MOSES, BLESSING OF. The poetic blessings uttered by Moses in bidding farewell to Israel (Deuteronomy 33). Moses views Israel's history from the perspective of later times, after the people have settled in the promised land. The core of the poem is the blessings of the individual tribes in which Moses describes the lives of the tribes in their territories, focusing primarily on the resources and abundance they enjoy and their security and military prowess (vv. 6-25). Framing the core are an exordium and a coda (vv. 2-5 and 26-29) which speak of the people as a whole, placing  their security and prosperity in the broader context of God's benefactions to Israel.

 Moses's blessing has little in common with the rest of Deuteronomy and was probably composed independently of Deuteronomy. Its psalmodic style suggests that it originally had a litur-gical function and was perhaps recited at a festival at which all the tribes, or their representatives, gathered. Language and contents suggest that it was composed some time between Israel's settlement in the promised land ca. 1200 BCE  and the exile of the northern tribes in 721 B.C.E. It must have been incorporated in Deuteronomy because it was attributed to Moses and, by looking back on a successful conquest of the promised land, foretells the conquest.

 As one of the last two chapters in the Torah, the blessing is read in the synagogue on Simhat Torah, the "Celebration of the Torah," the festival at which the annual cycle of reading the Torah is completed.

Jeffrey H. Tigay
Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures
University of Pennsylvania


U. Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies (Jerusalem, 1973), 1:47-70; F.M. Cross and D.N. Freedman, Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (Missoula, Montana, 1975), pp. 97-122; O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (New York, 1965), pp. 227-231; A. RofE, Mavo  le-Sefer  Devarim (Jerusalem,  1988),  Chap.  20;  T.H. Gaster, "An Ancient Eulogy on Israel: Deuteronomy 33:3-5, 26-29," JBL 66 (1947):53-62; I.L. Seeligmann, "A Psalm from Pre-regal Times," VT 14 (1964):75-92.