Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Deuteronomy 33:18 - 33:18

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Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Deuteronomy 33:18 - 33:18


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Zebulun and Issachar. - “Rejoice, Zebulun, at thy going out; and, Issachar, at thy tents. Nations will they invite to the mountain; there offer the sacrifices of righteousness: for they suck the affluence of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand.” The tribes of the last two sons of Leah Moses unites together, and, like Jacob in Gen 49:13, places Zebulun the younger first. He first of all confirms the blessing which Jacob pronounced through simply interpreting their names as omnia, by calling upon them to rejoice in their undertakings abroad and at home. “At thy tents” corresponds to “at thy going out” (tents being used poetically for dwellings, as in Deu 16:7); like “sitting” to “going out and coming in” in 2Ki 19:27; Isa 37:28; Psa 139:2; and describes in its two aspects of work and production, rest and recreation. Although “going out” (enterprise and labour) is attributed to Zebulun, and “remaining in tents” (the comfortable enjoyment of life) to Issachar, in accordance with the delineation of their respective characters in the blessing of Jacob, this is to be attributed to the poetical parallelism of the clauses, and the whole is to be understood as applying to both in the sense suggested by Graf, “Rejoice, Zebulun and Issachar, in your labour and your rest.” This peculiarity, which is founded in the very nature of poetical parallelism, which is to individualize the thought by distributing it into parallel members, has been entirely overlooked by all the commentators who have given a historical interpretation to each, referring the “going out” to the shipping trade and commercial pursuits of the Zebulunites, and the expression “in thy tents” either to the spending of a nomad life in tents, for the purpose of performing a subordinate part in connection with trade (Schultz), or to the quiet pursuits of agriculture and grazing (Knobel). They were to rejoice in their undertakings at home and abroad; for they would be successful. The good things of life would flow to them in rich abundance; they would not make them into mammon, however, but would invite nations to the mountain, and there offer sacrifices of righteousness. “The peoples” are nations generally, not the tribes of Israel, still less the members of their own tribes. By the “mountain,” without any more precise definition, we are not to understand Tabor or Carmel any more than the mountain land of Canaan. It is rather “the mountain of the Lord's inheritance” (Exo 15:17), upon which the Lord was about to plant His people, the mountain which the Lord had chosen for His sanctuary, and in which His people were to dwell with Him, and rejoice in sacrificial meals of fellowship with Him. To this end the Lord had sanctified Moriah through the sacrifice of Isaac which He required of Abraham, though it had not been revealed to Moses that it was there that the temple, in which the name of the Lord in Israel would dwell, was afterwards to be built. There is no distinct or direct allusion to Morah or Zion, as the temple-mountain, involved in the words of Moses. It was only by later revelations and appointments on the part of God that this was to be made known. The words simply contain the Messianic thought that Zebulun and Issachar would offer rich praise-offerings and thank-offerings to the Lord, from the abundant supply of earthly good that would flow to them, upon the mountain which He would make ready as the seat of His gracious presence, and would call, i.e., invite the nations to the sacrificial meals connected with them to delight themselves with them in the rich gifts of the Lord, and worship the Lord who blessed His people thus. For the explanation of this thought, see Psa 22:28-31. Sacrifice is mentioned here as an expression of divine worship, which culminated in sacrifice; and slain-offerings are mentioned, not burnt-offerings, to set forth the worship of God under the aspect of blessedness in fellowship with the Lord. “Slain-offerings of righteousness' are not merely outwardly legal sacrifices, in conformity with the ritual of the law, but such as were offered in a right spirit, which was well-pleasing to God (as in Psa 4:6; 51:21). It follows as a matter of course, therefore, that by the abundance of the seas we are not merely to understand the profits of trade upon the Mediterranean Sea; and that we are still less to understand by the hidden treasures of the sand “the fish, the purple snails, and sponges” (Knobel), or “tunny-fish, purple shells, and glass' (Ps. Jon.); but that the words receive their best exposition from Isa 60:5-6, Isa 60:16, and Isa 66:11-12, i.e., that the thought expressed is, that the riches and treasures of both sea and land would flow to the tribes of Israel.