Deuteronomy 34

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Verse 1-3: Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. (NRSV)

  • This seems like a minor point, possibly even cruel on God's part at first glance. Moses is not allowed to go in, but he could see the promised land. But look at it from Moses' point of view.
    • Moses had spent 40 years shepherding the people from all harm and leading them. He knew each tribe and the people in them, these were his loved ones and he must have wanted to know they would be safe.
    • These lands have not been conquered yet, but God shows Moses all the places like they are already Israelite. "This is where Dan will be, and here is Judah's lands, etc"
    • It is a personal touch, God promising to look after the people and helping Moses not to see the land itself, but how his people will take it over, what it will be like for them. Imagine what a relief that must have been for Moses.
  • Not all of this land was ever conquered, but most of it was. The Philistines controlled the coast until the time of David, for instance.

Verse 5: Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. (NRSV)

  • This verse is a very troublesome one for many people because tradition states that Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy so how could he have written about his own death and burial?
    • One explanation is that God revealed his death to him and inspired Moses to write about it even though it had not happened yet. This seems slightly cruel to Moses, however, to have to write about his own death.
    • The explanation of most scholars is simply that this section was written after Moses' death by another person as a summary to the book. As long as we accept the inspiration of this later writer as well there is no reason why a later writer would affect the authority or inspiration of scripture.

Verse 7: Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated (NRSV)

  • Forty years in Egypt being raised as an Egyptian, forty years in the wilderness with his father in law, forty years leading the Israelites in the wilderness.
  • Numbers were very important to the Jewish people, not because they were precise, but because of the symbolism they held.
    • To the Jews, 40 years was a number meaning a completed time, about the length of the average person of that day.
    • So here we have three periods of a completed time in Moses' life. Whether the dates are estimates, symbolic, or precise times is uncertain. But that these were three distinct periods of Moses' life is clear.
  • If symbolic meaning of ages is meant here, then this verse is saying "Moses lived three lifetimes worth of experiences before he died, and when he died his work was completed three times over."

Verse 12: For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (NRSV)

  • From a Christian position we want to say that this was only true until the coming of Christ.

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