Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 34

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Deuteronomy 34

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Moses’ Death

As mentioned in the introductory highlights of Deuteronomy, though it was possible for Moses to have written this final chapter himself under God’s inspiration, it seems much more likely that God used someone else to bring the book to its completion. An obvious candidate is Moses’ successor, Joshua. However, the wording of verse 10 makes it appear that more time had passed than just Joshua. Perhaps someone else wrote the final three verses of the book.

Here we see that Moses dies at 120 years of age, but not because of ill health or the normal physical deterioration associated with aging (verse 7). In this way, God made it clear that He was taking Moses’ life, not allowing him to enter the Promised Land, because of Moses’ error in striking the rock at Kadesh. Still, this great man of God is given a glimpse of the Promised Land and full assurance that his people would enter it. More importantly, he one day will enter that land and a far greater Promised Land—when He is resurrected from the dead into the Kingdom of God, which will be ruled from Jerusalem (compare Matthew 16:28 Matthew 16:28Truly I say to you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 17:1-9 Matthew 17:1-9 [1] And after six days Jesus takes Peter, James, and John his brother, and brings them up into an high mountain apart, [2] And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. [3] And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. [4] Then answered Peter, and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. [5] While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him. [6] And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. [7] And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. [8] And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. [9] And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
American King James Version×
).

Remarkably, God Himself buried Moses’ body in a secret place (Deuteronomy 34:5-6 Deuteronomy 34:5-6 [5] So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. [6] And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knows of his sepulcher to this day.
American King James Version×
). This was apparently to prevent his gravesite from becoming an idolatrous shrine, as it surely would have. In fact, we are told in the book of Jude that Satan and Michael fought over Moses’ body (verse 9)—as perhaps Satan wished to make the location of the burial known for just this reason.

Although Joshua became a powerful leader, he did not reach the stature of Moses. “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do…, and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of the people” (verses 10-12). Indeed, no one like him would follow in the remainder of the Old Testament.

However, Moses foretold that a prophet like himself would appear, whom the people should follow. That Prophet, appearing in the New Testament, was Jesus Christ. As the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Christ (John 1:17 John 1:17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
). Jesus Himself attested to the credibility of Moses, when He said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me” (John 5:45-47 John 5:45-47 [45] Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom you trust. [46] For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words?
American King James Version×
). But as people really have not believed Moses’ writings, so they don’t really believe Christ’s words either.

Finally, then, with the obituary of its author, we come to the conclusion of the first major division of the Old Testament—the five books of the Law, or Torah. We are left hopeful and excited, with the conquest of the Promised Land before us. May all of us have this same hope and excitement as we stand on the brink of entering our Promised Land—the Kingdom of God. Therein, we will join with all the faithful we’ve read about—such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua and Caleb—under Jesus Christ, in reforming this world to make it the kind of place it’s supposed to be. What a wonderful time awaits us!

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