Deuteronomy 33:7
And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him to his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be you an help to him from his enemies.
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(7) And this (he said) of Judah.—The words which follow are a kingly blessing: “Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him to his people.” In other words, when we think of “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” “Thy kingdom come.” Rashi reminds us of the many prayers in Old Testament history which were heard from Judah’s lips. The prayers of David and Solomon; of Asa and Jehoshaphat; of Hezekiah against Sennacherib;—and, we may add, of King Manasseh, and Daniel the prophet—were all “the voice of Judah.” The last line of Old Testament history is a prayer of Judah by the mouth of Nehemiah, “Remember me, O my God, for good.” The psalms of David, again, are all “the voice of Judah.” And, best of all, every prayer of our Lord’s is “the voice of Judah” also. The remainder of the blessing is easily understood. The “hands” of Judah embrace those Hands which were “sufficient” for the salvation of mankind. “His enemies” include all, even to Death, the “last enemy,” whom God shall subdue under His feet.

Deuteronomy 33:7. And this is the blessing of Judah — As these words are used of none of the rest, so they seem to denote that Judah’s blessing was more remarkable than the rest. Judah is here put before Levi, because it was to be the royal tribe. This benediction, as Bishop Sherlock argues, cannot relate to the time when it was given: for then Judah’s hands were very sufficient for him, this tribe being by much the greatest of the twelve tribes, as appears by two different accounts of the forces of Israel in the book of Numbers, Numbers 1:26 : and there was more reason to put up this petition for several other tribes than for Judah. Besides, what is the meaning of bringing Judah to his people? How were he and his people at this time separate? What means, likewise, the other part of the petition, Be thou a help to him from his enemies? This petition supposes a state of distress; yet what distress was Judah in at this time, at least what greater distress than the other tribes? The ancient Targums, and some old versions, understand the first petition of bringing Judah back to his people, to be only a request in his behalf, for safe return from the day of battle; but was there not the same reason for the same petition in behalf of every tribe? Nay, how much better would it have suited Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, who left their people and their settlements on the other side of Jordan, and passed over the river in the very front of the battle, to assist their brethren? Joshua 4:12.

But if you refer this prophecy to the prophecy of Jacob, (Genesis 49:10,) and to the continuance of the sceptre of Judah after the destruction of the other tribes, every expression is natural and proper, and suited to the occasion. Do but suppose Moses, in the spirit of prophecy, to have a sight of the state of affairs, when all the people were in captivity, and you will see how this prophetic prayer answers to that state. All the tribes were in captivity, the ten tribes in Assyria, and Judah in Babylon; but it was implied in Jacob’s prophecy, that Judah should retain the sceptre, and return again: for Judah only, therefore, does Moses pray that he may come to his people again. Let his hands be sufficient for him — Good reason was there for this petition, for scarcely were his hands sufficient at the return from Babylon. The tribe of Judah, (Numbers 26:22,) in Moses’s time, consisted of seventy-six thousand five hundred, reckoning only those of twenty years old and upward. But upon the return from Babylon, Judah, with Benjamin, the Levites, and the remnant of Israel, made only forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, (Ezra 2:64,) and in so weak a state they were, that Sanballat, in great scorn, said, “What do these feeble Jews?” Nehemiah 4:2. Be thou a help to him from his enemies — The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are convincing proofs of the great difficulties and oppositions which the Jews found in setting up their temple and city. Once their enemies had so prevailed, that orders came from the court of Persia, to stop all their proceedings: and, even at last, when Nehemiah came to their assistance, with a new commission from Artaxerxes, they were so beset with enemies, that the men employed in building the wall, every one, with one of his hands, wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon, Nehemiah 4:17.

Lay these two prophecies now together, and they will explain each other. Jacob foretels that Judah’s sceptre should continue till Shiloh came: which is, in effect, foretelling that the sceptres of the other tribes should not continue so long. Moses, in the spirit of prophecy, sees the desolation of all the tribes; he sees the tribes of the kingdom of Israel carried away by the Assyrians, the people of Judah by the Babylonians; he sees that Judah should again return weak, harassed, and scarcely able to maintain himself in his own country: for them, therefore, he conceives this prophetic prayer: Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, &c.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.Bring him unto his people - Moses, taking up the promise of Jacob, prays that Judah, marching forth at the head of the tribes, might ever be brought back in safety and victory; arm intimates that God would grant help to accomplish this. 7. this is the blessing of Judah—Its general purport points to the great power and independence of Judah, as well as its taking the lead in all military expeditions. Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, i.e. God will hear his prayer for the accomplishment of those great things promised to that tribe, Genesis 49:8-11. This implies the delays and difficulties Judah would meet with herein, which would drive him to his prayers, and that those prayers should be crowned with success.

Bring him unto his people; either,

1. When he shall go forth to battle against God’s and his enemies, and shall fall fiercely upon them, as was foretold Genesis 49:8,9,

bring him back with honour, and victory, and safety to his people, i.e. either to the rest of his tribe, who were left at home when their brethren went to battle, or to his brethren the other tribes of Israel. Or,

2. When that tribe shall go into captivity, let them not always be kept in captivity, as the ten tribes are like to be, but do thou bring him again to his people. Or,

3. As thou hast promised the gathering of the people to him, even to the Shiloh, who was to come out of his loins, Genesis 49:10; so do thou bring him, i.e. the Messias, who may be understood out of that parallel prophecy, and who may be here called

Judah, because he was to come from him, as he is for that reason called David in divers places, to his people, i. e. to that people which thou hast given to him. Or,

4. Bring him in, to wit, as a prince and governor, as thou hast promised, Ge 49, to his people, i.e. to thy people of Israel, now to be reckoned as his people, because of their subjection to him. Or rather,

5. Bring him in to his people, to that people which thou hast promised and given to him, i.e. to that portion of land which thou hast allotted to him, settle him in his possession; the people or inhabitants being here put for the land inhabited by them, as the Israelites are told they should possess the nations or people of Canaan, Deu 11:23 12:2, i.e. their land, as it is explained, Deu 17:14 30:18; for the people they were not to possess, but to dispossess, and to root out.

Let his hands be sufficient for him: this tribe shall be so numerous, and potent, and valiant, that it shall suffice to defend itself without any aid, either from foreign nations or from other tribes; as appeared when this tribe alone was able to grapple with nine or ten of the other tribes.

Be thou an help to him from his enemies; thou wilt preserve this tribe in a special manner, so as his enemies shall not be able to ruin it, as they will do other tribes, and that for the sake of Messias, who shall spring out of it. And this is the blessing of Judah,.... Which follows; the same supplement of the words is made in the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; but Aben Ezra thinks it refers to what goes before, that this, the same thing prayed for or prophesied of Reuben, belongs also to Judah, that he should live and not die; it may be in the wars in which that tribe would be and was engaged:

and he said, hear, Lord, the voice of Judah; in prayer, as all the Targums paraphrase it, which was eminently fulfilled in David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and other kings, which were of this tribe; who, when in distress, lifted up their voice in prayer to God, and were heard and delivered, as the Lord's people in all ages are: Judah signifies professing, confessing, praising, &c. this tribe was both a praying and praising people, as all good men be; they profess the name of the Lord, and their faith in him; they confess their sins and unworthiness; they praise the Lord for his mercies, temporal and spiritual, and pray to him for what they want; and their voice is heard with pleasure, and answered: particularly Judah was a type of Christ, who was of this tribe, and whose voice in prayer for his people has been always heard:

and bring him unto his people; in peace, often engaged war, so all the Targums: and as it may refer to Christ his antitype, it may respect his incarnation, when he came to his own and was not received by them; and to his resurrection from the dead, when he appeared to his disciples, to their great joy; and to the ministry of the Gospel among the Gentiles, when to him was the gathering of the people; and will be further accomplished at the last day, when he shall return and appear to them that look for him, a second time, without sin unto salvation:

let his hands be sufficient for him; both to work with, and provide for themselves all the necessaries of life, and to fight with their enemies, and defend themselves against them; so Christ's hands have been sufficient, or he has had a sufficiency of power and strength in his hands, to combat with and overcome all his and our enemies, to work out the salvation of his people, and to supply all their wants:

and be thou an help to him from his enemies: which this tribe often experienced in their wars with their enemies, being very warlike and courageous, successful and victorious, both before they had kings and in the several kings of their tribe, as David, Jehoshaphat, and others; and was remarkably fulfilled in Christ, whose helper the Lord was as man and Mediator, see Isaiah 1:7; no mention is made of Simeon, because of the affair of Baalpeor, in which that tribe had a great concern, Numbers 25:1; as Aben Ezra observes; or because, according to Jacob's prophecy, it was to be scattered in Israel; though the same is also said of Levi, who yet is here blessed; rather therefore the reason is, because Simeon had his inheritance in the midst of the tribe of Judah, and so was blessed in it, see Joshua 19:1; thus the Targum of Jonathan expresses it here,"and he joined in his portion and in his blessing, Simeon his brother;''some copies of the Septuagint version, as that in the king of Spain's Bible, make mention of him at the end of Reuben's blessing,"and let Simeon be much in number.''

And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be {g} sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies.

(g) Signifying, that he would barely obtain Jacob's promise, Ge 49:8.

7. Thou shalt not abhor] regard as an abomination, ritually alien or ‘unclean.’ see on Deuteronomy 7:26.

stranger] Guest, or client. Heb. gçr.

7. See introductory note above.

bring him in] Not back. Judah is isolated from the rest of the nation, but whether this refers to that early isolation, to which Deborah’s silence upon Judah testifies, or to the later one after the Disruption of the Kingdom it is impossible to say; see introd. to this ch.

With his hands, etc.] Text uncertain, Sam. his hand, LXX his hands, contend for him. Read therefore His own hands have striven for him, in antithesis to the next line, But thou, etc. This is better than Stade’s ‘with thy hands strive thou for him and thou,’ etc. R.V. marg., reading another vb with the same consonants, is possible but less likely; better than it is his own hands have sufficed for him. Calvin: let his hands suffice him; so too Geddes. Contrast the very different description of Judah in Genesis 49:8-12.Verse 7. - The blessing on Judah is in the form of prayer to Jehovah. As Jacobhad promised to Judah supremacy over his brethren and success in war, so Moses here names him next after Reuben, whose pre-eminence he had assumed, and prays for him that, going forth at the head of the tribes, he might return in triumph, being helped of the Lord. Let his hands be sufficient for him; rather, with his hands he contendeth for it (to wit, his people). רַב here is not the adj. much, enough, but the part. of the verb רִיב, to contend, to strive; and יָדָיו is the aeons, of instrument. The rendering in the Authorized Version is grammatically possible; but the meaning thereby brought out is not in keeping with the sentiment of the passage; for if Judah's hands, i.e. his own power and resources, were sufficient for him, what need had he of help from the Lord? Before ascending Mount Nebo to depart this life, Moses took leave of his people, the tribes of Israel, in the blessing which is very fittingly inserted in the book of the law between the divine announcement of his approaching death and the account of the death itself, as being the last words of the departing man of God. The blessing opens with an allusion to the solemn conclusion of the covenant and giving of the law at Sinai, by which the Lord became King of Israel, to indicate at the outset the source from which all blessings must flow to Israel (Deuteronomy 33:2-5). Then follow the separate blessings upon the different tribes (vv. 6-25). And the whole concludes with an utterance of praise to the Lord, as the mighty support and refuge of His people in their conflicts with all their foes (Deuteronomy 33:26-29). This blessing was not written down by Moses himself, like the song in ch. 32, but simply pronounced in the presence of the assembled tribes. This is evident, not only from the fact that there is nothing said about its being committed to writing, but also from the heading in Deuteronomy 33:1, where the editor clearly distinguishes himself from Moses, by speaking of Moses as "the man of God," like Caleb in Joshua 14:6, and the author of the heading to the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:1. In later times, "man of God" was the title usually given to a prophet (vid., 1 Samuel 9:6; 1 Kings 12:22; 1 Kings 13:14, etc.), as a man who enjoyed direct intercourse with God, and received supernatural revelations from Him. Nevertheless, we have Moses' own words, not only in the blessings upon the several tribes (vv. 6-25), but also in the introduction and conclusion of the blessing (Deuteronomy 33:2-5 and Deuteronomy 33:26-29). The introductory words before the blessings, such as "and this for Judah" in Deuteronomy 33:7, "and to Levi he said" (Deuteronomy 33:8), and the similar formulas in Deuteronomy 33:12, Deuteronomy 33:13, Deuteronomy 33:18, Deuteronomy 33:20, Deuteronomy 33:22, Deuteronomy 33:23, and Deuteronomy 33:24, are the only additions made by the editor who inserted the blessing in the Pentateuch. The arrangement of the blessings in their present order is probably also his work. It neither accords with the respective order of the sons of Jacob, nor with the distribution of the tribes in the camp, nor with the situation of their possessions in the land of Canaan. It is true that Reuben stands first as the eldest son of Jacob; but Simeon is then passed over, and Judah, to whom the dying patriarch bequeathed the birthright which he withdrew from Reuben, stands next; and then Levi, the priestly tribe. Then follow Benjamin and Joseph, the sons of Rachel; Zebulun and Issachar, the last sons of Leah (in both cases the younger before the elder); and lastly, the tribes descended from the sons of the maids: Gad, the son of Zilpah; Dan and Naphtali, the sons of Bilhah; and finally, Asher, the second son of Zilpah. To discover the guiding principle in this arrangement, we must look to the blessings themselves, which indicate partly the position already obtained by each tribe, as a member of the whole nation, in the earthly kingdom of God, and partly the place which it was to reach and occupy in the further development of Israel in the future, not only in relation to the Lord, but also in relation to the other nations. The only exception to this is the position assigned to Reuben, who occupies the foremost place as the first-born, notwithstanding his loss of the birthright. In accordance with this principle, the first place properly belonged to the tribe of Judah, who was raised into the position of lord over his brethren, and the second to the tribe of Levi, which had been set apart to take charge of the sacred things; whilst Benjamin is associated with Levi as the "beloved of the Lord." Then follow Joseph, as the representative of the might which Israel would manifest in conflict with the nations; Zebulun and Issachar, as the tribes which would become the channels of blessings to the nations through their wealth in earthly good; and lastly, the tribes descended from the sons of the maids, Asher being separated from his brother Gad, and placed at the end, in all probability simply because it was in the blessing promised to him that the earthly blessedness of the people of God was to receive its fullest manifestation.

On comparing the blessing of Moses with that of Jacob, we should expect at the very outset, that if the blessings of these two men of God have really been preserved to us, and they are not later inventions, their contents would be essentially the same, so that the blessing of Moses would contain simply a confirmation of that of the dying patriarch, and would be founded upon it in various ways. This is most conspicuous in the blessing upon Joseph; but there are also several other blessings in which it is unmistakeable, although Moses' blessing is not surpassed in independence and originality by that of Jacob, either in its figures, its similes, or its thoughts. But the resemblance goes much deeper. It is manifest, for example, in the fact, that in the case of several of the tribes, Moses, like Jacob, does nothing more than expound their names, and on the ground of the peculiar characters expressed in the names, foretell to the tribes themselves their peculiar calling and future development within the covenant nation. Consequently we have nowhere any special predictions, but simply prophetic glances at the future, depicted in a purely ideal manner, whilst in the case of most of the tribes the utter want of precise information concerning their future history prevents us from showing in what way they were fulfilled. The difference in the times at which the two blessings were uttered is also very apparent. The existing circumstances from which Moses surveyed the future history of the tribes of Israel in the light of divine revelation, were greatly altered from the time when Jacob blessed the heads of the twelve tribes before his death, in the persons of his twelve sons. These tribes had now grown into a numerous people, with which the Lord had established the covenant that He had made with the patriarchs. The curse of dispersion in Israel, which the patriarch had pronounced upon Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-7), had been changed into a blessing so far as Levi was concerned. The tribe of Levi had been entrusted with the "light and right" of the Lord, had been called to be the teacher of the rights and law of God in Israel, because it had preserved the covenant of the Lord, after the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai, even though it involved the denial of flesh and blood. Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh had already received their inheritance, and the other tribes were to take possession of Canaan immediately. These circumstances formed the starting-point for the blessings of Moses, not only in the case of Levi and Gad, where they are expressly mentioned, but in that of the other tribes also, where they do not stand prominently forward, because for the most part Moses simply repeats the leading features of their future development in their promised inheritance, as already indicated in the blessing of Jacob, and "thus bore his testimony to the patriarch who anticipated him, that the spirit of his prophecy was truth" (Ziegler, p. 159).

In this peculiar characteristic of the blessing of Moses, we have the strongest proof of its authenticity, particularly in the fact that there is not the slightest trace of the historical circumstances of the nation at large and the separate tribes which were peculiar to the post-Mosaic times. The little ground that there is for the assertion which Knobel repeats, that the blessing betrays a closer acquaintance with the post-Mosaic times, such as Moses himself could not possibly have possessed, is sufficiently evident from the totally different expositions which have been given by the different commentators of the saying concerning Judah in Deuteronomy 33:7, which is adduced in proof of this. Whilst Knobel finds the desire expressed in this verse on behalf of Judah, that David, who had fled from Saul, might return, obtain possession of the government, and raise his tribe into the royal tribe, Graf imagines that it expresses the longing of the kingdom of Judah for reunion with that of Israel; and Hoffmann and Maurer even trace an allusion to the inhabitants of Judea who were led into captivity along with Jehoiachin: one assumption being just as arbitrary and as much opposed to the text as the other. - All the objections brought against the genuineness of this blessing are founded upon an oversight or denial of its prophetic character, and upon untenable interpretations of particular expressions abstracted from it. Not only is there no such thing in the whole blessing as a distinct reference to the peculiar historical circumstances of Israel which arose after Moses' death, but there are some points in the picture which Moses has drawn of the tribes that it is impossible to recognise in these circumstances. Even Knobel from his naturalistic stand-point is obliged to admit, that no traces can be found in the song of any allusion to the calamities which fell upon the nation in the Syrian, Assyrian, and Chaldaean periods. And hitherto it has proved equally impossible to point out any distinct allusion to the circumstances of the nation in the period of the judges. On the contrary, as Schultz observes, the speaker rises throughout to a height of ideality which it would have been no longer possible for any sacred author to reach, when the confusions and divisions of a later age had actually taken place. He sees nothing of the calamities from without, which fell upon the nations again and again with destructive fury, nothing of the Canaanites who still remained in the midst of the Israelites, and nothing of the hostility of the different tribes towards one another; he simply sees how they work together in the most perfect harmony, each contributing his part to realize the lofty ideal of Israel. And again he grasps this ideal and the realization of it in so elementary a way, and so thoroughly from the outer side, without regard to any inward transformation and glorification, that he must have lived in a time preceding the prophetic age, and before the moral conflicts had taken place.

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