The Last Words of Moses: Deuteronomy 33 -- By: Carl Armerding

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 114:455 (Jul 1957)
Article: The Last Words of Moses: Deuteronomy 33
Author: Carl Armerding


The Last Words of Moses: Deuteronomy 33

Carl Armerding

[Carl Armerding is Professor of Bible and Theology at Wheaton (Illinois) College and Visiting Lecturer in English Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Anyone at all conversant with the commentaries on this chapter must be aware of the fact that there are difficulties in it which are not easy to solve. But even though we may not be able to solve all the difficulties, we need not on that account miss the blessings which it contains. After all, the last words of Moses are “the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death.

Relation to the Valedictory of Jacob

In a previous article on “The Last Words of Jacob” (Bibliotheca Sacra, 112:320–29, October-December, 1955), we considered the valedictory of Jacob as he commanded his sons to gather themselves together that he might tell them that which would befall them “in the last days.” In the portion now before us, they are addressed as “the sons of Israel.” When addressed as the sons of Jacob, the emphasis appears to be on the natural side of things. But when they are addressed as the sons of Israel we note quite a different emphasis. The valedictory of Jacob was uttered when the people were still in Egypt. The blessing of Moses was pronounced as they were on the point of entering the land of promise. There is a lapse of more than two centuries between the two. The blessing of Moses has a background of experience which the valedictory of Jacob could not have even though his personal experience may, in a sense, foreshadow that of the nation of which he was a patriarch.

William Kelly says that the blessing of Moses “is altogether in reference to the land which the people were on the point of entering. This is perhaps the chief difference as compared with Jacob’s blessing. In the latter case, notice was taken of the tribes from the beginning of their history to the end, and apart from their possessing the land or not; whereas the blessing that Moses pronounces here is in strictest subordination to the great object of Deuteronomy…Moses does not therefore show us historically the course of things as when Jacob prophesied, but a more specific benediction of the people in view of their place in relation to Jehovah in the land” (William Kelly, Lectures Introductory to the Pentateuch, pp. 519-20). “Nothing can exceed the grandeur of the closing words of Moses; and they will assuredly be fulfilled in the future brightness and glory of restored Israel” (ibid., p. 523).

Unlike the blessing of Jacob which begins with an address to Reuben his firstborn, that of Moses ...

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