Read This Week’s Passage: Deuteronomy 33:1–17; 26–29
Blessings and Prophecies
The Book of Deuteronomy ends with two chapters full of poetry, followed by a short epilogue about the death of Moses. Here in chapter 33, the focus is on Moses’ final blessings to the twelve tribes before his death. This is almost identical to the end of Genesis, with Genesis 49 consisting of Jacob’s blessings to his twelve sons (who become the twelve tribes) before he dies, and Genesis 50 recording the deaths of both Jacob and Joseph. In addition, both Moses and Jacob gather people together to give them blessings, and both Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 49 highlight two of the twelve tribes that point forward to the Messiah. Jacob even notes that his words will “tell you what shall happen to you in days to come” (49:1), indicating an eschatological focus. In Genesis 49, Judah and Joseph are highlighted, with Judah representing the kingly aspect of the Messiah and Jacob prophesying that “the scepter shall not depart from Judah . . . until Shiloh comes” (v. 10), or “until he to whom it belongs shall come” (v. 10, NIV; see also NLT). In contrast, Joseph portrays the suffering aspect of the Messiah, prophesying that even though he will be harassed and attacked, he will be “separate from his brothers” and point forward to the coming of Jesus (v. 26).
In fact, the entire Torah has an eschatological focus, in that Exodus and Numbers are also parallel to each other, especially in their longer poetry sections (Exod. 15 and Num. 23–24). The focus on the Exodus in these two books prophesies that the Messiah will live out the life of Israel, succeeding where they failed and recapitulating in His life what Israel went through in the Exodus (Num. 23:22, 24:8). This leaves Leviticus as the very center of the chiastic (or pyramid) structure of the Torah, and the structure of Leviticus also has a chiastic center, which is the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16), highlighting the death of the Messiah to atone for the sins of the people. Thus the whole Torah points toward the Messiah and helps us to understand some aspects of who He is and what He will be like, which are then fleshed out more in the prophets.