Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Deuteronomy 33:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

His glory is like the firstling of his bullock - This similitude is very obscure. A bullock was the most excellent of animals among the Jews, not only because of its acceptableness in sacrifice to God, but because of its great usefulness in agriculture. There is something peculiarly noble and dignified in the appearance of the ox, and his greatest ornament are his fine horns; these the inspired penman has particularly in view, as the following clause proves; and it is well known that in Scriptural language horns are the emblem of strength, glory, and sovereignty; Psalm 75:5, Psalm 75:10; Psalm 89:17, Psalm 89:24; Psalm 112:9; Daniel 8:3, etc.; Luke 1:69; Revelation 17:3, etc.

His horns are like the horns of unicorns - ראם reem, which we translate unicorn, from the μονοκερως monokeros of the Septuagint, signifies, according to Bochart, the mountain goat; and according to others, the rhinoceros, a very large quadruped with one great horn on his nose, from which circumstance his name is derived. See the notes on Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8. Reem is in the singular number, and because the horns of a unicorn, a one-horned animal, would have appeared absurd, our translators, with an unfaithfulness not common to them, put the word in the plural number.

To the ends of the earth - Of the land of Canaan, for Joshua with his armies conquered all this land, and drove the ancient inhabitants out before him.

They are the ten thousands of Ephraim, etc. - That is, The horns signify the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh. Jacob prophesied, Genesis 48:19, that the younger should be greater than the elder; so here Tens of thousands are given to Ephraim, and only thousands to Manasseh. See the census, Numbers 1:33-35; (note).

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 13-17

Comparing the words of Moses with those of Jacob, it will be seen that the patriarch dwells with emphasis on the severe conflicts which Joseph, i. e., Ephraim and Manasseh, would undergo (compare Genesis 49:23-24); while the lawgiver seems to look beyond, and to behold the two triumphant and established in their power.

Deuteronomy 33:17

Rather: “The first-born of his” (i. e. Joseph‘s) “bullock is his glory”: the reference being to Ephraim, who was raised by Jacob to the honors of the firstborn (Genesis 48:20, and is here likened to the firstling of Joseph‘s oxen, i. e., of Joseph‘s offspring. The ox is a common emblem of power and strength.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The order in which the tribes are here blessed, is not the same as is observed elsewhere. The blessing of Judah may refer to the whole tribe in general, or to David as a type of Christ. Moses largely blesses the tribe of Levi. Acceptance with God is what we should all aim at, and desire, in all our devotions, whether men accept us or not, 2Co 5:9. This prayer is a prophecy, that God will keep up a ministry in his church to the end of time. The tribe of Benjamin had their inheritance close to mount Zion. To be situated near the ordinances, is a precious gift from the Lord, a privilege not to be exchanged for any worldly advantage, or indulgence. We should thankfully receive the earthly blessings sent to us, through the successive seasons. But those good gifts which come down from the Father of lights, through the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and the pouring out of his Spirit like the rain which makes fruitful, are infinitely more precious, as the tokens of his special love. The precious things here prayed for, are figures of spiritual blessing in heavenly things by Christ, the gifts, graces, and comforts of the Spirit. When Moses prays for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush, he refers to the covenant, on which all our hopes of God's favour must be founded. The providence of God appoints men's habitations, and wisely disposes men to different employments for the public good. Whatever our place and business are, it is our wisdom and duty to apply thereto; and it is happiness to be well pleased therewith. We should not only invite others to the service of God, but abound in it. The blessing of Naphtali. The favour of God is the only favour satisfying to the soul. Those are happy indeed, who have the favour of God; and those shall have it, who reckon that in having it they have enough, and desire no more.