Deuteronomy
Introduction 1-5 The LORD Comes to His People 6 Reuben 7 Judah 8-11 Levi 12 Benjamin 13-17 Joseph 18-19 Zebulun and Issachar 20-21 Gad 22 Dan 23 Naphtali 24-25 Asher 26-29 Who Is Like Israel?
Introduction

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.


The LORD Comes to His People

1Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death. 2He 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.
3“Indeed, He loves the people;
All Your holy ones are in Your hand,
And they followed in Your steps;
[Everyone] receives of Your words.
4“Moses charged us with a law,
A possession for the assembly of Jacob.
5“And He was king in Jeshurun,
When the heads of the people were gathered,
The tribes of Israel together.

Moses is called three times “the man of God” (verse 11Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death.; Jos 14:66Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea.; Psa 90:11A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
). A man of God is one who, in a time of decline, as an individual recognizes God’s rights and shows them in his life. Such a person has an insight into the current situation of God’s people and bears witness against it in order to bring the people back to God’s way. Such a person also has an eye for God’s ultimate goal with His people and that is to bless them. Therefore, before climbing the Nebo, this man of God can say farewell to his beloved people by blessing each tribe. What a farewell!

With beautiful imagery, borrowed from the dawn and the increasing glare of the sun, the majesty of God is described in a sublime way (Jdg 5:4-54“LORD, when You went out from Seir,
When You marched from the field of Edom,
The earth quaked, the heavens also dripped,
Even the clouds dripped water.
5“The mountains quaked at the presence of the LORD,
This Sinai, at the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel.
; Psa 68:7-87O God, when You went forth before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness, Selah.
8The earth quaked;
The heavens also dropped [rain] at the presence of God;
Sinai itself [quaked] at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
; Heb 3:3-43For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.4For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.). God appears as the Divine light from Sinai and casts His rays upon all the surroundings, leading Israel’s journey to Canaan. In this description of the appearance of God, God is represented as coming from the south.

Moses begins with an impressive description of God’s appearance to His people. “Sinai” is the beginning of the journey and “Seïr” indicates the end (Deu 1:22It is eleven days’ [journey] from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.). The journey itself is skipped. Only “Mount Paran” is mentioned, the area where they set up their camp after they left Sinai and have not yet failed. All failures are skipped.

The “ten thousand holy ones” refer to the people of God Himself. God is seen here among them. There is talk of the law as “flashing lightning”. Giving the law on the Sinai has been accompanied by thunder and lightning (Exo 19:16-1816So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who [were] in the camp trembled.17And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.18Now Mount Sinai [was] all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.; Deu 1:44after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei.).

The LORD “loves the peoples”. The ‘peoples’ are the tribes of Israel. God’s hand is over them. “They followed in Your steps” also can be rendered as “lie down at Your feet”. At His feet they listen to Him (cf. Lk 10:3939She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.). The law, the Word of God, is the inheritance of the people (Psa 119:111a111I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
). God has given them that blessing through Moses. The land cannot be possessed and enjoyed if there is no love for what God has said.

Moses is called king of his people here. He is a type of the true King, the Lord Jesus, Who exercises His authority in love. Therefore it can be said of the believers of the church that they have been transferred “into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col 1:1313For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,). The Son is the Lord Jesus as the Object of the Father’s love. As such, He now exercises authority over the lives of those who have accepted Him as their Savior and Lord.


Reuben

6“May Reuben live and not die,
Nor his men be few.”

The first three sons over whom Moses pronounces his blessing are of Leah. Simeon is missing. That may be because his inheritance belongs to that of Judah. Reuben, the eldest son, is called the first. Moses wishes him life, while he has behaved unworthy of life. It is a blessing if everything that is Israel by nature is swept away. But there will be a remnant that has life.

If there is a remnant, it is inextricably linked to God’s grace. The whole should have been judged, but God saves a rest in His grace. A remnant also points to a small number, a few, it is not something impressive. For God that is the proper starting point to start something new in which the life He gives can grow and blossom.


Judah

7And 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.”

Judah’s blessing indicates the first characteristics of life saved in Reuben. Judah means ‘one who praises of God’. Judah’s voice speaks to God to praise Him for the life He gave. Judah also raises his voice to call upon God when there are adversaries. And God hears (2Chr 13:14-1514When Judah turned around, behold, they were attacked both front and rear; so they cried to the LORD, and the priests blew the trumpets.15Then the men of Judah raised a war cry, and when the men of Judah raised the war cry, then it was that God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.).

That Judah is a praying tribe means that it is a fighting tribe. In doing so, he knew himself dependent on the help of God. The question to God to bring him to his people looks at the outcome of the battle: Judah will overcome and that victory will be for the benefit of all the people.


Levi

8Of 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;
9Who 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].”

In the blessing that Moses pronounces of Levi, we are reminded of a priestly people, a people who know God’s will and can teach God’s people about it. The Thummim and Urim speak of this. These are the two stones that the high priest wears in the breastpiece and through which he consults the will of God (Exo 28:3030You shall put in the breastpiece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.).

Levi is prepared for this task. Here it is said that God put him to the test at Massah and Meribah. Exodus 17 states that Israel has put God to the test (Exo 17:77He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”). There is no water. That is a test of God to see how the people react. The people blame God for His actions and even doubt His presence among them.

As part of the people Levi got there to know himself. These trials are a training for Levi to receive light from God. If later the people again become unfaithful as a whole, Levi remains faithful. They have killed the unfaithful by order of Moses (Exo 32:26-2926then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, [come] to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.27He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man [of you] put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’”28So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.29Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”). In exercising their judgment, they have made no distinction between those who are and those who are not family members (Mt 10:3737“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.; Lk 14:2626“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.).

This is a further education to be a suitable teacher of the people. A person is only suitable to teach God’s Word if that Word has absolute authority over and for himself. As a reward for his faithfulness Levi has been given the honorable commission to teach God’s law to the people (2Chr 17:8-98and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tobadonijah, the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests.9They taught in Judah, [having] the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.; Mal 2:4-74Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,” says the LORD of hosts.5“My covenant with him was [one of] life and peace, and I gave them to him [as an object of] reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name.6True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity.7For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.).

Someone so formed in the practice of living among God’s people, may go into the sanctuary. Through the education they have received themselves, and also pass on, they are able and also desiring to bring incense and burnt offerings. In the realm of peace, nothing will be able to put an end to this service.

Incense is a picture of the glories of Christ that are pleasing to God. We may tell God all that we have discovered of the glories in Christ. Incense also refers to the prayer of the believers (Rev 5:8b8When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.; Psa 141:22May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
), to which Christ adds the glory of His Person through which those prayers are pleasing to God (Rev 8:3-43Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.).

Moses proclaims God’s blessing for such a people of priests and Levites. What they do can count on God’s full consent and acceptance. Moses also asks the LORD to protect Levi from their enemies by shattering the hips of those who stand up against them to attack them. The hips, or loins, symbolize power and strength (Psa 69:2323May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see,
And make their loins shake continually.
; Job 40:22“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it.”
; Pro 31:1717She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
). All who want to do wrong to Levi will not prosper.


Benjamin

12Of 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.”

Benjamin is one of the two sons of Rachel. After the offeror Levi comes Benjamin as “the beloved of the LORD”. An offeror knows himself accepted by God in the offering. That is why he dwells in security by Him (Psa 91:11He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
). Jerusalem is situated on Mount Moria in the inheritance of Benjamin (Jos 18:2828and Zelah, Haeleph and the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah, Kiriath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin according to their families.). Because of this Benjamin lives near the temple and enjoys its protection (Psa 125:22As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the LORD surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.
). He dwells between God’s shoulders, which gives the picture that God carries him (cf. Deu 1:2929Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them.).

Like Benjamin the whole people are “the beloved of the LORD”. Thus the blessings of each individual tribe apply to the people as a whole. We are also personally and collectively in Christ and belong to “God’s household” (Eph 2:1919So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,).


Joseph

13Of 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,
14And 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,
16And 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.”

In Joseph, that is Ephraim and Manasseh, we see what great, unchanging and advancing blessings are attached to our position, which in Benjamin is determined on the basis of the sacrifice. The blessing is all-encompassing. The blessing cannot be embraced by us because the source of that blessing, God Himself, cannot be embraced.

“The choice things of heaven” is the rain, which is necessary to enjoy fruit. To obtain fruit, God also gives the “dew” and the choice “from the deep lying beneath”. He has provided an abundance of opportunities to moisturize the land so that it can produce rich fruit (Psa 65:1111You have crowned the year with Your bounty,
And Your paths drip [with] fatness.
). The best results come from “the sun” and “the month” or “the moon” that God has given. The sun with its soothing warmth stimulates the growth process. The moon does its job by giving a period of cooling and invigoration that creates dew.

The excellent fruits are located on the heights, “the ancient mountains”, which looks at the past, and “the everlasting hills”, which looks at the future. For us, that means that our blessings are in heaven forever and we will enjoy them forever. Mountains and hills are symbols of stability, they indicate what is immutable.

Rich blessings are also present in the plains, on “the earth”. What we may enjoy in heaven in all eternity, we may already now enjoy in fullness on earth. To enjoy the fruit, a cycle of sowing, growing and harvesting is necessary. This requires effort, sowing and harvesting, while we still depend on God for the result, for God must give the growth (1Cor 3:6-76I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.7So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.).

In all these enjoyments we may know as a special blessing on us “the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush”. More than all the gifts is He from Whom the gifts come. And who is He? It is He Who was present with His people in the time of slavery and oppression. By this oppression God did not want to kill His people, but wanted to teach them to call to Him. We see this in the picture of the thorn bush that does not burn and in which the LORD is present (Exo 3:2a2The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.).

The Lord Jesus also refers to the thorn bush when He answers the Sadducees to their question about the resurrection (Lk 20:37-3837But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the [passage about the burning] bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB.38Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”). He connects with this Him Who by Moses is called “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Lk 20:3737But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the [passage about the burning] bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB.). In this way the thorn bush is connected with the promises to the fathers and to the resurrection. In quoting that scene, the Lord Jesus shows a beautiful connection between suffering on earth and glory afterwards in the resurrection. There God finds His pleasure in fulfilling His intentions by this way of suffering and on the other side of death.

God fulfils His promises to Joseph, the “one distinguished” (or “chosen” or “separated”) “among his brothers”. Election means separation. God has separated His people, which is set apart among all nations, to be for Him to His people, a people dedicated to Him. That is His election which is based on pure grace and love on His part. God has also done this with us, members of the church, whom He has chosen in Christ (Eph 1:44just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.). He was able to do this because He anointed His Christ above His companions (Psa 45:77You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
; Heb 1:99“You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.”).

In his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh Joseph receives a double part, the part of the firstborn. The ox and the wild ox that Moses mentions speak of strength, which strengthens the thought of firstborn.


Zebulun and Issachar

18Of 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.”

Zebulun and Issachar are called together. Both are sons of Lea and their inheritances lie next to each other. Each of these tribes has its own occupation. They are called upon to do their work with joy. Zebulun is the traveler, the businessman. Issachar is the man who does his work at home. In the kingdom of peace they invite the peoples to participate in the blessings of the land. “The abundance of the seas” can refer to the sea of the nations. “The mountain” is the mountain where the temple will stand. Moses speaks here as a prophet (cf. Exo 15:1717“You will bring them and plant them
In the mountain of Your inheritance,
The place, O LORD,
Which You have made for Your dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord,
Which Your hands have established.
).

God determines for each one the area of his activities (2Cor 11:13,16b13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.16Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if [you do], receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.). There is a common goal in these different activities. We may invite others to come and share in the blessings. A people who have been given the blessings also becomes an evangelizing people, who attract others to those blessings. Some may go to other peoples for this, others may stay at home to tell their neighbors.

The purpose of this invitation is to offer sacrifices in accordance with God’s desires. They are “righteous sacrifices”, that is, they are offered according to God’s statutes, but also in the right mind (Psa 51:1919Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,
In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.
). When people come to repentance, it is to become worshippers (offerors) of the Father (Jn 4:2323But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.). But God also wants it to happen in the right way and in the right mind: in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:2424God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”).

To be able to do so, “they will draw out the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand” on the shore of the sea (cf. Isa 60:55“Then you will see and be radiant,
And your heart will thrill and rejoice;
Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you,
The wealth of the nations will come to you.
; 66:11-1211That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts,
That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.”
12For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river,
And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees.
). ‘The abundance of the seas’ can also refer to the experiences with the Lord. The sea is a picture of the trials of life. In these trials, the believer often makes a treasure of discoveries on Who the Lord Jesus is to him.

The sand on the shores of the sea can take up the countless company of the believers. All these blessings are covered and hidden to be exhumed by us. To discover them, we will have to make an effort. The result is that everything gives us an ever-greater view of the glory of the Lord Jesus.


Gad

20Of 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.”

In Gad we see the element of battle. Before Moses pronounces his blessing upon him, he first praises the LORD, the one who enlarges Gad. Gad is one of the tribes that remained in wilderness side of the Jordan. But here Moses does not think of the unwillingness to take possession of an inheritance in the land. Gad has been entering into the land to take possession of it for others. Here God approaches this positively.

Gad has acted as a captain, “a lion” (cf. 1Chr 12:88From the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and [they were] as swift as the gazelles on the mountains.). Because of this he got room from the LORD to live there. Room, freedom of movement, is a great good for the believer. Beware of false brethren who want to bring believers back under the law and thereby deprive them of their freedom (Gal 2:44But [it was] because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.)!

“The first [part]” here is linked to “the rulers portion”, which refers to rule, to reign. Gad has joined the leaders of the people to fulfil his promise to go along to conquer the land of Canaan (Jos 1:12-1812To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said,13“Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.’14Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them,15until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as [He gives] you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”16They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.17Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.18Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”; 4:1212The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them;). He will have differentiated in this, for Moses gives him a prominent place among the people of the two and a half tribe.

Conquering the land means that the judgment of God is exercised over its inhabitants. In doing so, Gad has exercised the righteousness of God. Of the two and a half tribe, Gad will also be by far the most important in terms of number. Reuben will be few in number (verse 66“May Reuben live and not die,
Nor his men be few.”
), as will Manasseh of which only half of the tribe will live in the wilderness side of the Jordan.

The time of reign has not yet come for the believers (1Cor 4:88You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, [I] wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.). But there may be cases in the church where justice has to be done. This does not require intelligent believers, but spiritually minded believers characterized by simplicity and wisdom (1Cor 6:4-54So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?5I say [this] to your shame. [Is it so, that] there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,). They may act with spiritual authority. It is a great grace of God if such men are present in a local church. Let us thank God for them and not make life difficult for them, but be obedient and submissive to them (Heb 13:1717Obey your leaders and submit [to them], for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.).


Dan

22Of Dan he said,
“Dan is a lion’s whelp,
That leaps forth from Bashan.”

The name Dan means ‘judge’. Like Gad, he is compared to a lion. All that is said of him is that he leaps forth. He seems to point to the sudden appearance of the Lord Jesus in the judgment of those who persistently oppose Him. This clears the way to the full blessing.


Naphtali

23Of Naphtali he said,
“O Naphtali, satisfied with favor,
And full of the blessing of the LORD,
Take possession of the sea and the south.”

Naphtali, like Asher, gets a rich part. In Naphtali we see someone who is completely satisfied because of the rich blessing of the LORD. In Naphtali lies Capernaum, where the Lord Jesus lived (Mt 9:11Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over [the sea] and came to His own city.; Mk 2:11When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.). His presence is the greatest conceivable blessing. It means an exaltation to heaven (Mt 11:2323And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.).

In Naphtali we see someone who is full of Christ and rests in it. This is where the Holy Spirit wants to lead every believer to: to be satisfied with Christ and without having any other desire. That does not mean that we will have learned all and that there is nothing left to take possession of. Hence the encouragement to take possession of the west (the sea) and the south.


Asher

24Of 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.

Moses wishes Asher five blessings:

1. The first blessing is that he is more blessed than sons or will be blessed with sons. Here we see the sonship. Sons are there for God, and they are heirs. For us this blessing means that we are aware that we are there for God’s joy and that God has given us an inheritance to our joy.

2. The second blessing is that his brothers will favor him. As sons we are not only pleasant to God, but also to our brothers and sisters. Believers are sons of God and brothers of each other. We are a family, and to living and dwelling together in that consciousness connects the Lord His blessing (Psa 133:1-31A Song of Ascents, of David.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
2It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
[Even] Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
3It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever.
).

3. The third blessing, “dip his foot in oil”, refers to his walk. It is a blessing when the walk is characterized by the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16,2516But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.), of which the oil is the well-known picture. Sonship goes together with the Spirit of sonship (Gal 4:66Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”).

4. A walk in the Spirit can only be in the way of separation. The fourth blessing speaks of this. “Iron and bronze” are the “locks” with which doors are closed to keep evil outside the door. The blessings can only be enjoyed without mixing with worldly principles. Separation is not negative. True separation is separation to God and makes strong as iron and shiny as bronze.

5. If there is true separation, the blessing will be according to your days. That is the fifth blessing. Separation preserves that power is wasted on sinful things, which in turn means that the blessing is not enjoyed.

Asher is the only tribe of the ten who are not connected to the house of David, which is mentioned in the New Testament (Lk 2:36-3836And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with [her] husband seven years after her marriage,37and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.38At that very moment she came up and [began] giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.). In that section there is talk of Anna, who belongs to the tribe Asher. What is said of her makes it clear that she is a real Asherite.


Who Is Like Israel?

26“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.”

The end of this blessing corresponds to the beginning. In the beginning Moses spoke of the glorious fact of the establishment of the kingship of the LORD as the firm foundation of the salvation of His people. He concludes with the reference to the LORD as the eternal protection and refuge and with praising Israel blessed that can rely on such a God.

The very last words written by Moses describe the incomparable God and His incomparable people. No one is like God (verse 2626“There is none like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to your help,
And through the skies in His majesty.
), and verse 2929“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.”
says that no one is like His people. The God of Israel and the Israel of God belong together completely.

Riding the heavens and though the skies is a picture of the unlimited omnipotence with which God from heaven rules the world and is the Helper of His people. He is the eternal God, in contrast to all idols that have their origin somewhere in time and have thus recently come into being. This God is a dwelling place, which means that God offers His own everything that the security of a dwelling place can offer. A home is not only a refuge in case of the storms of life, but also speaks of the peaceful, carefree enjoyment of peace and fellowship.

He who thrones above in heaven is at the same time the God Who is with His people on earth and holds them in His arms and carries them. Eternal arms are arms that will never lack strength. It indicates unlimited and invincible power, by which His people will be safe forever. In addition, there is no trace of the enemy. He has driven them out and destroyed them.

In the midst of all nations, Israel will “dwell in safety alone” (verse 2828“So Israel dwells in security,
The fountain of Jacob secluded,
In a land of grain and new wine;
His heavens also drop down dew.
; Darby Translation; Num 23:99“As I see him from the top of the rocks,
And I look at him from the hills;
Behold, a people [who] dwells apart,
And will not be reckoned among the nations.
). The people will not be incorporated into any other people. As the object of God’s special promises, it will receive all that has been promised and will be a distributor of blessings among all the blessings to all the peoples of the earth.

Israel is also Jacob. Jacob is the name of the man who had to learn that he needs God in everything. The people had to learn that too. Their eye is focused on the blessing of the land. When they are in possession of the blessing, their eye will be focused on it. They will abide undisturbed in the land of blessing upon which the blessing of the LORD descends.

There are no people like Israel. There is no salvation like the salvation that is given to Israel, for the LORD has saved that people. And the LORD has not only saved Israel from Egypt, he has also saved it from countless difficulties. He is also Israel’s help. That help is a shield, a protection against anything that can harm that people. He helps by His sword, that is His Word. By His Word He has raised this people to a high place.

No enemy can start anything against such a people. Although the enemies are not convinced in their conscience of sins and that they deserve judgment, they will be so wise to submit to this people. They shall, though pretending, honor this people, this people which is exalted by the LORD above all nations.


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