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Song of Solomon
Deuteronomy 33 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.
Moses the man of God.
This appellation is applied to Moses only here and in
and the heading of
. The phrase, "
," indicates one favored with Divine communications, and employed as God's messenger to men (cf.
1 Samuel 9:6
1 Kings 12:22
). In this heading, the author of the blessing is clearly distinguished from the person by whom it was inserted in this place.
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
a fiery law for them.
And he said.
Here begin the words of Moses. He commences by depicting the majesty of Jehovah as he appeared to Israel when he came to make the covenant with them and give them his Law.
The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them,
is the mountain land of Edom to the cast of Sinai.
is probably the range of lofty hills which form the southern boundary of the Promised Land to the north of the desert of Et-Tih. These places are not mentioned as scenes of different manifestations of the Divine glory, but as indicating the extent to which the one manifestation given at Sinai reached. The light of the Divine glory that rested on Sinai was reflected also from the mountains of Seir and Paran (cf.
He came with ten thousands of saints
he came from ten thousands of holy ones
out from myriads of holiness
. "from his celestial seat, where myriads of angels surround his throne" (Rosenmüller). The rendering "with," though that of the Targum, LXX., and Vulgate, cannot be retained; nor does Scripture represent God as attended by angels when he comes forth to manifest his glory to men. They are represented as surrounding his throne in heaven (
1 Kings 22:19
), as his servants awaiting his behest, and his host that do his pleasure (
Genesis 32:2, 3
); and God is represented as dwelling in the midst of them (
). Hence he is represented here as coming forth from among them to manifest himself to his people.
A fiery law
. There is a various reading here; instead of
, fire of law, many codices have
in one word, and this is supported by the Samaritan text and other authorities, and is accepted by most critics and interpreters. It is a fatal objection to the textual reading that
is not a Semitic word, but one of Persian origin, brought by the Jews from Babylonia, and found only in the post-exilian books (
Esther 1:8, 19
Esther 2:8, 12
Esther 3:8, 14
Esther 4:11, 15
Ezra 7:12, 21
Daniel 2:9, 13, 15
Daniel 6:5, 9, 13, 16
); and in them as applied to the Law of God only by heathens. It is, therefore, altogether improbable that this word should be found in any Hebrew writing anterior to the Captivity. Besides, what is the sense of
to mean "law?" The words cannot be rendered, as in the Authorized Version, by "fiery law;" they can only be rendered by "a fire, a law," or "a fire of law," and What either of these may mean it is not easy to see. The ancient versions vary here very considerably: LXX.,
ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι
fin dextera ejus ignea lex
; Targum of Onkelos, "Written by his right hand, from the midst of the fire, a law gave he to us;" Syriac, "With myriads of his saints at his right hand. He gave to them, and also caused all peoples to love them." The best Hebrew manuscripts have
as one word. The Masoretic note is, "The
one word, and the
two." The word
is best explained as a compound of
, fire, and
, an Aramaic word signifying to throw or dart; the Syriac , or the Hebrew
, having the same signification, so that the meaning is "fire-dartings:" from his right hand went rays of fire like arrows shot forth (cf.
. to the Israelites, to whom this manifestation was vouchsafed.
Yea, he loved the people; all his saints
in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet;
shall receive of thy words.
Yea, he loved the people.
The proper rendering is,
he loveth peoples
). This is generally understood of the tribes of Israel; but some would understand it of nations in general, on the ground that such is the proper meaning of the word, as in
and other places. A reference to nations at large, however, would seem incongruous here; and the use of the word in relation to Israel in such passages as
; Hoe. 10:14;
, justifies the taking it so here.
All his saints are in thy hand.
The people of Israel are here called God's saints, or holy ones, because they were chosen by and consecrated to him. It is not probable, as some suggest, that the angels are here intended. The change from the third person to the second is not uncommon in Hebrew poetry (cf.
They sat down at thy feet.
The verb rendered "sat down" here (
) is found only in this passage, and is of uncertain meaning. Kimchi explains it as "
assembled together to follow thy steps
;" Knobel makes it "they
wandered at thy feet
," and understands it of Israel's following the lead of Jehovah in the wilderness, when the ark of the covenant preceded them in their march; Gesenius and Furst, "they
lie down at thy feet
." This last is accepted by Keil, and seems to have most in its favor.
Every one shall receive of thy words.
Some render here,
they rise up at thy words
; but though the verb
is sometimes used intransitively, it is properly an active verb, and there seems no reason why it should not be so regarded here:
every one receives
, used distributively]
Moses commanded us a law,
the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.
- Moses here, identifying himself with the people, uses the third person, and includes himself among those to whom the Law was given; cf.
Psalm 20, 21
, where David not only speaks of himself in the third person, but addresses such prayers for himself as could only be offered by the people for their king (cf. also
Judges 5:12, 15
Even the inheritance of the congregation.
The "even," which the translators of the Authorized Version have inserted here, were better omitted; the words are in apposition to "law." The Law which Moses communicated to Israel was to remain with them as the inheritance f the congregation. The Bishops' Bible and the Geneva Version have, more correctly, "for an inheritance of the congregation."
And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people
the tribes of Israel were gathered together.
- Some refer this to Moses, but Moses was never recognized as king in Israel: he "was faithful in all his house as a servant" (
); but Jehovah alone was King (
Psalm 47:6, 7
). The gathering together refers to the assembling of the people at Sinai, when Jehovah came forth as their King to give them his Law.
Let Reuben live, and not die; and let
his men be few.
- Blessings on the tribes individually
. With these may be compared the blessing which Jacob pronounced on his sons as representing the tribes of which they were the heads. The two resemble each other in many points; the differences are such as naturally arose from the different relations of the speakers to the objects of their address, and the changes in the condition and prospects of the tribes which during the lapse of centuries had come to pass.
And let not his men be few.
The negative, though not expressed in the Hebrew, is to be carried into this clause from the preceding. Though the rights of primogeniture had been withdrawn from Reuben, and Jacob had declared that he should not excel, Moses here assures the tribe of continuance, and even prosperity. Their number was not to be small; which was, perhaps, said to comfort them, in view of the fact that their numbers had greatly diminished in the course of their wanderings in the desert (comp.
with Numbers 26:7). At no time, however, was this tribe numerous as compared with the others; nor was it ever distinguished either by the enterprise of its members or by the eminence of any of them in the councils of the nation or the management of affairs.
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
from his enemies.
- The blessing on Judah is in the form of prayer to Jehovah. As Jacobhad promised to Judah supremacy over his brethren and success in war, so Moses here names him next after Reuben, whose pre-eminence he had assumed, and prays for him that, going forth at the head of the tribes, he might return in triumph, being helped of the Lord.
Let his hands be sufficient for him
with his hands he contendeth for it
here is not the adj. much, enough, but the part. of the verb
, to contend, to strive; and
is the aeons, of instrument. The rendering in the Authorized Version is grammatically possible; but the meaning thereby brought out is not in keeping with the sentiment of the passage; for if Judah's hands,
. his own power and resources, were sufficient for him, what need had he of help from the Lord?
And of Levi he said,
thy Thummim and thy Urim
with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah,
whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah;
- The blessing on Levi is also in the form of a prayer. In Jacob's blessing, Simeon is joined with Levi, but Moses passes him over altogether, probably because, as Jacob foretold, he was to be scattered among his brethren (
), and so lose his tribal individuality. Simeon, however, is included in the general blessing pronounced on Israel; and as this tribe received a number of towns within the territory of Judah (
), it was probably regarded as included in the blessing on that tribe.
Thy Thummim and thy Urim
thy Right and thy Light
). The high priest wore the breast-plate on which these were placed when he went in before the Lord; and this is here represented as the prerogative of the whole tribe. Thy holy one;
. Levi, the tribe-father, representing the whole tribe to which the blessing applies; hence in the following verses the verb passes into the plural. For "holy one," it would be better to read "pious" or "godly one;" literally,
the man thy pious one
. Some would render "the man thy favored one," or "the man of thy friendship;" but this is wholly arbitrary, the word (
) has no such meaning. To explain this more particularly, reference is made to the trials at
and the waters of Meribah
(strife), when the people rebelled and murmured against Moses and Aaron, whereby the piety of these men was put to the test, and in them, the heads of the tribe of Levi, the whole tribe was proved. (On Massah, see
; and on the waters of strife, see
.) In these trials, Levi had proved himself faithful and godly, having risen up in defense of the honor of Jehovah, and in support of his covenant, though in the latter case both Moses and Aaron stumbled.
Who said unto his father and to his mother
, etc. This refers to what is narrated in
, when the Levites drew their swords against their brethren at the command of Moses, to execute judgment without respect of person, because of the sin of the people in the matter of the golden calf (cf. also
, and, for the principle here implicitly commended, see
). Because of their zealous devotion to the claims and service of the Lord, the dignity of the priesthood had been conferred on this tribe; and to them belonged the high office of being instructors of the people in Divine things, and of presenting the sacrifices of the people to the Lord. For those entrusted with such an office, nothing was more to be desired than that they should be blessed with power rightly to discharge the duties of their office, that their service should be accepted with favor, and that their enemies and haters should be foiled and rendered impotent; and for this Moses prays on their behalf.
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.
They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar.
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.
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.
- Benjamin, the beloved of his father, is also the beloved of the Lord, and would be cared for and protected by him.
Shall dwell in safety by him
shall dwell securely upon him
. resting on him.
Shall cover him.
The word rendered "cover" (
) occurs only here; construed with
, upon, it conveys the idea of sheltering: he continually is sheltering him.
And he shall dwell between his shoulders.
"To be between the shoulders" is to be carried on the back (cf.
1 Samuel 17:6
); and as a father might thus bear his child, so should Benjamin be borne of the Lord. There can be no doubt that Benjamin is the subject of this clause; to understand it of Jehovah dwelling on the shoulders of Benjamin, in the sense of having the temple, the place of his rest, within the territory of Benjamin, is too violent and far-fetched an interpretation to be admitted. In the change of subject in the three clauses of this verse, there is nothing strange, since such a change repeatedly occurs, and is found even in prose, as
2 Samuel 11:13
. "To dwell upon God, and between his shoulders, means as much as to lean upon him; the similitude being taken from fathers who carry their sons while yet small and tender" (Calvin).
And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD
his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,
- The blessing on Joseph by Moses closely resembles that pronounced by Jacob on his favorite son; he solicits for him the utmost abundance of temporal blessing, and the riches of the Divine favor. There is this difference, however, between the two blessings, that in that of the patriarch it is the growth of the tribe in power and might that is chiefly contemplated; whilst in that of Moses it is the advance of the tribe in wealth, prosperity, and influence that is chiefly indicated. "Jacob described the growth of Joseph under the figure of a luxuriant branch of a fruit tree planted by the water; whilst Moses fixes his eye primarily upon the land of Joseph, and desires for him the richest productions" (Keil).
For the precious things of heaven, for the dew
. Several codices, for
, above - "the precious things of heaven above;" and this reading, some critics of eminence adopt. Probably, however, this is only a correction, to bring this passage into accordance with
. The Targums and the Peshito combine both readings. Instead of "
the precious things," it is better to read "with," etc., and so throughout vers. 13-16. Literally, it is
expressing the instrumental cause of the blessing, of which the Lord is the efficient cause. The noun
, occurs only here and in
Song of Solomon 4:13, 16
and Cant 7:13, where it is rendered by "pleasant." The precious fruit of the heavens is the dew, which, with the waters stored up in the recesses of the earth, furthers the growth of the earth's produce, ripened by the influences of sun and moon.
And for the chief things of the ancient mountains
and from the head of the mountains of old
. The precious things of the mountains and hills are the vines and olive trees with which the lower slopes are adorned, and the forests that crown the loftier.
The good will of him that dwelt in the bush.
The reference is to the appearance of Jehovah to Moses in the bush at Horeb (
.), when he manifested himself as the Deliverer of Israel, whose good pleasure it was that they should be redeemed from bondage and favored with blessing.
That was separated from his brethren
; separated in the sense of
, to consecrate), from among his brethren.
His glory is like the firstling of his bullock
the firstborn of his oxen
majesty is to him
. The singular,
, is here used collectively, as in
. The oxen are Joseph's sons, all of whom were strong, but the firstborn excelled the rest, and was endowed with majesty. It is Ephraim that is referred to, whom Jacob raised to the position of the firstborn (
His horns are like the horns of unicorns
and horns of a ream are his horns
. The ream is supposed to be the aurochs, an animal of the bovine species, allied to the buffalo, now extinct, but which the Assyrian bas-reliefs show to have been formerly hunted in that region (cf.
; Rawlinson 'Anc. Men.,' 1:284). By his strong power, Ephraim should thrust down nations, even the most distant.
And they are the ten thousands of Ephraim
and these are
such might will the myriads of Ephraim come forth. To Ephraim, as the chief, the myriads are assigned; to Manasseh only the thousands.
And for the precious fruits
by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon,
And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills,
And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and
the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let
come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him
separated from his brethren.
the firstling of his bullock, and his horns
the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they
the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they
the thousands of Manasseh.
And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.
Verses 18, 19.
- Zebulun and Issachar, the two last sons of Leah, are taken together by Moses; and Zebulun, though the younger son, is placed first, in accordance with
. Success in enterprise, and felicity at home, are assured to both. "Although 'going out' (enterprise, labor) is attributed to Zebulun, and 'remaining in tents' (the comfortable enjoyment of life) to Issachar, in accordance with the delineation of their respective characters in the blessing of Jacob, this is to be attributed to the poetic parallelism of the clauses, and the whole is to be understood as applying to both in the sense suggested by Graf, 'Rejoice, Zebulun and Issachar, in your labor and your rest'" (Keil).
They shall call the people unto the mountain;
they shall call nations to the mountain
. the mountain of the Lord's inheritance (
), the place of his sanctuary.
Sacrifices of righteousness
. sacrifices offered according to God's Law, and in a manner and a spirit well pleasing to him (
They shall suck of the abundance of the seas
, etc. The treasures of both sea and land should be theirs. The Targumist Jonathan Ben Uzziel explains this as referring especially to the obtaining of the rich purple dye from the shell of the oyster (
), and the producing of mirrors and glass vases from the sand. The existence of vitreous sand on the coast of Zebulun is attested both by Strabo (lib. 16. p. 757) and Pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' lib. 36. c. 286).
They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck
the abundance of the seas, and
treasures hid in the sand.
And of Gad he said, Blessed
he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head.
Verses 20, 21.
- As in the blessing of Shem by Noah, God is praised for Shem's prosperity (
), so here God is praised for the enlargement of the warlike tribe of Gad (cf.
He dwelleth as a lion
as a lioness
. Though the noun
has a masc. termination, usage shows that it was the female and not the male that was thereby designated (see
, where it can hardly, be a mere synonym; and
, where the reference to the young of the animal accords better with the lioness than with the lion, Gesenius).
And he provided the first part for himself, because there,
a portion of the lawgiver,
seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.
refers to Gad's obtaining an inheritance for himself from Moses beyond Jordan.
And he provided the first part for himself
and he saw for himself
. either the most excellent part or the firstfruits of the conquest.
Because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated
for there the portion of the leader was reserved
. The word rendered t, lawgiver," or "leader" (
), signifies primarily one who ordains or appoints, and is used in both the above senses (cf.
); it is here applied to Gad, because that tribe displayed such promptitude and energy at the head of the tribes in the conquest of the land, that it might be regarded as their leader. An entirely different view of the passage has been taken by some, who by the
understand Moses as the lawgiver, and his portion as the place of his grave, which was concealed, but was within the inheritance of Gad. But it is a fatal objection to this view that not only is the word rendered "portion" (
) nowhere used of a grave, but the grave of Moses on Mount Nebo was in the territory of Reuben, not in that of Gad. Gesenius renders, "The portion of (assigned by) the lawgiver was preserved." But this does not tally with the immediately preceding statement, that Gad
his portion for himself; at any rate, it could not be
of this that he chose it. Gad chose for himself a portion on the east of Jordan, and the portion he had chosen was sacredly kept for him, though he went with his brethren to the conquest of Canaan.
And he came with the heads of the people
. his place of marching was with the leaders; his place was at the head of the tribes (cf.
Numbers 32:17, 21, 32
He executed the justice of the Lord
. he did what God required of him, obeying his commands, and thereby fulfilling all righteousness (cf.
; in the fellowship of Israel.
And of Dan he said, Dan
a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan.
- Jacob compared Dan to a serpent that suddenly springs forth by the way, and bites the heels of a horse so that the rider falls backward. Moses here compares the tribe to a young lion that suddenly leaps from its lair in Bashan on the object of its attack. Both similitudes relate to the vigor and force which the tribe should display in conflict.
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.
- In Jacob's blessing, Naphtali appears invested with the attributes of freedom, gracefulness, and graciousness; here Moses assures that tribe of the Divine grace and blessing, and promises to it prosperity and felicity.
Possess thou the west and the south.
The word rendered "west" here (
) properly means sea, and came to signify "west" from the fact of the Mediterranean, or Great Sea, lying to the west of Palestine. The proper meaning of the word is to be retained here. As the territory of Naphtali lay in the north of Canaan, and was far from the sea, the blessing here pronounced upon him must be understood generally of prosperity and felicity. He was to possess riches as of the sea, and genial and fructifying warmth as of the south.
And of Asher he said,
blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil.
Verses 24, 25.
- Asher, the prosperous one, as his name implies, was to be rich, and honored, and strong, and peaceful.
with children; rather,
blessed among the sons
. either blessed more than the rest of the sons, or blessed by the sons who were to reap benefit from him. From what follows, the latter explanation seems the one
be preferred. The preposition
is constantly used as indicating the source whence anything proceeds, or the agent by whom anything is done
. Let him be acceptable to his brethren
; "iis e tetras suae proventibus res optimas suppeditaturus; cf.
tribe should find itself in so advantageous and luxurious a condition that the ether tribes should have delight and pleasure in it" (Knobel). Others render, "favored among his brethren;" favored, that is, by the Lord more than his brethren (Keil). But the former seems preferable.
And let him dip his foot in oil.
This points to a land abounding in olives, and generally richly fertile, a fat land and yielding rich dainties, such as Jacob promised to Asher (
Thy shoes shall be iron and brass
. The word rendered "shoes" (
) occurs only here. It is a derivative from
, to bolt or shut fast, and is to be taken in the sense of a fastness or fortress, a place securely closed:
iron and brass shall be thy fortress
. his dwelling should be strong and impregnable. The rendering" shoes" is from a supposed derivation of the word from
, a shoe.
As thy days, so shall thy strength be
; literally, as
. as long as thou livest, so long shalt thou have rest and quiet. The noun rendered "strength" (
) in the Authorized Version. occurs only here, unless it be found in the proper name
), and has no Cognate in Hebrew; but the Arabic supplies a root for it in (
), to rest. Furst connects it with
, and the Targum with
, to flow, and translates by "riches."
iron and brass; and as thy days,
none like unto the God of Jeshurun,
rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.
- As Moses commenced by celebrating the glorious majesty of Jehovah when he appeared to establish his covenant with Israel, so he concludes with a reference to God as the eternal Refuge and the saving Help of his people.
There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.
The points and accents direct that this should be read,
There is none like God
; and though all the ancient versions read as does the Authorized Version, the Masoretic punctuation is vindicated here by the following thy help, which shows that Israel is here addressed.
The eternal God
refuge, and underneath
the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy
- God is the Refuge
Dwelling-place of his people, their Protection amid the storms of life, and the unfailing Source of comfort and blessing to them in their pilgrimage state. Over them is his sheltering protection, and underneath them the support of his everlasting arms.
Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob
upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew.
- The clauses of this verse are parallel to each other; their symmetry will be seen if we render and arrange thus -
"And Israel dwelleth securely,
Alone, the fountain of Jacob,
On a land of corn and new wine;
His heavens also drop down dew."
The fountain of Jacob is parallel to Israel.
Israel is so designated because they came forth from Jacob as waters from a copious source (Ibn Ezra; cf.
thou, O Israel: who
like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who
the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.
- "This concluding verse comprehends the whole blessing. Israel is to be congratulated and praised because, through the true God, it has unparalleled protection, salvation, and triumph" (Herxheimer).
Thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee
shall feign unto thee
. shall pretend to be thy friends, in order to obtain favor with thee. The verb conveys the idea of fawning upon a person with a feigned humility and submissiveness (cf.
Thou shalt tread upon their high places
. shalt wholly subdue them and triumph over them (cf.
); "crees eorum in montibus positas, loca eorum inaccessa victor calcabis, its potieris; qua ipsa phrasi
, superbe incedens victor describitur" (Rosenmüller).
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