Deuteronomy 33:21
And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) The first part.—The first territory conquered by Moses was distributed between Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh.

A portion of the lawgiver is interpreted by Rashi as the field of the “burial-place” of the lawgiver. But this can hardly have been in the mind of Moses.

He came with the heads of the people.—The Gadites with their companion tribes passed over Jordan to the conquest of Canaan by Moses’ order.

Deuteronomy 33:21. He provideth the first part for himself — The first-fruits of the land of promise, the country of Sion, which was first conquered, and which he is said to provide for himself, because he asked and obtained it of Moses, and was the first who viewed his portion in the promised land. There, in a portion of the lawgiver, &c. — This is obscurely expressed, but the meaning seems to be, he was there settled in a portion or settlement allotted him by Moses the Jewish legislator himself, whereas the portions beyond Jordan were given to the several tribes by Joshua, according to the direction of the lot. Or perhaps this part of the land is termed a portion of the lawgiver, because, lying beyond Jordan, it was the only part which Moses was permitted to enter upon. Was he seated — Hebrew, ספון, sapun, covered, or protected: for their wives and children were secured in their cities, while many of the men went over to the war in Canaan. He came with the heads of the people, &c. — Or with the princes, captains, or rulers of the people; that is, under their command and conduct. Or, as ראשׁי, roshee, may be understood, with the first, or in the front of the people, as the Syriac renders it; for this tribe and their brethren, whose lot fell beyond Jordan, were to march into Canaan before their brethren. Thus, again, he speaks, in the prophetic style, of a thing as already done, because he foresaw it would be done. He executed the justice of the Lord — Or his just judgment against the Canaanites, as the rest of the Israelites did.

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.The first fruits of the conquest made by Israel were assigned to Gad and Reuben by Moses, at their own request.

Because ... seated - Render, because there was the leader's portion reserved, i. e., there was reserved the fitting portion for Gad as a leader in war.

And he came ... - i. e., he joined the other leaders to fulfill the commands of God respecting the conquest of Canaan (compare Numbers 32:17, Numbers 32:21, Numbers 32:32; Joshua 1:14). Moses regards the promise of the Gadites to do this as already redeemed.

20, 21. of Gad he said—Its possessions were larger than they would have been had they lain west of Jordan; and this tribe had the honor of being settled by Moses himself in the first portion of land conquered. In the forest region, south of the Jabbok, "he dwelt as a lion" (compare Ge 30:11; 49:19). Notwithstanding, they faithfully kept their engagement to join the "heads of the people" [De 33:21] in the invasion of Canaan. The first part; the first-fruits of the Land of Promise, the country of Sihon, which was first conquered, which he is said to provide for himself, because he desired and so obtained it of Moses, Num 32.

A portion of the lawgiver, i.e. of Moses, whose portion this is called, either because this part of the land beyond Jordan was the only part of the land which Moses was permitted to enter upon; or because it was given to him by Moses; whereas the portions beyond Jordan were given to the several tribes by Joshua, according to the direction of the lot.

Was he seated, Heb. hid or protected; for their wives and children were secured in their cities, whilst many of their men went over to the war in Canaan.

He came with the heads of the people, i.e. he went, or he will go, (the preter tense being put for the future, after the manner of the prophets,) to wit, to the war in Canaan, with the princes, or captains, or rulers of the people of Israel, i.e. under their command and conduct, as indeed they did; or with the first of the people; or, in the front of the people, as the Syriac renders it; for this tribe and their brethren, whose lot fell beyond Jordan, were to march, and did march, into Canaan before their brethren, as it is expressed, Joshua 1:14. And the Hebrew word rosch oft signifies the beginning or first of a thing.

He executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel, i.e. he did or will execute the just judgment of God against the Canaanites, as the rest of the Israelites did; he will join in the war against them, as he promised to do, Numbers 32:27, and actually did, Joshua 1:14.

And he provided a first part for himself,.... That is, the portion of the land of Sihon and Og, as Jarchi rightly interprets it; which was the beginning or firstfruits of the subduing of the land that was promised; this he looked at, chose, and desired it as his inheritance, Numbers 32:1,

because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; or in the portion and part of the inheritance of Israel was he placed by Moses the lawgiver, according to the will of God; or because there were in it palaces and towers of great personages, lawgivers, kings, and princes, well covered and strongly fortified; or here he was "hid", or "protected", i.e. their families, wives, and children, while they assisted their brethren in subduing Canaan:

and he came with the heads of the people; either "to" them, to Moses, Eleazar, and the seventy elders, and the heads of the tribes of Israel, to ask leave to have his part and portion on the other side Jordan, or "with" them, as we supply it; came with them over Jordan armed, to assist in the conquest and subduing of the land of Canaan:

he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel; that is, either he justly and truly fulfilled all his promises and engagements, on condition of which he was placed on the other side; or he, together with the rest of the Israelites, executed the righteous judgment of God upon the Canaanites, in the expulsion and destruction of them.

And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the {o} lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.

(o) So the portion of the Gadites, and others on this side of the Jordan was God's, though it was not so known.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
21. vow] Heb. nadar, as the parallel nazar shows, means originally ‘to dedicate.’ The term and the idea are found in practically all the Semitic languages.

be slack] Lit. be behind, delay. To pay, lit. to fulfil.

sin in thee] Cp. Deuteronomy 15:9.

21. provided] Lit. saw but = saw to.

first part] Or the best, Heb. reshîth. See above, Deuteronomy 33:15; and on Deuteronomy 18:4.

For there, etc.] Both the text of this line and the beginning of the next—kî sham ḥelḳath meḥoḳeḳ saphun (so far confirmed by Sam.) wayyeth—and the meaning, for there the lot of a ruler was laid up, and he came, etc., are very uncertain. The line is an odd one and may well be a gloss upon the preceding line.

If the Heb. text be accepted, the meaning is that although Gad had received his large and princely territory E. of Jordan yet he came with (Sam. associated himself with) the heads of the people to the conquest of W. Palestine, loyal to the righteous purpose of God, and executed His judgements on its peoples (Exodus 23:31 ff.). Possible emendations are ḥelḳoh meḥuḳḳaḳ, and his lot was ordained (Giesebrecht); hullekah ḥelḳath meḥoḳḳeh (cp. LXX ἐμερίσθη γῆ ἀρχόντων), a ruler’s lot was allotted. The last word saphun, reserved or laid up, overloads the line and is by some ingeniously taken with wayyeth’ of the next line as an inversion of wayyith-assephun and there gathered themselves the heads of the peoples, LXX συνηγμένων ἄμα ἀρχηγοῖς λαῶν; and the line is taken as a gloss, or as the repetition by a scribe’s error of the line in Deuteronomy 33:5. On the whole v. see Numbers 32.

21–23 (22–24). Of Vows. A vow once made shall be paid without delay. God requires it, neglect is a sin (Deuteronomy 33:21). To forbear to vow is no sin, but every uttered promise of this kind must be observed (Deuteronomy 33:22 f.).—In the Sg., somewhat redundant, and probably expanded (see on Deuteronomy 33:23). Why it stands here is not evident; Steuern. draws attention to the presence of vow in Deuteronomy 33:18 (19) as apparently the reason. D has already stated that vows are to be paid at the one altar (Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 12:26). There is no parallel in E, but one in P, Numbers 30:2 (3) with some identical phrases, the context of which deals with women’s vows in an elaborate fashion.

For the development of the casuistry thus begun see Mishna, ‘Nedarîm.’ In ancient times the vow was regarded as an essential part of religion (also in mediaeval Christianity) and was usually associated with prayer, cp. the Greek εὐχή, often conditionally on the prayer being granted. It might be a vow that the vower would devote himself to a god’s service, e.g. Jacob, Genesis 28:20-22; Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:7 f.; or the dedication of a child, Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:11, or of other living thing, Jdg 11:30 (Jephthah), Malachi 1:14, Leviticus 27, or houses or land, id. Cp. Psalm 22:25 (26), Psalm 50:14, Psalm 61:8 (9), Psalm 65:1 (2), Psalm 66:13, Psalm 76:11 (12), Psalm 116:14; Psalm 116:18; Job 22:27, Ecclesiastes 5:4 f. (based on our law). All these show that vows were a religious duty, that they were frequently and lightly made, and but indifferently performed. Cp. Mark 7:10 f., Matthew 15:4 ff. For the Babylonians see Johns, op. cit. 137, Code of Ḫammurabi, § 181; and for the Arabs W. R. Smith, Rel. Sem. 314 f., 462 ff.

Verse 21 refers to Gad's obtaining an inheritance for himself from Moses beyond Jordan. And he provided the first part for himself; literally, and he saw for himself (i.e. chose) the first, i.e. either the most excellent part or the firstfruits of the conquest. Because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; rather, for there the portion of the leader was reserved. The word rendered t, lawgiver," or "leader" (מְחֹקֵק), signifies primarily one who ordains or appoints, and is used in both the above senses (cf. Exodus 33:22; Judges 5:14); it is here applied to Gad, because that tribe displayed such promptitude and energy at the head of the tribes in the conquest of the land, that it might be regarded as their leader. An entirely different view of the passage has been taken by some, who by the mechokek understand Moses as the lawgiver, and his portion as the place of his grave, which was concealed, but was within the inheritance of Gad. But it is a fatal objection to this view that not only is the word rendered "portion" (חֶלְקַת) nowhere used of a grave, but the grave of Moses on Mount Nebo was in the territory of Reuben, not in that of Gad. Gesenius renders, "The portion of (assigned by) the lawgiver was preserved." But this does not tally with the immediately preceding statement, that Gad chose his portion for himself; at any rate, it could not be because of this that he chose it. Gad chose for himself a portion on the east of Jordan, and the portion he had chosen was sacredly kept for him, though he went with his brethren to the conquest of Canaan. And he came with the heads of the people; i.e. his place of marching was with the leaders; his place was at the head of the tribes (cf. Numbers 32:17, 21, 32, and Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12). He executed the justice of the Lord, etc.; i.e. he did what God required of him, obeying his commands, and thereby fulfilling all righteousness (cf. Matthew 3:15; Philippians 3:6). With Israel; in the fellowship of Israel. Deuteronomy 33:21Gad. - "Blessed be He that enlargeth Gad: like a lioness he lieth down, and teareth the arm, yea, the crown of the head. And he chose his first-fruit territory, for there was the leader's portion kept; and he came to the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the Lord, and his rights with Israel." Just as in the blessing of Noah (Genesis 9:26) the God of Shem is praised, to point out the salvation appointed by God for Shem, so here Moses praises the Lord, who enlarged Gad, i.e., who not only gave him a broad territory in the conquered kingdom of Sihon, but furnished generally an unlimited space for his development (vid., Genesis 26:22), so that he might unfold his lion-like nature in conflict with his foes. On the figure of a lioness, see Genesis 49:9; and on the warlike character of the Gadites, the remarks on the blessing of Jacob upon Gad (Genesis 49:19). The second part of the blessing treats of the inheritance which Gad obtained from Moses at his own request beyond Jordan. ראה, with an accusative and ל, signifies to look out something for oneself (Genesis 22:8; 1 Samuel 16:17). The "first-fruit" refers here to the first portion of the land which Israel received for a possession; this is evident from the reason assigned, חלקת שׁם כּי, whilst the statement that Gad chose the hereditary possession is in harmony with Numbers 32:2, Numbers 32:6, Numbers 32:25., where the children of Gad are described as being at the head of the tribes, who came before Moses to ask for the conquered land as their possession. The meaning of the next clause, of which very different explanations have been given, can only be, that Gad chose such a territory for its inheritance as became a leader of the tribes. מחקק, he who determines, commands, organizes; hence both a commander and also a leader in war. It is in the latter sense that it occurs both here and in Judges 5:14. מחקק חלקת, the field, or territory of the leader, may either be the territory appointed or assigned by the lawgiver, or the territory falling to the lot of the leader. According to the former view, Moses would be the mechokek. But the thought, that Moses appointed or assigned him his inheritance, could be no reason why Gad should choose it for himself. Consequently מחקק חלקת can only mean the possession which the mechokek chose for himself, as befitting him, or specially adapted for him. Consequently the mechokek was not Moses, but the tribe of Gad, which was so called because it unfolded such activity and bravery at the head of the tribes in connection with the conquest of the land, that it could be regarded as their leaders. This peculiar prominence on the part of the Gadites may be inferred from the fact, that they distinguished themselves above the Reubenites in the fortification of the conquered land (Numbers 32:34.). ספוּן, from ספן, to cover, hide, preserve, is a predicate, and construed as a noun, "a thing preserved." - On the other hand, the opinion has been very widely spread, from the time of Onkelos down to Baumgarten and Ewald, that this hemistich refers to Moses: "there is the portion of the lawgiver hidden," or "the field of the hidden leader," and that it contains an allusion to the fact that the grave of Moses was hidden in the inheritance of Gad. But this is not only at variance with the circumstance, that a prophetic allusion to the grave of Moses such as Baumgarten assumes is apparently inconceivable, from the simple fact that we cannot imagine the Gadites to have foreseen the situation of Moses' grave at the time when they selected their territory, but also with the fact that, according to Joshua 13:20, the spot where this grave was situated (Deuteronomy 34:5) was not allotted to the tribe of Gad, but to that of Reuben; and lastly, with the use of the word chelkah, which does not signify a burial-ground or grave. - But although Gad chose out an inheritance for himself, he still went before his brethren, i.e., along with the rest of the tribes, into Canaan, to perform in connection with them, what the Lord demanded of His people as a right. This is the meaning of the second half of the verse. The clause, "he came to the heads of the people," does not refer to the fact that the Gadites came to Moses and the heads of the congregation, to ask for the conquered land as a possession (Numbers 32:2), but expressed the thought that Gad joined the heads of the people to go at the head of the tribes of Israel (comp. Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12, with Numbers 32:17, Numbers 32:21, Numbers 32:32), to conquer Canaan with the whole nation, and root out the Canaanites. The Gadites had promised this to Moses and the heads of the people; and this promise Moses regarded as an accomplished act, and praised in these words with prophetic foresight as having been already performed, and that not merely as one single manifestation of their obedience towards the word of the Lord, but rather as a pledge that Gad would always manifest the same disposition. "To do the righteousness of Jehovah," i.e., to do what Jehovah requires of His people as righteousness - namely, to fulfil the commandments of God, in which the righteousness of Israel was to consist (Deuteronomy 6:25). יתא, imperfect Kal for יאהת or יאתּה; see Ges. 76, 2, c., and Ewald, 142, c. "With Israel:" in fellowship with (the rest of) Israel.
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