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Deuteronomy 32 & 34 Notes

EW Com. 8. (Deut. 32:48-52) God's final command to Moses.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying: "Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho; view the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel as a possession; and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; because you trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me in the midst of the children of Israel. Yet you shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving to the children of Israel."

a. Go up this mountain ... and die on the mountain: Moses, as the last act of his 120 years, will climb Mount Nebo, and die at the summit of the mountain.

b. You shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there: Though Moses will not be allowed to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land, he can view the land of Canaan.

EX COM - GOD SUMMONS MOSES TO HIS DEATH (Deuteronomy 32:48-52)

"And Jehovah spake unto Moses that self-same day, saying, Get thee up into this mountain of Abarim, into mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession; and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: because ye trespassed against me in the midst of the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah of Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. For thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither into the land which I give the children of Israel."

This is an infinitely sad passage. The long and brilliant career of the great Lawgiver terminates here. The blunt message of his impending death must have been a shock even for Moses. Why could he not enter Canaan? (For a full discussion of the event mentioned here, please see our comment in Vol. 3 of the Pentateuchal series, under Numbers 20:10ff.) "This same episode is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:37; 3:26; 4:21; and in Numbers 27:12-14)."[22]

The quibble about the two names for the mountain is unimportant. Pisgah is merely one of the older names for Nebo, and as Keil said:

"The paragraph here concerning Moses' ascent of mount Nebo differs in form from the previous mention of it in Numbers 27:12-14, partly in the fact that the situation of mount Nebo is more fully described, and partly in the use of the imperative, and a few other trifling points. These differences are all explained from the fact that the account here was not written by Moses himself."[23]

Moses was one of the great O.T. types of the Son of God, and his leadership of Israel in the wilderness is typical of Jesus' leadership of Christians in the wilderness of their probation (in the church during this present dispensation), but great as Moses was, he could not lead the people over the Jordan (typical of death) into Canaan (typical of heaven). Only Christ could do that. Therefore, it was necessary that Moses die before Israel entered Canaan.

Deut. 32:48-52 - "Failed Love . . . or Not?"

Background Information:

• By modern Western standards, this speech is strange. The tone of the first part seems matter-of-fact, if not calloused. Instead of expressing gratitude for the work Moses has done for Yahweh's people during the past forty years, Yahweh's tone is accusatory, reminding him of his infidelity at Meribah Kadesh and reiterating that he will not enter the land. The negative nature of this speech becomes even more apparent when it is compared with Nm 27:12-14, which the narrator seems to have adapted here. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 777)
• (v. 48) There was no lapse of time. On the very same day that the song was recited, the Lord's directives were received. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 217)
• (v. 49) The Lord's command to Moses to ascend Mount Nebo, look over the land, and then die there also appears in Nm 27:12-14, with some slight variations. Mount Nebo is in the Abarim Mountains, a range running in a general north and south direction about ten miles east of the most northern part of the Dead Sea, rising to about 4,000 feet above the Dead Sea, which would be about 2,700 feet above the Mediterranean (sea level). Nebo is 2,631 feet above sea level. From Nebo Moses could see Canaan in the north beyond Lake Galilee, on the west the mountains of Judea, and toward the south as far as the area south of the Dead Sea (Zoar). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 217)
• (v. 51) "To break faith with" is used to describe a wife's unfaithfulness to her husband (Nm 5:12), the treachery of Israel when she forsook the Lord (Lv 26:40), and Achan's "breaking faith" with the Lord (Josh 22:16, 20). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 218)
• By inserting the benedictions of chapter 33 in an otherwise coherent narrative, the narrator has ensured that readers close the book with a positive image of the man in their minds. Insofar as Moses is refused entry into the Promised Land, he shares the fate of his people. However, as we will see in 34:6, his ultimate demise is quite different. He does not die in the desert with the generation who refuses to enter the land. He dies alone on Mount Nebo, but in his burial he is honored more than any human in history: he is "gathered to the fathers" by Yahweh himself. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 781)
• We now come to the last thing that Moses, the great leader, did as a leader. He has handed over the leadership to Joshua, and he has taught the people a song that is aimed at helping them be faithful to God and to return to God when they have been unfaithful. His last act as a leader is to bless the people he had led for over forty years. There will be separate blessings for each tribe. Before that, however, Moses is reminded again that he cannot go to the promised land. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 671)

The question to be answered is . . . What are we to learn from God's decision to keep Moses out of the Promised Land?

Answer: There are consequences for our sin. God always holds leaders to a higher standard. God loves to give greater fulfilment and reality in the midst of the death of your dreams or vision. In light of God's mercy, forgiveness, grace, and love those who trust in Christ are never without hope.

The speeches have been made, the sermon has been preached, the song has been sung. All that remains is for Moses to bid farewell and leave the stage, which he does in typical fashion (typical of him, and typical in another sense of his great successor), by climbing a mountain. Just before the final ascent, however, comes his parting blessing on the tribes of Israel. There is something beautiful in the fact that after all the dark chapters of curses, challenge, warning, and melancholic prediction, these last words are so rich in warmth, hope, and comfort. More than this monumental exposition of covenantal realities, that its final words acclaim the God who eternally loves God's people and a people eternally saved by their God (33:27-29). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 308)

The Word for the Day is . . . Hope

What are we to learn from God's decision to keep Moses out of the Promised Land?:

I- There are consequences for our sin. (Dt 32:50-52; see also: Gn 3:1-24; 6:5-7; Dt 31:17-18; Josh 7:12; 2 Chr 24:20; Job 4:8; Psa 5:4-6; 78:59; 94:23; 141:10; Prv 1:31; 5:22-23; 11:5-7; 12:13-14, 21; 22:8; 29:6; Isa 59:1-2; 64:7; Jer 5:25; Hos 10:13; Amos 3:2; Mt 7:23; 25:41; Lk 13:27; Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21; 6:7-8)

God had commanded Moses to speak to a rock in order to bring forth water for the people who were grumbling against him and Aaron. Moses disobeyed the Lord by hitting the rock twice instead of speaking to it (Nm 20:11). He also arrogantly suggested that he and Aaron, not the Lord, had brought forth the water (20:10). For this act of unbelief and haughtiness, Moses forfeited his right to lead the people into the land which flowed with milk and honey. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher's Commentary, Dt, 317)

Moses' forty-year investment in Yahweh's mission did not exempt him from the fate that inevitably strikes all. He too must submit to the one and only God, who kills and gives life (v. 39). 778)

To Yahweh, striking the rock reflected a cavalier disposition toward him, as though Moses could adapt Yahweh's commands as he wanted. Moreover, in relating directly to the rock rather than the Rock, he had committed an idolatrous act. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 779)

The depth of the pain and disappointment that the divine refusal caused Moses can be seen in the number of times he refers to it. (1:37; 3:26; 4:21; cf. 31:2; 32:48-52; 34:4). So even if he stopped talking to God about it (Dt 3:26 suggests he had been making a persistent request), he didn't stop reminding the Israelites of it: because of you the LORD was angry with me! The exclusion of Moses from entering the promised land figures so largely here, and was probably as much a surprise to the original readers as it is to us, that it invites some theological reflection. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 41)

We as Christians cannot regain tomorrow what we have lost through a brief moment of spiritual insanity or inattention today. We have to face each spiritual choice with alertness and spiritual vigor, for in that choice may be our lives. In the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been!'" (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 363)

Many people have had to share Moses' sorrow from atop Mount Nebo, wistfully contemplating how things might have turned out differently. Moses forfeited the experience of entering the promised land because of a brief moment of anger. He let down his guard, and sin robbed him of an experience that might have been his.

It is far better to recognize that all of life is sacred. Now is the defining moment in every life. Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi used to prepare his players for a game by telling them, "Every play is the football game. One missed tackle, one missed block, one dropped pass, and we never know how things might have turned out differently. You have to give effort on every play as though this one in particular will make all the difference." (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 363)

II- God always holds leaders to a higher standard. (Dt 32:51; see also: Mt; Mk; Jam 3:1; 1 Tm 3:1-13; Ti 1:6-9)

32:51-52 Moses would suffer this fate because he and his brother Aaron broke faith with God in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh (cp. Nm 20). Their offense was not a wholesale rebellion but an act of impatience. Still, because spiritual leaders incur a stricter judgment (cp. Jas 3:1), Moses would see the land only from a distance. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 362)

Leaders must take the lead in showing people that they can indeed be obedient in this world. But in order to be obedient they must believe that God will look after them. The leaders were supposed to demonstrate that in their lives. But Moses' action did not demonstrate that. That is very serious, because the responsibility of leaders is to lead the way in encouraging the people to trust God. When leaders do not trust God, the faith of many people is affected. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 672)

The reason for the prohibition against Moses' entrance into the Promised Land is more explicit here than that given for Aaron in Nm 20:24, where it is simply stated that Moses and Aaron had rebelled against the Lord's command at the waters of Meribah. Here it is said that they "broke faith" with the Lord in Israel's presence and did not uphold his holiness among the Israelites (v. 51). Moses and Aaron were culpable because they had not properly conveyed the Lord's message or followed the way the Lord intended to supply water to the thirsty Israelites at Meribah Kadesh. Instead of speaking to the rock, they called the people rebels and struck the rock twice. The Lord denounced this action on the spot as a failure to trust him enough to honor him as holy. Because of this they would not be permitted to bring Israel into the land (Nm 20:7-12; Ps 106:32-33). Moses was to see the land only "from a distance" (v. 52). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 218)

Even men and women of great faith may fail. Seasoned leaders, who've "seen it all before," must especially remember that each new generation of God's people needs leaders who'll take them gently along the pathway of faith through life. Called spiritual leaders in the church especially need to take to heart this incident from Moses' life, and the lesson it teaches. The lesson to be learned from Moses' exclusion from the land is that we need to be careful that we accurately represent Jesus Christ, his word, and his will to those around us. God doesn't want to deal with his people primarily in terms of commandments and threats, but primarily in terms of grace and promise. (Mark E. Braun, The People's Bible: Dt, 322-3)

Paul warned Timothy about being too hasty in ordaining anyone to church leadership because of the grave responsibilities which went with it (1 Tm 5:22). Judgment at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) will be on the principle that if the greater the influence, the greater the responsibility. If every person will give account on the day of judgment for every careless word spoken (Mt 12:36), how much more for the teacher, whose implement of trade is the tongue (cf. Heb 13:17)! (Vernon Doerksen, James, 75)

James' point is that no believer should begin any form of teaching God's Word without a deep sense of the seriousness of this responsibility. To sin with the tongue when alone or with one or two other persons is bad enough; but to sin with the tongue in public, especially while acting as a speaker for God, is immeasurably worse. Speaking for God carries with it great implications, both for good and ill. (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 148)

Usually, teachers reproduce themselves in the lives of their students. A false teacher could do great harm by creating mediocrity in the lives of the people of God and by actually leading them astray. Much is written in the NT as a warning against false teachers, including the epistles of Jude and 2 Peter.

A false teacher or an inept teacher would be "tearing down" the lives of the believers. A teacher who is called of God and gifted of God and who is properly equipped will have the joyous privilege of building the lives of God's people and of building the Body of Christ. The Biblical model for this style of teaching leadership is found in Eph 4:11-13. Such an act of teaching results in the Body of Christ being built up, becoming unified in faith, having the knowledge of Christ, and ultimately growing to become more and more like Jesus. (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator's Commentary: James, 68)

While modern interpreters take offense at the harshness of Yahweh's treatment of Moses, the punishment was fair and fitting. If the people were sentenced to die in the desert because they had rebelled against (Dt 1:26) and refused to trust Yahweh (1:32; Nm 14:11, 23), this should also apply to their leader. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 779)

The language the Scriptures associate with Moses' actions with respect to the rock is telling: not trusting in Yahweh (Nm 20:12), treachery or breaking faith (Dt 32:51), speaking rash words (Ps 106:33), but particularly a refusal to defend the holiness of Yahweh before the people (Nm 20:12; Dt 32:51). When the people accused Moses of engaging in a diabolical plot to destroy them in the desert (Nm 20:3-5), in his self-absorption and his absorption with his own staff (vv. 8-9), he shirked his pastoral duty. Instead of defending the sanctity of Yahweh and demonstrating the power of the divine word (cf. v. 8), he taunted the people (v. 10) and presumptuously flaunted his own power by striking the rock.

In so doing Moses illustrates the dangers of pastoral ministry. Instead of being concerned about the reputation of God and the health of his people, we are often tempted to respond to criticism with idolatrous acts of independence. This always shames the name of the Lord and jeopardizes the success of our efforts within the mission of God. Within the history of that mission those who are called to carry the burden often prove the biggest hindrances. However, we can take heart knowing that ultimately no one is indispensable; God's cosmic mission will be fulfilled by a Leader who is flawless: Jesus Christ, the perfectly righteous one. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 782)

Always in the history of Sri Lanka people in power have broken the law. But they did it inconspicuously. They hid their wrongdoing because they knew that what they did was wrong. However, there have been times in the history of Sri Lanka when national leaders openly broke the laws, acted contrary to the constitution for all to see, and got away with it. I felt this was one of the most serious threats to the welfare of our country. The message is communicated that the constitution is not practical, that acting against it is acceptable. A similar thing happens when Christian leaders disobey God in front of the people. They bring down the standard of God's holiness by communicating the idea that it is acceptable to disobey God. Such actions need to be severely condemned in order to restore the dignity of God before people. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 672-3)

III- God loves to give greater fulfilment and reality through the death of your dreams or vision. (Dt 32:48-49, 52; see also regarding heaven: Mt 6:20; Lk 12:33; 23:43; Rom 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:8-5:10; 12:2-4; Eph 1:18; Heb 11:10-16; 2 Pt 3:13; Rv 7:14-17; 21:1-5, 11-27; 22:1-5; see also regarding Moses: Mt 17:1-7; Mk 9:2-13; Lk 9:28-36 see also regarding David: Mt 1:1-20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9-15; 22:42-45; Mk 11:10; 12:35-37; Lk 1:27, 32; 2:4, 11; 18:38-39; Jn 7:42; Acts 13:34-36; Rom 1:3; 2 Tm 2:8; Rv 3:7; 5:5; 22:16)

Why is God asking Moses to view the Promised Land only from afar? Is God taunting Moses? Or is there something bigger, greater, more glorious going on? - Pastor Keith

He entered into the suffering of his people and of the God of his people in a way that, like so much else in his life, foreshadowed that future servant of Yahweh who would indeed offer a blameless life for the sins of us all (Isa 53:4-6). Would it have eased Moses' pain and disappointment, we might wonder, if he could have known that one day he would stand in the land on another mountaintop and have a conversation with that very servant about the sacrifice (indeed, the "exodus," Lk 9:31) he was about to accomplish? (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 42)

Great leaders make mistakes and have to face the consequences of those mistakes. But the merciful God uses their work to leave behind a legacy of blessing on earth. The most severe example of this was David after whose adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah life tuned very sour. Nevertheless, he is viewed as Israel's greatest king, and it is from his line that the Messiah came. Even after the event, he is referred to as "a man after [God's] heart" in the NT (Acts 13:22). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 673)

We will soon be in eternity, and then we will see how all the affairs of this world are such little things and how little it matters whether they turn out or not...When we were little children, with what eagerness did we put together little bits of tile, wood, and mud, to make houses and small buildings! And if someone destroyed them, we were very grieved and tearful at it; but now we know well that it all mattered very little. One day it will be the same with us in heaven, when we will see that our concerns in this world were truly only child's play.

This is not to suggest, Francis hastened to add, that these "affairs of this world" have no value at all: "I do not want to take away the care that we must have regarding these little trifles, because God has entrusted them to us in this world for exercise; but I would indeed like to take away the passion and anxiety of this care." (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 253)

Yahweh invites Moses to view the Promised Land (v. 49b). Technically, the verb "view" is an imperative, though here it also functions as an invitation to Moses to receive his consolation prize, namely, to see the Promised Land (cf. 3:27). This is obviously small consolation, for while it would concretize for him the completion of his mission, it would also concretize his loss, as he gazes on what might have been. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 778)

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. (Hymn, "Come, Ye Disconsolate")

A man's reach must exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for. (Robert Browning Andrea del Sarto , line 98)

Suffering is a wedge forcing us to choose between hope and despair.

IV- In light of God's mercy, forgiveness, compassion, grace, and love believers are never without hope. (Bk of Jn; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:18-25; 1 Cor 2:9; 2 Cor 1:20; 4:8-5:10; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 1 Jn 4:8, 16)

A hopeless Christian is a contradiction in terms.

Though Moses did not have the joy of leading the people to the promised land, this was only a chastisement that did not negate the opinion of the Bible that he was a great person and the great eternal rewards he would receive. Actually the frequent mention of this is itself a sign of Moses' greatness. He was so eager for the people to be obedient that he was willing to use his failures and the consequences of them as a motivation to be obedient. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 673)

Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all...As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength. (G.K. Chesterton, Signs of the Times, April 1993, 6)

"Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God"; "Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God"; and "Joy is the flag that is flown o'er the castle of our hearts when the King is in residence there." All three sentences stress the same point: because God is with us, we can continually rejoice. His presence makes possible our hope-hope for how he will create good from even the negative elements in our lives (Rom 8:28) and hope for how we will discover that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the fulfillment of God's promises as they will be revealed to us (8:18). (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 193)

Worship Point: Worship the God of the Universe Whose power, wisdom and love are so great that those who trust in Him are never without hope.

Gospel Application: We only have access to this hope because of the work of Jesus though His life and death. All those who trust in Jesus are children of God and co-heirs with Christ.

Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you is a branch sticking out of the edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and seems more than strong enough. How can it save you?

If you're certain the branch can support you, but you don't actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If instead your mind is filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why?

It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch. (Tim Keller; The Reason For God, 234)

All your life you've been rewarded according to your performance. You get grades according to your study. You get commendations according to your success. You get money in response to your work.

That's why the rich young ruler thought heaven was just a payment away. It only made sense. You work hard, you pay your dues, and "zap"-your account is credited as paid in full. Jesus says, "No way." What you want costs far more than what you can pay. You don't need a system, you need a Savior. You don't need a resume, you need a Redeemer. For "what is impossible with men is possible with God." (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 28)

Please let me repeat over and over again that the good news is NOT that if you are good you will get to heaven. In fact, the good news is that you can never be good enough to get to heaven. Which doesn't sound like good news until you see the cross. It is at the cross that God deals with our badness, ugliness and rebellion against Him, and gives us His goodness, beauty and purity-in the greatest and best swap of all time. (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession-Why Jesus Is Great, 84-85)

The cross is the absolute assurance that hope cannot disappoint. (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community: Romans 12, 191)

Spiritual Challenge: Live like you really believe in the promises of God: without fear, without anxiety, but with hope, confidence, security and love.

Why don't people ask us about our hope? The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do. Our lives don't look like they are on the Calvary road, stripped down for sacrificial love, serving others with the sweet assurance that we don't need to be rewarded in this life. (John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life, 109)

So What?: Do I really have to explain why the life of a believer is superior to any existence one might have apart from Christ? Really? Think!?!?!



4Yahweh said to him, "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your seed.' I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there."

"Yahweh said to him, 'This is the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, "I will give it to your seed"'" (v. 4a). Yahweh's initial promise was to Abraham, to whom he said, "I will give to you, and to your seed after you, the land where you are traveling, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. I will be their God" (Genesis 17:8; see also Genesis 15:17-21). Yahweh renewed this covenant with Moses at Sinai, saying, "Depart, go up from here, you and the people that you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your seed'" (Exodus 33:1).

"I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there" (v. 4b). As noted in the Context above, the story behind this verse is told in Numbers 20:1-13. Yahweh stated and restated the prohibition (Deuteronomy 1:37; 3:27; 4:21-22; 32:52).


5So Moses the servant of Yahweh died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of Yahweh. 6He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth Peor: but no man knows of his tomb to this day. 7Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8The children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping in the mourning for Moses were ended.

"So Moses the servant of Yahweh died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of Yahweh"(v. 5). Josephus tells us that Moses died on the first of Adar, the twelfth month. He died there at the Lord's command.

"He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth Peor" (v. 6a). This makes Yahweh the one who not only determined the time and place of Moses' death, but also making him the one who buried him. Perhaps this was Yahweh's way of honoring Moses for his long and faithful service.

Beth-Peor was near Mount Nebo.

"but no man knows of his tomb to this day" (v. 6b). We aren't told why Yahweh established a secret burial place for Moses. Perhaps he wanted to insure that the Israelites wouldn't make a shrine of his burial place. The secrecy would also insure that they couldn't move his body to Israel at a later date.

"Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died" (v. 7a). Earlier, when God saw the wickedness of humans, he said, "My Spirit will not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; yet will his days be one hundred twenty years" (Genesis 6:3).

"his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (v. 7b). That Moses retained considerable vigor at this advanced age is demonstrated by the fact that he "went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah" (34:1).

However, earlier Moses said, "I can no more go out and come in" (31:2), which leaves us with the problem of reconciling these contradictory statements regarding his health. Jewish rabbis speculated that in 31:2 Moses might have been preparing the Israelites for his departure, which they could accept more easily if they thought of him as aged and infirmed (Biddle).

"The children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping in the mourning for Moses were ended" (v. 8). A more usual mourning period was seven days (Genesis 50:10; 1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12). A thirty-day mourning period would be appropriate for great leaders such as Moses and Aaron.

Once the thirty days had passed, the mourning period was over and the people resumed their normal activities under the leadership of Joshua.


2. (Deut 34:4) God's last words to Moses: This is the land...
Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there."

a. This is the land of which I swore to give: These words, being in the present tense, were spoken to Moses at the summit of Mount Nebo as he looked westward and saw the Promised Land.

i. The list of places here follows a large counter-clockwise circle from the north to the south. In this sweeping panorama, Moses saw the scope of the entire Promised Land.

ii. "The invitation to Moses to view the land was not merely a kindly provision of God to allow His servant to view Israel's inheritance. It may have had some legal significance. There is some evidence that this was part of a legal process. A man 'viewed' what he was to possess." (Thompson)

b. I will give it to your descendants: God swore to give it to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and now the promise was going to be fulfilled. Moses was allowed to take the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob up to the threshold of the Promised Land, but no further.

c. I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there: What a bittersweet moment! Moses saw this, and his heart was thrilled at being able to see the Promised Land as never before. Yet, there was no doubt a sadness in His heart, knowing that it was his own sin - his own misrepresentation of God (Numbers 20:7-12) - which led to his not being able to set foot in the Promised Land himself. Here he stood so close, yet so far away.

i. "What drama! What pathos! What inward pain! What sense of accomplishment mixed with disappointment must have been in Moses' mind as he looked over the land the Lord had promised to Israel!" (Kalland)

ii. Looking out over the vast panorama, on what must have been a crystal-clear day, Moses saw the end result of his life's work - leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land - and heard God say, as clearly as he had ever heard God speak, "this is the land."

3. (Deut. 34:5-8) The death and burial of Moses, the servant of the LORD.

So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended.

a. So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab: Moses' epitaph - what we might call the line on his tombstone, though he actually had none - was simple.
· It was not "Moses, Prince of Egypt."
· It was not "Moses, Murderer of an Egyptian."
· It was not "Moses, Shepherd in the Wilderness."
· It was not "Moses, Spokesman for a Nation."
· It was not "Moses, Miracle Worker."
· It was not "Moses, Prophet."
· It was not "Moses, the Man Who Saw a Piece of God's Glory."
· It was not "Moses, Who Never Entered the Promised Land."
· At the end of it all, the title was simple: Moses the servant of the LORD.

i. This should be enough for us. We often say it, and it sounds humble to say it, but it is more difficult to really live it. To be satisfied with simply being the servant of the LORD is a precious thing indeed. It is the happiest of all stations in life, for when the Master is glorified, the servants are satisfied.

ii. If one is truly a servant of the LORD, it can be demonstrated by a simple test: by how they react when someone treats them as a servant. Many are pleased to be servants for people of our own choosing or in circumstances of our own choosing. But that isn't really being the servant of the LORD.

b. Moses the servant of the LORD died: Moses died just as God promised. The promises of God are sure, including His more severe promises. It all happened according to the word of the LORD.

i. Literally, the phrase according to the word of the LORD means upon the mouth of the LORD. From this, ancient Jewish traditions say that Moses died as God took away his soul with a kiss. The medieval Jewish rabbi Maimonides wrote that of the 903 different ways to die, this was the best.

ii. According to ancient Jewish legends - which should be regarded only as legends - the death of Moses was tender and full of God's compassion.

"In the meanwhile, Moses' time was at an end. A voice from heaven resounded, saying: 'Why, Moses, dost thou strive in vain? Thy last second is at hand.' Moses instantly stood up for prayer, and said: 'Lord of the world! Be mindful of the day on which Thou didst reveal Thyself to me in the bush of thorns, and be mindful also of the day when I ascended into heaven and during forty days partook of neither food nor drink. Thou, Gracious and Merciful, deliver me not into the hand of [Satan].' God replied: 'I have heard thy prayer. I Myself shall attend to thee and bury thee.' Moses now sanctified himself as do the Seraphim that surround the Divine Majesty, whereupon God from the highest heavens revealed Himself to receive Moses' soul. When Moses beheld the Holy One, blessed be His Name, he fell upon his face and said: 'Lord of the world! In love didst Thou create the world, and in love Thou guidest it. Treat me also with love, and deliver me not into the hands of the Angel of Death.' A heavenly voice sounded and said: 'Moses, be not afraid. "Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward."'"

"With God descended from heaven three angels, Michael, Gabriel, and Zagzagel. Gabriel arranged Moses' couch, Michael spread upon it a purple garment, and Zagzagel laid down a woolen pillow. God stationed Himself over Moses' head, Michael to his right, Gabriel to his left, and Zagzagel at his feet, whereupon God addressed Moses: 'Cross thy feet,' and Moses did so. He then said, 'Fold thy hands and lay them upon thy breast,' and Moses did so. Then God said, 'Close thine eyes,' and Moses did so. Then God spake to Moses' soul: 'My daughter, one hundred and twenty years had I decreed that thou shouldst dwell in this righteous man's body, but hesitate not now to leave it, for thy time has run....I Myself shall take thee to the highest heavens and let thee dwell under the Throne of My Glory'....When Moses heard these words, he permitted his soul to leave him, saying to her: 'Return to thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.' God thereupon took Moses' soul by kissing him on the mouth." (Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews)

iii. "As a mother takes her child and kisses it, and then lays it down to sleep in its own bed; so did the Lord kiss the soul of Moses away to be with him for ever, and then he hid is body we know not where." (Spurgeon)

c. And He buried him in a valley: Notably, the LORD buried Moses. This was more complicated than it sounds because the devil contended with God over the body of Moses.

i. Jude 9 speaks of an occasion when Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses. Apparently, there was a contention over the body of Moses, and according to Jude Michael the archangel won this contest as he appealed to the Lord's authority: "The Lord rebuke you!" Yet why Michael contended with Satan over the body of Moses is less clear.

ii. Some say that the devil wanted to use Moses' body as an object of worship to lead Israel astray into idolatry. Others think that Satan wanted to desecrate the body of Moses and claimed a right to it because Moses had murdered an Egyptian.

iii. But consider that God had another purpose for Moses' body, which Satan wanted to defeat: Moses appears in bodily form with Elijah (whose body was caught up to heaven [2 Kings 2]) at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3); and perhaps Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses of Revelation 11.

iv. Apparently, God had a purpose to fulfill with the body of Moses before the time of general resurrection, so God made special provision to bury the body of Moses Himself. And, perhaps, God preserved the body of Moses in some way. God wanted to protect the body of Moses, so no one knows his grave to this day. Seemingly, they searched for it (as would be expected) out of a desire to memorialize this great leader of the nation.

d. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died: Moses' life was neatly divided into thirds. He spent 40 years as the crown prince of Egypt, 40 years as a humble shepherd in the wilderness, and 40 years leading the children of Israel to their destiny in the Promised Land. The first two-thirds were in preparation for the last one third. Moses was willing to let God prepare him for 80 years.

e. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor abated: This confirmed what was observed at Deuteronomy 31:1 (I can no longer go out and come in). Moses was not hindered by physical infirmity, but by the command of God.

Deut. 32:48-52 UTLEY

48The Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, 49"Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. 50Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. 52For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.

32:49-50 These two verses have several imperatives:
1. "go up," v. 49 - BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative
2. "look at," v. 40 - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative
3. "die," v. 50 - BDB 559, KB 562, Qal imperative
4. "be gathered," v. 50 - BDB 62, KB 74, Niphal imperative

The last acts of Moses are scripted by a God who loved him, used him, and held him responsible for his actions!

32:49 "Abarim" This is the mountain range (cf. Num. 27:12-14).
▣ "Mount Nebo" This is the highest peak in that mountain range. Possibly this peak is very close to the northern part of the Dead Sea across from Jericho on the opposite side of the Jordan Valley.

32:50 "Then die on the mountain" The implication of the verse is that this will be the end of Moses' earthly life (cf. v. 34), but he will live on with his family and countrymen who have died before.

▣ "Mount Hor" Aaron's death and burial are first recorded in Num. 20:22-29; 33:38-39. However, Deut. 10:6 says he died and was buried at Moseroth (cf. Num. 33:30-31). Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 166, says Moserah is the name of the area and Mount Hor the name of the specific mountain.

32:51 "because you broke faith with Me" (cf. Numbers 20; 27:14; Deut. 1:37; 3:23-27). This is parallel to "because you did not treat Me as holy." Moses' open and obvious disobedience before all the people in Numbers 20 and again in Numbers 27, caused him to be publicly judged by God and not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Deut. 34:4-7 UTLEY

34:4 "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" This is the fulfillment of God's promise recorded in Gen. 12:7; 26:3; 28:13. The promise to Abraham included both land and seed. The OT emphasizes the land and children while the NT emphasizes the special child (cf. Isa. 7-12). This ancient promise is repeated often. Here are some examples: Exod. 33:1; Num. 14:23; 32:11; Deut. 1:8; 6:10; 9:5; 30:20.

▣ "I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there" Apparently the sin of publicly striking the rock instead of speaking to it(cf. Num. 20:7-12) is the offense for which Moses has been judged. The people witnessed this flagrant disobedient act of Moses.

34:5 "So Moses the servant of the Lord" The term "servant of the Lord" is an honorific title given to Moses. It is given to Joshua only after his death. It was conferred upon King David. It later refers to the coming Messiah (cf. the Servant Songs of Isaiah 40-56). It may be the source of the NT Pauline phrase, "slave of God." The concept of an OT servant is extremely significant. In the OT election or servanthood was to fulfill the purpose of God, not necessarily for salvation. Cyrus is called "God's anointed" (cf. Isa. 45:1) and Assyria is called "the rod of His anger" (cf. Isa. 10:5). This cruel nation and pagan king fit into God's plan but were not spiritually related to Him. The terms "election" and "choice" have a spiritual connotation only in the NT.

▣ "died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord" The literal Hebrew here is "by the mouth of the Lord," (BDB 804), which seems to be a metaphor for the word of God (cf. Gen. 41:40; 45:21; Exod. 17:1; 38:21; Num. 3:16,39).

However, the rabbis say that this is the "kiss of God." They say that God kissed Moses on the mouth and took away his breath. This is very similar to our cultural idiom "the kiss of death." If so, it is a beautiful account of the balance between the justice and mercy of God in the life of Moses.

34:6 "And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab" The "He" implies God Himself. This is much like Gen. 7:16, where God closed the door to the ark. One reason for God burying Moses Himself is because God has taken away all of the ancient sites and artifacts that we might worship instead of Him. Notice that Moses was not buried on Mount Nebo itself but down in the valley. The strange NT passage in Jude 9 is related to this account, but how is not exactly clear. Jude 9 seems to quote an extra-canonical book known as The Assumption of Moses. The exact purpose for the devil wanting the body of Moses is uncertain.

▣ "but no man knows his burial place to this day" This is obviously the work of a later editor. Many assert that Moses could not have written this last chapter which relates to his death. Rashi says that Joshua wrote about Moses' death, while IV Esdras asserts that Moses wrote of his own death. I believe in Mosaic authorship of the Torah, but that does not rule out some editorial comments such as this which appear from time to time. The similarity of the Hebrew between the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua seems to imply that Joshua did have a part in writing Moses' memoirs. However, the significant place of Ezra in rabbinical Judaism as the editor of the entire OT is also a possibility.

34:7 "Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died" This one hundred and twenty year span is developed in Stephen's sermon in Acts 7:23ff into a threefold division of forty years each: (1) forty years in the educational system of Egypt; (2) forty years in the very desert into which he would later lead the children of Israel; and (3) forty years in the wilderness wandering period. D. L. Moody said, "For 40 years Moses thought he was a somebody. For 40 years he thought he was a nobody. For 40 years he found out what God can do with a nobody."

▣ "his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated" This seems to refer to the health of Moses, while Deut. 31:2 seems to be an excuse given by Moses for why he cannot enter the Promised Land (that he was too weak and old). This is not a contradiction, but one more attempt by Moses to try to explain away his sin by either blaming the people or his age or other factors.