Deuteronomy 33:1 Moses was about to be “gathered to his fathers” but before he leaves, he places a blessing on them. He anticipates the insecurity of Israel and encourages them that they can rely on God’s steadfast love. Moses says here that God would bless them not because their faithfulness but in spite of it. In the coming days, Israel was going to cross the Jordan and enter war with God’s enemies. These nations were going to face His judgment and Israel was chosen to bring His discipline on them. Later because of their unfaithfulness God will raise outside nations to judge them. Moses would not be present in their future battles as he was about to die. His final message was a prophetic blessing on each of the twelve tribes. It compares with the benedictions of Isaac and Jacob (Ge. 27:7; 49:1–28). It included both prayer and prophecy of what would happen to Israel in the future. Moses is described as the man of God, a title often used for a prophet (Judg. 13:6,8; 1 Sam. 9:6; 1 Kgs. 12:22). Moses was a type of the future Messiah, in that he was a prophet, priest, and like a king. Yeshua was The man of God, prophet, priest and King. Other titles given to Moses throughout Scripture are the servant of God (Nu. 12:6–8; Heb. 3:5), the friend of God (Ex. 33:11) and the prophet of God (De. 18:15; 34:10).
Deuteronomy 33:2-5 The Lord is praised for his care and presence to Israel. He is pictured here as Captain of His armies. God revealed himself with glory and power at Sinai. Sinai, Seir, and Paran were the mountain ranges on the way to the Land from Egypt. The Psalmist used Mountains to compare God’s surrounding His people in Ps. 125:2. The holy ones in v 2 refer to the angels who make up God’s heavenly army (Ps 68:17). Lightning refers to His presence at Mt Sinai when the covenant was given in Ex. 19. The holy ones referred to in v 3 are the people of Israel. The Lord led them because He loved them an indication of His covenant relationship with Him. Today those who have received and abide in Messiah constitute His holy or righteous ones. We are made holy by the righteousness imputed through faith in the work of Yeshua on the cross. It is not from our work or efforts that make us righteous but flow from abiding in Messiah (John 15:1-5). The word Law in v 4 is the Hebrew word Torah. Israel had been entrusted with God’s Word and endowed with God’s covenant blessings (14:2,21; Ex 19:4-6). The New Covenant complements and fulfills the promises of the Torah. The words that God said to Jacob as he was fleeing Esau in Gen. 28:15 apply to all who are now in the line of Jacob by faith: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Deuteronomy 33:6-7 Moses now pronounces his blessings on each of the tribes of Israel. The order of blessings does not follow any of the other listings of the tribes. All lists of the tribes are different. The tribe of Simeon does not appear here perhaps because the tribe of Simeon were gradually assimilated into the territory of Judah. They never maintained their territory except in the cities of Judah (Josh 19:1-9). Some of the members of the tribe of Simeon are noted in 1 Chr. 4:27. This dispersal was prophesied by Jacob in his blessing to his sons in Gen. 49:7. Reuben would not become extinct as Moses prayed that the tribe would be preserved. Jacob had predicted that Reuben would be as unstable as water this proved to be true (Ge. 49:4). Some of the tribe joined in the rebellion of Korah against Moses (Nu. 16). They at times refused to fight when called to battle (Jud. 5:15). Reuben was never important in the history of Israel and never produced a leader in the nation. They are mentioned in the book of Ezekiel in his prophecy concerning the last days (Eze. 48:7). Moses prayed that Judah as Jacob had prophesied would rule and overcome their foes. This is likely looking to the reign of David and his sons ruling as kings. Judah was the lead tribe of the army of Israel.
Deuteronomy 33:8-11 Next in Moses’ prayer is for the Levites. Although Levi and Simeon were combined in Jacob’s prayer (Gen. 49:5-7), by the time of Deuteronomy Levi had become the priestly tribe. They were appointed by the Lord to oversee the ministry of the Tabernacle. They were entrusted with the divinely given method for determining God’s will (Exod. 28:30; 1 Sam. 14:3, 18; 23:9) through the Thummim and Urim (“perfections and lights”). Levi’s call occurred at the incident of the golden calf for their faithfulness to the covenant, over their own kinsmen (Exod. 32:26-29). Most important was their role teaching God’s people the precepts and laws and their work in the Tabernacle interceding for the nation. Moses prayed that they be skilled in their ministry and protected from their enemies.
Deuteronomy 33:12 Next is Moses’ blessing for the tribe of Benjamin. There is a tenderness rooted in Jacob’s love for the youngest son of Rachel his beloved wife. He prayed that Benjamin would find their rest and safety in the Lord. Moses conveys a picture of the Lord carrying them on His shoulders, like a father carrying his child on his shoulders. This is a picture of the Lord as our Shepherd, who also is as a father and mother to us as well.
Deuteronomy 33:13-17 While this passage is addressed to Joseph it includes the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh who consist of the double portion given to Joseph as the firstborn of Rachel. Moses prayed for their prosperity asking God to provide dew from heaven and the waters below so that the blessings of their lands would increase. Such fruitfulness would be a testimony of God’s favor upon them to Israel and the world. Moses alludes to the presence of God that called Him and the nation to be His people at the burning bush at Sinai (Exod. 3:1-3). In his blessing he recalls the words of Jacob that Joseph would be a prince among his brothers referring to Jacobs choosing Ephraim over Manasseh as the predominant son. This is why many of the writers in the Jewish Scripture refer to Israel (the Northern tribes) as Ephraim.
Deuteronomy 33:18-19 The two youngest sons of Leah, Zebulun and Issachar, are prayed for together. They would inherit their land in the Galilee region which included the Jezreel Valley, the breadbasket of Israel. Moses predicted that they would feast on the abundance of the seas. The territory of Zebulon contains Israel’s only natural harbor which today is Haifa, and so the feasting likely refers to God’s blessing on their fishing and their trading with other nations through their port. Referring to Issachar the blessings he spoke of was the assembling the people to the hill country where they would offer proper or righteous sacrifices. This likely points to Mount Tabor which may have been a place of worship in the north prior to the construction of the Temple. Such offerings were later condemned by the Lord through Hosea since they were to be offered in the Temple (Hos 5:1).
Deuteronomy 33:20-21 Moses now directs his prayer for Gad. He actually gives thanks to The Lord who enlarges Gad. The blessing on Gad is a fulfillment of the meaning of his name “good fortune,” and likely points to increase of his children. V 21 speaks of Gad providing for himself pointing to their request that they be granted the land of the Amorites on the east side of the Jordan (Num. 32:1-2). Joshua 22 comments that their choice would present problems in the future with regard to their relationship with the other tribes and their identity to their spiritual heritage rooted in Jerusalem and the Temple. However, the Gadites are praised for their spiritual commitments. This may refer to the tribe faithfully joining with the rest of the tribes in conquering the land on the west side of the Jordan under Joshua.
Deuteronomy 33:22 Moses’ blessing on Dan is the shortest of all. Though attributed to Moses, its placement among the northern tribes suggests that these blessings were gathered and placed in Deuteronomy after Dan migrated north to Laish (Judg. 18). This tribe was known to be courageous and fierce in military warfare, so it was compared to a lion’s cub that springs out in ambush to consume its prey.
Deuteronomy 33:23 The blessing of Naphtali was that they be favored by God and filled with the Lord’s blessings. This included an inheritance of a fertile land. The tribe’s territory would reach from north of Galilee to the area west and south of Galilee.
Deuteronomy 33: 24-25 The name Asher means blessed or happy. This tribe was blessed because of their prosperity. The expressions, “let him bathe his feet in oil” alludes to the olive trees of Galilee that would be so productive that streams of oil would run down the hills. The reference to iron and bronze gives an image of prosperity and security. A cuty that could make its bolts of solid iron or copper was thought to be prosperous. Their territory was along the sea north of Carmel and reached all the way to Tyre and Sidon (Jos. 19:24–31). The territory included some of the most fertile land in the country. A further blessing was that their territory was located along strategic trade routes. The tribe became hardworking, making good use of what was entrusted to them and willing to provide for both the king and the kingdom (1 Kings 4:7). Moses’ sees the cities Asher with strong fortifications to protect them against attacks. The material blessings would later cause them to stumble and separate themselves from their brothers and the Lord (Jud. 5:17–18).
Deuteronomy 33:26-29 these are the last words spoken to Israel by Moses. As his final exhortation to Israel, he declared to them the greatness of their God. There is no one like the God of Israel (Jeshurun lit. upright one). He speaks of God’s sovereign power over creation and yet who comes to the aid of His people. Israel will never be left helpless and hopeless, to handle their problems by themselves. He is described as the eternal God having no beginning and no end. His everlasting arms are able to hold and support His people. That God is their refuge and support. He has and will support them through all their trials and His work in their lives. God furthermore gave and will continue to give them victory over all their enemies. This would be in the upcoming battles for the Land but also throughout their history. It is God who will destroy their adversaries. He will also bring them security and safety. This meant that if they looked to Him, they would never need to enter alliances with the surrounding nations. God would ensure for their provisions and prosperity. There would be sufficient water so that their land would produce abundant grain and wine. This would bring a thriving economy. God’s blessing of salvation and deliverance point to the joy that He will bring to their hearts their souls. His salvation made them a people set apart to the Lord and to the nations. The Lord is their shield and defender. God will shield His people when they needed to be defended, God will take up His sword to protect them. He will give them spiritual victory and they will destroy the high places, the Canaanite worship centers built on the hills and mountains throughout the land. The Lord had instructed Israel to destroy these places once the land was conquered.