Deut. 33:24, 25 says,
24 And of Asher he said, “More blessed [barak] than sons is Asher; may he be favored by his brothers, and may he dip his foot in oil. 25 Your locks [manal, “shoe”] shall be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so shall your leisurely walk [doveh, “glide”] be.”
The general sense of Moses’ blessing upon Asher is first that he will be well liked by his brothers. His name means “happy,” as we see in Gen. 30:13 when he was born:
13 Then Leah said, “Happy am I! For women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
This word asher was also most likely what Jesus used in the Beatitudes. Its Greek equivalent is makarios, but the thought pattern behind the Greek word should be seen in its Hebrew setting. The word does not invoke a blessing, but Kenneth Bailey tells us it recognizes “an existing state of happiness or good fortune.” (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 68)
So Asher was said to be a happy child every time his mother called him by name. No doubt this had an effect upon his personality. Children generally try to live up to the expectations of others, for better or for worse, which is why we should be careful what we call them. Moses hints that he was well loved by his brothers.
He was also “blessed” (barak). The Greek equivalent of this term is eulogeo. Though this word does not appear even once in the Beatitudes, it is ascribed to Asher in Moses’ blessing when he uses the term barak. Bailey says on page 67 of his book that “this word is used in prayer when the worship leader asks God for some blessing that the individual or community is eager to receive from God.” So Moses bestows an additional blessing (eulogeo) upon Asher, although he was already blessed (makarios) from birth.
Heaping Coals of Fire on the Head
Paul put another twist upon the name Asher in Rom. 12:20, 21,
20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good.
Asher (????) in Hebrew is “fire on the head.” Ash, or esh, means “fire,” and the resh at the end of the word means “head.” In other words, a blessed person is one who has fire on his head. In those days when a family went on a trip, the fire went out in their hearth. When they returned, it was common to ask a neighbor for a few coals of fire to restart their hearth. Sometimes neighbors did not get along very well, and so they would be stingy and give only a few coals to them. The coals would be placed in a clay pot and normally the woman would carry the jar on her head. But to be a blessing, a woman could heap coals of fire upon her head—in the jar, of course—so that a good fire might be created almost instantly.
Neighbors often had disputes and perhaps did not like each other. So Paul uses this word picture to show how we ought to “overcome evil with good” by being generous with the coals of fire. No doubt it also became associated with Pentecost and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, in which God put tongues of fire on the heads of the disciples in the upper room (Acts 2:3).
The name Asher means “happy” or blessed. Jesus says in Luke 6:27, 28,
27 But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
This is what a true man of Asher does, for it is part of his personality and way of life to overcome evil with good. In that sense, Asher represents the overcomers, who are truly blessed and live a life of joy and happiness, in spite of their surroundings.
Dipping His Foot in Oil
Moses also says of Asher, “may he dip his foot in oil.” That is a Hebrew idiom, which means “Let him become very prosperous” (George M. Lamsa, Idioms in the Bible Explained, p. 10). Such prosperity extends also to joy, gladness, and happiness, as we see from Psalm 45:7,
7 … Therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee with the oil of joy above Thy fellows.
In Heb. 1:9 this verse is said to be prophetic of Jesus Christ. Heb. 12:2 says,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross….
After Moses says that Asher’s “foot” was to be dipped in oil, he then connected this idea to his “leisurely walk.” Again, this is not to be taken in a literal sense, but as a metaphor for his way of life. Asher was not the type of person to be in a panic or in a hurry.
Today we use the same biblical metaphor when speaking of our “Christian walk.” Shoes are also part of the word picture, and hence, we are to put on the shoes of the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). Those who have put on such shoes have inner peace, but also are peacemakers for those around them.
So Moses speaks of shoes in blessing Asher in Deut. 33:25,
25 Your locks [manal, “shoe”] shall be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so shall your leisurely walk [doveh, “glide”] be.”
The Hebrew word manal literally means “shoe,” and comes from the root word na’al, “to lock, bar, or bolt.” (Shoes were tied or “locked on” to the foot.) Hence, the NASB renders it “locks,” rather than shoes, conjuring the picture of a secured house. But Young’s Literal Translation closely follows the King James Version, reading,
25 Iron and brass are thy shoes, and as thy days—thy strength.
When we look at the context, it seems to me that Moses was talking about walking, not about security, so I believe that we should picture Asher with iron and bronze shoes, rather than seeing his house bolted securely with iron locks. The Hebrew metaphor thus pictures Asher’s strength in his way of life. His calm, happy demeanor and way of life made him a strong peacemaker. The contrast, of course, is the picture of war, such as we see in Micah 4:13,
13 Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion, for your horn I will make iron and your hoofs I will make bronze, that you may pulverize many peoples, that you may devote to the Lord their unjust gain and their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.
Iron and bronze picture strength in whatever activity is being done. Asher’s shoes picture strength as a peacemaker; Zion’s hoofs picture strength in war when called to administer international justice.
Finally, we should mention Jacob’s blessing upon Asher, which is in Gen. 49:20,
20 As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties.
This too pictures Asher as being blessed and prosperous in the abundance of food. Not much more can be said about this that has not already been discussed. Jacob and Moses use different metaphors which mean essentially the same thing. Asher is pictured as happy and blessed, perhaps held up as the prophetic example in Christ’s Beatitudes and in Paul’s example of overcoming evil with good as a peacemaker.
This is the way of life that constitutes true richness and prosperity.
This ends the section on Moses’ blessing on the twelve tribes.