Torah Reflection 51
V’zot Hab’rakhah (This is the blessing)
Deuteronomy 33:1 to 34:12
Moses died on Mount Nebo on the east side of the Jordan River. No-one knows where he was buried., except that it was in “a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor”. But before he died he blessed 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel. That blessing started with a general pronouncement about the LORD’s relationship to the whole congregation, and their acceptance of His authority.
In the map showing the land division among the twelve tribes, we note that Levi did not receive land, because the Levites were spread throughout the other tribes as priests, but had 48 cities to live in. Joseph was represented by his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. And Simeon’s land is totally within the boundaries of Judah. Some have offered plausible, but speculative, theories about the reasons why Simeon is not mentioned in Moses’ blessings, but we simply do not know why that is.
The map shows that the original tribal allotment includes territory of modern day Jordan. That land was included in the 1921 “Balfour Declaration” as land set aside for the modern State of Israel, to which the ‘League of Nations’ agreed.
The tribal names of the sons of Jacob remain, even though those men were long dead and had been succeeded by their descendants when the land divisions were allotted. The pronouncement of his blessing of these tribes does not follow any recognisable order, even though Reuben, the oldest, was first mentioned. He was also the first to have a land allotment. The blessing of the Reubenites was in a form of prayer that they would survive in the land (on the east of the Jordan River) and grow strong in number.
Judah seemed to be destined for leadership as Moses prayed blessing on them. “Let his hands be sufficient for him, and may You be a help against his enemies.” We know that about 300 years later, after the death of King Solomon, that Judah gave its name to the southern kingdom which comprised the tribes of Judah (with Simeon) and Benjamin.
Levi, the tribe of priests, was to be scattered among the other tribes as they fulfilled their priestly duties. They provided, among other things, a judicial function. “Let your Thummim and your Urim be with your Holy one (the High Priest)”. These are objects, within the breastplate of the High Priest’s garment, through which God, by selection of the High Priest, confirmed His will and judgment on specific matters to the High Priest. Moses continued “For they have observed Your word and kept Your covenant. They shall teach Jacob Your judgements, and Israel Your Torah”. Moses also prayed for God’s physical protection of the Levites.
For Benjamin, who was allotted territory which included Jerusalem, Moses prayed for their safety and peace.
Joseph, now represented by tribes which carried the names of his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, held a special place among his brothers. Moses asked for material prosperity and military might, recognising the depravation which he had earlier suffered in slavery in Egypt. But Ephraim would be militarily stronger than Manasseh, his older brother.(Genesis 48:20)
For Zebulun and Issachar, even though they eventually had landlocked territory, Moses prayed for blessing, particularly though trade in fishing!
Gad had a large territory east of the River Jordan, but was mighty in battle against the Canaanites.
Regarding Dan, Moses saw great military strength. They were the tribe that became discontent with their allotted territory and moved further north, as far as the border with Lebanon.
Naphtali, Moses prayed, would be favoured and blessed by the LORD.
Asher was seen as a tribe who would be blessed and favoured by his brothers. “As your days, so shall your strength be”, Moses prayed.
And finally, Moses prayed for them as a nation. “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, and you shall tread down their high places.”
Moses was well aware that he was about to die. It was no surprise to him. God had called him to lead the people when he was 80. He was now 120. And I believe he died peacefully and entered the presence of the LORD his God. And the people mourned for him for 30 days. “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.” **
Then, the faithful Joshua, Moses assistant, who was “full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him”, took charge of the situation. And the children of Israel ‘heeded him’.
**BREAKING NEWS:- Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a son, and you shall call His name YESHUA, for He will save His people from their sins”.
Image attribution: By 12 tribus de Israel.svg: Translated by Kordas12 staemme israels heb.svg: by user:יוסי12 staemme israels.png: by user:Janzderivative work Richardprins (talk) - 12 tribus de Israel.svg12 staemme israels heb.svg12 staemme israels.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10865624