Deuteronomy 33:12
And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) And of Benjamin.—It is generally agreed that this blessing points to the site of the place which Jehovah chose out of all the tribes of Israel, Jerusalem, in the tribe of Benjamin. The Hebrew is divided thus:—

“Unto Benjamin he said. Beloved of Jehovah!

He (Jehovah) will dwell in security upon him,

Covering him over all the day.

And between his shoulders (mountain slopes) He

hath taken up His abode.”

Deuteronomy

ISRAEL THE BELOVED

Deuteronomy 33:12
.

Benjamin was his father’s favourite child, and the imagery of this promise is throughout drawn from the relations between such a child and its father. So far as the future history of the tribes is shadowed in these ‘blessings’ of this great ode, the reference of the text may be to the tribe of Benjamin, as specially distinguished by Saul having been a member of it, and by the Temple having been built on its soil. But we find that each of the promises of the text is repeated elsewhere, with distinct reference to the whole nation. For example, the first one, of safe dwelling, reappears in Deuteronomy 33:28 in reference to Israel; the second one, of God’s protecting covering, is extended to the nation in many places; and the third, of dwelling between His shoulders, is in substance found again in Deuteronomy 1:31, ‘the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son.’ So that we may give the text a wider extension, and take it as setting forth under a lovely metaphor, and with a restricted reference, what is true of all God’s children everywhere and always.

I. Who are the ‘beloved of the Lord’?

The first answer to that question must be-all men. But these great blessings, so beautifully shadowed in this text, do not belong to all men; nor does the designation, ‘the beloved of the Lord,’ belong to all men, but to those who have entered into a special relation to Him. In these words of the Hebrew singer there sound the first faint tones of a music that was to swell into clear notes, when Jesus said: ‘If a man love Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.’ They who are knit by faith and love to God’s only-begotten and beloved Son, by that union receive ‘power to become the sons of God,’ and share in the love which is ever pouring out from the Father’s heart on ‘the Son of His love.’

II. What are their blessed privileges?

The three clauses of the text express substantially the same idea, but with a striking variety of metaphors.

1. They have a sure dwelling-place.

There is a very slight change of rendering of the first clause, which greatly increases its ‘force, and preserves the figure that is obscured by the usual translation. We should read ‘shall dwell safely on,’ rather than ‘by, Him.’ And the effect of that small change in the preposition is to bring out the thought that God is regarded as the foundation on which His beloved build their house of life, and dwell in security and calm. If we are sons through the Son, we shall build our houses or pitch our tents on that firm ground, and, being founded on the Rock of ages, they will not fall when all created foundations reel to the overthrow of whatever is built on them. It is not companionship only, blessed as that is, that is promised here. We have a larger privilege than dwelling by Him, for if we love His Son, we build on God, and ‘God dwelleth in us and we in Him.’

What spiritual reality underlies the metaphor of dwelling or building on God? The fact of habitual communion.

Note the blessed results of such grounding of our lives on God through such habitual communion. We shall ‘dwell safely.’ We may think of that as being objective safety-that is, freedom from peril, or as being subjective-that is, freedom from care or fear, or as meaning ‘trustfully,’ confidently, as the expression is rendered in Psalm 16:9 {margin}, which is for us the ground of both these. He who dwells in God trustfully dwells both safely and securely, and none else is free either from danger or from dread.

2. They have a sure shelter.

God is for His beloved not only the foundation on which they dwell in safety, but their perpetual covering. They dwell safely because He is so. There are many tender shapes in which this great promise is presented to our faith. Sometimes God is thought of as covering the weak fugitive, as the arching sides of His cave sheltered David from Saul. Sometimes He is represented as covering His beloved, who cower under His wings, ‘as the hen gathereth her chickens’ when hawks are in the sky. Sometimes He appears as covering them from tempest, ‘when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall,’ and ‘the shadow of a great rock’ shields from its fury. Sometimes He is pictured as stretching out protection over His beloved’s heads, as the Pillar of cloud lay, long-drawn-out, over the Tabernacle when at rest, and ‘on all the Glory was a defence.’ But under whatever emblem the general idea of a covering shelter was conceived, there was always a correlative duty on our side. For the root-meaning of one of the Old Testament words for ‘faith’ is ‘fleeing to a refuge,’ and we shall not be safe in God unless by faith we flee for refuge to Him in Christ.

3. They have a Father who bears them on His shoulders.

The image is the same as in Deuteronomy 1:1 - Deuteronomy 1:46 already referred to. It recurs also in Isaiah 46:3 - Isaiah 46:4, ‘Even to hoar hairs will I carry you, and I have made and I will bear, yea, I will carry, and will deliver’; and in Hosea 11:3, ‘I taught Ephraim to go; I took them on My arms.’

The image beautifully suggests the thought of the favourite child riding high and happy on the strong shoulder, which lifts it above rough places and miry ways. The prose reality is: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’

The Cross carries those who carry it. They who carry God in their hearts are carried by God through all the long pilgrimage of life. Because they are thus upheld by a strength not their own, ‘they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint,’ and though marches be long and limbs strained, they shall ‘go from strength to strength till every one of them appears before God in Zion.’Deuteronomy 33:12. Of Benjamin — Benjamin is put next to Levi, because the temple, where the work of the Levites lay, was upon the edge of the lot of this tribe. And it is put before Joseph, because of the dignity of Jerusalem (part of which was in this lot) above Samaria, which was in the tribe of Ephraim; likewise because Benjamin adhered to the house of David, and to the temple of God, when the rest of the tribes deserted both. The beloved of the Lord — So called in allusion to their father Benjamin, who was the beloved of his father Jacob; and because of the kindness of God to this tribe, which appeared both in this, that they dwelt in the best part of the land, as Josephus affirms, and in the following privilege. Shall dwell in safety by him — Shall have his lot nigh to God’s temple, which was both a singular comfort and safeguard to him. Shall cover — Shall protect that tribe continually while they cleave to him. He — The Lord; shall dwell — That is, his temple shall be placed; between his shoulders — That is, in his portion, or between his borders, as the word rendered shoulder is often used: see Numbers 24:11. And this was truly the situation of the temple, on both sides whereof was Benjamin’s portion. And though mount Sion was in the tribe of Judah, yet mount Moriah, on which the temple was built, was in the tribe of Benjamin.33:6-23 The order in which the tribes are here blessed, is not the same as is observed elsewhere. The blessing of Judah may refer to the whole tribe in general, or to David as a type of Christ. Moses largely blesses the tribe of Levi. Acceptance with God is what we should all aim at, and desire, in all our devotions, whether men accept us or not, 2Co 5:9. This prayer is a prophecy, that God will keep up a ministry in his church to the end of time. The tribe of Benjamin had their inheritance close to mount Zion. To be situated near the ordinances, is a precious gift from the Lord, a privilege not to be exchanged for any worldly advantage, or indulgence. We should thankfully receive the earthly blessings sent to us, through the successive seasons. But those good gifts which come down from the Father of lights, through the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and the pouring out of his Spirit like the rain which makes fruitful, are infinitely more precious, as the tokens of his special love. The precious things here prayed for, are figures of spiritual blessing in heavenly things by Christ, the gifts, graces, and comforts of the Spirit. When Moses prays for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush, he refers to the covenant, on which all our hopes of God's favour must be founded. The providence of God appoints men's habitations, and wisely disposes men to different employments for the public good. Whatever our place and business are, it is our wisdom and duty to apply thereto; and it is happiness to be well pleased therewith. We should not only invite others to the service of God, but abound in it. The blessing of Naphtali. The favour of God is the only favour satisfying to the soul. Those are happy indeed, who have the favour of God; and those shall have it, who reckon that in having it they have enough, and desire no more.He shall dwell between his shoulders - i. e., be supported by God as a son who is carried by his father (compare Deuteronomy 1:31). Benjamin was especially beloved of his father Genesis 35:18; Genesis 44:20; Moses now promises no less love to him from God Himself. 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 Benjamin.

The beloved of the Lord, i.e. this beloved tribe: so called partly in allusion to their father Benjamin, who was the beloved of his father Jacob; and partly because of the love and kindness of God towards this tribe, which appeared both in this, that they dwelt in the fattest and best part of the land, as Josephus affirms and especially in the following privilege.

Shall dwell in safety by him, i.e. shall have his lot nigh unto God’s temple, which was both a singular comfort and safeguard to him.

The Lord may well be understood here, because he was expressed in the former member.

Shall cover him all the day long; shall protect that tribe continually while they cleave to him.

He shall dwell between his shoulders; the Lord shall dwell, i.e. his temple shall be placed, between his shoulders, i.e. in his portion, or between his borders, or sides, as the word shoulder is oft used, as Exodus 28:7 Numbers 34:11 Joshua 15:8,10 Eze 47:1,2. And this was truly the situation of the temple, on both sides whereof was Benjamin’s portion; and though Mount Sion was in the tribe of Judah, yet Mount Moriah, on which the temple was built, was in the tribe of Benjamin. And of Benjamin he said,.... The tribe of Benjamin, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; which is taken notice of next to Levi, because, as the priesthood was in the tribe of Levi, the temple in which the priests officiated was in the tribe of Benjamin, or near it; and is observed next but one to Judah, and before his elder brother Joseph, because his tribe lay between Judah and Joseph, Joshua 18:11; and Levi having no inheritance in the land:

the beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; this is commonly understood of the tribe of Benjamin, beloved by the Lord, as the head of the tribe was by his father Jacob; the first king of Israel being of that tribe, and the temple built in it, or on the edge of it, and its land the most fat and fertile of the land of Canaan, as Josephus (m) observes; and may be said to "dwell by him", the Lord, because the tabernacle of the Lord was so near that tribe, and so to dwell "in safety" under his protection, and which was the means of preserving it from apostasy, when ten tribes revolted: though the Messiah may be intended, the Son of God, and man of God's right hand, the antitype of Benjamin, the beloved of the Lord, and dear son of his love; his Benjamin, who is now in human nature exalted at his right hand: and this may denote his inhabitation in the flesh, and dwelling by or near Benjamin, being born at Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah, bordering on Benjamin, and frequently had his abode in Jerusalem, which was in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:28; and where he was in safety amidst his enemies, they not having power to lay hold on him until his hour was come:

and the Lord shall cover him all the day long; for ever, as Jarchi notes, because that, after Jerusalem was chosen, the divine Majesty dwelt in no other place: this may be understood either of the Messiah covering Benjamin and protecting him, as he is the covert of all his Benjamites and beloved ones, from all their enemies, from all evils and dangers, from all storms and tempests, and everything troublesome and distressing, see Isaiah 32:2; or the Lord's covering his beloved One the Messiah; as he did in his infancy, from the designs of Herod upon his life, and from the attempts of others before his time was come; he hid him in the shadow of his hand, Isaiah 49:2,

and he shall dwell between his shoulders; either the Lord shall dwell between the shoulders of Benjamin; the temple in which the Lord dwelt was built on Mount Moriah, in the tribe of Benjamin, in the highest part of his land, as Jarchi notes; the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase the words,"in his border the Shechinah (or the glory of the Shechinah of the Lord) shall dwell,''for if the temple was not within the tribe of Benjamin, yet it was certainly on the borders of it: or Benjamin shall dwell between the shoulders of the Lord, being bore up and supported by him: Christ dwells in the hearts of his people, and over them as an head, and they dwell upon his shoulders, on which the care and government of them lies, Isaiah 9:6; in the Talmud (n) this passage is applied to the days of the Messiah.

(m) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 22. (n) T. Bab. Zebachim, fol. 118. 2.

And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall {k} dwell in safety by him; and the LORD shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.

(k) Because the temple would be built in Zion, which was in the tribe of Benjamin, he shows that God would dwell with him there.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. a place] Heb. hand, of Jabbok-side in Deuteronomy 2:37, a man’s place in the ranks, Numbers 2:17 (cp. Jeremiah 6:3). Here perhaps a place aside.

12 And of Benjamin he said:—

[Benjamin (?)] beloved of the Lord,

He dwelleth securely always (?).

The Highest is a covert above him,

And dwelleth between his shoulders.

As the overloaded first line of the Heb., the want of a fourth line and the variants of the versions indicate, the text is probably corrupt. The above re-arrangement in a quatrain, though finding some support from the versions, is precarious like every emendation which rests mainly on efforts to regularise the rhythm.—The picture here given is very different from that in Genesis 49:27, which reflects the valiant and even savage qualities of the tribe as described in Jdg 3:15 f., Jdg 5:14; Jdg 5:19, Jdg 20:21-25, while this reflects its religious privileges under the (divided) monarchy. (See Ryle.)

12. The beloved of the Lord] Heb. yedîd Yahweh; cp. Yedidiah of Solomon, 2 Samuel 12:25. Of all Israel, Jeremiah 11:15.

dwell in safety] Cp. Deuteronomy 33:28, Deuteronomy 12:10. Above always (Heb. all the day) is (with some scholars) brought here from the next line.

by him] Heb. ‘alaw, more accurately upon him but superfluous both to the sense (and if three lines are read) to the metre; not found in Sam. or LXX; and so either a careless anticipation of ‘alaw in the next line, or to be read as the LXX apparently have done (for they introduce ὁ θεός at the beginning of the next line) ‘elyôn = the Most High. So Herder, Geddes, etc.

his shoulders] The ridges of Benjamin’s territory: cp. Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:13. Since P, Joshua 15:7; Joshua 18:15 f., Joshua 18:28, reckons Jerusalem as in Benjamin (while J, Joshua 15:63 assigns it to Judah) this line has been interpreted as referring to the Temple. But in what is evidently a poem of N. Israel the reference is probably to Beth-el.Verse 12. - Benjamin, the beloved of his father, is also the beloved of the Lord, and would be cared for and protected by him. Shall dwell in safety by him; shall dwell securely upon him, i.e. resting on him. Shall cover him. The word rendered "cover" (חַפַפ) occurs only here; construed with עַל, upon, it conveys the idea of sheltering: he continually is sheltering him. And he shall dwell between his shoulders. "To be between the shoulders" is to be carried on the back (cf. 1 Samuel 17:6); and as a father might thus bear his child, so should Benjamin be borne of the Lord. There can be no doubt that Benjamin is the subject of this clause; to understand it of Jehovah dwelling on the shoulders of Benjamin, in the sense of having the temple, the place of his rest, within the territory of Benjamin, is too violent and far-fetched an interpretation to be admitted. In the change of subject in the three clauses of this verse, there is nothing strange, since such a change repeatedly occurs, and is found even in prose, as e.g., 2 Samuel 11:13. "To dwell upon God, and between his shoulders, means as much as to lean upon him; the similitude being taken from fathers who carry their sons while yet small and tender" (Calvin). The blessings upon the tribes commence with this verse. "Let Reuben live and not die, and there be a (small) number of his men." The rights of the first-born had been withheld from Reuben in the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:3); Moses, however, promises this tribe continuance and prosperity. The words, "and let his men become a number," have been explained in very different ways. מספּר in this connection cannot mean a large number (πολὺς ἐν ἀριθμῷ, lxx), but, like מספּר מתי (Deuteronomy 4:27; Genesis 34:30; Jeremiah 44:28), simply a small number, that could easily be counted (cf. Deuteronomy 28:62). The negation must be carried on to the last clause. This the language will allow, as the rule that a negation can only be carried forward when it stands with emphatic force at the very beginning (Ewald, 351) is not without exceptions; see for example Proverbs 30:2-3, where three negative clauses follow a positive one, and in the last the לא is omitted, without the particle of negation having been placed in any significant manner at the beginning. - Simeon was the next in age to Reuben; but he is passed over entirely, because according to Jacob's blessing (Genesis 49:7) he was to be scattered abroad in Israel, and lost his individuality as a tribe in consequence of this dispersion, in accordance with which the Simeonites simply received a number of towns within the territory of Judah (Joshua 19:2-9), and, "having no peculiar object of its own, took part, as far as possible, in the fate and objects of the other tribes, more especially of Judah" (Schultz). Although, therefore, it is by no means to be regarded as left without a blessing, but rather as included in the general blessings in Deuteronomy 33:1 and Deuteronomy 33:29, and still more in the blessing upon Judah, yet it could not receive a special blessing like the tribe of Reuben, because, as Ephraim Syrus observes, the Simeonites had not endeavoured to wipe out the stain of the crime which Jacob cursed, but had added to it by fresh crimes (more especially the audacious prostitution of Zimri, Numbers 25). Even the Simeonites did not become extinct, but continued to live in the midst of the tribe of Judah, so that as late as the eighth century, in the reign of Hezekiah, thirteen princes are enumerated with their families, whose fathers' houses had increased greatly (1 Chronicles 4:34.); and these families effected conquests in the south, even penetrating into the mountains of Seir, for the purpose of seeking fresh pasture (1 Chronicles 4:39-43). Hence the assertion that the omission of Simeon is only conceivable from the circumstances of a later age, is as mistaken as the attempt made in some of the MSS of the Septuagint to interpolate the name of Simeon in the second clause of Deuteronomy 33:6.
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