Moses gives a blessing on the twelve tribes just like Jacob did back in Genesis, so I thought I’d do the boring, obvious thing of comparing the two.

First off, the big difference is that Simeon has magically disappeared. Only eleven tribes appear in this blessing. I think that may make sense, given the 73% decrease in Simeon’s population recorded back in Numbers 26, and the seeming blame of the Simeonites for the apostasy at Peor. Maybe Simeon isn’t mentioned because Simeon isn’t going to get a blessing, because Moses feels they don’t deserve it.

In Jacob’s blessing, some of it seemed to exist just to justify why Judah would take precedence over his three older brothers, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, listing their various crimes that make them unworthy. Here, Reuben gets a short blessing that it may not “die out,” which is a far cry from the heaping of blessings other tribes get. Levi, meanwhile, is praised for its loyalty during all the events in the desert and blessed as the priestly tribe.

Judah gets only one verse, the seventh, which only alludes to a certain level of military prowess. Joseph, meanwhile, gets five verses, including the declaration that he is “the prince among his brothers” (v 16). There’s a lot of king language in this, moreso even than in Genesis 49. Or to put it another way, while Genesis declared that “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet” (Gen. 49:10), and Judah and Joseph had an equal number of verses, here Judah is mostly ignored and all the praise falls on Joseph and the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the founder of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam, was an Ephraimite. Now, most of the kings afterwards weren’t related to him, and I’m not sure how many came from Ephraim and Manasseh, but this sounds a lot like the source for this blessing was passed down among the northern tribes, rather than the ones under Judah.

Or, maybe, it’s meant to merely indicate that the Omride Dynasty and the North would actually be quite a bit more prosperous than the South for long portions of their history. It’s a little hard to tell. Both explanations could work, and maybe the latter makes more sense, since it was descendents from Judah who edited the Bible together.

Only a few other points of comparison. Zebulon again gets connected to the sea, as in Gen. 49:13. Meanwhile Gad actually gets something relevant about itself mentioned, that the tribe “chose the best for himself” (i.e. the land beyond the Jordan), but also “came at the head of the people” (v 21), maybe calling on the Gadites to fulfill their promise and help the conquest.

I guess the last thing I should mention is “Jeshurun,” a word that shows up only in chapters 32 and 33 of Deuteronomy and one brief mention in Isaiah 44. It’s a poetic name for Israel (both the nation and Jacob) that means “upright” or “just.” The fact that it’s only used here probably means that the two chapters, 32-33, were a separate unit at some point. Chapter 44 of Isaiah is part of “deutero-Isaiah,” the middle portion of the scroll that was likely written during the Exile. Which means that you could argue that these chapters are probably from the Exile as well; maybe the habit of calling Israel “Jeshurun” developed while they were in Babylon, for some reason. It’s not a lot to go on, when something only appears four times in the entire Bible.

The Japanese: kengen suru “to manifest,” chiyorozu “exceedingly, a great many” (v 2), mitsuge “revelation, divine message” (v 3), katawara ni “beside, nearby,” sumau “to inhabit, to live” (v 12), hagukumu “to raise, to rear up” (v 14), motarasu “to bring, to take,” tokoshie “eternity, perpetuity” (v 15), inishie “antiquity, ancient times,” ikou “power, authority, influence” (v 17), kogidasu “to begin rowing” (v 18), shikisha “commander, leader” (v 21), kannuki “bar, bolt, latch” (v 25), nan “difficulty, hardship,” sakeru “to avoid, to avert” (v 27).

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