Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Deuteronomy 33:6 - 33:6

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Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Deuteronomy 33:6 - 33:6

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The blessings upon the tribes commence with this verse. “Let Reuben live and not die, and there be a (small) number of his men.” The rights of the first-born had been withheld from Reuben in the blessing of Jacob (Gen 49:3); Moses, however, promises this tribe continuance and prosperity. The words, “and let his men become a number,” have been explained in very different ways. מִסְפָּר in this connection cannot mean a large number (πολὺς ἐν ἀριθμῷ, lxx), but, like מִסְפָּר מְתֵי (Deu 4:27; Gen 34:30; Jer 44:28), simply a small number, that could easily be counted (cf. Deu 28:62). The negation must be carried on to the last clause. This the language will allow, as the rule that a negation can only be carried forward when it stands with emphatic force at the very beginning (Ewald, §351) is not without exceptions; see for example Pro 30:2-3, where three negative clauses follow a positive one, and in the last the לֹא is omitted, without the particle of negation having been placed in any significant manner at the beginning. - Simeon was the next in age to Reuben; but he is passed over entirely, because according to Jacob's blessing (Gen 49:7) he was to be scattered abroad in Israel, and lost his individuality as a tribe in consequence of this dispersion, in accordance with which the Simeonites simply received a number of towns within the territory of Judah (Jos 19:2-9), and, “having no peculiar object of its own, took part, as far as possible, in the fate and objects of the other tribes, more especially of Judah” (Schultz). Although, therefore, it is by no means to be regarded as left without a blessing, but rather as included in the general blessings in Deu 33:1 and Deu 33:29, and still more in the blessing upon Judah, yet it could not receive a special blessing like the tribe of Reuben, because, as Ephraim Syrus observes, the Simeonites had not endeavoured to wipe out the stain of the crime which Jacob cursed, but had added to it by fresh crimes (more especially the audacious prostitution of Zimri, Num 25). Even the Simeonites did not become extinct, but continued to live in the midst of the tribe of Judah, so that as late as the eighth century, in the reign of Hezekiah, thirteen princes are enumerated with their families, whose fathers' houses had increased greatly (1Ch 4:34.); and these families effected conquests in the south, even penetrating into the mountains of Seir, for the purpose of seeking fresh pasture (1Ch 4:39-43). Hence the assertion that the omission of Simeon is only conceivable from the circumstances of a later age, is as mistaken as the attempt made in some of the MSS of the Septuagint to interpolate the name of Simeon in the second clause of Deu 33:6.