Moses’s Blessings on Israel [Part 6]
22 And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion’s whelp: he shall leap from Bashan. 23 And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the west and the south. 24 And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. 25 Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
Here is, I. The blessing of Dan, v. 22. Jacob in his blessing had compared him to a serpent for subtlety; Moses compares him to a lion for courage and resolution: and what could stand before those that had the head of a serpent and the heart of a lion? He is compared to the lions that leaped from Bashan, a mountain noted for fierce lions, whence they came down to leap upon their prey in the plains. This may refer either,
1. To the particular victories obtained by Samson (who was of this tribe) over the Philistines. The Spirit of the Lord began to move him in the camp of Dan when he was very young, as a lion’s whelp, so that in his attacks upon the Philistines he surprised them, and overpowered them by main strength, as a lion does his prey; and one of his first exploits was the rending of a lion. Or,
2. To a more general achievement of that tribe, when a party of them, upon information brought them of the security of Laish, which lay in the furthest part of the land of Canaan from them, surprised it, and soon made themselves masters of it. See Judg. 18:27. And, the mountains of Bashan lying not far from that city, probably thence they made their descent upon it; and therefore are here said to leap from Bashan.
II. The blessing of Naphtali, v. 23. He looks upon this tribe with wonder, and applauds it: “O Naphtali, thou art happy, thou shalt be so, mayest thou be ever so!” Three things make up the happiness of this tribe:–
1. Be thou satisfied with favour. Some understand it of the favour of men, their good-will and good word. Jacob had described this tribe to be, generally, courteous obliging people, giving goodly words, as the loving hind, Gen. 49:21. Now what should they get by being so? Moses here tells them they should have an interest in the affections of their neighbours, and be satisfied with favour. Those that are loving shall be beloved. But others understand it of the favour of God, and with good reason; for that only is the favour that is satisfying to the soul and puts true gladness into the heart. Those are happy indeed that have the favour of God; and those shall have it that place their satisfaction in it, and reckon that, in having that, they have enough and desire no more.
2. Be thou full with the blessing of the Lord, that is, not only with those good things that are the fruits of the blessing (corn, and wine, and oil), but with the blessing itself; that is, the grace of God, according to his promise and covenant. Those who have that blessing may well reckon themselves full: they need nothing else to make them happy. “The portion of the tribe of Naphtali” (the Jews say) “was so fruitful, and the productions so forward, though it lay north, that those of that tribe were generally the first that brought their first-fruits to the temple; and so they had first the blessing from the priest, which was the blessing of the Lord.” Capernaum, in which Christ chiefly resided, lay in this tribe.
3. Be thou in possession of the sea and the south; so it may be read, that is, of that sea which shall lie south of thy lot, that was the sea of Galilee, which we so often read of in the gospels, directly north of which the lot of this tribe lay, and which was of great advantage to this tribe, witness the wealth of Capernaum and Bethsaida, which lay within this tribe, and upon the shore of that sea. See how Moses was guided by a spirit of prophesy in these blessings; for before the lot was cast into the lap he foresaw and foretold how the disposal of it would be.
III. The blessing of Asher, v. 24, 25. Four things he prays for and prophecies concerning this tribe, which carries blessedness in its name; for Leah called the father of it Asher, saying Happy am I, Gen. 30:13.
1. The increase of their numbers. They were now a numerous tribe, Num. 26:47. “Let it be more so: Let Asher be blessed with children.” Note, Children, especially children of the covenant, are blessings, not burdens.
2. Their interest in their neighbours: Let him be acceptable to his brethren. Note, It is a very desirable thing to have the love and good-will of those we live among: it is what we should pray to God for, who has all hearts in his hand; and what we should endeavour to gain by meekness and humility, and a readiness, as we have ability and opportunity, to do good to all men.
3. The richness of their land.
(1.) Above ground: Let him dip his foot in oil, that is, “Let him have such plenty of it in his lot that he may not only anoint his head with it, but, if he please, wash his feet in it,” which was not commonly done; yet we find our blessed Saviour so acceptable to his brethren that his feet were anointed with the most precious ointment, Luke 7:46.
(2.) Under ground: Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, that is, “Thou shalt have great plenty of these metals (mines of them) in thy own ground, which by an uncommon blessing shall have both its surface and its bowels rich:” or, if they had them not as the productions of their own country, they should have them imported from abroad; for the lot of this tribe lay on the sea-coast. The Chaldee paraphrasts understand this figuratively: “Thou shalt be strong and bright, as iron and brass.”
4. The continuance of their strength and vigour: As thy days, so shall thy strength be. Many paraphrase it thus, “The strength of thy old age shall be like that of thy youth; thou shalt not feel a decay, nor be the worse for the wearing, but shalt renew thy youth; as if not thy shoes only, but thy bones, were iron and brass.” The day is often in scripture put for the events of the day; and, taking it so here, it is a promise that God would graciously support them under their trials and troubles, whatever they were. And so it is a promise sure to all the spiritual seed of Abraham, that God will wisely proportion their graces and comforts to the services and sufferings he calls them out to. Have they work appointed them? They shall have strength to do it. Have they burdens appointed them? They shall have strength to bear them; and never be tempted above that they are able. Faithful is he that has thus promised, and hath caused us to hope in this promise.
– Matthew Henry Commentary