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Deuteronomy 33


Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Thirty-Three
Commentary by Pastor Ron Beckham

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He Is God

Verses 1-3: "Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death.He said, 'The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; at His right hand there was flashing lightning for them.Indeed, He loves the people; all Your holy ones are in Your hand, and they followed in Your steps; everyone receives of Your words.'" It was the way of a leader like Moses to have one or more secretarial-types who would write and assist him in a variety of ways. Moses was definitely the author of Deuteronomy, but it was likely that Joshua physically wrote the words of this chapter. Joshua really listened like we all should, and perfectly wrote the words "he (Moses) said." As we can see here, Moses blessed the tribes of Israel and then he died. Notice that Moses clearly recalled and shared what the Lord had done for him and for the people within a variety of situations and places. See especially his recollection that the Lord "loves the people," directly intended in this context for ancient Israel, but His love also shines from eternity to those of any nation who will have faith in the Lord.

Verses 4-5: "Moses charged us with a law, a possession for the assembly of Jacob.And He was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were gathered, the tribes of Israel together." The term "Jeshurun" meant "upright," as also seen in Deuteronomy 32:15, where it was applied to Israel in the form of irony. Here in these verses, it is not Moses, but the Lord who is King over the people. Moses was never referred to as their king, but he was the human instrument in the giving of the Law, God's gift to and through Israel. When you place your faith in the Lord, you begin to discover that the Lord is King over us all. Humans may seem to rule for a time but only with the Lord's permission. The Lord is in charge. He is God.

Verses 6-7: "May Reuben live and not die, nor his men be few.And this regarding Judah; so he said, 'Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him to his people. With his hands he contended for them, and may You be a help against his adversaries.'" "Reuben" ("see, a soul") was the eldest son of Jacob, by Jacob's first wife, Leah. His descendants became the tribe of the Reubenites, a group that declined in population between the census in Numbers 1:21 and the subsequent census in Numbers 26:7. The prayer of Moses was that the Reubenites would survive and grow in numbers. Judah's population of fighting men grew within the same time period and Moses' prayer was Judah would be successful in battle. The brothers, Reuben and Judah, had been instrumental in keeping their younger brother, Joseph, alive and safe from his other siblings, as seen in Genesis 37:17-28. The name "Judah" means "praise"—his mother, Leah, praised the Lord at Judah's birth, Jacob's fourth son.

Verses 8-11: "Of Levi he said, 'Let Your Thummim and Your Urim belong to Your godly man, whom You proved at Massah, with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah;who said of his father and his mother, ‘I did not consider them’; and he did not acknowledge his brothers, nor did he regard his own sons, for they observed Your word, and kept Your covenant. 10 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. 11 O Lord, bless his substance, and accept the work of his hands; shatter the loins of those who rise up against him, and those who hate him, so that they will not rise again.'" The Levites were priests and religious workers to be scattered throughout Israel, providing religion, sanctuary and meaningful holy items for the tribes, such as "incense," "Thummim" and "Urim," symbols of prayer. "Levi" ("joined") was not counted in the census of fighting men in Numbers Chapter 1, but with the Lord's permission, the tribe was counted in Numbers 26. Levi was Jacob and Leah's third son (Genesis 29:34). The High Priest and other priests of Israel were Levites, as was Moses, who prayed for the tribe's success and protection. The Levites would have no territory in the new nation, but 48-cities were assigned to them (Numbers 35) and they would have enemies. Moses prayed their enemies would "not rise again."

Verses 12-17: "Of Benjamin he said, 'May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him, who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.' 13 Of Joseph he said, 'Blessed of the Lord be his land, with the choice things of heaven, with the dew, and from the deep lying beneath, 14  And with the choice yield of the sun, and with the choice produce of the months. 15  and with the best things of the ancient mountains, and with the choice things of the everlasting hills, 16  and with the choice things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let it come to the head of Joseph, And to the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers. 17 As the firstborn of his ox, majesty is his, and his horns are the horns of the wild ox; with them he will push the peoples, all at once, to the ends of the earth. And those are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and those are the thousands of Manasseh.'" "Joseph" (“may Yahweh add”) was Jacob's second to the youngest son, and the youngest, "Benjamin," was named “son of my sorrow” by his mother as she lay dying at his birth. Jacob (Israel) changed the baby's name to “Benjamin” (“son of my right hand”). Rachel, their mother, was the love of their father. Jacob caused Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to each have a tribal inheritance in Israel. The tribes descended from Joseph's and Benjamin's sons were have a very different future. The tribes from Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to be part of the nation to the north called Israel, after the split of the nation, whereas Benjamin became part of the nation Judah to the south, a country that contained Benjaminites, scattered Simeonites and Levites, who would survive for 135 or so additional years after the destruction of their sister nation to the north, Israel. Israel was destroyed in roughly 721 BC. Judah was defeated and exiled for 70-years, in 586 BC.

Verses 18-19: "Of Zebulun he said, 'Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, and, Issachar, in your tents. 19 They will call peoples to the mountain; there they will offer righteous sacrifices; for they will draw out the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand." "Issachar" (“man of hire”) and "Zebulun" (“dwelling”) were Jacob's ninth and tenth sons, a bonus to Jacob's first wife, Leah, who was the most prolific among the mothers of sons who became tribes in Israel. Their descendants are also part of the far future in Revelation 7:7-8, tribes not recognized in humanity today, but known by God and represented in eternity.

Verses 20-22: "Of Gad he said, 'Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad; He lies down as a lion, and tears the arm, also the crown of the head. 21 Then he provided the first part for himself, for there the ruler’s portion was reserved; and he came with the leaders of the people; he executed the justice of the Lord, and His ordinances with Israel.' 22 Of Dan he said, 'Dan is a lion’s whelp, that leaps forth from Bashan.'" "Gad" ("a troop" or "fortune") was the seventh son of Jacob, born to Leah's maid Zilpah, at Leah's insistence after she personally stopped bearing children. "Dan" ("judge") was Jacob's fifth son, born to Rachel's maid, Bilhah, at Rachel's instigation, a birth which was part of the marital conflict to see who could bear Jacob the most sons. The descendants of both these boys would become tribes in the northern nation, Israel. Dan became a place filled with idolatry (1 Kings 12:28-30), and the tribe disappears altogether by the time of Revelation 7:4-8.

Verses 23-25: "Of Naphtali he said, 'O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, take possession of the sea and the south.' 24 Of Asher he said, “More blessed than sons is Asher; may he be favored by his brothers, and may he dip his foot in oil. 25  'Your locks will be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.'" The man "Napthali" (“wrestling with God”) was Jacob’s sixth son through Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, and the tribe is fifth on the list in Revelation 7. "Asher" (“happy”) was the eighth son of Jacob through Zilpah, Leah’s maid. As a tribe, Asher was less notable, but Anna of that tribe lived to authenticate the infant Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem (Luke 2:36). Both tribes, Napthali and Asher, were to be part of the northern group called Israel, after it split into two disparate nations.

Verses 26-29: "There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty. 27 'The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, ‘Destroy!’ 28 'So Israel dwells in security, the fountain of Jacob secluded, in a land of grain and new wine; his heavens also drop down dew. 29 Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, Who is the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty! So your enemies will cringe before you, and you will tread upon their high places.'" God would PROTECT that nation. The name "Jeshurun," ("upright") seen also in Verse 5, can be viewed as one of God's nicknames for Israel. There were instances where the nation was upright, and other situations where they were not upright at all. However, God Himself is the One who decides the nature and outcomes of people everywhere. There are those who disagree with God's choices, but He is God and we are not. When He would later say, "God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16), not all agree. But those who accept His decision that Israel is "a people saved by the Lord," do agree with Almighty God. And those who accept in faith that "whoever believes in Him (Jesus Christ) should not perish, but have everlasting life," do become His people. We accept His words: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). He is God. We are not. We are to trust in Him.

Lord, You are God and I am not. I am so grateful that You, whose ways and thoughts are higher than mine, are in charge and make the decisions. I trust in You, Lord, and thank You—I have eternal life. I am Yours. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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