Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Moses the man of God--This was a common designation of a prophet
(1Sa 2:27; 9:6),
and it is here applied to Moses, when, like Jacob, he was about to
deliver ministerially before his death, a prophetic benediction to
2-4. The Lord came--Under a beautiful metaphor, borrowed from the dawn
and progressive splendor of the sun, the Majesty of God is sublimely
described as a divine light which appeared in Sinai and scattered its
beams on all the adjoining region in directing Israel's march to
Canaan. In these descriptions of a theophania, God is represented as
coming from the south, and the allusion is in general to the
thunderings and lightnings of Sinai; but other mountains in the same
direction are mentioned with it. The location of Seir was on the east
of the Ghor; mount Paran was either the chain on the west of the Ghor,
or rather the mountains on the southern border of the desert towards
the peninsula [ROBINSON].
Jud 5:4, 5;
Ps 68:7, 8;
ten thousands of saints--rendered by some, "with the ten thousand
of Kadesh," or perhaps better still, "from Meribah"
a fiery law--so called both because of the thunder and lightning which
accompanied its promulgation
and the fierce, unrelenting curse denounced against the violation of
Notwithstanding those awe-inspiring symbols of Majesty that were
displayed on Sinai, the law was really given in kindness and love
as a means of promoting both the temporal and eternal welfare of the
people. And it was "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob," not
only from the hereditary obligation under which that people were laid
to observe it, but from its being the grand distinction, the peculiar
privilege of the nation.
6. Let Reuben live, and not die--Although deprived of the honor and
privileges of primogeniture, he was still to hold rank as one of the
tribes of Israel. He was more numerous than several other tribes
(Nu 1:21; 2:11).
Yet gradually he sank into a mere nomadic tribe, which had enough to do
merely "to live and not die." Many eminent biblical scholars, resting
on the most ancient and approved manuscripts of the Septuagint,
consider the latter clause as referring to Simeon; "and Simeon, let his
men be few," a reading of the text which is in harmony with other
statements of Scripture respecting this tribe
(Nu 25:6-14; 1:23; 26:14;
7. this is the blessing of Judah--Its general purport points to the
great power and independence of Judah, as well as its taking the lead
in all military expeditions.
8-10. of Levi he said--The burden of this blessing is the appointment
of the Levites to the dignified and sacred office of the priesthood
De 22:8; 17:8-11),
a reward for their zeal in supporting the cause of God, and their
unsparing severity in chastising even their nearest and dearest
relatives who had participated in the idolatry of the molten calf
12. of Benjamin he said--A distinguishing favor was conferred on this
tribe in having its portion assigned near the temple of God.
between his shoulders--that is, on his sides or borders. Mount Zion,
on which stood the city of Jerusalem, belonged to Judah; but Mount
Moriah, the site of the sacred edifice, lay in the confines of
13-17. of Joseph he said--The territory of this tribe, diversified by
hill and dale, wood and water, would be rich in all the
productions--olives, grapes, figs, &c., which are reared in a
mountainous region, as well as in the grain and herbs that grow in the
level fields. "The firstling of the bullock and the horns of the
unicorn" (rhinoceros), indicate glory and strength, and it is supposed
that under these emblems were shadowed forth the triumphs of Joshua and
the new kingdom of Jeroboam, both of whom were of Ephraim (compare
18, 19. Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out--on commercial enterprises
and voyages by sea.
and, Issachar in thy tents--preferring to reside in their maritime
19. shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in
the sand--Both tribes should traffic with the Phœnicians in
gold and silver, pearl and coral, especially in murex, the
shellfish that yielded the famous Tyrian dye, and in glass, which was
manufactured from the sand of the river Belus, in their immediate
20, 21. of Gad he said--Its possessions were larger than they would
have been had they lain west of Jordan; and this tribe had the honor of
being settled by Moses himself in the first portion of land conquered.
In the forest region, south of the Jabbok, "he dwelt as a lion"
Ge 30:11; 49:19).
Notwithstanding, they faithfully kept their engagement to join the
"heads of the people"
in the invasion of Canaan.
22. Dan is a lion's whelp--His proper settlement in the south of Canaan
being too small, he by a sudden and successful irruption, established a
colony in the northern extremity of the land. This might well be
described as the leap of a young lion from the hills of Bashan.
23. of Naphtali he said--The pleasant and fertile territory of this
tribe lay to "the west," on the borders of lakes Merom and Chinnereth,
and to "the south" of the northern Danites.
24, 25. of Asher he said--The condition of this tribe is described as
combining all the elements of earthly felicity.
dip his foot in oil--These words allude either to the process of
extracting the oil by foot presses, or to his district as particularly
fertile and adapted to the culture of the olive.
25. shoes of iron and brass--These shoes suited his rocky coast from
Carmel to Sidon. Country people as well as ancient warriors had their
lower extremities protected by metallic greaves
and iron-soled shoes.
26-29. There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun--The chapter
concludes with a congratulatory address to Israel on their peculiar
happiness and privilege in having Jehovah for their God and protector.
who rideth upon the heaven in thy help--an evident allusion to the
pillar of cloud and fire, which was both the guide and shelter of
28. the fountain of Jacob--The posterity of Israel shall dwell in a
blessed and favored land.