Monday, January 07, 2008

Deuteronomy 34

Deuteronomy 34: Moses dies


Back in Deuteronomy 32, the LORD gave Moses instructions for his death. In this chapter, it takes place.

As instructed, Moses goes up onto Mount Nebo, and the LORD shows him all of the Promised Land. At this time, Moses is 120 years old, and yet he’s not showing his age; verse 7 indicates that his eyes aren’t weak, and nor is is strength gone.

After this, Moses dies, and the LORD buries him in a secret grave (verse 6). (Actually, verse 6 is a little unclear as to who buries Moses, but I think it’s the LORD.) The Israelites observe thirty days of weeping and mourning, to commemorate him.

Before Moses had died, he laid hands on Joshua, and Joshua now has “the spirit of wisdom” (verse 9), so the Israelites take him as their new leader.

The chapter—and the book of Deuteronomy—end with this summary:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (verses 10–12)


When Deuteronomy says that “since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses,” I sometimes wonder: what is the point of reference? Would that include John the Baptist? Or Elijah or Elisha? But I don’t think it matters; I don’t think any of those prophets were like Moses. And I don’t think there will be another like him. So I guess the writer of Deuteronomy felt confident enough to say “since then,” knowing that it would be true even readers hundreds of years away. (I don’t know if the author would have expected the book to last thousands of years.)

I say “the author,” because tradition says that the book was written by Moses. (As were Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.) But I’m not sure of Moses prophetically wrote the last chapter of Deuteronomy before he died, or if someone else stepped in and finished it off for him. Or perhaps the whole thing was scribed by someone else, and the book is just attributed to him since he provided all of the information.

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