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Deeper Commentary

 

Deu 33:1 This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death-
"Man of God" refers to a prophet (1 Sam. 9:6; 1 Kings 12:22; 13:14 etc.). What Moses now says is presented as reported speech directly inspired by God, presumably written down by Joshua after Moses' death.

Deu 33:2 He said, Yahweh came from Sinai and rose from Seir to them-
Most Rabbis are insistent that the Hebrew for "came from Sinai" effectively means "came down upon", referring to God's manifestation upon Sinai. The idea of John Thomas was that this verse refers to a 'march of the rainbowed Angel', the saved believers, from the judgment seat in Sinai, from whence they march to destroy various European nations in Israel. There are multiple problems with this view, not least that Moses here is recalling an incident in the past, when Yahweh "came" upon or from Sinai. Surely the theophany on Sinai is in view, perhaps the idea being that the Angels who 'came down' then continued to march with Israel through the wilderness. "Rose from Seir" uses the word for the rising of the sun; therefore He "shone forth" from Paran. It was as if the sun was arising on a new day; but Israel turned away from entering the Kingdom, even though it was made possible for them.

He shone forth from Mount Paran-
The significance of this is in that this was from where the 12 spies set out from in their faithless exploration of Canaan (Num. 13:3,26). They failed to walk in step with the Spirit. There were ten thousands of Angels going with them in glory in order to give them the Kingdom, but they were faithless and turned back. 

He came with ten thousands of holy ones. At His right hand was a fiery law for them-
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. It would appear that all the people of Israel had a guardian Angel- this seems to be implied by Ex. 7:4 "(I will) bring forth Mine armies (of Angels), and My people the children of Israel", implying that there were two armies leaving Egypt- one of Angels, another of their charges. Thus we read in Ex. 12:41 "it came to pass that all the hosts of the LORD (a phrase often used about the Angels- but here concerning the Israelites too) went out from the land of Egypt". In the same way as the Angels were especially Israel's guardians in guiding them out of Egypt, it may be that the Angels minister in a guardian capacity to us especially in leading us out of the world to baptism (cp. the Red Sea). Heb. 1:14 offers tentative support in that the Angels are said to "minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation". At baptism we become heirs of salvation (Rom. 4:13; Gal. 3:27-29)- those who "shall be heirs" are those as yet outside the promises of salvation. Confirmation of all this is provided by a careful reading of Dt. 33:2,3. This describes God coming "unto them" (Israel) "with ten thousands of saints"- i.e. Angels- and giving them "a fiery Law". The next verse records: "Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy Hand (Angelic language)... every one shall receive of Thy words". Here the saints appear to be the people, thus showing that God's love to Israel was shown by each of them having an Angel (thousands of saints for thousands of people), who individually taught them the word of God, albeit all at the same time. The Angels in the court of Heaven are watching us, almost with baited breath. We are made a theatre unto the Angels, as if they are in the audience as we act out our lives (1 Cor. 4:9 RVmg.).


Deu 33:3 Yes, He loved the people-
LXX "And he spared his people" could refer to God's sparing of the people after they declined to enter the Kingdom (see on :2), or the reference may be to how Moses spared the people through the love of his intercession and self sacrifice. 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 Moses' 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. "Yes, 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-
LXX "all his sanctified ones are under thy hands; and they are under thee; and he received of his words". This initially speaks of how Moses received God's words and shared them with Israel, who were placed in his hand. But it all looks forward to the Lord Jesus. 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-
It might help if we try to visualize the practical benefits of keeping the laws. "In keeping of them is great reward", David commented (Ps. 19:11). Moses likewise: "The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes... for our good always" (Dt. 6:24)- not for their irritation, or as a pointless test of obedience. Perhaps this is why the giving of the Law is described as an expression of God's love for Israel (Dt. 33:2-4). It was the loving marriage contract between God and Israel. We must see the keeping of the law by the faithful Israelite as being done within a certain spiritual atmosphere. It would have been impossible to keep all those laws from a series of deliberate acts of the will. The truly obedient Israelite would have developed a way of life and thinking, a culture of kindness to others, which achieved obedience to them. This was surely how Jesus was able to perfectly fulfil the Law. "If a man do (the commands) he shall even live in them" (Lev. 18:5) seems to refer to this atmosphere of obedience.


Deu 33:5 He was king in Jeshurun when the heads of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together-
God imputed righteousness to Israel at this time, seeing them as Jeshurun, the upright one, not perceiving iniquity in Israel (Num. 23:21); because He so loved them. He fell in love with them in the desert. LXX "And he shall be prince with the beloved one, when the princes of the people are gathered together with the tribes of Israel". The thought in this case would be looking ahead to Messiah as the beloved one.


Deu 33:6 Let Reuben live, and not die, nor let his men be few-
Reuben was the firstborn but was demoted because of his sin. But he is mentioned here in first place. The request for him not to die, and to not have few descendants, may be a statement to the effect that Moses wished that the effect of all curses for disobedience would finally be removed. And that only will come true in the Kingdom of God when the Lord Jesus returns.

At this point we would expect Simeon to be blessed, but he is apparently omitted. Although the Alexandrian LXX renders the last part of this verse as "Let Simeon be very numerous". At the census taken when they left Egypt, Simeon numbered 59,300, but only 22,000 at the census taken at the end of the wanderings. So Moses may therefore be wishing that Simeon would stop declining and grow. But we note that there are at least 24 lists of the 12 sons of Jacob / tribes of Israel. And they each slightly differ. The names are in different orders, and some are omitted- e.g. Levi is sometimes omitted, or the two sons of Joseph are sometimes listed, and sometimes not. Simeon and Levi were cursed because of how they had treated the Hivites (Gen. 49:5-7). Levi had no allocation of land, and Simeon's small portion was carved out of that of Judah (Josh. 19:1-9). Yet Levi were somehow justified because they had not allowed their cursed state to stop them serving Yahweh (Dt. 33:8-11), whereas Simeon perhaps wallowed in his curse and didn't seek to rise above it.

 
Deu 33:7 This is for Judah. He said Hear, Yahweh, the voice of Judah-
The implication was that Judah would be an intercessor with God who would be heard as Moses had been. And clearly the reference ultimately was to the Lord Jesus.

Bring him in to his people-
This could be read as a desire for the coming of this Messianic intercessor from the tribe of Judah.

With his hands he contended for himself-
The idea is as in AV that his hands would be made strong, just as the hand of Joseph's were (Gen. 49:24- another type of Christ).

You shall be a help against his adversaries-
The Messianic intercessor descendant of Judah was clearly to be strengthened for his task by Yahweh, just as happened with the Lord Jesus (Ps. 80:17).


Deu 33:8 Of Levi he said-
Again we note that this is reported speech, written up under inspiration presumably by Joshua.

Your Thummim and your Urim are with your holy one whom You proved at Massah, with whom You strove at the waters of Meribah-
LXX "whom they tempted in the temptation; they reviled him at the water of strife". It was this provocation which led Aaron to sin by striking the rock rather than speaking to it. Yet despite that sin, the Urim and Thummim remained on Aaron. They were the two stones on the breastplate which flashed out yes / no responses to prayers and questions.

"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) Your word" (Jn. 17:17), as the Levites were sanctified (1 Chron. 23:13 Heb.). Through His allusions to this, the Lord Jesus was telling the disciples not to be frightened to stand alone from the community they knew and respected. 


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 loyal Levites were asked to kill their own brothers and neighbours in their tribal encampment area (Ex. 32:27). The 3000 may have been the apostate amongst the tribe of Levi (Ex. 32:28). So we are wrong to think that all the Levites were loyal to Moses and spurned the golden calf. Indeed it could be that those slain were the unfaithful amongst the tribe of Levi.
"The men which You gave me out of the (Jewish) world... they have kept Your word" (Jn. 17:6) compares with the faithful 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 Your word, and kept Your 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 the Lord 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..." was a command more than a predictive prophecy. Much which appears to be prophecy, such as the passage about the rebuilding of the temple at the restoration in Ez. 40-48, is command more than prediction. For the priesthood failed to teach Israel as here envisioned. See on :11.

They shall put incense before You and whole burnt offering on Your altar-
LXX "they shall place incense in the time of thy wrath continually upon thine altar". The idea, as in :7, is that just as Moses and Aaron had saved Israel by their intercession, so the future descendant of Judah and Levi would do so. And the ultimate fulfilment is in the Lord Jesus.

Revelation describes Angels rushing in response to human prayers, vials of judgment being poured out on earth as a result of the incense of prayer accumulating...this is the power of prayer. If prayer is like incense, we must give Dt. 33:10 RVmg. its full weight- that incense would come up "in your nostrils". This is how intimately we are invited to see our prayers being received by God; this is the power of prayer. The golden vials full of prayers of Rev. 5:8 become the vials of judgments which are poured out on the land in Rev. 8:5- so close is the connection between the events that mould history, and the incense of prayer.

Deu 33:11 Yahweh, bless his substance-
This request for material blessing was in the light of the fact they had no land inheritance, and lived on their share of the gifts given to Yahweh. So the fulfilment of this blessing was dependent upon Israel's obedience. See on :10.

Accept the work of his hands-
That work was intercession for Israel; see on :10.

Strike through the hips of those who rise up against him, of those who hate him, so that they will not rise again-
The reference may be to the rising up against the established priesthood of Num. 16. But the permanent, final crushing of those who rise up against Levi surely refers to the final latter day destruction of all opposition to the ultimate priest and intercessor, the Lord Jesus. The language is used about opposition to Him (Ps. 69:24).


Deu 33:12 Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of Yahweh shall dwell in safety by Him. He covers him all the day long-
The reference is clearly to the presence of Yahweh dwelling between the cherubim over the ark. The temple was to be built in Benjamin's territory in Jerusalem. But David, a man of Judah, often appropriates this language to himself. For the Psalms speak of him as being covered by the wings of the cherubim, as if he were located on the mercy seat or lid of the ark where the blood of atonement was scattered every year, covered by the wings of God's cherubic care. "The beloved of Yahweh" was Solomon, so there may be a hint here of the potential possible for Solomon. But he failed, and so the prophecy and potential came fully true in the Lord Jesus. I noted on :5 that the LXX there speaks of Messiah as the beloved of Yahweh, so this may be the reference here too.

He dwells between His shoulders-
This could mean that Yahweh dwelt between the shoulders of Benjamin, just as the breastplate of glory was between the shoulders of the high priest. It would be another indication that the special presence of God in the tabernacle and with the high priest was in essence and spirit possible for all God's people. This came to full term when the veil was torn down at the Lord's death, and Paul argues that all of us can like the high priest enter into the holiest with the Lord's blood of atonement.


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 in it (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.

The blessing of dew was withdrawn during the three and a half years of Elijah's ministry, as he pleaded with Israel to repent. And so it will happen in the latter day Elijah ministry. Only when Israel repent will these blessings be realized again. God "will not be unto the residue (remnant) of this people as in the former days... the heavens shall (now) give their dew;  and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things" (Zech. 8:10-12). The dew will come upon the whole land, because only this righteous remnant of Israel will be left alive. We note that dew represents teaching in Dt. 32:2, and the repentance of Israel and restoration of blessing will be due to their response to the teaching of the Elijah ministry.

Deu 33:14 for the precious things of the fruits of the sun, for the precious things of the growth of the moons-
An allusion to the idea that on each new moon, a different type of fruit tree begins to ripen its fruit. This seems to me an example of where wrong scientific understandings are used without correction. But perhaps Rev. 22:2 is the final fulfilment, when the forest of trees of life will bring forth fruits every month, i.e. at the monthly new moons.


Deu 33:15 for the chief things of the ancient mountains, for the precious things of the everlasting hills-
LXX "from the top of the ancient mountains, and from the top of the everlasting hills". The idea of abundant fruit (:14) on the very top of huge mountains is the language of the establishment of the Kingdom (Ps. 72:16).


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-
LXX "let the things pleasing to him that dwelt in the bush come on the head of Joseph". The will of the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush was clearly the salvation of Israel. And that salvation would be associated with abundant fertility of the land in physical terms.

On the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers-
Just as Levi was separate from his brethren and commended for it (:9), so with Joseph. "Separated" is the word for Nazirite. He was literally 'Nazirited', consecrated, from among his brothers; this could be a reference to how he was the family priest, wearing the coat of many colours; and how he was clearly consecrated by God as well to be the family's saviour. Joseph's separation from his brethren, by their choice, was what separated him unto the things of God. And in so many lives, separation from the community of brethren, by their choice rather than pushing off in a huff from them, is what brings a person to special service toward God. And enables them to thereby save their brethren. Job would be a classic example, coming to full term in the Lord Jesus (Heb. 7:26), who was separated from and by sinners that He might save sinners. See on :24.


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-
The idea may be that God would have potentially enabled Ephraim and Manasseh to do the bulk of the work in driving out the tribes. But half of Manasseh wanted to remain beyond Jordan, and there is no evidence they lived up to this potential at the time of the conquest. Just as so many are given the potential power to inherit the Kingdom, but refuse to use it. Moses ‘prophesied’ that Ephraim would “push the people [Gentile inhabitants of the land] together to the ends of the earth / land” (Dt. 33:17). And yet Hos. 7:8 cp. Ps. 106:34-36 criticize Ephraim for failing to push the people out of the land. Moses’ prophecies about the tribes sound like predictions; but they were actually commands which those tribes had the freewill to obey or not.

They are the ten thousands of Ephraim; they are the thousands of Manasseh-
See on Gen. 48:5. The way Jacob insisted on blessing Ephraim as the firstborn seems to show some kind of favouritism and a desire to see his grandson living out his own experience, i.e. the younger son who fought his way up and received the blessings as opposed to the rightful heir. Ephraim becomes a code-name for apostate Israel throughout the prophets. And yet God accepted Jacob's preferential blessing of Ephraim and repeated this in Dt. 33:17. Jacob foresaw how Simeon and Levi would be especially responsible for 'houghing the ox' (Gen. 49:6 RV), or bullock (Concordant Version), i.e. Christ (Dt. 33:17 RV), the bullock of the sin offering (Heb. 13:11-13). Gen. 49:6 can also be rendered, with evident Messianic reference, 'murdering the prince' (Gen. 49:6 Adam Clarke's Translation).  


Deu 33:18 Of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out-
The idea was that Zebulun would be blessed in her voyages by sea, in line with the blessing of Gen 49:13 "Zebulun will dwell at the haven of the sea. He will be for a haven of ships. His border will be on Sidon". But this didn't happen. Zebulun was to dwell along the sea coast (LXX), where ships unload [a "haven"], "beside the sea" (GNB), until Sidon. But this wasn't the case. The canton of Zebulun even in Ezekiel's prophecy of the restored Kingdom was to be nowhere near Sidon, and Zebulun never had a border unto Sidon. According to Josephus (Ant. 19:10,16), Zebulun was never even bounded by the sea, being cut off by Asher. So again we see a case of a potential Kingdom blessing which was never realized. And this must be the great tragedy for God, to see so much potential wasted in so many lives. What joy for Him when we at least seek to fulfil those potentials He has given us.

And Issachar, in your tents-
Issachar was to have prosperous harvests so that they rejoiced in their homes ["tents", Dt. 16:7]. The contrast is with how Zebulun were intended to "go out" in trading and be blessed, and Issachar likewise in their more localized activities.


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-
The idea is that they would invite the Gentiles to the mountain of God's inheritance, His Kingdom established in the land (Ex. 15:17). And the grateful Gentiles would bring their offerings and gifts to the land in response. Hence LXX "for the wealth of the sea shall suckle thee, and so shall the marts of them that dwell by the sea-coast". This is all the language of the restored Kingdom of God in Israel (Is. 60:5,6,16; 66:11,12). The nations of the world were imagined as arriving at the sea ports in their territory. But instead, Israel retreated into mere religion rather than spirituality, and were not a light to the Gentile world as intended. Indeed instead of restoring the Kingdom as intended in those Isaiah passages, they instead became elitist and xenophobic towards Gentiles. And so the new Israel must learn from this. 


Deu 33:20 Of Gad he said, He who enlarges Gad is blessed-
If Israel had been obedient, their borders could have been enlarged (Dt. 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. Who knows the height and depth, length and breadth of what could have been for God’s people? And the same is true for us today. According to Israel’s perception of the land, so it was defined for them.

He dwells as a lioness and tears the arm, yes the crown of the head-
LXX "as a lion he rested, having broken the arm and the ruler". The reference may specifically be to the destruction of the latter day invader of Israel, with Gad identified with the latter day lion of Judah, Messiah Jesus (Gen. 49:9). 


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-
LXX "And he saw his first-fruits, that there the land of the princes gathered with the chiefs of the people was divided; the Lord wrought righteousness, and his judgment with Israel". The reference may be to how Gad was apparently the leader of the "heads of the people" of Gad, Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh who wanted to take their inheritance east of Jordan (Num. 32:2,6,25). The idea therefore was that they were told by Moses to see the inheritance they were allowed east of Jordan as merely a firstfruit of greater inheritance. Just as we are invited to receive  firstfruit of inheritance of the Kingdom through the gift and experience of the Holy Spirit. But as with so many today, the first fruit was treated as the full experience, with no spiritual ambition to inherit more. "He executed the righteousness of Yahweh, His ordinances with Israel" would then be a very positive take on how the men of Gad apparently obeyed the agreement to go over Jordan and help their brethren inherit the Kingdom.


Deu 33:22 Of Dan he said, Dan is a lion’s cub that leaps out of Bashan-
The reference may specifically be to the destruction of the latter day invader of Israel, with Dan identified with the latter day lion cub of Judah, Messiah Jesus (Gen. 49:9). Bashan simply refers to the fact it was an area known for lions (Song 4:8). Or perhaps there will be some specific latter day fulfilment of this in the area of Bashan. There may have been a potential initial fulfilment in Samson who was from Dan. 


Deu 33:23 Of Naphtali he said, Naphtali, satisfied with favour, full of the blessing of Yahweh, possess the west and the south-
Blessing is here associated with favour, or grace. The connection between blessing and forgiveness / salvation is widespread throughout Scripture: Dt. 33:23; Ps. 5:12 (blessing = grace) Dt. 30:19; Ps. 3:8; 24:5; 28:9; 133:3 (= salvation); Ex. 12:32; 32:29; Num. 24:1; 2 Sam. 21:3; Ps. 67:1 (cp. context); Lk. 6:28; Acts 3:26; Rom. 4:7,8; 1 Cor. 10:16; Gal. 3:14 (= forgiveness). So it seems Moses had in view the day when Naphtali would have spiritual blessings.

"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-
These blessings look ahead to a day when Joseph would no longer be separate from his brothers (:16) and Asher would no longer be despised by his brothers. One great joy of the Kingdom will be the ultimate reconciliation between brethren. The blessing of oil doesn't refer to the discovery of crude oil in Israel, but refers to agricultural blessing of olive oil as in Job 29:6; Gen. 49:20.     


Deu 33:25 Your bars shall be iron and brass-
LXX "His sandal shall be iron and brass". The sandal or foot spoke of inheritance, so this may be a wish that Asher have iron and brass within their territorial inheritance (Dt. 8:9).

As your days, so your strength will be-
The idea is as the Vulgate "let thine old age be as thy youth", wishing the blessing of Moses upon Asher. Again we see Moses set up as a realistic pattern to be followed, rather than to be as it were worshipped as an unapproachable icon, as Judaism effectively came to do.


Deu 33:26 There is none like God, Jeshurun-
The appeal is to realize that their God is incomparable with any other god or idol.


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 AV). 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-
LXX "And the rule of God shall protect thee". This looks ahead to the Kingdom, when the rule of God will be openly upon earth.

Underneath are the everlasting arms. He thrusts out the enemy from before you and said ‘Destroy!’-
LXX "Perish!". And yet although the Canaanites were thrust out by God from before them, they refused to accept this potential power to inherit the Kingdom. Just as so many do today.


Deu 33:28 Israel shall dwell in safety alone-
LXX "Israel shall dwell in confidence alone on the land of Jacob". They would not share the land with other tribes, they alone would be there, and the other tribes would become part of Israel.  In Ps. 4:8 David spoke of how God alone "makes me dwell in safety alone". The very same Hebrew words occur in Dt. 33:28 – Israel will “dwell in safety alone” in the Kingdom. David felt that even in the midst of hardship, this time of Kingdom blessing had come for him internally, in the peace of his own mind. Likewise in our lives the essence of the Kingdom can come. We live the eternal life now.

The fountain of Jacob in a land of grain and new wine. Yes, His heavens drop down dew-
Paul evidently disapproved of Jacob's attitude in falsely obtaining the physical blessing from Isaac (Rom. 12:20 surely alludes to it); but his evil deception of his father was used by God to grant him the physical blessing (Gen. 27:28 is confirmed by God in Dt. 33:28), even though at the time he was dressed like a goat, connecting himself with fallen Adam and the rejected at the day of judgment; “Deceiving and being deceived” certainly rings bells with Jacob (2 Tim. 3:13). 

The passage in :26-29 speaks of God's dramatic intervention to permanently save Israel from their enemies in the last days, and associates this with the heavens dropping dew upon the land. Seeing this is a normal thing to happen, the implication must be that during the time of their enemies' domination the dew had not come. See on :13.  


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!-
LXX "and his sword is thy boast". Israel would finally come to a point where they boasted not in their own strength [unlike today] but in Yahweh's saving work for them in giving them the Kingdom. 

Your enemies shall submit themselves to you; you shall tread on their high places-
LXX "Upon their neck". But "high places" would be 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".