Deuteronomy 33 Commentary

Deuteronomy 33 Commentary: Moses blesses Israel.

Moses has been a father to Israel for the past 40 years. Like the patriarchs, Moses must do one more task before his death: he has to bless Israel. Chapter 33 is similar to Genesis 49 as both contain patriarchal blessings. While Chapter 49 is raw and unpolished in vision, chapter 33 is prayerfully anticipatory in nature. It reflects the heart of the intercessor. It, therefore, reflects the heart of Jesus in its approach. The blessing for Reuben exemplifies the conciliatory and prayerful attitude of Deuteronomy chapter 33.

“Let Reuben live and not die, nor his people be few.” Deuteronomy 33 verse 6.

The background to this blessing is that Reuben is destined for turbulence and failure. His life didn’t deserve anything different. Yet Moses pronounces a blessing reminiscent of Calvary grace. It reflected the heart of God fully exemplified by the cross.

Up next is Judah. Could this be a recognition that Judah had taken over the role of leadership from Reuben? Judah required help in his role as the leader and defender of the peoples of God. Judah’s enemies are the enemies of God. The blessing is key to the conquest of Canaan.

Levi came up next. The Thummim and Urim were objects of decision-making in the presence of God. The chief priest carried them in the pouch as part of his vestments. This was Levi’s role. He needed skills for it and so the blessing reflects the blessing of sanctuary ministry.

Benjamin is secure in the presence of the LORD. The mention of rest in the LORD for Benjamin envisioned the rest that the many Sabbaths represented. The call to all to find rest in the LORD Jesus in Matthew 11 verse 28 can be connected here.

The blessing of Joseph is a special, loving, and softer gift from the LORD. It pictures Israel in a godly relationship with her God, with the background of Edenic serenity and fruitfulness. The result is fruitfulness and prosperity. The LORD provides bountifully for Joseph. The happy God doesn’t hold back: precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield; with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness; and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph. Indeed let these rest on the saint today.

With the blessing of Joseph, we see the LORD’S generosity in unbelievably greater measure. The created world is commanded to work or provide or behave or respond in kindness to Joseph. It is about the favor of Him who dwelt in the burning bush. The elements of nature must align to deliver the best for the beloved of Jacob. It takes you millions of miles away into the Garden of peace and perfection where the first couple trod. The LORD is reminiscing the good old days here.

The blessing for the one Jacob loved reminds us, and indeed reflects the blessing of the LORD on the saint who is loved by the LORD. You may want to think about John 3 verse 16 and the LORD’S love which saw no boundaries at the cross. Yes, we can have it!

Zebulun represented the commercial machinery of Israel. Issachar pictures a settled Israel in worship. A prosperous but complacent Issachar (Israel) became enslaved in Egypt. Moses’ blessing sees Issachar settled and in worship. It’s a blessing to express the will of God over Issachar (Israel).

Gad’s blessing is about enlargement. It represented both the economic increase and fruitfulness of the womb. You only think of changing homes when your family increases, say from one child to 4 children. At this point, more space is required.

Dan’s blessing is short but powerful. The picture of a lion’s cub portrays royalty in its beauty. There is also a sense of safety and security as the Lion of the tribe of Judah circles around.

Naphtali and Asher project the LORD’S favor over Israel. How Jacob needs it! Favor is never earned. Israel hasn’t deserved it but the LORD has been faithful and gracious.

11 patriarchs and 11 various and multiple blessings for each of them should be enough, but Moses isn’t done yet.

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.  The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ Deuteronomy 33 verses 26 to 27.

What a conclusion to the chapter and indeed the entire book!

Chapter 33 is too nice! You always have a faint feeling like we are missing something. Could it be that the complete omission of Simeon is that missing part? Is the Bible telling us that while the desired ending is the LORD’S blessing on humanity, there still remains the justice portion of the LORD’S nature?

The omission of Simeon is revealing two destinies. One comes with blessings while the other speaks of complete exclusion from the LORD’S community. The end times will see this picture in full colors as one side enjoys the fully unpacked glories of creation, while the other will experience total exclusion. The symbolism is truly powerful.

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Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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