The chapter’s theme – “Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death” (33:1). Moses blessed each tribe of Israel, and in some cases spoke of their future, as Jacob had done with his twelve sons (Genesis 49).
God’s blessings for Israel – Here is what He had done already or would provide for Israel:
- – A law for Israel (33:2)
- – Love for Israel (33:3)
- – King (God Himself) for Israel (33:5)
- – Help for Israel (33:26)
- – Safety/salvation for Israel (33:28,29)
Priestly functions (33:8-11) – Moses spoke about the tribe of Levi, not specifically naming the priests, but by comparing the content of other Old Testament passages, we know that what Moses says here applied to the priests (who were male Levites, the descendants of Aaron in particular). What would the activities of the priests include?
– Something about a Thummim and Urim (33:8). Through these objects, which were on the breastplate of the high priest, God would communicate with/give judgment to Israel in certain situations (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21).
– Teach God’s law to the people (33:10)
– Burn incense and offer sacrifices (33:10)
Rare mention of the tribe “of Joseph” (33:13) – Because the birthright of the firstborn was passed to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1), when the territory of Canaan was divided among the tribes of Israel, the offspring of Joseph’s sons received a double portion. The Bible commonly mentions those two sons as being two tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim (33:17).
A comforting reminder – “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun (Israel, rdc), Who rides the heavens to help you . . .”. . .” (33:26).
More encouragement for Israel – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms . . . Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help . . .” (33:27,29). Take those principles and apply them to Christians, who are the people of God under the new covenant. We serve the same God which Israel did. He is the changeless, eternal Ruler of the universe. We are blessed to be able to take refuge under His everlasting, powerful arms. Like Israel, we are blessed immensely, happy folks who have been saved and have the Lord as our Helper. Yes, we are blessed!
— Roger D. Campbell