Deuteronomy 33:9
Who said to his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brothers, nor knew his own children: for they have observed your word, and kept your covenant.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 33:9. Who said to his father, &c., I have not seen him — That is, I have no respect unto them in comparison of God and my duty. The meaning is, Who followed God and his command fully, and executed the judgment enjoined without any respect of persons. It appears to refer to the whole tribe of Levi, who, fired with a holy zeal for God and his worship, performed impartial execution on the worshippers of the golden calf, not excepting even their nearest relations that were concerned in that wickedness: see Exodus 32:26-29. They kept thy covenant — When the rest broke their covenant with God by the foul sin of idolatry, that tribe kept themselves pure from that infection, and adhered to God and his worship. Some also include herein their impartiality in the administration of justice, that they had not accepted, nor should accept the persons of any, not even their relations. To which we may add that the office of the priests and Levites, which engaged their constant attendance, at least by turns, at God’s altar, laid them under a necessity of being frequently absent from their families, which they could neither take such care of nor make such provision for, as other Israelites might. This constant self-denial they submitted to, that they might observe God’s word, and keep the covenant of priesthood. And all those, even under the gospel, who are called to minister in holy things, should remember that it is their duty to sit loose to the relations and interests which are dearest to them in this world, and prefer the fulfilling of their ministry before the gratifying the best friend they have, Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13. Our Lord Jesus knew not his mother and his brethren, when they would have taken him from his work, Matthew 12:48.33:6-23 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.Who said unto his father and to his mother - Compare Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26. 8-10. of Levi he said—The burden of this blessing is the appointment of the Levites to the dignified and sacred office of the priesthood (Le 10:11; De 22:8; 17:8-11), a reward for their zeal in supporting the cause of God, and their unsparing severity in chastising even their nearest and dearest relatives who had participated in the idolatry of the molten calf (Ex 32:25-28; compare Mal 2:4-6). I have not seen him, i.e. I have no respect unto them, for so knowledge is oft used, as Job 9:21 Proverbs 12:10,11 1 Thessalonians 5:12. The sense is, who followed God and his command fully, and executed the judgment enjoined by God without any respect of persons, Exodus 32:26,27. This seems better than to refer it either to their not mourning for their next kindred, for that was allowed to all but the high priest in case of the death of father or mother, and that was only a ceremonial rite, and no matter of great commendation; or to their impartiality in executing the judgments committed to them, Deu 17:9, of which they had as yet given no considerable proof.

Kept thy covenant, i.e. when the rest broke their covenant with God by that foul sin of idolatry with the calf, that tribe kept themselves more pure from that infection, and adhered to God and his worship and service, as appears from Exodus 32:26,28. Compare Malachi 2:6,7. Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him,.... Which some understand of the high priests who were of this tribe, and according to the law were not to defile themselves, or mourn for a father or mother, Leviticus 21:11; or rather, as others, of their having no respect to them in judgment, but determining all causes that came before them according to the law of God, and the rules of justice and equity, in the most impartial manner, without having any regard to the nearest relations to them: with this compare what Christ the antitype of Levi says, in Matthew 12:49,

neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children; had no respect to persons in judgment, though ever so nearly related: many restrain this to the affair of the golden calf, when the tribe of Levi gathered together, girded their swords on their thighs, and slew every man his brother, companion, and neighbour, guilty of that idolatry, Exodus 32:26,

for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant; the law of God, spoken by him, and had the nature of a covenant with the people of Israel: this the tribe of Levi observed, not only what respects the worship of God, and the contrary to it, idolatry, but all other moral and religious duties; Christ fulfilled the whole law, and did always and all things what pleased the Lord, John 8:29.

Who said unto his father and to his mother, {h} I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.

(h) He preferred God's glory to all natural affection, Ex 28:30.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. When thou goest forth] As Deuteronomy 20:1, Deuteronomy 21:10; cp. Deuteronomy 13:13 (14).

in camp] Heb. [as] a camp, maḥaneh: a term used of the encampment itself, Deuteronomy 33:10 ff., Joshua 6:11; Joshua 6:14, 1 Samuel 17:53, 2 Kings 7:16; of those who encamp, Numbers 10:5 f.; and of a host on its way to encamp or to take up a position, as here, Joshua 8:13; Joshua 10:5; Joshua 11:4 f. (Also used of hosts or companies without any reference to camping.) The camps of nomads were of tents; in time of war Israel’s were of booths, 2 Samuel 11:11.

thou shalt keep thee] Deuteronomy 2:4.

every evil thing] As the context shews, anything that would cause ritual uncleanness; in Deuteronomy 17:1 of a physical blemish unfitting for sacrifice, but in Psalm 64:5 (6), Psalm 141:4 of what is immoral.

9. Above all claims of kindred the tribe set their duty to the oracles and covenant of Jehovah (cp. Deuteronomy 13:6 (7) ff., Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26).

‘It is not blood but abnegation of blood that constitutes the priest. He must act for Jehovah’s sake as if he had neither father, nor mother, neither brothers nor children’ (Wellh. loc. cit.). Some interpret this specifically of the impartiality of the priests as ministers of justice, they did not respect persons (cp. Deuteronomy 1:16 f., Deuteronomy 17:9 ff.); others see an allusion to Exodus 32:17-29; but both these interpretations are too particular.

Note that, as in D, the whole tribe of Levi are priests, and that in contrast to Genesis 49:7 the tribe is consolidated. See Ryle’s note there.

‘The priests appear as a strictly close corporation, so close that they are mentioned only exceptionally in the plural number and for the most part are spoken of collectively in the singular as an organic unity which embraces not merely the contemporary members but also their ancestors and which begins its life with Moses, the friend of Jehovah, who as its beginning is identified with the continuation just as the man is identified with the child out of whom he has grown’ (Wellh. Hist. 135).

For may be rendered but."Yea, nations He loves; all His holy ones are in Thy hand: and they lie down at Thy feet; they rise up at Thy words." עמּים חבב is the subject placed first absolutely: "nations loving," sc., is he; or "as loving nations - all Thy holy ones are in Thy hand." The nations or peoples are not the tribes of Israel here, any more than in Deuteronomy 32:8, or Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11, and Genesis 48:4; whilst Judges 5:14 and Hosea 10:14 cannot come into consideration at all, for there the word is defined by a suffix. The meaning of the words depends upon whether "all His holy ones" are the godly in Israel, or the Israelites generally, or the angels. There is nothing to favour the first explanation, as the distinction between the godly and the wicked would be out of place in the introduction to a blessing upon all the tribes. The second has only as seeming support in Daniel 7:21. and Exodus 19:6. It does not follow at once from the calling of Israel to be the holy nation of Jehovah, that all the Israelites were or could be called "holy ones of the Lord." Least of all should Numbers 16:3 be adduced in support of this. Even in Daniel 7 the holy ones of the Most High are not the Jews generally, but simply the godly, or believers, in the nation of God. The third view, on the other hand, is a perfectly natural one, on account of the previous reference to the holy myriads. The meaning, therefore, would be this: The Lord embraces all nations with His love, He who, so to speak, has all His holy angels in His hand, i.e., His power, so that they serve Him as their Lord. They lie down at His feet. The ἄπ. λεγ. תּכּוּ is explained by Kimchi and Saad. as signifying adjuncti sequuntur vestigia sua; and by the Syriac, They follow thy foot, from conjecture rather than any certain etymology. The derivation proposed by modern linguists, from the verb תּכה, according to an Arabic word signifying recubuit, innixus est, has apparently more to support it. ישּׂא, it rises up: intransitive, as in Habakkuk 1:3; Nahum 1:5; Hosea 13:1, and Psalm 89:10. מדּבּרתיך is not a Hithpael participle (that which is spoken); for מדּבּר has not a passive, but an active signification, to converse (Numbers 7:89; Ezekiel 2:2, etc.). It is rather a noun, דבּרת, from דּבּרה, words, utterances. The singular, ישּׂא, is distributive: every one (of them) rises on account of thine utterance, i.e., at thy words. The suffixes relate to God, and the discourse passes from the third to the second person. In our own language, such a change in a sentence like this, "all His (God's) holy ones are in Thy (God's) hand," would be intolerably harsh, but in Hebrew poetry it is by no means rare (see, for example, Psalm 49:19).
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