Blessings of Reuben, Judah, Levi, Benjamin and Joseph

Deuteronomy 33:1-17

Moses begins with a brief introduction describing the relationship between God and the Children of Israel before blessing each tribe individually. He begins with Reuben, blessing him with continuity. Judah he blesses with might and the ear of God. To Levi he offers praise for the tribe’s steadfast commitment to God, asking God to accept the offerings of their hands. He calls Benjamin God’s beloved, saying God will dwell among the tribe. To Joseph he offers prosperity, bounty and power, heaping blessings upon Ephraim and Manasseh.

 

The Israel Bible points out that Benjamin’s blessing, that God will dwell among the tribe, is a reference to the Temple, which stood in Benjamin’s territory. One reason suggested to explain why Benjamin merited to host the Temple, and thereby God Himself, is that he was the only one of Jacob’s twelve sons to have been born in Israel.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

The tribes are not being blessed in birth order (of their progenitors), or in order of encampment. What do you think might be the significance of the order in which Moses chooses to bless them?

Comments ( 11 )

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  • Ruben being the oldest and maybe the most numerous, then Juda and Levi of the same mother Leah. After those the sons of Rachel (Benjamin and Joseph). These 5 are the most important ones of the tribes. Ruben: the oldest; Judah: the kings staff and hopefully soon the Messiach; Levi: dismissed from the curse because of their loyalty in the desert (Massah and Meribah) and the observance of G-ds Word; Benjamin(Rachel), though small, but, because the temple is situated in their area, comes immediately after Levi; Joseph (also of Rachel) representing 2 tribes (Manashe and Ephraïm) then Zevulun and Issachar and the last 4. Simeon is omitted perhaps the tribe was so small or was it because of their place of living in the area of Judah, in that case they would also profit of the blessings of Judah. The order of the blessings depended of the numbers of the tribe, the importance of the tribe and the more numerous the sooner their area was conquered.

  • Correction, I realize Issachar is blessed; why is it that Moshe doesn't bless Simeon?

  • Thank you all for your comments, am learning from them. I wonder why Moshe left out Simeon and Issachar in the blessing.

  • Jane

    Shalom Ahuva, I feel that the blessings given are in order of the greatest amount of sinning to the least amount of sinning. It is more of an accomplishment to return to Him after sinning greatly than it is to never have sinned.

  • I promised to share Nachmanides’s explanation later in the week, so here it is. He observes that the order of the blessings closely (though not perfectly) mimics the order in which the tribes later conquer the Land of Israel.

    • Herman

      You already wrote (“though not perfectly”) because Levi didn’t get any land but was spread over the land. Was this the reason of “not perfectly” ?

  • Herman

    I think that Rueven, being the oldest son receives the honour of the first born
    Judah receives the honour being the promised future kingship, Levi being a recognition of priesthood and i think Judah and Benjamin are mixed up for the greater part e.g. Shaul becoming the first King of Israél, David next . Joseph as the father of Manashe and Efraim also of kingly format.

    • Great observations. These five tribes each have some aspect of kingship to them, perhaps explaining why they are blessed first, and grouped together.

  • Sheila

    Need your help here Ahuva as not sure. Did think about the great mercy and compassion of the Lord on His people as Reuben and Levi were cursed by Jacob. Moses prophesies blessings so I sense that the greater the sin and rash acts of the tribes in the past have now been reversed starting from Reuben.

    • Good call, comparing Moses’s blessings to Jacob’s. It’s true that Reuben and Levi (and even Simeon, who is excluded by Moses) were effectively cursed — or at least chastised — by their father instead of being blessed. Here, by blessing them, Moses hints that all is forgiven. It goes beyond that, though, because we learn that Reuben and Judah both repented for sins they committed, and the tribe of Levi redeemed themselves from their ancestor’s rash actions in Shechem by standing up on the side of God at the golden calf. By blessing Reuben first, Moses may be indicating that the tribe has redeemed some aspects of Reuben’s original role as firstborn. He is followed by Judah, either because Judah, like Reuben, repented for his sins, or because Judah, as the tribe of the future kings, keeps the remaining aspects of the firstborn. Nachmanides has another suggestion, which I will share after other participants have had a chance to share their thoughts.

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