Deuteronomy 33 focuses on the two tribes of Joseph and Levi, highlighting different aspects of the Messiah than Genesis 49 does. Here Joseph is blessed abundantly with the best gifts and is called “prince among his brothers” (v. 16, ESV), hinting at the kingly role of the Messiah. We usually view kingship as a bad thing, especially in light of God’s response to the people’s desire for a king in 1 Samuel 8. However, kingship was predicted by God and was not necessarily a bad thing; it was just that the people wanted a king in their own time, and like all the other nations, rather than waiting for God’s time and person (who was David). God told Abraham that he would have kings coming from him, as well as making clear in these messianic prophecies that kings were a part of God’s plan (Gen 17:6, 49:10). Deuteronomy 17:14–20 makes clear the kind of king that God was intending, one who had only one wife, no standing army, no wealth, and wrote his own copy of the Torah from which he would read every day. If the kings had actually been like that, they would have inspired the people to follow God, rather than turning them from God. And indeed, there were a few who came close (David, Hezekiah, Josiah), but even they did not follow these requirements. Thus, God is always the ultimate king, and only the Messiah will truly fulfill these prophecies for a good and righteous king.

When Moses speaks of Levi in Deuteronomy 33, he is blessed for his faithfulness to God, keeping His word and His covenant. He is called the “godly one” and receives the priestly Urim and Thummim, indicating the priestly role of the Messiah as well (v. 8). Indeed, the line between Levi and the Messiah to whom he points is blurred in verse 8, as, at Massah, the people tested God and not specifically Levi. But the priests are the representatives of God, and they also point toward the Messiah, who is the ultimate faithful High Priest!

In addition, the blessing on Levi highlights the need for teachers of the Torah to help people understand (v. 10). While the Bible is simple enough for a child to believe and be saved, it is also rich and deep, so that we will be studying it for eternity. And teachers trained in studying God’s word in the original languages are needed to guard against heresy and misinterpretation.