Introduction to the Blessing of Moses
In Deuteronomy 33 Moses blessed the twelve tribes of Israel, referring not only of their origins but also prophetically of their future. This appears to be given as a final speech before his death, except for the fact that on the same day that He taught Israel his Song, Moses was told in Deut. 32:48, 49 to go to Mount Nebo where he died.
If that is to be taken literally, then it is more likely that the Blessing on the tribes had been done earlier and that it forms an appendage to the book of Deuteronomy itself.
The scribal introduction to Moses blessing in Deut. 33:1 gives no indication of the timing of this blessing. It is as if we are being informed of something that had already occurred on an earlier day:
1 Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death. 2 And he said…
What follows are the words of Moses, who then gives us his own introduction in verses 2-5 before blessing the tribes.
Christ Comes from Seir, or Edom
Moses introduces His blessing with a reference to the coming of the Lord at Mount Sinai. Here we are shown more details of the manner in which the Lord came to the mount with the Ten Commandments:
2 … The Lord came from Sinai,
And dawned on them from Seir;
He shone forth from Mount Paran,
And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones;
At His right hand there was flashing lightning [esh dath,“fiery law”] for them.
This suggests that when the glory (fire) of God came to Mount Sinai to give Israel the law, that glory did not come straight down from the sky. It appeared to come from the north, from the direction of Seir and Paran, which were located north of Sinai. (See the map on page 5 of Book 1 of Deuteronomy.)
This is mentioned again in the Song of Deborah in Judges 5:4, 5,
4 Lord, when Thou didst go out from Seir,
When Thou didst march from the field of Edom,
The earth quaked, the heavens also dripped,
Even the clouds dripped water.
5 The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord,
This Sinai, at the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.
Seir was the home of Edom in the Negev, directly north of Mount Horeb, where the law was given. Deborah says quite clearly that the presence of God came from Seir (or Edom), though no mention is made of Paran, which was situated on the west side of Seir.
In Isaiah 63 we see a prophetic reference to God coming from Seir, no doubt based upon the statements of Moses and Deborah. It is a soliloquy, where God mutters to Himself in disgust upon seeing a messianic impersonator coming from Edom. Isaiah 63:1,
1 Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this one who is majestic in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
While many translators seem to take this as a statement of fact, making God Himself the One coming from Edom and Bozrah, I believe God was speaking to Himself in a soliloquy, saying with some disgust, “Who is this imposter? I am the One who speaks in righteousness—not this false messiah from Edom.”
2 Why is YOUR apparel red, and your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? 3 I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger, and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment.
In other words, this imposter comes with garments stained with blood, trying to imitate the true Messiah. But God says, “I have trodden the wine trough alone… there was no man with Me.” He is saying, “I did not notice anyone treading the wine press with me, so how did this imposter’s garments become stained?”
4 For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. 5 And I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me; and My wrath upheld Me. 6 And I trod down the peoples in My anger, and made them drunk in My wrath. And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.
It appears that Edom takes credit for bringing divine judgment upon the earth, but God makes it clear that it is His own “day of vengeance” and His “year of redemption.” The entire passage establishes the sovereignty of God, for the emphasis is on what God has done, not what the imposter from Edom claims to have done.
Hence, the fact that God came from Edom to Sinai to establish the original Kingdom was prophetic of things to come. When we see also how Israel had to make a detour around Edom to arrive in the plains of Moab, it sets forth the pattern of events in our own time since 1948, when the Kingdom had to make a detour around Edom once again. I explained this in chapter 6 of my first book on Deuteronomy, “History of the Exodus.”
The Israeli state is the modern manifestation of Edom, which God allowed in order to fulfill Isaac’s prophecy to Esau and to give justice to Esau for the sin of Jacob. The Israeli state is the main instigation of divine judgment upon the nations, giving the Zionist Edomites the view that they are implementing the divine plan by themselves. But God denies this in His soliloquy in Isaiah 63, where He takes full credit for this judgment.
In fact, His coming from Seir, or Edom, indicates that He comes after resolving “the controversy of Zion” in Isaiah 34:8, wherein Edom had laid claim to Zion, the throne of David and the Birthright of Joseph.
Ten Thousands of Saints
Moses says that God did not come to Sinai alone, for He was coming on official business, escorted by His entourage of “ten thousand holy ones,” or “saints.” This is quoted in Jude 14, though he gives credit to Enoch for the statement,
14 And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones.”
The Book of Enoch (R.H. Charles translation, 1906) states in chapter 1,
9 And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones
To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:
And to convict all flesh
Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
The Book of Enoch itself begins in similar fashion to Deuteronomy 33, apparently designed as a blessing upon the righteous, even as Moses blesses the twelve tribes. Enoch begins chapter one, saying,
“The word of the blessing of Enoch, how he blessed the elect and the righteous, who were to exist in the time of trouble; rejecting all the wicked and ungodly.”
Most scholars do not consider the Book of Enoch to have been written by Enoch himself, but believe it began to be written about 300 B.C., with some portions being written after the Gospels. The Wikipedia says,
“The older sections (mainly in the Book of the Watchers) are estimated to date from about 300 BC, and the latest part (Book of Parables) probably was composed at the end of the 1st century BC.”
It was common in ancient times to write under a pseudonym, usually adopting the name of a well-known person in the past in order to give credibility to the writing. Then in later years people often took an older writing and added portions to it, claiming they had found the “complete” version. In those days, unfortunately, when books were not published with dates and copyrights, this was easy to do.
Yet Jude seems to give credence to the Book of Enoch, or at least the first part of the book from which he quoted. We may ask, then, whether Moses copied Enoch’s idea of blessing the righteous, or if a later author decided to write a book ascribed to Enoch while using Moses’ blessing as the model. I cannot say for sure.
The Fiery Law
The final portion of Deut. 33:2 says,
2 … At His right hand there was flashing lightning [esh dath, “a fiery law”] for them.
The NASB translators seemed to think Moses was talking about the lightning that accompanied God’s presence on Sinai, as mentioned in Exodus 19:16 and 20:18. But I believe the more literal rendering in the KJV is correct, which says, “from His right hand went a fiery law for them.” The Hebrew term used is esh dath. The word esh is “fire,” and dath is “law.”
In other words, the focus is upon the giving of the law, not on the lightning flashes. This law is said to come “from His right hand.” This is explained further in the next verse,
3 Indeed, He loves the people;
All Thy holy ones are in Thy hand,
And they followed in Thy steps;
Everyone receives of Thy words.
The fiery law is in His hand, and so also are the “holy ones.” The holy ones, therefore, are identified with the fiery law, because they are the ones in whose hearts this fiery law has been written. They are the ones called to implement the law as they reign with Christ on the earth (Rev. 5:10).
This was, in fact, the original calling of man, for the Hebrew word for man is ish. It is spelled alef-yod-shin (????). It is the word esh (???, “fire”) with a yod in the middle.
Because yod means “hand, or work,” it indicates that the purpose of man is to do all of his works in the midst of the fire (or esh) of God.
When Moses went up the Mount into the fire, he was picturing the true man receiving the fiery law written on his heart by the voice of God.
Deut. 33:4, 5 finishes Moses’ introduction,
4 Moses charged us with a law,
A possession for the assembly of Jacob,
5 And He was king in Jeshurun,
When the heads of the people were gathered,
The tribes of Israel together.
The NASB makes God the “king in Jeshurun,” but when we understand that the “holy ones” were in God’s hand—and that they carried the fiery law of God in their hearts—it is no blasphemy to say that Moses too was a king in Israel. Not only Moses, but all of the overcomers are called to reign on the earth as kings. These holy ones are subservient to the King of Kings. Yet how could Christ be the King of kings (Rev. 19:16) unless He had kings ruling the earth under Him?
It seems to me that the most natural reading of this passage is to see that Moses was a king under the King of kings. Why? Because the law was written in his heart, having gone up the Mount to hear the voice of God without fear. All who follow Moses’ example will fulfill Paul’s prophecy in 1 Cor. 6:2, 3,
2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?... 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels?