Moses taught the Israelites the song the LORD commanded he write in Deuteronomy 32. The song reminded them of who the LORD is, what He had done for them, their covenant with Him, and what the LORD required of them. This current chapter, Deuteronomy 33, tells the reader Moses blessed the tribes of Israel. You will notice, though, if you study the chapter, Moses wrote, too, about the LORD – His characteristics and actions toward the people of Israel. It would be easy to believe the entire chapter is about Moses’ blessings of the tribes of Israel. If we did that, we would leave out the most important part – the LORD.
As we begin this study, we must notice the chapter begins and ends with Moses speaking about the LORD. When writing any document, the most important part is the beginning and the end. So when we look at this chapter and just call it the chapter in which Moses blessed the tribes, we remove God from the text as being important. In everything Moses wrote and did, he reminded the Israelites first of all Who God is, has been for them, and will be for them in the future. Everything he teaches and tells them he couched in this format with God as the beginning, end, and middle. We must recognize this and study this chapter accordingly, recognizing the LORD primarily and Moses’ blessing of the tribes secondarily.
A few other notes need to be made before we begin this study. If you list the tribes Moses blessed, you will realize he did not mention the tribe of Simeon. Many scholars and rabbis noticed this, too. From the study of this chapter, these scholars determined verse eleven does not represent the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Judah, their history, and their blessing from Moses is most like verse eleven. Added to this, the history of the tribe of Simeon shows they often go to battle with Judah of fighting against the people who arose against Israel. These scholars believe the blessing of Judah in verses seven and eleven are for Simeon, too. Besides this, the land Joshua gave to the tribe of Simeon was in the midst of Judah’s borders. For these reasons, scholars reckon Moses blessed the tribe of Simeon within Judah’s blessing.
The Greatest Part - God.
Verse one of this chapter tells the reader the next words are Moses’ blessings on the sons of Israel. It notes the blessings that came from Moses’ mouth and his reminder of their greatest blessing – the LORD God. Moses made sure the Israelites knew God was, is, and would be their greatest blessings. He did that by beginning and ending this writing with statements about the power, majesty, greatness, and might of the LORD.
Verses two through five remind the Israelites of who the LORD is and was and that He was with and for them. Moses reminded the Israelites in verse two God was with them while they wandered in the exodus. He reminded them God came to them at Mount Sinai, was with them in the dawn over Mount Seir in Edom, and shone over them in presence and power at Mount Paran. The Israelites knew the LORD was with them at Mount Sinai and Moses reminded them that in the majesty and power of the rising sun in Seir and Paran, He was with them, too. In addition to this, Moses taught and reminded them from where the LORD came – from the midst of ten thousand angels. He reminded them of God’s might and majesty when he said He came with flashing lightning from His right hand for them. In the Bible, “right” is a synonym for goodness and brightness. “Right” is often associated with God’s majesty. In Hebrew, “flashing lightning” is ‘eshdath and means fiery law. The LORD revealed His laws came from His hand. These laws showed His power and revealed His righteousness and justice. They showed His power and majesty by their visible presentation. Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s presence, power, and majesty in this verse. These were a blessing to the Israelites, too. Moses expressed that in the final two words of verse two. He said these blessings were for them. God was there blessing. He chose them and, therefore, He used His might and power for them.
Moses reminded the Israelites of this fact in verse three. He said the LORD loves the people. He keeps His holy ones in His hand and they receive His words, which they follow. Moses reminded the Israelites the LORD blessed them by choosing them, protecting them, and giving them His words by which to live. With His choosing of them, they became a holy people. Moses explained further the words of the LORD he charged the Israelites to keep and make their possession – take as their own. As long as they kept them as being from the LORD and lived by/and obeyed them, they would be God’s possession, remain righteous and holy.
By obeying and living by the LORD’s words, His laws and commandments, the Israelites would remain righteous just as the LORD is righteous. Because God called them righteous since they followed Him, Moses called Him the king of Jeshurun. “Jeshurun” comes from the Hebrew word yeshuruwn and means “upright one.” It describes the ideal character of Israel as long as they obeyed the LORD. When Israel followed the LORD God, He made them righteous like He is righteous.
These are the blessings of the Israelites because they made the LORD God their God. Moses expressed them in these four verses. He said they had the presence, power, and majesty in their midst and for them. God declared the Israelite people His and, because they were His, He made them righteous and holy. The LORD God was their King. What greater blessings could a person have or need?
Moses began his blessing of the tribes of Israel with the firstborn son of Jacob. We need to remember Reuben lost his birthright to inherit as the first son of Jacob when he slept with Bilhah, Jacob’s concubine (Genesis 35:22). [Reuben was the first son of Leah, Jacob’s first wife.] On his death bed, Jacob prophesied Reuben would be pre-eminent in dignity and power, but would not have pre-eminence among his people because he defiled his father’s bed (Genesis 49:3-4). [Remember, too, God declared sleeping with a father’s wife or concubine abominable and declared it punishable by death (Leviticus 20:11, Deuteronomy 22:30 & 27:20).] Jacob’s disinheriting Reuben came about before God gave His laws to the Israelites, yet Jacob knew it was wrong and removed Reuben’s birthright from him as punishment.
Knowing these things makes Moses’ blessing of Reuben understandable. Moses said the tribe of Reuben would live and not die, nor would his men be few. Reuben’s tribe would not die out, but continue to thrive and grow. The punishment of death for defiling his father’s bed did not have weight over Moses’ blessing of Reuben’s tribe. Moses’ blessing of Reuben was life, growth, and prosperity.
Judah (and Simeon) -
As stated in the introduction of this Bible study, scholars believe the blessing of Judah by Moses included the tribe of Simeon, too. The reasons for this stance I noted there, too. Because of this, we will presume the blessing of Judah encompasses Simeon in verse seven. As noted in the introduction, too, we will presume the scholars are correct about verse eleven not being like the work of Levites, but, like Judah, based on their history, and so include verse eleven with verse seven as Moses’ blessing of Judah and Simeon.
Verse seven records Moses’ blessing of Judah by asking for Judah’s safe return to his people after he goes to battle for his tribe and all Israel. He asked for the LORD’s help against Judah’s (the tribe’s) enemies. In this verse we notice Judah prayed to the LORD regularly and Moses asked Him to hear and respond to the his prayers. Besides this, Moses noted Judah worked with his hands, especially in battle against the enemies of Israel. He asked the tribe be kept in a close relationship with the LORD and continue to work for Him and His people.
In verse eleven, Moses asked the LORD’s blessing to provide everything the tribe of Judah needed. He asked the LORD’s blessing on Judah’s substance. The Hebrew word for “substance” is chayil and means strength, might, army, ability, and wealth. Moses asked God to provide all Judah’s physical needs even the need to be strong and mighty against their enemies. Besides this, Moses asked the LORD to accept the work of the tribes’ hands. Bless their hands as they farm, live, and battle their enemies. Moses asked specifically for God to shatter their enemies so they would not rise again against them. This verse speaks precisely to the works of Judah’s hands and God’s blessing on them.
The tribe of Judah was devout and fervent for the LORD, which meant fervently being against the LORD’s enemies. Jacob’s prophesy over Judah foretold of the work of their hands in battle, their supremacy among the tribes, and the future kingdom’s reign being in their lands. Moses’ blessing of them agreed with Jacob’s prophecy of Judah and his descendents.
When Moses blessed the tribe of Levi in verses eight through ten, he spoke of their past and their future. In verse eight, he asked the LORD to keep this tribe as His priests. Moses said, “Let Your thummim and Your urim belong to Your godly man. You proved him at Massah; You contended with him at the waters of Meribah.” The thummim were the stones God provided for them along with the urim stones. By these, God revealed His will to His priests. The high priest kept them in a pouch on his breastplate. Moses’ blessing reminded the Levites and the LORD of the proving the Levites had at the waters of Massah and Meribah. At that place, God’s chosen men, Moses and Aaron, sons of Levites, struck a rock to make water gush out for the Israelites to drink. They did not give the glory to God for providing the water (Exodus 17:7, Number 20:13, and Deuteronomy 6:16). Because of taking God’s glory from Him, Moses and Aaron received the punishment of not entering the Promised Land. From this, the Levites learned at all times to give the glory back to the LORD. By stating this as part of his blessing of Levi, Moses reminded them to stay loyal to the LORD and reminded the LORD He had already tested the tribe and they were stronger because of it. The tribe of Levi would give God all the glory in the future, Moses implied, so please bless them.
With verse nine, Moses continued to remind the Levites of their devotion to the LORD. At Mount Sinai, they did not regard (give preference to) their own families, but obeyed the LORD’s decree that everyone who worshipped the calf at Mount Sinai be killed. Moses reminded the LORD, too, and told Him the Levites “observed Your word, and kept Your covenant.” They heard, listened, and obeyed God’s covenant, laws, ordinances, and statutes with them. Malachi said they revered God and stood in awe of His name in Malachi 2:5. For these, Moses asked the LORD’s blessing to allow the Levites to be His priests.
In verse ten, Moses explained what the Levites would do as the LORD’s priests. He said, “They shall teach Your ordinances to Jacob and Your law to Israel. They shall put incense before You and whole burnt offerings on Your altar.” The Levites would teach and lead God’s people, Israel, to obey God’s ordinances (mishpat – judgments and justice) and His law (towrah – instructions and laws) to Jacob’s descendents. They would serve the LORD by teaching and leading Israel, as well as, serving before His altar placing righteous sacrifices, pleasing aromas, and burnt offerings before Him as thanks and sin offerings in obedience to Him (Leviticus 16:12-13).
Moses asked for God’s blessing on the Levites. He asked the LORD allow them to serve Him as His priests to teach and lead the Israelites to obey Him and to offer pleasing sacrifices and aromas to Him. Moses asked the LORD be honored with them and accept them as His priests despite Jacob’s prophecy of them. Jacob did not want to have his honor associated with them because of their self-will and anger. From the Levites’ history, we know God honored them by making them His priests before the people. He forgave their sin against Jacob and restored them within His nation, Israel.
Benjamin was the twelfth son of Jacob by Rachel. After she gave birth to Benjamin, she died. Jacob named this son Ben-jamin, “son of the right hand,” perhaps in honor of Rachel because she was his favorite wife. As the youngest son of many sons, Benjamin was perhaps the most spoiled or most overlooked. We find, though, Benjamin’s family did not overlook him, but looked after him. Reuben protected him when Joseph asked that Benjamin stay in Egypt while they returned to their home to bring Jacob to him. Reuben and the other sons recognized Benjamin’s cherished position with their father because he was the baby and the last son of his most loved wife.
Moses recognized this cherishing when he said in verse twelve, “May the beloved of the LORD dwell in security by Him Who shields him all the day and he dwells between His shoulders.” He asked the LORD to protect the youngest son of Jacob. This protection is the same security spoken of in Deuteronomy 4:37f and 12:10. With the people of Israel obeying their covenant with the LORD, they would receive His security and protection. Moses reiterated this for the beloved, cherished, and youngest child of Jacob.
In the last part of this blessing, Moses asked for God’s blessing to allow Benjamin to dwell between His shoulders. This appears to be an odd request, but it alludes to Deuteronomy 32:11 where Moses used the analogy of the LORD being like an eagle who hovers over her young, spreading her wings and catching them when they fall, and carrying them on her wings. When the eagle carried her young on her wings, she carried them between her shoulders. Moses asked this protection of God for the tribe of Benjamin. Theologians such as Adam Clarke, John Gill, and John Calvin see this part of verse twelve as alluding to Benjamin’s portion of the Promised Land given to him by Joshua.[i] They lived within Jerusalem where Solomon built the LORD’s temple. The tribe of Benjamin lived between Mount Zion (where David built his palace) and Mount Moriah (the mount upon which Solomon built the LORD’s temple). These theologians consider these two mountains the two shoulders of God between which Benjamin lived. Whether or not you agree with these men who think the two mountains poetically represent God’s shoulders, Moses asked the LORD to protect and shield Benjamin, His and Jacob’s cherished son.
The blessing of the tribe of Joseph is the longest, five verses. Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob because he was Rachel’s first son by him. Yet when looking at the land given to the tribes of Israel, it appears Joshua did not give any land to Joseph. We must look to whom he did give land. When we do that, we realize two of Jacob’s grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, received tribal lands in the Promised Land. Joseph, in essence, received a double blessing. Manasseh and Ephraim each became his own tribe and received part of the most fertile land in Canaan. The house of Joseph became one of the most dominant groups in the kingdom of Israel.
In verses thirteen through seventeen, Moses asked God to bless Joseph’s land with the choice things of heaven like dew, rain, sun, and running waters. He asked for blessings on the ancient mountains and hills, the earth, his animals, and his people wherever they lived. Moses asked for favor of God to come on Joseph’s head and as head of his tribe. He asked blessings of distinguishment and for power, leadership, and service to God and Israel. These blessings remind us of the blessings in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 for those who were faithful to the LORD.
Verse thirteen asked for the LORD’s blessing on the land. Moses asked particularly for the choice (meged – excellence) things of heaven, those things only God can give. He asked for dew and waters that ran underground like springs and rivers.
Moses’ blessing in verse fourteen asked for God’s “choice” (meged – excellence) yield of the sun and produce. He asked for the best things of the ancient mountains that had been there from before their time and which the LORD God Himself created (vs. 15). Moses asked the same for the “everlasting hills.” The Israelites learned terrace farming from their eastern neighbors so they could produce crops from hills and mountains. They planted fruit trees, too, in their mountains. With verse sixteen, Moses concluded his blessings on the lands of Joseph by asking for the choice (excellence) things of the earth and its fullness (all the things that fill the earth).
In the second part of verse sixteen, Moses asked “the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush to come to the crown of the head of Joseph.” This alluded to the burning bush in Exodus 3:2-4 when God made His presence known to Moses. God favored Moses personally and as His spokesman and leader of the tribe of Israel. He asked that God bless Joseph and his tribe as they led the people of Israel. Moses meant the leadership role when he spoke of the distinguished crown among his brothers. This could refer to Joseph as the distinguished Prince of Egypt and as a future leader in Israel. Moses asked that the brothers recognize God’s favor upon Joseph so they recognize his distinguishment and listen to his leadership.
Verse seventeen seems to go in the same vein as verses thirteen through the first part of sixteen, but we need to understand the comparisons, too. Moses likened Joseph to an ox. Oxen in the Bible pulled plows, turned mills, and did heavy work. They were powerful. When a person stole an ox, he or she stole a person’s livelihood. The ox contributed greatly to a person’s service, production, and increase in wealth. It was used in service to God and man. The ox’s strength was used in production. Men used the ox horns for oil flasks or instruments. God commanded the Israelites use the ox as a burnt sacrifice for their sins. When Moses compared Joseph to an ox, he meant he was strong in his trials. Moses asked for God’s continued blessing of strength for Joseph. Just as the ox pushes great weight, so Moses asked God to give Joseph and his tribe strength to support and push his nation Israel to be faithful to the end of time and to grow and continue to be faithful to God wherever they went.
The “peoples” Moses spoke of in verse seventeen were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. These were Jacob’s grandsons. Manasseh was Joseph’s first son and Ephraim was his second son. Jacob chose to bless Ephraim before Manasseh. By doing that, he denoted that Ephraim would be a greater tribe than Manasseh (Genesis 48:5-21). Both Ephraim and Manasseh failed to completely destroy or drive out the Canaanites who lived in their land. God considered that disobedience. Because of that, they continued to have trouble from those Canaanites who lived among them.
Moses blessed the people of Joseph. He asked God’s blessings on their land, animals, people, and leadership. Joseph’s tribes disobeyed the LORD’s command to remove the Canaanites from the land (Exodus 23:23-25) and had to live with those people every day. Yet, God still blessed them with produce, wealth, and leadership. God faithfulness to His covenant with them was evident over the centuries. He blessed them and forgave them when they asked for forgiveness.
Zebulun and Issachar –
Zebulun was Jacob’s tenth son and the sixth son of Leah. His name means “exalted.” Leah named him this thinking that since she gave Jacob six sons, he would hold her in higher esteem than her sister, Rachel. Issachar was Jacob’s ninth son and Leah’s fifth son. His name means “he will bring a reward.” Of these two sons, Moses said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth and Issachar in your tents. They will call peoples to the mountain. They will offer righteous sacrifices, for they will draw out the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.”
Knowing the tribe of Zubulun’s history helps understand this blessing by Moses. Both Zebulun and Isaachar did as other tribes; they did not drive out/kill the Canaanites who lived in their land. Zebulun received territory that would later be a part of Galilee. It was mineral-rich land and gave abundant produce and fruit. Even though Zebulun did not give complete obedience to the LORD, he returned to God and helped the priesttess Deborah and Barak in battle (Judges 4:6 and 5:18). He joined David, too, at Hebron when the kingdom transferred from Saul to David. Zebulun took more men than any other tribe to David’s aid there. He arrived with 50,000 men (1 Chronicles 12:23-33). Besides these, when King Hezekiah invited Israel to keep the Passover in the Lord’s house after the years his father, Ahaz, desecrated the temple, Zebulun went to Jerusalem, destroyed the idols, and kept the feast of unleavened bread (2 Chronicles 30:10-23). These actions by the tribe of Zebulun help us understand Moses’ blessing them with rejoicing in going forth. They rejoiced when they could go help the LORD. The tribe of Zebulun helped call people to the mountain of God to worship. They offered righteous sacrifices at Passover.
Being part of the area later called Galilee, God provided abundantly for Zebulun and Issachar from the land and from the Sea of Galilee. Even within the sand and ground, God’s hidden treasures provided for these tribes. Issachar went to David’s aid during his struggle against Saul in 1 Chronicles 12:32. People later considered these two tribes wise and faithful. Moses asked a blessing for Issachar that they would rejoice in their tents because of what the LORD provided from the ground and sea and because of their reward for faithfulness to Him. Moses blessed both tribes to rejoice because of the LORD’s goodness and abundance for them.
Gad was the seventh son of Jacob and the first son of Zilpah, Leah’s servant. His name means “troop” because Leah said, “A troop comes” (Genesis 30:11). Gad was one of the most faithful tribes of Israel. Joshua gave Gad the best of the new land on the east side of the Jordan River along with Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh. He made Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh promise they would fight to win the rest of the Promised Land for the other tribes of Israel then they could return to settle their land (Joshua 12:6 & 13:8-13). Moses, in Numbers 32:18, noted specially Gad’s dedication in the fight for the Promised Land when Gad said, “We will not return to our homes until everyone of the sons of Israel has possessed his inheritance.” Gad’s example teaches that people should not focus only on their needs and wants, but focus on the big picture, God’s plan.
Moses’ blessing on Gad said, “Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad. He lies down as a lion and tears the arm, also the crown of the head.” The theologian, John Gill, said “the one” Moses spoke of at the beginning of the verse refers to God. God enlarged Gad, laid down like a lion, and tore the arm and crown of the head. Other theologians believe this blessing speaks solely of Gad. Gad, because of his obedience to God by battling to gain the rest of Canaan for the Israelites, became the lion. He helped enlarge the territory of the Israelites. The removal of the arm is a symbol of removing political and military strength. The removal of the crown of the head symbolizes removing their leadership. Gad helped remove the political and military strength of the Canaanites and removed their leadership so they weakened and fell to the Israelites.
Because of Gad’s faithfulness, God grew the tribe of Gad and made them prosperous. We do not know for sure who “the one” refers to, but we can understand from Gad’s history they were the ones who tore the arm and crown.
After the Gadites fulfilled their obligation to battle with the other Israelites for the Promised Land, they returned to the first part, the part they chose and Joshua distributed to them. The tribe of Gad received the first portion and part of the best land, which Joshua reserved for them because of their obedience to God’s will. Gad and his leaders executed justice (sedeqah – the righteousness of God) and His ordinances/orders with Israel against the Canaanites.
Moses’ blessing bore fruit in their lives. Gad helped the other Israelites battle the Canaanites for the Promised Land and helped enlarge it. Moses compared their actions to a lion. God blesses those who are faithful to Him. Joshua commended the Gadites, Reubenites, and the half tribe of Manasseh for doing what he commanded and not forsaking their kinsmen on the other side of the Jordan River (Joshua 22:1-3). God fulfilled Moses’ request for His blessing on Gad.
Dan was the fifth son of Jacob and the first son of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant. His name means “judge.” Of Dan, Moses blessed them in verse twenty-two and said they were like the lion’s cub that leaps from Bashan. Dan received land on the Mediterranean Sea on the northern border of Judah, on the western border of Ephraim and Benjamin, and on the southern border of Manasseh (Joshua 19:40-48).
Before Joshua gave them their inheritance, they were restless to receive their own land, so they sent men to search out for land (Judges 18). They entered Laish in the north at the upper boundary of the Promised Land between Naphtali and Manasseh in the territory of the mountain, Bashan. The Danites seized the land and named it after their forefather, Dan. This action was like the leaping of a lion to capture its prey. Moses’ blessing on Dan came occurred. The unfortunate part of this story is that the Danites worshipped idols in addition to the LORD God (Judges 18:30).
Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob and the second son of Bilhah. His name means “wrestling” or “my struggle.” Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and indeed I have prevailed” (Genesis 30:6). In verse twenty-three, Moses blessed Naphtali saying, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favor and full of the blessing of the LORD, take possession of the sea and the south.” Naphtali’s land was in the northern kingdom bounded by Asher, Dan, Manasseh, Zebulun, Issachar, and the sea of Chinnereth/Galilee.
Jacob’s prophecy over Naphtali when he said Naphtali gives beautiful words shows people considered Naphtali an eloquent speaker. Jacob knew this by the time of his death and realized Naptali was well respected. Moses must have recognized and agreed with this when he said, “Naphtali was satisfied with the favor of the LORD and is full of His blessing.” Remember, the LORD required obedience to Him to receive His favor. So Naphtali must have been obedient to the LORD to have received the LORD’s favor.
Even though Moses told the Israelites the LORD commanded they remove all Canaanites from the land, Naphtali was a tribe who did not do this. His tribe was not completely obedient to the LORD. They made the people of Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath become forced labor for them (Judges 1:33). Not all Naphtalites were disobedient. Barak was a Naphtalite and he obeyed the command by God’s priestess Deborah to battle against King Jabin of the Canaanites (Judges 4:6-9, 17-22). Other Naphtali responded to Gideon’s call to repel the Midianites, Amalekites and other people from their encampment in Jezreel (Judges 6:35 & 7:23). When David asked for troops to help him take over the reign as king, Naphtali sent 38,000 men to help (1 Chronicles 12:34, 40).
The Naphtali, like every person, fail God at times. Yet Moses asked for God’s favor to be found with Naphtali and fill them with His blessings. People can return to God and He will forgive a contrite heart. Naphtali still found favor with God because of that.
The final tribe upon whom Moses offered his blessing and asked for God’s blessing was Asher. Asher was Jacob’s eighth son and Zilpah’s second son. His name meant “happy.” Jacob prophesied over Asher, “His food shall be rich and he will yield royal dainties” (Genesis 49:20). Moses’ blessing of Asher was similar. He said in verses twenty-four and twenty-five, “More blessed than sons is Asher. May he be favored by his brothers and may he dip his foot in oil. Your locks will be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.”
If we read Moses’ blessing of Asher literally, we would see Asher’s brothers would look favorably upon him and he would have much oil from his land. Besides this, Asher’s tribe would have strong locks of iron and bronze, with an easy life. Scholars have considered this passage over the years. The first part of the blessing appears simple enough. Asher’s tribe will produce much oil. They will have an abundance of it. If we look behind this to Jewish thought, oil signifies wisdom. Moses blessed Asher with wisdom, not just oil. What do feet and locks of iron and bronze mean? Feet are the lowest part of a person and suggest something basic according to www.chabad.org.[ii] According to this Jewish website, “The feet represent the basic sense of commitment of the person, his or her direction in life. The clear and tangible sense of commitment is ‘anointed’ and enriched by wisdom.”[iii] We must realize that wisdom does not always lead to commitment, but commitment is enriched by wisdom. So with this understanding, Moses blessed Asher’s tribe with richness of oil, wisdom, and commitment. This coincides with what he taught the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:40 and 32:47.
The next question about the iron and bronze locks needs consideration. The direct translation of the Hebrew for “locks” is man’al, which means shoe. “Iron” comes from the Hebrew word barsel and means iron, strength, oppression, or harshness. “Bronze” comes from the Hebrew word nechosheth and means bronze, fetters, value, lust, or harlotry. Its definition is still mostly uncertain. One scholar hypothesized people made special shoes to stomp olives to get the oil from them. For grapes, people could stomp on them with their feet, but for olives metal shoes had to be worn to protect the foot and to separate the different parts of the olive better. This interpretation seems to go best with the literal interpretation of God providing the Asherites with prosperity with olive oil. How does it fit with the Jewish understanding? Does the wisdom (represented by the oil) bring less chance for oppression by the enemies of the Israelites? Does their wisdom give them strength against their external enemies (other nations) and their internal enemies (temptation to sin such as lust and harlotry)? This portion of Scripture is not fully understood.
What we know comes from the history of the Asherites. This tribe failed to drive out the Canaanites from their land (Judges 1:21-32). They did not help Deborah and Barak (Judges 5:17). The Asherites gave a negative example of how to be obedient to the LORD even though He richly blessed them with oil. Yet on top of these failings they responded to Gideon’s call to repel the Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 6:35). The Asherites joined Hezekiah at the Passover in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:11). They, like the other tribes, had people who disobeyed God, but repented and returned to Him over their centuries. They received the LORD’s blessings and He expected them to obey His commands. Moses’ blessing on them occurred and God heeded it. The Asherites were not always faithful to their covenant with God and, thus, they were unwise at times, like most of the other tribes.
The Greatest Part – God (reprise).
At the end of this chapter, Moses returned to the greatest blessing – the LORD God. For the final four verses, he reminded the Israelites of their blessing of being God’s chosen people whom He made righteous by choosing them. The first words Moses used in this section in verse twenty-six were words he used at the end of the first section in verse five with a slight change from “King of Jeshurun” to “God of Jeshurun.” Moses declared the LORD to be the God of the “upright one,” Israel, who received their righteousness because He chose them. Moses said no one is like the God of Jeshurun. He declared the LORD’s supremacy, power, might, and majesty with this statement. Moses said similar things in Exodus 15:11 and Deuteronomy 4:35. The Israelites heard these words before and he reiterated them now, reminding them the LORD is God almighty.
Moses then explained who God is by what He does. In verse twenty-six, he said, “Who [God] rides the heavens to your help and through the skies in His majesty.” God is so mighty He rides the uncontainable – the heavens - because He created them. He rides the skies (shadaq – dust and clouds), because He directs them where to go. The LORD is in control of the uncontrollable and uncontainable. He is that majestic and powerful. Moses said in Deuteronomy 10:14 God owns the heavens and earth. David said He rides, thunders, and has majesty over Israel (Psalm 68:33-34). He said, too, the clouds are God’s chariots (Psalm 104:3).
With verse twenty-seven, Moses told the Israelites their blessing of having the one and only eternal God as their God and King meant they could run to Him anytime. He was their dwelling place and refuge and His power has been from before the beginning of time and lasts forever. The LORD God is eternal - beginning to end of time – and their refuge and dwelling place. He was the one who drove out their enemy (Exodus 34:11 & Joshua 24:18). They saw it. This LORD God gave the enemies of the Israelites into their hands and commanded their destruction (Deuteronomy 7:2). He is that great. Because of this, Moses said in verse twenty-eight, “Israel dwells in security, the fountain of Jacob secluded, in a land of grain and new wine.” The LORD God has been, is, and will shelter His children in His unending, powerful, protective arms. Even the descendents of Jacob (the fountain of Jacob) will be secluded and protected. The LORD would always provide for their physical needs. He gave them a land of grain and new wine. The LORD gave dew from His heavens, which He commands and controls, to provide moisture for the plants.
“Blessed are you, O Israel!” Moses said. “What other people have so great, powerful, majestic, and everlasting God. He is your blessing! He is your God! This great LORD God chose you to be His people and has made you righteous.” In verse twenty-nine, Moses continued, “Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD.” The Israelites’ choosing by the LORD made them righteous and saved, redeemed, and delivered them. “Who is like you, Israelites?!” Moses said. He continued, “Who is the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty!” Moses reminded them who did these things for them. He said they were not the ones who brought God to themselves, but He chose them in His love and by His power and majesty to love, provide for, and protect them. Even their enemies knew of their God. Moses added because of this, “your enemies cringe before you and you will tread upon their high places.” The Israelites’ enemies ran in fear because of the LORD God - their power and strength. Because of Him, the Israelites could march upon their enemies’ towns and cities, and their places of worship. The gods of their enemies were no gods. Only their God is eternal, all-powerful, majestic, redeemer, and chooser of them to be His people.
“This is the blessing,” Moses pointed out to the Israelites. When Moses announced blessings over each tribe, he called upon God to bless them. He himself had no power with which to bless the Israelites other than to proclaim the LORD God as the most powerful and only God who alone is worthy to be worshipped and obeyed. The LORD God was the Israelites’ blessing. He is our blessing.
Moses, before he climbed Mount Nebo opposite the Promised Land, offered his blessings on each of the twelve tribes of Israel. By blessing the tribes, Moses asked the LORD God to bless them individually and corporately. We know from this side of history the Israelites were not always faithful to the LORD or to their covenant with Him. Yet God chose to bless them at different times during their history. He punished and disciplined them during this time, too. What Moses most wanted the Israelites to know was that the LORD God was their blessing. He was their redeemer, deliverer, protector, provider, refuge, strength, sword, and shield. That was Moses’ main point and he stated it twice – verses two through five and verses twenty-six through twenty-nine.
Relevance and Conclusion
Today we need to realize the LORD God is still here. He is eternal and still in control. God wants a relationship with every person. He created us to be in a relationship with Him because of His love. In addition to this, God provided a way for us to be in a relationship with Him even though we are sinners and unrighteous while He is righteous. God provided that way through the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the sufficient and final sacrifice for the death penalty due because of our sins. Jesus died on the cross so you would not have to die for your sins. He took your place…and my place. When we accept that God loves us that much and accept this gift of love He gave for us, we can be His children and live in His blessing.
God is the blessing. He provides the blessings. Jesus Christ is God’s greatest blessing. By His death we are free from sin and death. What do we have to do? What do you have to do? Accept Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for your sins? Believe in him as your Lord and your Savior from sins. Confess your sins to God. He said He would forgive you of your sins. God is faithful like that. He loves you.
Will you make the choice to accept God’s greatest blessing –
His love shown through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection?
The choice is yours. What will you choose?