Just as Genesis ends with Jacob’s blessing of his sons, the story of Jacob’s death, and a mention of Israel’s new leader (Joseph), so Deuteronomy ends with Moses’ blessing of the tribes and mention of Israel’s new leader, Joshua.
The blessing of the tribes gives us a glimpse into Israel’s future. Reuben will be in danger of ceasing to exist. Simeon isn’t even mentioned, and that tribe was absorbed into Judah as time went on. In his blessing Jacob had high aspiration for Judah, but Moses notes the coming days would be difficult. Dan would take Judah’s place of prominence but strangely, Dan’s home will be in Bashan — way in the north. And yet, the land allotted to that tribe was just north of Judah. Zebulun and Issachar’s fortunes would be tied together and both would prosper along with Naphtali and Asher but the most space is given to the people of Joseph, whose coming prosperity must have seemed astounding.
Israel, listening to Moses speak these words, and later read them, have wondered what was about to happen to them. The description of the tribes of Israel does not reflect what they were, nor what they would have expected. Confusing days are ahead. Not even knowing what is to happen will bring them peace, for now they will focus on how all this could be.
And that will be a mistake.
The focus needs to be not on what will be, but on the one who controls it all: The Lord, “who rides on the heavens to help them, and on the clouds in His majesty” (33:26).
How would I feel if I knew the future? Whether good or ill, knowing is unlikely to bring me peace. The only true peace comes from knowing the one who holds the future in His hands and us in His arms (33:27).