New European Commentary


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Deu 33:1 This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death-
It would seem that only at the end of his days did Moses recognize the extent of the Angelic presence. The fact that the cloud that they followed was actually composed of thousands of mighty Angels seems only to have been recognized by Moses  in his blessing of the people "before his death" in Dt. 33:1,2. There he says in an ecstasy of praise to God for His greatness and closeness to His people, "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 His saints (Angels): from His right hand (i. e. the Angels- they ministered the Law) went a fiery law for them"; whilst earlier we only read "And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran" (Num. 10:12). The passage in Dt. 33 almost seems a direct comment on this earlier description.

Deu 33:2 He said, Yahweh came from Sinai and rose from Seir to them. He shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with ten thousands of holy ones. At His right hand was a fiery law for them-
v. 2-3 - see on Ex. 7:4.

Deborah alludes to this verse in saying that she has experienced the same in the victory over Sisera (Jud. 5:4,5). She feels as if she sees and feels "this Sinai" shaking, as if Deborah felt herself back there standing before Sinai witnessing the great theophany there, in that she has seen it before her eyes, as it were, in what God has now done in giving her victory against Sisera. This is the power of Biblical history. There is a living word which continues to speak to us; the historical victories of God are replicated, in essence, in our own experiences.

Dt. 33:2,3 RVmg. bring out the solidarity between the Angels and Israel by describing them both as thousands of saints / holy ones.

Deu 33:3 Yes, He loved the people-
This simple clause is one of the few which state so baldly the sublime truth- that God loves His people. But we could also read this as a parenthesis, added by the Divine inspiration of the editor of Deuteronomy, simply stating that Moses loved the people.

The word of his God was in his heart, as he stood there before Israel, that people whom he loved, those for whom he wished to make atonement with his own life, even his eternal life. "Yea, he loved the people" is the Spirit's comment (Dt. 33:3- the "he" in the context seems to be Moses). It could only be the Spirit which would write so concisely. "Yea, he loved the people... they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words". And then he pours out his heart to them, he reels off what we have as the book of Deuteronomy, written at the end point of the spiritual growth of Moses. But in reality that was the outpouring of his heart, pleading with Israel to be faithful to the covenant, encouraging them to be aware of their weakness,  encouraging them to go forward and inherit the Kingdom. In those hours as he stood there saying those words, and then he sung that song to them of Dt. 32, I think we see Moses at his finest. And then he blesses those assembled tribes, the love of that man for Israel flowing out, and then, no doubt with a lump in his throat, swallowing back the tears, he turned and walked away, up that mountain, higher and higher, with the blue mountains of Moab shimmering in the distance. Even before that, surely his voice had faltered, even broken down, when he spoke to them of the tragedy of their future apostasy, of how the gentle and sensitive woman among them would eat her own children. And how the days would come when they would awake in the morning and say ‘Would God it were evening’. As he foresaw in essence the horrors of the Nazi camps, and of so much else… he could only have said those words with tears and passion. For “he loved the people”. If ever there was an understatement… 

The pathos of the scene is wondrous. Yet in the sadness of it all, we see  a type, more than a type, a superb image, of the death of Christ for us. It was for their sakes that Moses didn't enter the land, remember. That is the emphasis the Spirit gives. As he climbed, for it would have taken a while, perhaps he thought back to those years in Egypt, the struggle of his soul in those years. You may think I'm being over emotional, but it seems to me as he climbed he would have thought back to his dear mum to whom he owed his relationship with God, the mother he'd doubtless disowned for forty years, claiming that he was the son of Pharaoh's daughter; until at age 40 he was honest with himself, he told the world who his real mother was, he refused to be called any longer the son of Pharaoh's daughter. I mean, if we had say 24 hours to live, and we were told to go for a walk before we died, I guess we'd think back to our childhood for at least a moment, wouldn't we. And he was a man, just like any of us.  

And perhaps he thought back to those weak years in Midian, to Zipporah, to the long lonely days with the animals. And then to the wonder of the Red Sea, to the nervousness of meeting the Angel, to the joy of that communion in another mountain. He knew that Angel well, they spoke face to face as men who are friends speak to each other (Ex. 33:11). How fitting that at the top, he met that Angel again. The same love, the same open-faced friendship would have been there. The Angel showed him the Kingdom, opening his eyes to see to the very boundaries of the land. And then he buried him, laying him in the grave in hope of better days, when Christ would come and raise his people, when God's people would at last be obedient. What an end. Out of weakness, such weakness, he was made strong. His temperamental faith, with its flashes of devotion, turned into a solid rock, a real ongoing relationship with a loving Father. Every one of his human relationships had failed: with his brother and sister, with his wife, with his people. But finally that lonely man found his rest in Yahweh, Israel's God, he came to know Him as his friend and saviour. No wonder he is held up, by way of allusion throughout the New Testament, as our example.



All His saints are in Your hand. They sat down at Your feet; each receives Your words-
- see on Jn. 17:8
The word of his God was in his heart, as he stood there before Israel, that people whom he loved, those for whom he wished to make atonement with his own life, even his eternal life. " Yea, he loved the people" is the Spirit's comment (Dt. 33:3- the " he" in the context seems to be Moses). It could only be the Spirit which would write so concisely. " Yea, he loved the people....they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words" . And then he pours out his heart to them, he reels off what we have as the book of Deuteronomy, written at the end point of the spiritual growth of Moses. But in reality that was the outpouring of his heart, pleading with Israel to be faithful to the covenant, encouraging them to be aware of their weakness,  encouraging them to go forward and inherit the Kingdom.

The Lord told the Father that He had given the disciples His words, “and they have received them” (Jn. 17:8). This is evident allusion to the editorial comment in Dt. 33:3 about how all Israel received God’s words through Moses. Likewise “I manifested Your name… they have kept Your word” (Jn. 17:6,26) = “I will proclaim the name of the Lord… they have observed thy word” (Dt. 32:3; 33:9). One marvels at the way the Lord’s mind linked together so much Scripture in the artless, seamless way in which He did.

Deu 33:4 Moses commanded us a law, an inheritance for the assembly of Jacob.
Deu 33:5 He was king in Jeshurun when the heads of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together.
Deu 33:6 Let Reuben live, and not die, nor let his men be few.
Deu 33:7 This is for Judah. He said Hear, Yahweh, the voice of Judah. Bring him in to his people; with his hands he contended for himself. You shall be a help against his adversaries.
Deu 33:8 Of Levi he said, Your Thummim and your Urim are with your holy one whom You proved at Massah, with whom You strove at the waters of Meribah-

"Holy one" is 'consecrated one'. The Levites were consecrated in God's eyes by their zeal (motivated by the word) to rid Israel of apostacy; this is what constituted them Yahweh's "holy (sanctified) one" (Dt. 33:8,9). The Lord alludes to this: "Sanctify them through (i.e. through obedience to) thy word" (Jn. 17:17). As the Levites were sanctified (1 Chron. 23:13 Heb.). Through his allusions to this, Christ was telling the disciples not to be frightened to stand alone from the community they knew and respected. Resisting apostacy is therefore part of our sanctification.

Deu 33:9 who said of his father and of his mother, ‘I have not seen him’. Neither did he acknowledge his brothers, nor did he know his own children; for they have observed Your word and keep Your covenant-
"The men which You gave me out of the (Jewish) world... they have kept Your word" (Jn. 17:6) compares with the Levites being "given" to Aaron / the priesthood out of Israel (Num. 3:9; 8:19; 18:6); at the time of the golden calf they "observed thy word, and kept thy covenant" (Dt. 33:9), as did the disciples. The relationship between Moses and the Levites was therefore that between Christ and the disciples- a sense of thankfulness that at least a minority were faithful. See on Jn. 17:6; Jn. 17:17.

These words are alluded to by Jesus in explaining why He felt closer to those who listened to His word than to His natural family (Mk. 3:21,31-35; Mt. 12:46-50). He read these same words that we do. To feel this closely to those who are, like us, God’s spiritual children, can seem an impossible challenge at times; especially in family-based societies where life is one endless social club.


Deu 33:10 They shall teach Jacob Your ordinances, and Israel Your law. They shall put incense before You and whole burnt offering on Your altar.
Deu 33:11 Yahweh, bless his substance. Accept the work of his hands. Strike through the hips of those who rise up against him, of those who hate him, so that they will not rise again.
Deu 33:12 Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of Yahweh shall dwell in safety by Him. He covers him all the day long. He dwells between His shoulders.
Deu 33:13 Of Joseph he said, His land is blessed by Yahweh for the precious things of the heavens, for the dew, for the deep that couches beneath-
Ephraim and Manasseh demanded more land at the time of Josh. 17:14, but their argument was weak because they had been given ample land, but they refused to drive out the Canaanites or clear the forests (Josh 17:15). They claimed they deserved it because they had been "blessed". By saying this they were twisting scriptures which speak of their blessing (Gen. 48:20; 49:25,26; Dt. 33:13-17), and therefore demanding more territory which was easier to live in. But the promised "blessing" didn't require they be given more land, and the other tribes were also "blessed". This is typical of how people take one verse here or there to justify their own secular claims.

Deu 33:14 for the precious things of the fruits of the sun, for the precious things of the growth of the moons,
Deu 33:15 for the chief things of the ancient mountains, for the precious things of the everlasting hills,
Deu 33:16 for the precious things of the earth and its fullness, the good will of Him who was manifested in the bush. Let this come on the head of Joseph, on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.
Deu 33:17 The firstborn of his herd, majesty is his. His horns are the horns of the wild ox; with them he shall push all the peoples to the ends of the land. They are the ten thousands of Ephraim; they are the thousands of Manasseh-
- see on Gen. 48:5

Deu 33:18 Of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents.
Deu 33:19 They shall call the peoples to the mountain. There they will offer sacrifices of righteousness, for they shall draw out the abundance of the seas, the hidden treasures of the sand.
Deu 33:20 Of Gad he said, He who enlarges Gad is blessed. He dwells as a lioness and tears the arm, yes the crown of the head-
If Israel had been obedient, their borders could have been enlarged (12:2). It seems God would have done this especially for Gad, even for the sake of one faithful man. Yet there’s no evidence it ever happened; another potential set up which was left unfulfilled because of the chronic lack of vision and satisfied-with-what-I-have attitude of God’s people.

Deu 33:21 He provided the first part for himself, for there was the lawgiver’s portion reserved. He came with the heads of the people. He executed the righteousness of Yahweh, His ordinances with Israel.
Deu 33:22 Of Dan he said, Dan is a lion’s cub that leaps out of Bashan.
Deu 33:23 Of Naphtali he said, Naphtali, satisfied with favour, full of the blessing of Yahweh, possess the west and the south-

"Drive out" is s.w. "possess". We must note the difference between the  Canaanite peoples and their kings being "struck" and their land "taken" by Joshua-Jesus; and the people of Israel permanently taking possession. This is the difference between the Lord's victory on the cross, and our taking possession of the Kingdom. Even though that possession has been "given" to us. The word used for "possession" is literally 'an inheritance'. The allusion is to the people, like us, being the seed of Abraham. The Kingdom was and is our possession, our inheritance- if we walk in the steps of Abraham. But it is one thing to be the seed of Abraham, another to take possession of the inheritance; and Israel generally did not take possession of all the land (Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4). The language of inheritance / possession is applied to us in the New Testament (Eph. 1:11,14; Col. 3:24; Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Pet. 1:4 etc.). Israel were promised: "You shall possess it" (Dt. 30:5; 33:23). This was more of a command than a prophecy, for sadly they were "given" the land but did not "possess" it. They were constantly encouraged in the wilderness that they were on the path to possessing the land (Dt. 30:16,18; 31:3,13; 32:47), but when they got there they didn't possess it fully.

Deu 33:24 Of Asher he said, May Asher be blessed with children. Let him be acceptable to his brothers; let him dip his foot in oil.
Deu 33:25 Your bars shall be iron and brass. As your days, so your strength will be.
Deu 33:26 There is none like God, Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens for your help, in His excellence on the skies-
Through it all we sense the great love of Yahweh, manifest in that Angel, for His servant. And this all typifies the tenderness of God for Jesus in his time of dying. As we think of the Angel lowering the body of Moses, with his arms around and underneath him, it seems no accident that the last words of Moses spoke of this very thing: "There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency in the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee... Israel then shall dwell in safety alone (language of the future Kingdom, Ez. 29:26; 34:25):  the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by Yahweh... thine enemies shall be subdued unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places" , i.e. their idols (Dt. 33:26-29). Surely these Moses' last words could not have been said without his voice cracking with emotion.   

Deu 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place. Underneath are the everlasting arms. He thrusts out the enemy from before you and said ‘Destroy!’
Deu 33:28 Israel shall dwell in safety alone, the fountain of Jacob in a land of grain and new wine. Yes, His heavens drop down dew-
- see on Gen. 27:28

Deu 33:29 You are happy, Israel. Who is like you, a people saved by Yahweh, the shield of your help, the sword of your excellence! Your enemies shall submit themselves to you; you shall tread on their high places-
Moses’ very last words are a reference to the idolatrous “high places”, which the prophets lament were a spiritual snare to Israel. Moses’ final wish and knowledge was that ultimately, Israel would quit with idolatry and be Yahweh’s alone. Seeing that he had predicted their spiritual failures, Moses perhaps had his eye on the day when finally God’s people shall conquer all their temptations, even if only a minority of those with whom God works actually get there in the end, all the same, a minority will, and they will be God’s true Israel.

Moses’ books were helping the wilderness generation to see where they were coming from historically. Passages like Gen. 12:6 now take on special relevance: "The Canaanites were then in the land". Moses was saying this as his people were about to enter a Canaan likewise occupied by Canaanites. He was bidding the people see their connection with their father Abraham, who then lived with Canaanites also in the same land. Gen. 15:1 introduces us to Abraham as a man who had God as his "shield"; and Dt. 33:29 concludes the Pentateuch by saying that Israel as a nation should be happy because they have Yahweh as their "shield".