Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 32:48-33:29

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Deuteronomy 32:48-33:29

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Moses' Prophetic Blessings on Israel 

Just before his death, Moses proclaims prophetic blessings for the tribes of Israel. Similar prophecies for all the tribes were given by Jacob, which Moses recorded earlier in Genesis 49. In one of Moses' blessings here, he actually quotes Jacob, in using the words, "on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers" (Deuteronomy 33:16; Genesis 49:26).

In attempting to locate the various tribes today, such prophecies are invaluable. The easiest tribe for most people to identify is, of course, Judah—almost universally believed to be the ancestor of the modern Jews. Considering the history of the Jewish people, including the modern state of Israel, the prophecy that the Jews would have many enemies has certainly proven to be valid (Deuteronomy 33:7). But what about the other tribes?

Though still not commonly recognized or believed, many have come to the realization that most of the tribes of Israel later migrated to Northwest Europe following their Assyrian captivity (compare 2 Kings 17; The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy).

The primary peoples of all the tribes of Israel would be those of Joseph. The father of Ephraim and Manasseh (Deuteronomy 33:17), Joseph was given the birthright, after Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, disqualified himself (Genesis 49:3-4; 1 Chronicles 5:1). Among those who accept the truth of the Israelite migrations to Northwest Europe, Joseph is commonly understood to be the forefather of the English-speaking peoples of the United States and the former British Commonwealth. Identifying the other tribes is more difficult, as there are not nearly as many biblical and historical clues to go on. Nevertheless, they apparently may be found among such nations as France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland. Simeon (not mentioned in Deuteronomy 33) and Levi were to be scattered throughout the other tribes (Genesis 49:5-7)—though Levi was given the job of teaching God's truth to His people (Deuteronomy 33:8-10).

Verse 27 contains a wonderful promise to Israel that certainly applies to the spiritual people of God today and always: "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." This reminds us that God will be there to "catch" us when we fall, if we devote our lives to serving Him.