Chapter 34


Narrative Epilogue: Moses’ Death (34:1-12)

        • Then, Moses went from the Plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah which is across from Jericho. From there, the Lord showed him the whole land: from Gilead all the way to Dan, all the land of Naphtali, all the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Negev, the Jordan valley region around Jericho- the city of palms- all the way to Zoar.

        • HCSB notes, “The reference to the territory of Dan and the other tribes appears to be anachronistic for the time of Moses and therefore indicative of a later time of composition. The place name Dan may be a later editor’s substitution for the city’s original name, but this is by no means evidence that someone other than Moses composed the greater part of this narrative.”

        • Guzik writes, “This was God’s sweet grace to Moses. Though he could not set foot in the Promised Land, God allowed him to see it. Standing on the peak of Nebo on the collection of Mountains called Pisgah, Moses stood on what is the modern nation of Jordan, looking towards the Promised Land.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible provides a good description, “Mount Nebo is a high elevation in the Abiram hills east of the Jordan River. Virtually the whole land west of the Jordan can be seen from this vantage point. Nebo was part of Pisgah Peak.”

Map via Biblical Archaeology:
        • Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter into it.”

          • Guzik writes, “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…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.’”
        • Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab just as the Lord had said. The Lord buried him in a valley in the land of Moab across from Beth-peor, and to this day no one knows the exact location. The Israelites wept for Moses on the plains of Moab for 30 days, then the customary period of mourning came to an end.

          • HCSB notes, “The common critical view that Moses could not have written Dt because it records his own death carries no weight, except in the case of the last eight verses of this book. Someone else, (Joshua according to the Talmud) could have appended the account of Moses’ death without undermining the tradition of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch…The phrase ‘to this day’ suggests a reflection back on an event from a later perspective. As with the account of Moses’ death in general, there is good reason to believe Joshua or someone else wrote these words, perhaps as much as 40 or 50 years later.”
        • Guzik calls our attention to, perhaps, the most profound practical application that we can glean from this record of Moses death:

          • 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.”

          • Guzik continues, “…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.”

        • Guzik also mentions Jude’s thought provoking reference to the burial of Moses, “Notably, the LORD buried Moses. This was more complicated than it sounds because the devil contended with God over the body of Moses…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.”

            • Whatever the origin of the account, Jude does in fact seem to refer to the contest between Michael and the devil as true…We know that the archangel Michael is real; there is frequent mention of the devil; and there are numerous affirmations that both bad and good angels are employed in important transactions on the earth. As the nature of this particular dispute over Moses’ body is wholly unknown, conjecture is useless. We do not know whether there was an argument over possession of the body, burial of the body, or anything else.”

        • Guzik also includes a very interesting excerpt from Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews regarding Moses’ death. Of course, while it is certainly ancient, the following should be regarded as legend only:

          • 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.”

        • Moses was 120 years old when he died, but his eyesight was not impaired and he was as strong as ever.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible articulates it best, “At age 120, Moses was as strong as ever and in full possession of his faculties. He did not fail to enter Canaan because he died; he died because he failed to enter Canaan.”
        • Joshua, Nun’s son, was full of the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So, the Israelites obeyed him, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Since that time, no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. None like him for all the for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in Egypt, against Pharaoh, his servants, and his land; and for all the mighty power and terrifying deeds that Israel saw Moses display.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Moses and the Lord had an intimate relationship…Aaron and Miriam once challenged Moses’ leadership and were severely rebuked by the Lord (Numbers 12:8), who reminded them they were ordinary prophets that received revelation by dreams and visions. Moses was not such a prophet. God said, ‘I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles’. No other prophet in OT times could rival Moses’ relationship with God.”

          • Guzik elaborates, “There were greater rulers over Israel than Moses, greater leaders, greater prophets, and greater priests. But before the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah, there was never one man who held all offices so gloriously as Moses did.” Guzik cites Thompson: “In him were concentrated all the great offices of Israel – prophet, ruler, judge and priest. If some who held these offices were great, Moses was the greatest of them all.”