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who attended upon his retirement into the mountain, and his last hours.* Out of the view of the host, he was laid in a grave prepared in a hollow of the hilly region where he died. Had the spot been known, it
fancying that the sense of xxxi. 22, 28, xxxii. 44, &c., was left incomplete, (for want of perceiving their true connexion with xxxi. 16 - 18,) naturally fixed on this place to incorporate it with that collection. And this, it is reasonable to suppose, was done at a period, considerably subsequent to the death of Moses, such as to give time for the true meaning of xxxi. 16 – 22, to be lost sight of.
* Deut. xxxiii, 1-29. The date of the addition of this passage to the book, we have no means of ascertaining. Its obvious incompleteness, and want of proportion, the fulness with which it represents some tribes to have been discoursed upon, (8-11, 13 - 17,) while others, as Dan (22) and Reuben (6), are despatched with the briefest notice, and one, Simeon, is entirely passed by, — while it indicates, on the one hand, that we have not the full account of what Moses said on the occasion in question, — seems to me to show, on the other, to a considerable degree of probability, that the composition consists of what a tradition (not transmitted without corruptions) had actually preserved of his last discourses (1); since, if the passage were merely a work of imagination in some after time, it would have been easy and natural to give it the finish and coherence which it wants. And that what thus remains, was preserved not as a whole, but in parts, put together at a later time, might be not unreasonably inferred from the fact, that each of the blessings (unless that of Reuben be an exception, of which presently) has its own introduction, not in words of Moses, but in the narrative form; e. g. “Of Levi he said” (8); “And of Benjamin he said” (12) &c. The fragmentary character of the passage, together with our ignorance of its history, and of the force of the allusions, of which it seems to be full, causes it, in parts, to bid defiance to exposition; nor have the large labors of the commentators upon it, done much more than largely illustrate the fact of its obscurity. — “ And he said" (2); this, with what follows in verses 2, 3, I take to be the introduction to the blessing of Reuben (6), making it thus correspond with the rest, in the particular just above mentioned. “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran" (2); that is, I suppose, he revealed himself at Sinai to the people, and made his revelations more and more clearly to them as they advanced on their way; the words which I have italicized have a peculiar force, being appropriately used of the rising and course of the sun. — “He came with ten thousands of saints"; this translation is disputed, but I believe it to be the correct one, (compare 3 ; Ex. xix. 6; Numb. xvi. 3,) and that it means, He graciously accompanied his numerous people. — “From his right hand [his divine energy) went a fiery (potent] law for them;" this, again, I adopt for the true rendering, not
would have become first the goal of pious pilgrimages, and then, perhaps, — by the apotheosis of one so venerated, - a scene of idolatrous worship. It required the self-renouncing spirit which all his life had displayed,
may all do.
withstanding the question which has been raised upon the word ng. “ He loved the people; all his (its) saints are in thy hand” &c. (3); this abrupt change of persons is not uncommon in the more animated Hebrew poetry, as we shall see hereafter; the sense I understand to be, Loving them all alike, thou hast graciously adopted them to be thy care, and to sit “at thy feet,” and “receive of thy words,” which accordingly they
.“ Moses” &c. (4, 5): these two verses, which ought to be thrown into a parenthesis, I regard as having been originally a marginal remark, intended to illustrate verses 2 and 3. The “law,” (19), - says this annotator (4),'— spoken of in verse 2, is the law (177) which is now [at the tiine when he was writing] the valued “ inheritance of the congregation of Jacob,” the same law which“ Moses commanded us," he, who “was king in Jeshurun when the heads of the people, and the tribes of Israel, were gathered together” (5), he who was invested with the highest authority over the whole collective nation (this last clause being intended to explain the important word saints in verses 2 and 3). — “Let Reuben live, and not die ; and let not his men be few” (6). Here is the place where, after the very vague benediction of Reuben, we look for some notice of Simeon, but find none; nor do the attempts to explain the fact by a comparison of the notices of that tribe in Numb. i. 23; xxvi. 14; 1 Chron. iv. 27, amount to any thing, except to give a degree of plausibility to conjectural emendations (should one incline to make them) of the latter clause, which, by altering one word ('7'! to '?!), and inserting another (ji rad), would make it read, “and let Simeon (too) live, (though] his men are few.” Two or three manuscripts of the Septuagint, whether on any better ground than conjecture, we know not, — insert here the word Suptur. Our translators, in the interpolation of not, (italicized by them, agreeably to their method of indicating that a word introduced has nothing corresponding in the Hebrew,) have adopted a singular expedient to reconcile their preconceived opinion of what the sense ought to be, with their view (probably a correct one, compare Is. x. 19) of the
. “ This is the blessing of Judah" &c. (7); the few general words, which here follow, imploring success, in war, and prosperous returns from it, for this tribe, have a degree of resemblance to the first of those represented to have been addressed by Jacob to its progenitor in Gen. xlix. 8 - 12. From this point it may be remarked, that with the exceptions of Reuben and Gad, (which cannot he brought into the consideration, as all their territory lay east of the Jordan,) Moses mentions the tribes substantially in the order, from south to north, in which they were afterwards established in Canaan ; which fact, could we
.מִסְפָר sense of the word
to forbid that the place of his last rest should be visited by the coming generations, who would have such cause to revere and bless his name. But, true to his office to the last, he would permit no honors to his memory,
know that the order of his discourse was preserved in our record, would indicate, that the districts for the occupation of the several tribes, were already determined. (Compare p. 417, note tt.) We should understand
im, while he surveyed the country from an eminence, or when he had just been surveying it, to utter his benediction on one tribe after another, as his eye successively rested on the regions which they were severally to inhabit.—“ Of Levi he said, “Let thy Urim and thy Thummim'" &c. (8-11). By all means, I conceive we should regard these, as well as the preceding verses, as being addressed to God; Let the highest insignia of thy instituted priesthood remain with thy holy tribe, “ whom thou didst
prove " &c. God proved (tried] that tribe with the rest at Massah, (compare Ex. xvii. 7,) where, perhaps, they were found less discontented than others, though that fact is not related; and he strove with them, when he rebuked their head (compare Numb. xx. 12, 13) “at the waters of Meribah." “ Who said unto his father and to his mother, 'I have not seen him?” &c. (9); that is (allowing for the poetical clothing of the thought), who evinced their zeal to Jehovah, by faithfully acquitting themselves of that stern duty, which required them to forget the ties of blood. Compare Ex. xxxii. 27, 28. — From a supposed reference, in verse 12, to the erection of the temple at Jerusalem, on the border of the territory of Benjamin, an argument has been sought, to show that the passage was written later than the time of Solomon. But I think it quite unsafe to assume so much as the fact of any such reference being intended in the
It is very naturally understood as simply a general invocation of the Divine protection for Benjamin. “He [Benjamin) shall dwell between his [the Lord's) shoulders”; quasi, in his bosom ; the expression is of the same class with that in Matt. xxiii. 37. — “And of Joseph he said ” &c. (13-17). Here, in 13-16, is a distinct imitation of the blessing pronounced by Jacob upon the same tribe ; compare Gen. xlix. 25, 26. Three of those verses, and part of the fourth, refer to the fertility and the mineral wealth of the region which the descendants of Joseph were to occupy; compare a remark above, on verse 7. “The deep that coucheth beneath” (13); that is, the subterranean springs, by which, as well as by “the dew” from above, vegetation would be refreshed. cious things put forth by the moon” (14); perhaps some vivifying virtue was ascribed to the lunar influences, or the reference is merely to plants, the rapid growth of one or a few months, as distinguished from annual products mentioned in the preceding clause. “For the good will of him that dwelt in the bush”; compare Ex. iii. 2. “ His glory” &c. (17); this powerful tribe being divided into two branches, those of Ephraim and VOL. I.
“ The pre
on the part of those who owed him so much, to prove a snare to their virtue; the secret of his burial-place died with those who consigned him to it; and “no man,” says the historian, in the simply plaintive ex
Manasseh, its strength is compared to that of the two horns of a firstling [a choice) bullock, or of a buffalo, not a unicorn, as the word, after some ancient versions, is unfortunately rendered by our translators. — “ And of Zebulun he said ” &c. (18, 19); in the first of these verses, and the latter half of the second, we may find allusions to the anticipated habits of the Zebulunites, as mariners and fishermen, (that tribe being about to be established between the Mediterranean Sea and that of Gennesareth; compare Gen. xlix. 13,) and to agricultural, or perhaps manufacturing, pursuits of the children of Issachar. We may imagine applications of the language in the first half of verse 19 (as, for instance, that they refer to an expected designation of the lofty Mount Tabor, on the confines of Issachar and Zebulun, to be the seat of the national worship); but I suppose we have no means to determine its sense. — “ And of Gad he said” &c. (20). Respecting what is said of Gad, I am fain to repeat the last remark. I obtain no satisfaction from the attempts which have been made to illustrate it. It probably contains allusions to facts, well known at the time when it was written, but which the history has not preserved; though I would not deny that verse 20 may refer to the settlement of that tribe in part of the territory, first occupied, east of Jordan, and to the obligation which still lay upon it to come with “ the heads of the people” to prosecute the war in Canaan; compare Numb. xxxii. 31, 32. — “ And of Dan he said " &c. (22); all that can be safely suggested concerning this, is the conjecture, that the hilly country lately conquered from Og, being known to harbour lions, (Cant. iv. 8,) the tribe of Dan, for its vigor and activity, is compared to the “ lion's whelp, which leaps in Bashan.” “Of Naphtali he said • Possess thou the west and the south' (23); more literally, (and necessarily here, if we are to reconcile the statement with the fact,)“ the sea and the south.” The tribe of Naphtali actually occupied not the southwestern, but a northeastern, district of the Holy Land (Josh. xix. 32 – 39). But they possessed the sea of Gennesareth, along whose western shore their territory lay; and they might be said to possess the south in relation to the tribe of Dan (last before mentioned) one of whose settlements lay to the north of them (Judges xviii. 27, 28). Le Clerc (ad loc.) ingeniously conjectures, that, for Di 770, the sea and the south, we should read bingo, the sea, or lake, Merom (compare Josh. xi. 5), which, actually, the tribe of Naphtali did possess. “ And of Asher he said” &c. (24, 25); this description of wealth and prosperity is in the former of the two verses modelled on the parallel passage in Gen. xlix. 20; “Thy bars (or bolts, not thy shoes) shall be iron and brass” (25), is language denoting a condition of security; and “ As is
pression of a natural feeling, “no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” — The book concludes with a brief notice of the funeral obsequies, prolonged through thirty days “in the plains of Moab,” and of the accession of Joshua to the place of civil and military head of the people; the office which Moses sustained, as a supernaturally endowed and divinely instructed teacher, having continued vacant since his death.*
.יִשְׂרָאֵלוּן for יְשָׁרוּן ;ate to a diminutive sense
thy day, so may thy strength be," is a wish that the power or wealth of the tribe may continually increase with advancing time. — “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun” (26, compare 5; xxxii. 15; Is. xliv. 2); this name, clearly used for Israel, appears to be an abridgment of the form which the latter word would take with the termination appropri
a ; . * Deut. xxxiv. 1- 12. — In 1-3, again, we have a specification of parts of the country, agreeably to the order in which the tribes named, actually had their settlements; but here the survey proceeds from north to south. “The land of Gilead, unto Dan” (1). The Danites did not establish themselves in this neighbourhood till the time of the Judges (Judges xviii. 29); a fact, which bears upon the question of the period when this passage was written. —“So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died” (5), — by what kind of euthanasia, we know not, — " and he buried him” (6); rather, one buried him, or he was buried; it is the common form of the Hebrew impersonal. —“Over against Beth-Peor”; compare iii. 29 ; iv. 46. .“ But no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day”; indicating that a considerable time had elapsed between his burial and this record; compare 10. — “ And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old, when he died” (7; compare Ex. vii. 7). So Aaron is said (Numb. xxxiii. 39) to have been “an hundred and twenty and three years old, when he died in Mount Hor.” To Miriam too, if her age was about the same with that of her brothers, the narrative would ascribe a like extreme longevity, if it clearly represented her as dying in the same year with them, that is, the fortieth after the Exodus; but I have endeavoured to show above, (p. 374, note,) that this by no means appears to have been the case. If, then, we could rely on the integrity of the text in these passages, (which, after what has been remarked repecting other instances where numbers are concerned, one hardly feels safe in doing,) we should have the statement, that two individuals, those who had been promoted to the highest trusts in the Jewish nation, had their lives prolonged to the term of about a hundred and twenty years. If it were so, we can do no more than conjecture the reason. It may have been, because it was well for the Israelites to enjoy, down to the last period of their wanderings, the guidance of those who had led them forth from bondage, and to whose