Moses performs his last act for Israel. He gives them a blessing and prophecy just as a father would do prior to his death. THE Father is the author of the prophecy.
I am interested in comparing the blessing Moses gave the people with the blessing Jacob gave his sons. Let’s look back at Genesis 49 and see how these two blessings show us Israel’s future.
Both Jacob and Moses started with the tribe of Reuben. Jacob’s blessing to Reuben started out strong. Reuben was his first born and the one expected to take the leadership of the family but his behavior towards one of Jacob’s wives put him in SERIOUS trouble with his father. All his rights and strength were stripped away. “You will no longer excel” (Gen. 49:4b). I don’t know what the tribe of Reuben did during their time with Moses but they received a non-blessing from Moses too. Reuben wasn’t to die out or be killed off but they would be small in numbers, of men at least. Their numbers had decreased by more than 2,700 between the two censuses. At the time of the second census they were NOT the smallest tribe or the one with the biggest decrease in number. They were below the average size though. I wonder how they did throughout history.
Moses skips to Judah next. Jacob singled out Judah for the first positive blessing. The three above him in birth order received non-blessings. Jacob put Judah into the position of authority. “Your father’s sons will bow down to you” (Gen. 49:8b). Moses calls his brothers to “contend” for him “and be a help against his adversaries” (verse 7b). Both blessings raise him up. When it comes to size, Judah was the single largest tribe in both censuses but Joseph’s combined tribes surpassed Judah in the second census. The most significant part of Judah’s prophecy is where Jacob directs our attention to the fact that Jesus will come from his lineage. “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until He to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be His” (Gen. 49:10). I adjusted the pronouns capitalization to indicate the truth we know today.
Moses goes back to address Levi. In Jacob’s blessing he stated that Levi descendants would be scattered throughout Israel. This would be the case as the Levites would not receive territory but towns throughout Israel instead. But the two blessings diverge significantly in another point. Jacob statement regarded both Simeon and Levi when he said, “Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly” (Gen. 49:6a). The Levites are to be the council for Israel now. They will provide both the spiritual and governmental leadership for Israel. Levi’s anger that got him in trouble with his father became a righteous anger after the incident with the golden calf. Those that came to stand beside Moses that fateful day went through the congregation and indiscriminately killed people as a punishment for Israel’s great sin. It didn’t matter who they were related to. If the sword came near their life ended. And Moses commended them for this dedication to God.
Next up with Moses is Benjamin. He ranked last with Jacob as he was the last son born to him. Jacob has him as a “ravenous wolf” and as victorious over his foes. Moses has him protected and placed within the heart of God. Moses’ description reminds me of a parent holding their child on their shoulder or in their lap. A place of safety where no harm can come to them.
Joseph’s blessing comes next from Moses. Jacob gave Joseph a double portion by taking Ephraim and Manasseh as his sons. This gave Joseph two tribes in Israel. Moses combined the two tribes back into one blessing when he pronounced his blessing over Joseph. Both Moses and Jacob used the phrase “prince among his brothers” as part of Joseph’s blessing. Both also state that Joseph’s descendants would be blessed in their fields, families, and all they did. Moses also lists Joseph as a “firstborn bull.” Joseph wasn’t Jacob’s firstborn son but he was the firstborn son of the wife he loved the most. This put him in firstborn status with his father. Moses ends his blessing of Joseph by directing his blessing towards his sons. We know that Jacob reversed the blessings of Joseph’s two sons and Moses does the same in numbering the size of these two. “They are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh” (verse 17b). In both census though these two realities are reversed as Manasseh is the larger of the two tribes both times. I wonder if that changed over time.
Moses puts Zebulun and Issachar together. Jacob lists them one after the other because of birth order. Both agree that Zebulun will be one that makes their living by the sea. I see this as those of the tribe of Zebulun being fishermen and such. Issachar will hold the home fronts by Zebulun. Their blessings appear to indicate that they will have a symbiotic relationship and rely on one another throughout their history.
Gad is up next with Moses. Jacob has Gad being attacked but he becomes the victor. Moses has him triumphant also and pronounces a blessing on those who “enlarge Gad” (verse 20a). Gad is ferocious! “He tears off arm and scalp” (verse 20b) in his attacks. Moses has him in a leadership role and “he executed the justice of the Lord and His judgments for Israel” (verse 21b). I will have to keep an eye open for the actions of this tribe as we move later in Israel’s history.
Dan comes next in Moses’ address. Jacob has him in an authority role in Israel. The name Dan in Hebrew means “to judge.” Samson came from this tribe and his actions passed judgment on MANY during his lifetime. Moses describes his people as “a lion’s cub that leaps from Bashan” (verse 22b). I don’t know what to make of this statement. My bible helps say it might have to do with Dan’s migration towards Bashan in the north. When I think of a lion cub a couple things come to mind. First they are cute, playful, and don’t know their own strength. They learn to hunt through play and they are fiercely protected by their mother. DON’T mess with the cub or the mother is going to kill you! Maybe God is saying that Dan will be under His watchful eye and that they need to grow into their potential of being “the judge” for their brothers. Just a thought.
Moses addresses Naphtali next. Jacob compares him to a doe that has beautiful fawns. Moses has him full of favor and blessings from the Lord. Moses also gives him a general location and tells him to “possess the lake and the south” (verse 23b). This is before Joshua divides the land. I’m going to have to keep an eye out for him too as we move along since I don’t know much of his history.
The last tribe Moses addresses is Asher. Moses had a LOT more to say about Asher than Jacob did. Moses begins with; “Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers” (verse 24b). Asher was not Jacob’s favorite; that place belonged to Joseph. But we are not told who was the favorite among the brothers. We KNOW Joseph didn’t occupy that position in the beginning. We don’t know if that changed after the brothers came to Egypt. We are told that they were afraid he would seek revenge upon them for their earlier treatment of him. Jacob has little to say about Asher other than that he would have “rich food” and provide “delicacies fit for a king” (Gen. 49:20b). I wonder if this meant Asher was a tribe of cooks. Maybe that is how he wins his brothers’ favor. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Moses does not include the tribe of Simeon in his blessing. I’m curious as to the reason why. Jacob lumped him in with Levi because the two of them had plotted and carried out revenge on the entire town of the man who had raped Dinah, their sister. Jacob said that he didn’t want to enter their council and that they would be scattered throughout Israel. This is another tribe I will be on the lookout for. I would like to know what became of them.
Moses ends with a blessing for Israel as a whole. “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (verse 27a). THIS is where I want to be! In His arms. But this is not the only thing Moses says of the people. They are to follow God’s command to receive His favor. This includes following His command to “Destroy” those currently in the land. Once they have done this, they will be able to live in the “land flowing with mild and honey.” God will be their strength and they WILL be victorious because of Him.
Father God, what prophecy and blessing would You voice over me if You were to do so? I remember as a teenager a prophecy of a “peace maker” being shared for my life. It didn’t fit then but my life has changed significantly to bring me closer to this prophecy. What else would You say about my role in life? The ONE label I want to have is “Child of the King.” As long as I have that, everything else is gravy!
Thank You Holy Spirit for showing me the two blessings. I don’t have a firm grip on any of it but I am glad for the places You took me anyway. Help me learn more about the tribes as we move on in God’s plan. I’m interested to see if I learn more about the ones later in Moses’ list. Keep my eyes and heart open and searching.