiful of all, as Aelianus relates; and Astarte, according to Sanchoniatho f643 , put a bull’s head upon her own, as a sign of royalty or kingly power. The Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem refer this to the birthright which belonged to Reuben, and was taken from him, and given to Joseph, (see 1 Chronicles 5:2). Some will have Joshua intended by the firstling of his bullock, so Jarchi; who was of the tribe of Ephraim, and so famous for his strength and courage, his warlike exploits and victories, and the glory, honour, and renown he obtained; and who was a type of Christ, the first and only begotten Son of God, the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person; this is applied to the Messiah in some ancient Jewish writings f644 : and his horns [are like] the horns of unicorns ; of the monoceros or rhinoceros; and as the strength of these creatures, as of others, lies in their horns, these are figures of the power and strength of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph; (see Numbers 23:22); with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth ; not to the ends of the world, as if the posterity of Joseph should carry their conquests and spread their dominion over all people to the ends of the world, as the Targum of Jonathan suggests; but to the ends of the land of Canaan, which was done by Joshua, when he smote the thirty one kings of that country. The word “push” is used in allusion to the horns of creatures, with which they push, drive away from them, or hurt and destroy those that annoy them: and they [are] the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they [are] the thousands of Manasseh ; though Manasseh was the eldest son of Joseph, fewer are ascribed to him than to Ephraim the younger, according to Jacob’s prediction, ( Genesis 48:19). This has been in a spiritual sense verified in Christ, the antitype of Joseph, the horn of salvation, who by his great strength has vanquished all his, and the enemies of his people, and even spoiled principalities and powers.
Ver. 18 . And of Zebulun he said , etc.] The tribe of Zebulun, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, with whom Issachar is joined, they being brethren, and of the same mother as well as father; though Zebulun the youngest is set before Issachar the older, as in Jacob’s blessing, ( Genesis 49:13,14); rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out ; in their going out to sea, to merchandise, to traffic in foreign parts, it being a maritime tribe, (see Genesis 49:13); and so are called upon to rejoice and be thankful for their safe preservation on the seas, and success in trade; and to this sense are the paraphrases of Jonathan and Jerusalem: though Onkelos interprets it of their going out to war against their enemies, and certain it is that they were also a warlike as well as a seafaring tribe; (see Judges 5:18); and Issachar, in thy tents ; being a tribe that stayed at home, and attended to husbandry, and dwelt in tents, to take care of and feed their cattle; in doing which they should be prosperous, and have occasion to rejoice, and be thankful to the Lord: though the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem carry it to a different sense, to their schools, in which they dwelt: this tribe being, as supposed, a learned tribe, studious, in the law; which is gathered from ( 1 Chronicles 12:32).
Ver. 19 . They shall call the people unto the mountain , etc.] To the mountain of the house of the sanctuary, as all the three Targums; to the temple built on a mountain, which Moses by a spirit of prophecy foresaw would be, to which the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar would not only come up themselves, though at the more distant parts of the land; but call and urge others, both Israelites and Gentiles, to do the same, partly by their example, and partly by persuasions and arguments; not the tribes of Israel that lay nearest them only, but the Heathens, the Tyrians and Sidonians, on whom they bordered, and the Gentiles in Galilee of the Gentiles, which were neighbours to them; a like instance see in ( Isaiah 2:2,3); and perhaps this may have respect to the times of Christ and his apostles, and to their being in those parts where the Gospel was preached, and many people were called, ( Matthew 4:13-16); there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness ; or true sacrifices, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, in opposition to illegitimate ones, which were not according to the law, that had blemishes and defects in them, and to such as were gotten by robbery, or in an unlawful way; and may signify all righteous actions and good works done in faith, and from right principles, though not to be depended upon for a justifying righteousness before God; and all spiritual sacrifices, especially the sacrifices of praise for all blessings, and particularly for the righteousness of Christ; and these are to be offered in the church of God, and upon the altar, which sanctifies every gift, and from whence they come up with acceptance to God: for they shall suck [of] the abundance of the sea ; get a great deal of riches by trading at sea, and therefore under great obligations to offer sacrifices to the Lord, by whom they were prospered: and [of] the treasure hid in the sand ; as gold and silver, pearls and corals, and the like, extracted from thence; or riches buried there through shipwrecks; or it may design the great wealth and riches they got by glass made of sand, taken out of the river Belus, which washed the coast of the tribe of Zebulun, as many historians relate f645 .
Ver. 20 . And of Gad he said , etc.] The tribe of Gad, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem: blessed [be] he that enlargeth Gad ; that is, the Lord, to whom the praise and glory were to be given, who had appointed to Gad a large inheritance on the other side Jordan, and had settled him in it, and which became larger by the conquest of the Hagarites, and others, ( 1 Chronicles 5:18-22); he dwelleth as a lion ; bold and courageous, secure, and without fear of any of his enemies, though near him, on his borders, as the Moabites and Ammonites were; of the same spirit and temper were the men of the tribe of Gad in the times of David, ( 1 Chronicles 12:8); and teareth the arm with the crown of the head , at once, just as a lion tears its prey; which figurative phrases are expressive of this tribe conquering and destroying strong and mighty men, signified by the “arm”, in which the strength of a man lies, and of kings and governors, pointed at by the “crown of the head”; as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; which was done in the times of Joshua, when with and under him they subdued and destroyed the kings and princes of the land of Canaan.
Ver. 21 . And he provided a first part for himself , etc.] That is, the portion of the land of Sihon and Og, as Jarchi rightly interprets it; which was the beginning or firstfruits of the subduing of the land that was promised; this he looked at, chose, and desired it as his inheritance, ( Numbers 32:1,2); because there, [in] a portion of the lawgiver, [was he] seated ; or in the portion and part of the inheritance of Israel was he placed by Moses the lawgiver, according to the will of God; or because there were in it palaces and towers of great personages, lawgivers, kings, and princes, well covered and strongly fortified; or here he was “hid”, or “protected”, i.e. their families, wives, and children, while they assisted their brethren in subduing Canaan: and he came with the heads of the people ; either “to” them, to Moses, Eleazar, and the seventy elders, and the heads of the tribes of Israel, to ask leave to have his part and portion on the other side Jordan, or “with” them, as we supply it; came with them over Jordan armed, to assist in the conquest and subduing of the land of Canaan: he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel ; that is, either he justly and truly fulfilled all his promises and engagements, on condition of which he was placed on the other side; or he, together with the rest of the Israelites, executed the righteous judgment of God upon the Canaanites, in the expulsion and destruction of them.
Ver. 22 . And of Dan he said , etc.] Of the tribe of Dan, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem: Dan [is] a lion’s whelp ; or like one for boldness, strength, and courage; and was verified in Samson, who was of this tribe; who, when a young lion roared against him, the Spirit of the Lord came on him, and he tore it to pieces, ( Judges 14:5,6); he shall leap from Bashan ; not Dan, for he was seated far from that country; but the sense is, he was like to a young lion for its strength, when it leaps from Bashan, as Aben Ezra rightly explains it. Bashan was a mountain in which lions haunted, and from whence they might be said to leap, as they do when they seize on their prey: it may have some respect to the leap of the Danites from the northwest part of the land of Israel, where they were settled, but was not sufficient for them, to the northeast of it, when they went against Leshem, and took it, and called it Dan; (see Joshua 19:47).
Ver. 23 . And of Naphtali he said , etc.] The tribe of Naphtali, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem: O Naphtali, satisfied with favour ; with the favour of men, which to have is a great blessing; and as he gave goodly words to others, he had the good word of others, ( Genesis 49:21); and with the favour of God, as the next clause shows; which is the greatest blessing of all, and is special and peculiar, free and sovereign, and the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; and to be full of this, and satisfied of an interest in it, is the highest of enjoyments; and nothing is of a more satisfying nature, it is a feast of itself; (see Psalm 63:3,5); and full with the blessing of the Lord ; as such must needs be who are full of and satisfied with the your, good will, and love of God; for they are filled with all spiritual blessings, with all the blessings of grace, which spring from his free favour, as pardon of sin, a justifying righteousness, adoption, sanctifying grace, a right and title to eternal life. This may have respect to the temporal happiness of this tribe, which had a remarkable share in the favour and good will of God, and in the blessings of his goodness. Strabo f646 , an Heathen writer, speaking of this part of the land of Judea, says it was a happy and fruitful country, bearing all manner of fruit; in this tribe was the fruitful country of Gennesaret, full of delightful gardens and fields, which lay along by a lake of that name, frequently mentioned in the New Testament; which country, Josephus says f647 , one may call the ambition of nature; and the Targum of Jonathan has it, “ye shall be full of the fruits of the valley of Gennesaret;” and particularly this country was favoured with the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ; (see Matthew 4:13-15 9:1 11:23); possess thou the west and the south ; not the west and south of the land of Israel; for, according to Josephus f648 , this tribe lay to the east and north of it, just the reverse; and it is plain from ( Joshua 19:34); that it had Asher on the west, and Zebulun on the south; wherefore some understand this of the commodities this tribe was supplied with, as through the tribe of Asher on the west, on which those trading cities Tyre and Sidon bordered; and through Zebulun on the south, which was near the sea, and was given to navigation and trade: though it should be observed that the word for “west” signifies the “sea” f649 ; and intends not the Mediterranean sea, which this tribe did not reach; but the sea of Tiberias and Gennesaret, as all the Targums explain it; and Bochart observes, that the portion of Naphtali reached from the south of the city of Dan to the sea of Tiberias; so that the south is observed with respect to Dan last mentioned, and the west or sea to the sea of Tiberias.
Ver. 24 . And of Asher he said , etc.] The tribe of Asher, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem: [let] Asher [be] blessed with children ; with large numbers, as it appears this tribe was, having in it 53,400 men of war, ( Numbers 26:47). It was esteemed a great blessing to have many children, ( <19C803> Psalm 128:3,4); or “above the children”; above or more than the rest of the children of Jacob; (see Luke 2:36,38); Jarchi observes, that he had seen, in a book called Siphri, that there was none in all the tribes blessed with children as Asher, but not known how: let him be acceptable to his brethren ; either for his excellent bread, and royal dainties, ( Genesis 49:20); or for the goodness of his olives and oil, and for the brass and iron found in this tribe, as follows; or, as some say, because of his children, his daughters being very beautiful: and let him dip his foot in oil ; have such plenty of it, that if he would he might dip or wash his feet in it; and it was usual not only to anoint the head, but the feet also, with oil, ( Luke 7:46).
Ver. 25 . Thy shoes [shall be] iron and brass , etc.] Either they should have such an abundance of these metals, that they could if they would have made their shoes of them; but that is not usual; though it is said of Empedocles the philosopher, that he wore shoes of brass, which was very singular; and some think that this tribe, because of the abundance of these metals, used to stick their shoes with iron and brass nails at the bottom of them, as country people, soldiers, and travellers in various nations do; but the true sense seems to be, that the land that fell to this tribe, and on which they trod, should yield much iron and brass; as in Carmel, a mountain on the borders of it, brass was taken, as says Hesychius; and Zidon is by Homer said to abound with brass, which belonged to this tribe; and Sarepta, another city in it, had its name from Prx , which signifies to melt, from the melting of these metals in it; (see Deuteronomy 8:9); though some Jewish writers take the sense to be, that the land of Asher was so strongly fortified as if it had been enclosed with walls of brass and iron, or the gates of its cities were shut up with bolts and bars of iron and brass, as Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech observe; so the Arabic: and as thy days, [so shall] thy strength [be] ; the same in old age as in youth; which is the sense of the Latin Vulgate version, and all the Targums: such were the vigour and strength of. Moses himself, ( Deuteronomy 34:7); and so may denote a renewal of youth, like that of eagles; and, in a spiritual sense, a revival of the graces of the Spirit of God, as to the exercise of them, and an increase of spiritual strength, so that the inward man is renewed day by day; and may also denote such a measure of strength given, as is proportioned to the events that daily befall, or to the services and sufferings men are called unto; (see 1 Corinthians 10:13 2 Corinthians 4:16 12:9,10).
Ver. 26 . [There is] none like unto the God of Jeshurun , etc.] Or Israel, as all the three Targums; for this is one of the names of the people of Israel; (see Gill on “ Deuteronomy 32:15”); and the Lord was their God in a special sense, having chosen, redeemed them, and made a covenant with them; and there is no God like him for the perfections of his nature, his purity and holiness, his goodness, wisdom, power, faithfulness, etc. and for the wonderful works of nature, providence, and grace, done by him; and for the blessings of goodness, temporal and spiritual, he bestows on men.
The tribes being particularly blessed, the whole body of the people are pronounced happy, and whose happiness is enlarged on in ( Deuteronomy 33:26-29); [who] rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky ; which he has the sovereign rule and disposal of, and can and does dispose of all the artillery therein, as illustrious proofs of his glory and excellency, and for the help of his people, and the destruction of their enemies; as when he sent forth hail, thunderings, and lightnings, upon the Egyptians, and frightened them; and cast down hailstones upon the Canaanites, and slew many of them; and when the stars in their course fought against Sisera; (see Psalm 68:4,33,34) ( Judges 5:20).
Ver. 27 . The eternal God [is thy] refuge , etc.] God is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting; the Ancient of days, before all things, and all time; which is, and was, and is to come: the same is true of Christ, who is the everlasting Father, or Father of eternity, the true God, and eternal life; as appears from his nature, having the whole fulness, all the perfections of deity in him; from his office, as Mediator, in which he was set up from everlasting; from his concern in eternal election, in the everlasting covenant, and in the creation of all things out of nothing: and he is the refuge of his people, the antitype of the cities of refuge, to whom sinners, under a sense of sin, flee for refuge; and where they are safe from avenging justice, the wrath of God, the condemnation of the law, everlasting ruin and destruction, or the second death; or their “mansion”, or “dwelling place” f654 ; which he has been in all generations, as Moses also says, ( Psalm 90:1,2). Such is Christ to his people, who dwelt secretly in him from everlasting, being chosen in him, and given to him; and openly in conversion, where they dwell as in a strong hold, safely, quietly, comfortably, and pleasantly: and underneath [are] the everlasting arms ; that is, of God, which are the support of his people, and their protection, safety, and security; such as the arms of his everlasting love, which encircle them, and compass them about as a shield; his everlasting covenant, which is immovable, and in which they ever remain; eternal redemption and salvation, wrought out by Christ, which secures them from destruction; and everlasting power, by which they are kept and preserved as in a garrison; and everlasting consolation, which flows from all this: and so the arms of Christ, or his almighty power, are under the world, to uphold it in being; and under his church, to support it, on whose shoulders the government of it is; and under particular believers, whom he carries in his arms, embraces in his bosom, bears them up under all their afflictions and temptations, trials and exercises; nor will he ever suffer them to drop out of his arms, or to be plucked from thence: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee ; the Canaanites out of the land of Canaan, to make room for Israel, which he was just about to do, and quickly did. In like manner Christ thrusts out Satan and the spiritual enemies of his people, whom to dispossess is a work of mighty power; and not only so, but gives orders to destroy them, and does destroy them, and makes his people more than conquerors over them: and shall say, destroy [them] ; the Canaanites: to do which the people of Israel had an order from the Lord, ( Deuteronomy 7:1,2).
Ver. 28 . Israel then shall dwell in safety alone , etc.] The Canaanites being thrust out of their land, and Israel put into the possession of it, should dwell in safety, or “confidently” f655 ; without fear of enemies, though surrounded with them on all hands; and though alone, a separate people, distinct from all others their neighbours round about them; (see Numbers 23:9). So the spiritual Israel dwell in the eternal God, their mansion, or dwelling place; in Christ, their rock; and in a strong city, the church, where they are in the utmost safety. God is all around them; Christ is their refuge, strong hold, and tower; the Holy Spirit in the midst of them is mighty; angels are their guardians, and the church their strong city, whose walls and bulwarks are salvation: here they dwell confidently and securely; though they have sometimes their fears, they have no just reason for them; and when faith is in exercise, are free from them, casting all their care on the Lord, and having confidence in him; where they are alone, not solitary; all the three divine Persons dwell with them, and also angels and saints their fellow citizens; but independent of others, having large provisions in Christ, in the covenant, and in the house of God; and are a separate and distinct people now, and will be to all eternity; (see Gill on “ Numbers 23:9”); the fountain of Jacob [shall be] upon a land of corn and wine ; that is, the Israelites that spring from Jacob, as streams of water from a fountain; (see Isaiah 48:1); these shall be or dwell upon the land of Canaan, a land abounding with corn and wine, and all good things, ( Deuteronomy 8:7-9); or “in” or “by the fountain of Jacob” f656 ; in a well watered land, there they should dwell. So the spiritual Israel of God dwell in and by Christ, the fountain of gardens, the well of living waters, of life and salvation, in whom all fulness of grace dwells for their supply: or “the eye of Jacob” f657 is or shall be on a land, etc. that is, the Israelites had their eye on the good land of Canaan, and would quickly not only be in sight, but in possession of it. Every true Israelite has a spiritual eye, which is the eve of faith, the evidence of things not seen, which looks to and upon that better country, the land afar off, heaven and eternal happiness, and expects and waits for the full, enjoyment of it: also his heavens shall drop down dew : the heavens over the land of Canaan should drop down dew upon it, and make it fruitful to bring forth corn and wine, which was Jacob’s blessing, ( Genesis 27:28). Thus the Lord in the heavens drops down the dew of grace, and the blessings of it, upon his people, which make them revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; and Christ’s heavenly ministers drop the dew of Gospel doctrine upon them, to the great refreshment of them, ( Deuteronomy 32:3) ( Hosea 14:5-7).
Ver. 29 . Happy [art] thou, O Israel , etc.] This is the conclusion of the blessing on Israel summed up in a few words; they having God to be their God, and having so many good things promised them, and in sight of them; being now got through, the wilderness, and on the borders of the land of Canaan; as all such must be happy, whose covenant God is the Lord; since they must be beloved of him, chosen by him, and blessed with all spiritual blessings; and in the faith, hope, and view of eternal happiness: who [is] like unto thee ? for an interest in the favour of God, for a share in the blessings of goodness, for a good God, a good land, and good laws; for wisdom and knowledge, for riches and honour, for holiness and happiness: O people saved by the Lord ; redeemed by him out of Egypt, preserved in the wilderness, saved from many dangers and enemies, and now brought near to the land of Canaan. The Targum of Jonathan is, “saved or redeemed in the name of the word of the Lord:” by whom the spiritual Israel of God are redeemed from all their sins, from the curses of the law, and out of the hand of all their enemies; and are and will be completely saved in soul and body, with an everlasting salvation: the shield of thy help ; that, is, the Lord, by whom they are saved; he is the shield that protects them; the shield of faith and of salvation, which faith lays hold on and makes use of for its defence, and who is the help of his people in all times of trouble: and who is the sword of thy excellency ; to destroy their enemies, and whereby they would be raised to that excellency and glory they were in the land of Canaan; and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee ; who threatened what they would do unto them, but were not able: or “shall lie unto thee” f658 , be in such dread and fear as to tell lies to save themselves, and pretend to be what they were not, as the Gibeonites did, of whom Jarchi interprets this passage: and thou shall tread upon their, high places ; be possessed of their cities and fortresses, built on an eminence; (see Deuteronomy 32:13); all the three Targums, and so Jarchi, interpret it of treading on the necks of their kings, which was fulfilled, ( Joshua 10:24).