Blessing upon the Tribes.
#This poem, called the Blessing of Moses, consists of a series of poetic characterizations of each of the tribes of Israel (vv. 6–25), introduced (vv. 2–3) and concluded (vv. 26–27) by a theophany; vv. 4–5 lead into the blessing proper; and the poem ends with a blessing on Israel as a whole (vv. 28–29). This catalog of the tribal units of the people Israel resembles the Blessing of Jacob (Gn 49) and the Song of Deborah (Jgs 5, especially vv. 14–18); all three poems seem to date from the early premonarchic period. 1This is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, blessed the Israelites before he died.#a. [33:1] Jos 14:6; Ps 90:1.
2#b. [33:2–3] Ex 15:14–17; 19:18–20; Nm 10:36; Jgs 5:4–5; Ps 68:7–8, 17; 89:7; Hb 3:3–6. He said:
The Lord came from Sinai
and dawned on his people from Seir;
he shone forth from Mount Paran.
With him were myriads of holy ones;
at his right hand advanced the gods.#Gods: the divine beings who constitute the armies of the Lord, the heavenly hosts (Sabaoth); see note on 32:8. These “holy ones” (v. 3) are the retinue of the Lord, the warrior God, in his march from the southern mountains (Sinai, Seir, Paran).
3Indeed, lover of the peoples,
all the holy ones are at your side;
They follow at your heels,
carry out your decisions.
4Moses charged us with the law,
as a possession for the assembly of Jacob.#c. [33:4] Dt 4:44; Jn 1:17; 7:19.
5A king arose#A king arose: it is unclear whether this refers to divine kingship or the beginning of the monarchy in Israel. Jeshurun: see note on 32:15. in Jeshurun
when the chiefs of the people assembled,
and the tribes of Israel united.#d. [33:5] Dt 32:15.
6May Reuben live and not die out,#e. [33:6] Gn 49:3–4.
but let his numbers be few.
7Of Judah he said this:
Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah,
and bring him to his people.#Bring him to his people: this probably refers to the isolated position of the tribe of Judah (cf. Jgs 1:17–19); according to some commentators the reference is to the divided kingdom.
His own hands defend his cause;
be a help against his foes.#f. [33:7] Gn 49:8–12.
8Of Levi he said:#g. [33:8–11] Gn 49:5–7.
Give to Levi your Thummim,
your Urim#Thummim…Urim: devices priests used for divination (cf. note on Ex 28:30). to your faithful one;
Him you tested at Massah,
contended against him at the waters of Meribah.#h. [33:8] Dt 6:16; 9:22; 32:51; Ex 17:1–7; 28:30; Lv 8:8; Nm 20:1–13; 1 Sm 14:41–42.
9#The reference is probably to the Levites’ slaughter of other Israelites after the incident of the golden calf; cf. Ex 32:27–29. He said of his father and mother,
“I have no regard for them”;
His brothers he would not acknowledge,
and his own children he did not recognize.
For they kept your words,
and your covenant they upheld.#i. [33:9] Lk 14:26.
10#j. [33:10–11] Dt 10:8; 17:9–11; 18:1–8; Ex 30:7–8; Lv 10:11; 2 Kgs 17:27–28; Mal 2:4–9. They teach your ordinances to Jacob,
your law to Israel.
They bring incense to your nostrils,
and burnt offerings to your altar.
11Bless, Lord, his strength,
be pleased with the work of his hands.
Crush the loins of his adversaries
and of his foes, that they may not rise.
12Of Benjamin he said:
The beloved of the Lord,
he abides in safety beside him;
He shelters him all day long;
the beloved abides at his breast.#Abides at his breast: an image of security under divine protection. #k. [33:12] Gn 49:27.
13Of Joseph he said:#l. [33:13–17] Gn 49:22–26.
Blessed by the Lord is his land
with the best of heaven above
and of the abyss crouching beneath;
14With the best of the produce of the sun,
and the choicest yield of the months;
15With the finest gifts of the ancient mountains
and the best from the everlasting hills;
16With the best of the earth and its fullness,
and the favor of the one who dwells on Sinai.
Let these come upon the head of Joseph
and upon the brow of the prince among his brothers.#m. [33:16] Ex 3:1–6; Jgs 5:6.
17His firstborn bull, majesty is his!
His horns are the horns of a wild ox;
With them he gores the peoples,
attacks the ends of the earth.
These are the myriads of Ephraim,
and these the thousands of Manasseh.
18Of Zebulun he said:#n. [33:18–19] Gn 49:13–15.
Rejoice, Zebulun, in your expeditions,
exult, Issachar, in your tents!
19They invite peoples to the mountain
where they offer right sacrifices,
Because they suck up the abundance of the seas#The abundance of the seas: perhaps the wealth that comes from sea trade or from fishing. The hidden treasures of the sand: possibly an allusion to the valuable purple dye extracted from certain marine shells found on the coast of northern Palestine.
and the hidden treasures of the sand.
20Of Gad he said:#o. [33:20–21] Gn 49:19.
Blessed be the one who has made Gad so vast!
He lies there like a lion;
he tears the arm, the head as well.
21He saw that the best should be his,
for there the commander’s portion was assigned;
he came at the head of the people.
He carried out the justice of the Lord
and his ordinances for Israel.#p. [33:21] Nm 32:1–32; Jos 1:12–15; 1 Chr 5:18–22; 12:8–15.
22Of Dan he said:
Dan is a lion’s cub,#q. [33:22] Gn 49:16–17.
that springs away from a viper!
23Of Naphtali he said:
Naphtali, abounding with favor,
filled with the blessing of the Lord,
take possession of the west and south.#r. [33:23] Gn 49:21; Jos 19:32–39.
24Of Asher he said:#s. [33:24–25] Gn 49:20.
Most blessed#Most blessed: Hebrew baruk; but the name Asher may suggest a play on the Hebrew ’ashre, “happy”; cf., e.g., v. 29; Ps 1:1. Oil: the land of the tribe of Asher was covered with olive groves. of sons be Asher!
May he be the favorite among his brothers,
and may he dip his foot in oil!
25May the bolts of your gates be iron and bronze;
may your strength endure through all your days!
26There is none like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides the heavens in his power,
who rides the clouds in his majesty;#t. [33:26] Dt 32:15; Ps 18:10; 68:4, 33; 104:3; Is 19:1.
27The God of old is a refuge;
a support are the arms of the Everlasting.
He drove the enemy out of your way
and he said, “Destroy!”#u. [33:27] Dt 7:1, 17–24.
28Israel abides securely,
Jacob dwells apart,
In a land of grain and wine,
where the heavens drip with dew.#v. [33:28] Dt 7:12–16; Gn 27:28; Nm 23:9.
29Happy are you, Israel! Who is like you,
a people delivered by the Lord,
Your help and shield,
and the sword of your glory.
Your enemies cringe before you;
you stride upon their backs.#w. [33:29] Dt 4:7–8; Gn 15:1; 2 Sm 22:3; Ps 28:7; 119:114.