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 Deuteronomy 33:16And for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelled in the bush: let the blessing come on the head of Joseph, and on the top of the head of him that was separated from his brothers.
American King James Version×
; Genesis 49:26 Genesis 49:26The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.
American King James Version×
).

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 Deuteronomy 33:7And 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.
American King James Version×
). 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 Deuteronomy 33:17His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
American King James Version×
), Joseph was given the birthright, after Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, disqualified himself (Genesis 49:3-4 Genesis 49:3-4 [3] Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: [4] Unstable as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed; then defiled you it: he went up to my couch.
American King James Version×
; 1 Chronicles 5:1 1 Chronicles 5:1Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but for as much as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.
American King James Version×
). 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 Genesis 49:5-7 [5] Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. [6] O my soul, come not you into their secret; to their assembly, my honor, be not you united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they dig down a wall. [7] Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.
American King James Version×
)—though Levi was given the job of teaching God's truth to His people (Deuteronomy 33:8-10 Deuteronomy 33:8-10 [8] And of Levi he said, Let your Thummim and your Urim be with your holy one, whom you did prove at Massah, and with whom you did strive at the waters of Meribah; [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. [10] They shall teach Jacob your judgments, and Israel your law: they shall put incense before you, and whole burnt sacrifice on your altar.
American King James Version×
).

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.

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