example in Genesis 49 and even repeats some of the blessings, especially in the blessing to Joseph. But it does not include the reproofs (unless Simeon’s absence here constitutes a reproof). Moses’ blessings concentrate on prosperity in the land and most of all, victory in war.
Reuben’s blessing (Deuteronomy 33:6) is very short considering he was the firstborn, but we remember why he lost the firstborn’s inheritance (Genesis 35:22; 49:3-4; Leviticus 18:8; Deuteronomy 27:20; 1 Chronicles 5:1). His blessing is that he survive and multiply.
Judah’s blessing (Deuteronomy 33:7) recognizes his place on Israel’s front lines as they march into battle (Numbers 2:1-4, 9), the place of greatest exposure to danger and death. Therefore, “Hear, O LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people” (Deuteronomy 33:7); that is, may he return to his people alive after battle (Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 1976: pg. 394-95). “With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries” (Deuteronomy 33:7).
One of the longest blessings is reserved for Levi in recognition of his priestly responsibilities for the people. The disowning of his parents and brothers refers to their zeal for Yahweh’s holiness in the incident of the golden calf (Exodus 32:25-29). Above all, Moses requests Yahweh’s blessing as they discern His direction for the people (Deuteronomy 33:8), as they teach the law and as they present the offerings for all Yahweh’s people (Deuteronomy 33:10).
Benjamin’s blessing concentrates on rest in Yahweh’s love (Deuteronomy 33:12).
Joseph’s blessing echoes the one he receives in Genesis 49:22-26 and even the blessing that Isaac gave to Jacob in Genesis 27:28. It recognizes the precedence of Ephraim over his older brother, Manasseh (Genesis 48:12-20; Deuteronomy 33:17).
Zebulon’s and Issachar’s blessings focus on the enjoyment of peace in the land (Deuteronomy 33:18-19).
Gad’s blessing recognizes his request of the good land to the east of the Jordan River, not in the Promised Land, and his commitment to fight valiantly so his brothers can receive their inheritance in the conquest of Canaan (Deuteronomy 33:20-21).
Dan’s blessing refers to war; Naphtali’s, to peace (Deuteronomy 33:22-23).
Asher’s blessing emphasizes peace and security (Deuteronomy 33:24-25).
Then the blessings end as they began, with praise to Yahweh (Deuteronomy 33:2-5, 26-29). He is presented as Israel’s king (King in Jeshurun); therefore, the Israelites are the troops who fight His battles, His beloved princes who enjoy the blessings of His peace. As we consider all of these blessings together, we have a portrait of Israel governed by their King, living in concert with His just dominion,
imposing His righteous and just order on creation and benefitting from His peace. And this observation ties Deuteronomy with the entire purpose of the Bible shown since Genesis 1.
We can’t close the book of Deuteronomy or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) without noting the influence and death of Moses. We have read the Bible for almost ten weeks up to this point; for seven and a half of those weeks, we have read of the events and laws during the life of Moses. We have read more about the leadership of Moses than of the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob together. But the Bible itself gives the best summary: “And there has not arisen a
prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12).
Probably for this reason we do not know the exact place of his burial (Deuteronomy 34:6), so it would not become a center of illicit worship in competition with the tabernacle. Even the life of a great man cannot compare with the God who by grace gave it to him, the God who is the subject of all our Bible readings from the first day through today and on through the rest of the year. All of Moses’ honor and fame is simply a weak reflection of Yahweh’s eternal glory.