Deuteronomy 33:16
And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.
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(16) The good will of him that dwelt in the bush—is a blessing peculiar to Moses. It contains an exquisite piece of interpretation. From the fact that Jehovah revealed Himself to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush, the man of God drew the thought that He presented Himself as dwelling in it; and thus he has furnished God’s Church with this comfort for all ages, that His human temple, although it burn with fire, can never be consumed.

The last part of Deuteronomy 33:16 is taken direct from Genesis 49:26.

Separated from his brethren.—Heb., nâzîr. Is it altogether unreasonable to suppose that this particular feature in Joseph’s history, when he was “sold into Egypt,” and “separated from his brethren,” may be part of the meaning of “Nazarene” when applied to our Lord in Matthew 2:23?



Deuteronomy 33:16

I Think this is the only reference in the Old Testament to that great vision which underlay Moses’ call and Israel’s deliverance. It occurs in what is called ‘the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death,’ although modern opinion tends to decide that this hymn is indeed much more recent than the days of Moses. There seems a peculiar appropriateness in this reference being put into the mouth of the ancient Lawgiver, for to him even Sinai, with all its glories, cannot have been so impressive and so formative of his character as was the vision granted to him when solitary in the wilderness. It is to be noticed that the characteristic by which God is designated here never occurs elsewhere than in this one place. It is intended to intensify the conception of the greatness, and preciousness, and all-sufficiency of that ‘goodwill.’ If it is that ‘of Him that dwelt in the bush,’ it is sure to be all that a man can need. I need not remind you that the words occur in the blessing pronounced on ‘Joseph’-that is, the two tribes which represented Joseph-in which all the greatest material gifts that could be desired by a pastoral people are first called down upon them, and then the ground of all these is laid in ‘the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush.’ ‘The blessing-let it come on the head of Joseph.’

So then here, first, is a great thought as to what for us all is the blessing of blessings-God’s ‘goodwill.’ ‘Goodwill’-the word, perhaps, might bear a little stronger rendering. ‘Goodwill’ is somewhat tepid. A man may have a good enough will, and yet no very strong emotion of favour or delight, and may do nothing to carry his goodwill into action. But the word that is employed here, and is a common enough one in Scripture, always carries with it a certain intensity and warmth of feeling. It is more than ‘goodwill’; it is more than ‘favour’; perhaps ‘delight’ would be nearer the meaning. It implies, too, not only the inward sentiment of complacency, but also the active purpose of action in conformity with it, on God’s part. Now it needs few words to show that these two things, which are inseparable, do make the blessing of blessings for every one of us-the delight, the complacency, of God in us, and the active purpose of good in God for us. These are the things that will make a man happy wherever he is.

If I might dwell for a moment upon other scriptural passages, I would just recall to you, as bringing up very strongly and beautifully the all-sufficiency and the blessed effects of having this delight and loving purpose directed towards us like a sunbeam, the various great things that a chorus of psalmists say that it will do for a man. Here is one of their triumphant utterances: ‘Thou wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt Thou compass him as with a shield.’ That crystal battlement, if I may so vary the figure, is round a man, keeping far away from him all manner of real evil, and filling his quiet heart as he stands erect behind the rampart, with the sense of absolute security. That is one of the blessings that God’s favour or goodwill will secure for us. Again, we read: ‘By Thy favour Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong.’ He that knows himself to be the object of the divine delight, and who by faith knows himself to be the object of the divine activity in protection, stands firm, and his purposes will be carried through, because they will be purposes in accordance with the divine mind, and nothing has power to shake him. So he that grasps the hand of God can say, not because of his grasp, but because of the Hand that he holds, ‘The Lord is at my right hand; I shall not be greatly moved. By Thy favour Thou hast made our mountain to stand strong.’ And again, in another analogous but yet diversified representation, we read: ‘In Thee shall we rejoice all the day, and in Thy favour shall our horn be exalted.’ That is the emblem, not only of victory, but of joyful confidence, and so he who knows himself to have God for his friend and his helper, can go through the world keeping a sunny face, whatever the clouds may be, erect and secure, light of heart and buoyant, holding up his chin above the stormiest waters, and breasting all difficulties and dangers with a confidence far away from presumption, because it is the consequence of the realisation of God’s presence. So the goodwill of God is the chiefest good.

Now, if we turn to the remarkable designation of the divine nature which is here, consider what rivers of strength and of blessedness flow out of the thought that for each of us ‘the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush’ may be our possession.

What does that pregnant designation of God say? That was a strange shrine for God, that poor, ragged, dry desert bush, with apparently no sap in its gray stem, prickly with thorns, with ‘no beauty that we should desire it,’ fragile and insignificant, yet it was ‘God’s house.’ Not in the cedars of Lebanon, not in the great monarchs of the forest, but in the forlorn child of the desert did He abide. ‘The goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush’ may dwell in you and me. Never mind how small, never mind how sapless, never mind how lightly esteemed among men, never mind though we make a very poor show by the side of the ‘oaks of Bashan’ or the ‘cedars of Lebanon.’ It is all right; the Fire does not dwell in them. ‘Unto this man will I look, and with him will I dwell, who is of a humble and a contrite heart, and who trembleth at My word.’ Let no sense of poverty, weakness, unworthiness, ever draw the faintest film of fear across our confidence, for even with us He will sojourn. For it is ‘the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush’ that we evoke for ours.

Again, what more does that name say? He ‘that dwelt in the bush’ filled it with fire, and it ‘burned and was not consumed.’ Now there is good ground to object to the ordinary interpretation, as if the burning of the bush which yet remains unconsumed was meant to symbolise Israel, or, in the New Testament application, the Church which, notwithstanding all persecution, still remains undestroyed. Our brethren of the Presbyterian churches have taken the Latin form of the words in the context for their motto-Nec Tamen Consumebatur. But I venture to think that that is a mistake; and that what is meant by the symbol is just what is expressed by the verbal revelation which accompanied it, and that was this: ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ The fire that did not burn out is the emblem of the divine nature which does not tend to death because it lives, nor to exhaustion because it energises, nor to emptiness because it bestows, but after all times is the same; lives by its own energy and is independent. ‘I am that I have become,’-that is what men have to say. ‘I am that I once was not, and again once shall not be,’ is what men have to say. ‘I am that I am’ is God’s name. And this eternal, ever-living, self-sufficing, absolute, independent, unwearied, inexhaustible God is the God whose favour is as inexhaustible as Himself, and eternal as His own being. ‘Therefore the sons of men shall put their trust beneath the shadow of Thy wings,’ and, if they have ‘the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush,’ will be able to say, ‘Because Thou livest we shall live also.’

What more does the name say? He ‘that dwelt in the bush’ dwelt there in order to deliver; and, dwelling there, declared ‘I have seen the affliction of My people, and am come down to deliver them.’ So, then, if the goodwill of that eternal, delivering God is with us, we, too, may feel that our trivial troubles and our heavy burdens, all the needs of our prisoned wills and captive souls, are known to Him, and that we shall have deliverance from them by Him. Brethren, in that name, with its historical associations, with its deep revelations of the divine nature, with its large promises of the divine sympathy and help, there lie surely abundant strengths and consolations for us all. The goodwill, the delight, of God, and the active help of God, may be ours, and if these be ours we shall be blessed and strong.

Do not let us forget the place in this blessing on the head of Joseph which my text holds. It is preceded by an invoking of the precious things of Heaven, and ‘the precious fruits brought forth by the sun. . . of the chief things of the ancient mountains, and the precious things of the lasting hills, and the precious things of the earth and the fulness thereof.’ They are all heaped together in one great mass for the beloved Joseph. And then, like the golden spire that tops some of those campaniles in Italian cities, and completes their beauty, above them all there is set, as the shining apex of all, ‘the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush.’ That is more precious than all other precious things; set last because it is to be sought first; set last as in building some great structure the top stone is put on last of all; set last because it gathers all others into itself, secures that all others shall be ours in the measure in which we need them, and arms us against all possibilities of evil. So the blessing of blessings is the ‘goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush.’

In my text this is an invocation only; but we can go further than that. You and I can make sure that we have it, if we will. How to secure it? One of the texts which I have already quoted helps us a little way along t he road in answer to that question, for it says, ‘Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous. With favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.’ But it is of little use to tell me that if I am ‘righteous’ God will ‘bless me,’ and ‘compass me with favour.’ If you will tell me how to become righteous, you will do me more good. And we have been told how to be righteous-’If a man keep My commandments My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.’ If we knit ourselves to Jesus Christ, and we can all do that if we like, by faith that trusts Him, and by love, the child of faith, that obeys Him, and grows daily more like Him-then, without a doubt, that delight of God in us, and that active purpose of good in God’s mind towards us, will assuredly be ours; and on no other terms.

So, dear brethren, the upshot of my homily is just this-Men may strive and scheme, and wear their finger-nails down to the quick, to get some lesser good, and fail after all. The greatest good is certainly ours by that easy road which, however hard it may be otherwise, is made easy because it is so certain to bring us to what we want. Holiness is the condition of God’s delight in us, and a genuine faith in Christ, and the love which faith evokes, are the conditions. So it is a very simple matter You never can be sure of getting the lower good You can be quite sure of getting the highest. You never can be certain that the precious things of the earth and the fulness thereof will be yours, or that if they were, they would be so very precious; but you can be quite sure that the ‘goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush’ may lie like light upon your hearts, and be strength to your limbs.

And so I commend to you the words of the Apostle, ‘Wherefore we labour that, whether present or absent, we may be well-pleasing to Him.’ To minister to God’s delight is the highest glory of man. To have the favour of Him that dwelt in the bush resting upon us is the highest blessing for man. He will say ‘Well done! good and faithful servant.’ ‘The Lord taketh pleasure’-wonderful as it sounds-’in them that fear Him, in them that hope in His mercy,’ and that, hoping in His mercy, live as He would have them live.

Deuteronomy 33:16. And for the precious things of the earth — And in general for all the choice fruits which the land produceth in all parts of it, whether hills or valleys. Fulness thereof — That is, the plants, and cattle, and all creatures that grow, increase, and flourish in it. The good-will — For all other effects of the good-will and kindness of God, who not long since did for a time dwell or appear in the bush to me, in order to the relief of his people, Exodus 3:2. Of Joseph — That is, of Joseph’s posterity. Him that was separated from his brethren — His brethren separated him from them by making him a slave, and God distinguished him from them by making him a prince. The preceding words might be rendered, My dweller in the bush. That was an appearance of the divine majesty to Moses only, in token of his particular favour. Many a time had God appeared to Moses; but now he is just dying, he seems to have the most pleasing remembrance of the first time that he saw the visions of the Almighty. It was here God declared himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so confirmed the promise made to the fathers, that promise which our Lord shows reaches as far as the resurrection and eternal life.

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.Comparing the words of Moses with those of Jacob, it will be seen that the patriarch dwells with emphasis on the severe conflicts which Joseph, i. e., Ephraim and Manasseh, would undergo (compare Genesis 49:23-24); while the lawgiver seems to look beyond, and to behold the two triumphant and established in their power.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 Ge 48:20). For the precious things of the earth; and in general for all the choice fruits which the land produceth in all the parts of it, whether hills or valleys.

Fulness thereof, i.e. the plants and cattle, and all creatures that grow, increase, and flourish in it.

For the good will of him that dwelt in the bush; for all other effects of the good will and kindness of God, who not long since did for a time dwell or appear in the bush to me in order to the relief of his people, Exodus 3:2.

Of Joseph, i.e. of Joseph’s posterity.

And for the precious things of the earth, and fulness thereof,.... Corn of all sorts produced out of the earth, and grass that grows out of it, and cattle that feed upon it; for all which some part of the land of Joseph, particularly Bashan, was famous; as for the oaks that grew on it, so for the pasturage of it, and the cattle it bred, Deuteronomy 32:14; see Psalm 22:12,

and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush; the angel of the Lord, the Word and Son of God, who appeared to Moses in the bush, and made himself known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and expressed his good will to Israel, by sending Moses to deliver them out of their bondage: and the favour and good will of the same divine Person is here wished for, and which has appeared in his assumption of human nature, obedience, sufferings, and death, Luke 2:14. The bush was an emblem of Israel, and the state they were then in, and of the church of Christ; of which See Gill on Exodus 3:2; and where Christ may be said to dwell, as he did among men, when he was made flesh, and does dwell in the midst of his churches, and in the hearts of his people by faith:

let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph; that is, in all things, as Onkelos; or all these blessings, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; all before mentioned, let them come openly and visibly, and in great plenty, upon the posterity of Joseph, who was a type of Christ, the head of the righteous, on whom all the blessings of grace are, and from whom they descend to all his spiritual offspring, Proverbs 10:6,

and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren; when he was sold by them into Egypt; the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem are,"and was shining in the glory of his brethren;''that is, when he was a ruler in Egypt, and had honour from his brethren there, and was beautiful and glorious among them, as a Nazarite, as the word here used signifies, see Lamentations 4:7; and may he applied to Christ, who was chosen from among the people, and separated from sinners, and called a Nazarene, Psalm 89:19.

And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the {l} bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.

(l) Which was God appearing to Moses, Ex 3:2.

16. With thee shall he dwell] So the emphatic Heb. order. In the midst of thee, omitted by some LXX codd. and redundant, is probably a gloss. So also within one of thy gates where, etc., omitted by LXX.

oppress] in D only here, in Exodus 22:21 (20) ‘wrong,’ Leviticus 19:33 ‘oppress’ (both of the gçr).

17, 18 (18, 19). Against Hierodules. No Israelite, woman or man, shall be such. Nor shall Israel bring the hire of a harlot or the wage of a keleb to pay a vow. Both are abominations.—As the direct address is only in Deuteronomy 33:18, Deuteronomy 33:17 may be an earlier law (Asa is said to have abolished the ḳedeshim from Judah, 1 Kings 15:12) to which D in his own phraseology has added Deuteronomy 33:18.

On ḳedeshim in Babylon see Herod. i. 199, Bar 6:43; the name and institution probably arose in the worship of Ishtar (Zimmern, KAT3[146], 423, 427); in Phoenicia, Mövers, i. 678 ff.; elsewhere, Strabo, xii. 3, 36, Lucian, Lucius, 38; in Israel, Genesis 38:21 f., 1 Kings 14:24; 1 Kings 22:46 (47), 2 Kings 23:7, Hosea 4:14, and possibly also the idolatrous worship described in Jeremiah 3 as harlotry and adultery, cp. Amos 2:7 b.

[146] Die Keilinschriften und das AIte Testament, 3rd edition (1903), by H. Zimmern and H. Winckler.

16. good will] Or favour, from same root as accept in Deuteronomy 33:11.

that dwelt in the bush] See Exodus 3:2-4. As there bush is seneh, tempting some to read instead Sinai (Wellh., Steuern.). The name Sinai used to be derived from seneh, LXX βάτος, a blackberry or bramble bush, according to some the rubus fructuosus, which however is not found in Sinai, cp. Palest. under the Moslems, 73. More probably thorn-bush as in Aram. apparently from a root signifying to sharpen. ‘the thing with points, spines or teeth.’ This bush God does not merely let Himself be seen in as in Exodus 3:2, but He inhabits it. The LXX τῷ ὀφθέντι does not accept this, but harks back to Exodus 3:2.

The next two lines are as in Genesis 49:26, except that for let them be we have let … come(?) an impossible form, which we may emend to let them come, i.e. the blessings stated in the previous lines.

that was separate] Heb. nazîr, set apart solemnly as a Nazarite or as a Prince (Lamentations 4:7 R.V. nobles). So Sam. nesek or nasîk, devoted (to God). More probably the crowned one, from nezer, crown (Zechariah 9:16). But see Skinner’s and Ryle’s notes on Genesis 49:26. LXX there ὦν ἡγήσατο ἀδελφῶν, but here Δοξασθεὶς ἐπʼ (or ἐν) ἀδελφοῖς.

Deuteronomy 33:16Joseph. - Deuteronomy 33:13. "Blessed of the Lord be his land, of (in) the most precious things of heaven, the dew, and of the flood which lies beneath, (Deuteronomy 33:14) and of the most precious of the produce of the sun, and of the most precious of the growth of the moons, (Deuteronomy 33:15) and of the head of the mountains of olden time, and of the most precious thing of the everlasting hills, (Deuteronomy 33:16) and of the most precious thing of the earth, and of its fulness, and the good-will of Him that dwelt in the bush: let it come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of him that is illustrious among his brethren." What Jacob desired and solicited for his son Joseph, Moses also desires for this tribe, namely, the greatest possible abundance of earthly blessing, and a vigorous manifestation of power in conflict with the nations. But however unmistakeable may be the connection between these words and the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:22.), not only in the things desired, but even in particular expression, there is an important difference which equally strikes us, namely, that in the case of Jacob the main point of the blessing is the growth of Joseph into a powerful tribe, whereas with Moses it is the development of power on the part of this tribe in the land of its inheritance, in perfect harmony with the different times at which the blessings were pronounced. Jacob described the growth of Joseph under the figure of the luxuriant branch of a fruit-tree planted by the water; whilst Moses fixes his eye primarily upon the land of Joseph, and desires for him the richest productions. "May his land be blessed by Jehovah from (מן of the cause of the blessing, whose author was Jehovah; vid., Psalm 28:7; Psalm 104:3) the most precious thing of the heaven." מגד, which only occurs again in the Sol 4:13, Sol 4:16, and Sol 7:13, is applied to precious fruits. The most precious fruit which the heaven yields to the land is the dew. The "productions of the sun," and גּרשׁ, ἅπ. λεγ. from גּרשׁ, "the produce of the moons," are the fruits of the earth, which are matured by the influence of the sun and moon, by their light, their warmth. At the same time, we can hardly so distinguish the one from the other as to understand by the former the fruits which ripen only once a year, and by the latter those which grow several times and in difference months; and Ezekiel 47:12 and Revelation 22:2 cannot be adduced as proofs of this. The plural "moons" in parallelism with the sun does not mean months, as in Exodus 2:2, but the different phases which the moon shows in its revolution round the earth. מראשׁ (from the head), in Deuteronomy 33:15, is a contracted expression signifying "from the most precious things of the head." The most precious things of the head of the mountains of old and the eternal hills, are the crops and forests with which the tops of the mountains and hills are covered. Moses sums up the whole in the words, "the earth, and the fulness thereof:" everything in the form of costly good that the earth and its productions can supply. - To the blessings of the heaven and earth there are to be added the good-will of the Lord, who appeared to Moses in the thorn-bush to redeem His people out of the bondage and oppression of Egypt and bring it into the land of Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:2.). The expression "that dwells in the bush" is to be explained from the significance of this manifestation of God as shown at Exodus 3, which shadowed forth a permanent relation between the Lord and His people. The spiritual blessing of the covenant grace is very suitably added to the blessings of nature; and there is something no less suitable in the way in which the construction commencing with וּרצון is dropped, so that an anakolouthon ensues. This word cannot be taken as an accusative of more precise definition, as Schultz supposes; nor is מן to be supplied before it, as Knobel suggests. Grammatically considered, it is a nominative to which the verb תּבואתה properly belongs, although, as a matter of fact, not only the good-will, but the natural blessings, of the Lord were also to come upon the head of Joseph. Consequently we have not יבוא (masc.), which רצון would require, but the lengthened poetical feminine form תּבואתה (vid., Ewald, 191, c.), used in a neuter sense. It, i.e., everything mentioned before, shall come upon Joseph. On the expression, "illustrious among his brethren," see at Genesis 49:26. In the strength of this blessing, the tribe of Joseph would attain to such a development of power, that it would be able to tread down all nations.
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