After two almost thousand years of Christianity, it is amazing that God still shows so many of the blessings, like here to Israel. He does so at the end of this book in which failure is so emphatically described in the last chapters. The last words of Moses, the man of God, are words of blessing. Thus he says farewell to them, with words that resonate to this day.
There is a comparison with the blessing which Jacob pronounces over his sons in Genesis 49 (Gen 49:1-281Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.
2“Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob;
And listen to Israel your father.3“Reuben, you are my firstborn;
My might and the beginning of my strength,
Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4“Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled [it]—he went up to my couch.5“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
6“Let my soul not enter into their council;
Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew men,
And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
7“Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will disperse them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel.8“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
9“Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He couches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
10“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him [shall be] the obedience of the peoples.
11“He ties [his] foal to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;
He washes his garments in wine,
And his robes in the blood of grapes.
12“His eyes are dull from wine,
And his teeth white from milk.13“Zebulun will dwell at the seashore;
And he [shall be] a haven for ships,
And his flank [shall be] toward Sidon.14“Issachar is a strong donkey,
Lying down between the sheepfolds.
15“When he saw that a resting place was good
And that the land was pleasant,
He bowed his shoulder to bear [burdens],
And became a slave at forced labor.16“Dan shall judge his people,
As one of the tribes of Israel.
17“Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
A horned snake in the path,
That bites the horse’s heels,
So that his rider falls backward.
18“For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.19“As for Gad, raiders shall raid him,
But he will raid [at] their heels.20“As for Asher, his food shall be rich,
And he will yield royal dainties.21“Naphtali is a doe let loose,
He gives beautiful words.22“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a spring;
[Its] branches run over a wall.
23“The archers bitterly attacked him,
And shot [at him] and harassed him;
24But his bow remained firm,
And his arms were agile,
From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25From the God of your father who helps you,
And by the Almighty who blesses you
[With] blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
26“The blessings of your father
Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;
May they be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.27“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he devours the prey,
And in the evening he divides the spoil.”28All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.). Jacob speaks about the history of Israel as it will develop through the ages. That description of history is a description of the failure of the people in their faithfulness to God. That corresponds to the song of Moses in the previous chapter. But in this chapter Moses gives no history and does not speak of failure. He describes the condition of the tribes in the time of the kingdom of peace.
Moses does not only express good wishes. He talks about the blessing of God for a restored people. This chapter shows all the tribes in possession of the promise, the blessing of the land. In every son (tribe) is seen something of God’s intentions for His people as it will find its fulfillment in the kingdom of peace. The whole people, every tribe, is needed to see this intention in its fullness.
It has already been said, but it is good to repeat it again, bearing in mind that we can explain a part of the Bible in three ways. This also applies to the blessing of Moses:
1. The first explanation is the literal one. For what Moses says of the tribes, it means that each of the tribes will have its own inheritance at the end of the book of Joshua.
2. The second explanation is the prophetic one. This means that the blessing that Moses pronounces here will find its full fulfilment in the millennial kingdom of peace, under the reign of the Messiah.
3. The third explanation is the spiritual one. Then it is about the application for us, what we can learn from this for our life in faith.