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Where did Moses die?
The book of Deuteronomy is a sermonic review given by Moses just prior to his death. With the administrative details involving the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Gilead, and the agreement to complete the possession of Cannan with the other tribes out of the way, all that remained was the transfer of power from Moses to Joshua. The name Deuteronomy comes from two Greek words which were used to form the Septuagint title; deuteros, meaning "second," and nomos, meaning "law." So, the word really means "second law," because, in effect, it was the second giving of the law. Thus the book of Deuteronomy is written in the form of addresses by Moses to the congregation as they camped here in the plains of Moab. These addresses rehearse the trip from Egypt, with both its high and low points, and summon the people to faithful obedience to the Law.
After the Israelites arrived in the Trans-Jordan, in the year 1406 B.C., Moses recounted to the new generation all the past events of the previous forty years. In Deuteronomy 1:11 we read:
These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab.
Verse 51 gives further clarification of their location:
Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law,
This is the setting throughout the book and Deuteronomy 34:11 says:
Now 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 all the land, Gilead as far as Dan
In 34:5ff1 we read:
Moses ... died there in the land of Moab.... And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old ... And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days."
Then, Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 31:7-81):
7 Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. 8 "And the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed."
Moses could speak these words with full understanding. How often it must have seemed that he and God stood alone against the world - for he had suffered even his own brother and sister turning against him and had pleaded for them to be spared the punishment they deserved. Each time, God upheld him and brought victory out of defeat. Moses knew that God would also stand at the side of his successor, Joshua.
Later in this chapter (v23) God reaffirms this commissioning to Joshua:
23 Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you."
Now, God's great servant was ready to depart from life. But first, he wanted to look at the land beyond the river. We can imagine the electric atmosphere that must have filled the camp of Israel as Moses walked from the tent of meeting to the top of Pisgah. He was old, but "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." As he passed through the camp for the last time, men who had grown from childhood under his leadership must have stood silently, trying to realize what life would be like without Moses. Mothers, with tears in their eyes, must have told their children softly, "Look, and remember this day. We shall not see Moses again." Moses had not been everything they expected, or everything they wanted. But this was what had made him great. He was God's man, and they knew it. They had murmured, complained, and rebelled. Now, as he passed from among them, they could only weep.
Moses climbed Mount Nebo, to the peak called Pisgah, and looked out on the land to which he had brought his people. Then he died quietly and was buried in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, in an unknown tomb. This verse may serve as a perfect epitaph to a glorious servant of our Father God:
"Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face" (Deuteronomy 34:101).
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