Final Words of Blessing (Deuteronomy 33:1-29)

In this penultimate devotional before ending with the death of Moses tomorrow, we come upon one of the most cryptic and difficult of biblical passages. The text is full of very unusual words and constructions that are difficult to translate and understand without getting into some pretty deep Semitic language family weeds.

Here are some general things we may say about it:

These are final words of blessing from Moses over the nation of Israel and its tribes. The chapter opens with some poetic references to the manner by which God’s blessings came to Israel from over the Sinai – as Moses led the nation out of Egypt, receiving the Law, etc.

The tribe by tribe blessings anticipate some of the challenges and blessing each would experience. Simeon is strangely not included, perhaps in anticipation as to how it would be absorbed over time into the tribe of Judah.

In the culture of the times, it was customary for fathers to impart blessings just before death. We might especially recall the scene of Jacob and his pronouncements in Genesis 49 … or also Isaac with Jacob and Esau. Final words are important ones and often remembered – especially when the person uttering them is of a good mind, while knowing the end is near.

In any event, by application, it may be a very healthy exercise for us to consider how we leave a verbal legacy to our children and those beyond them. There can be tremendous impact in this effort. Since we cannot usually guarantee how that scenario may develop – how sudden it may be or how compromised our minds may become – there could be some great benefit in having some kind of written record of thoughts, values, perspectives, blessings, etc. that is prepared to be left to those coming behind us. This is a way of discipling generations – of having an impact even after we are gone.

Moses Blesses the Tribes

33 This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death.He said:“The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with[a] myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes.[b]

Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction,the law that Moses gave us, the possession of the assembly of Jacob.He was king over Jeshurun[c] when the leaders of the people assembled, along with the tribes of Israel.

“Let Reuben live and not die, nor[d] his people be few.”

And this he said about Judah: “Hear, Lord, the cry of Judah; bring him to his people. With his own hands he defends his cause. Oh, be his help against his foes!”

About Levi he said: “Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful servant. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah. He said of his father and mother, ‘I have no regard for them.’  He did not recognize his brothers or acknowledge his own children, but he watched over your word and guarded your covenant.10 He teaches your precepts to Jacob and your law to Israel. He offers incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar.11 Bless all his skills, Lord, and be pleased with the work of his hands. Strike down those who rise against him, his foes till they rise no more.”

12 About Benjamin he said: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”

13 About Joseph he said: “May the Lord bless his land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; 14 with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield;15 with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills;16 with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among[e] his brothers.17 In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth. Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim; such are the thousands of Manasseh.”

18 About Zebulun he said: “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and you, Issachar, in your tents.
19 They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer the sacrifices of the righteous; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sand.”

20 About Gad he said: “Blessed is he who enlarges Gad’s domain! Gad lives there like a lion, tearing at arm or head.21 He chose the best land for himself; the leader’s portion was kept for him. When the heads of the people assembled, he carried out the Lord’s righteous will, and his judgments concerning Israel.”

22 About Dan he said: “Dan is a lion’s cub, springing out of Bashan.”

23 About Naphtali he said: “Naphtali is abounding with the favor of the Lord and is full of his blessing; he will inherit southward to the lake.”

24 About Asher he said: “Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil.25 The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days.

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

28 So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell[f] secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew.29 Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.”

Footnotes:

  1. Deuteronomy 33:2 Or from
  2. Deuteronomy 33:2 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
  3. Deuteronomy 33:5 Jeshurun means the upright one, that is, Israel; also in verse 26.
  4. Deuteronomy 33:6 Or but let
  5. Deuteronomy 33:16 Or of the one separated from
  6. Deuteronomy 33:28 Septuagint; Hebrew Jacob’s spring is