Here is, I. The blessing of Reuben. Though Reuben had lost the honour of his birthright, yet Moses begins with him; for we should not insult over those that are disgraced, nor desire to perpetuate marks of infamy upon any, though ever so justly fastened at first, Deut. 33:6. Moses desires and foretels, 1. The preserving of this tribe. Though a frontier tribe on the other side Jordan, yet, “Let it live, and not be either ruined by its neighbours or lost among them.” And perhaps he refers to those chosen men of that tribe who, having had their lot assigned them already, left their families in it, and were now ready to go over armed before their brethren, Num. 32:27. “Let them be protected in this noble expedition, and have their heads covered in the day of battle.” 2. Let it be a numerous tribe; though their other honours be lost, so that they shall not excel, yet let them multiply.” Let Reuben live and not die, though his men be few; so bishop Patrick, thinks it may be rendered. “Though he must not expect to flourish (Gen. 49:4), yet let him not perish.” All the Chaldee paraphrasts refer this to the other world: Let Reuben live in life eternal, and not die the second death, so Onkelos. Let Reuben live in this world, and not die that death which the wicked die in the world to come, so Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum.
II. The blessing of Judah, which is put before Levi because our Loud sprang out of Judah, and (as Dr. Lightfoot says) because of the dignity of the kingdom above the priesthood. The blessing (Deut. 33:7) may refer either, 1. To the whole tribe in general. Moses prays for, and prophesies, the great prosperity of that tribe., That God would hear his prayers (see an instance, 2 Chron. 13:14, 15), settle him in his lot, prosper him in all his affairs, and give him victory over his enemies. It is taken for granted that the tribe of Judah would be both a praying tribe and an active tribe. “Lord,” says Moses, “hear his prayers, and give success to all his undertakings: let his hands be sufficient for him both in husbandry and in war.” The voice of prayer should always be attended with the hand of endeavour, and then we may expect prosperity. Or, 2. It may refer in particular to David, as a type of Christ, that God would hear his prayers, Ps. 20:1 (and Christ was heard always, John 11:42), that he would give him victory over his enemies, and success in his great undertakings. See Ps. 89:20-28 And that prayer that God would bring him to his people seems to refer to Jacob’s prophecy concerning Shiloh, That to him should the gathering of the people be, Gen. 49:10. The tribe of Simeon is omitted in the blessing, because Jacob had left it under a brand, and it had never done any thing, as Levi had done, to retrieve its honour. It was lessened in the wilderness more than any other of the tribes; and Zimri, who was so notoriously guilty in the matter of Peor but the other day, was of that tribe. Or, because the lot of Simeon was an appendage to that of Judah, that tribe is included in the blessing of Judah. Some copies of the LXX. join Simeon with Reuben: Let Reuben live and not die; and let Simeon be many in number.
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