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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 34

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan,

Moses went up from the plains of Moab. This chapter appears, from internal evidence, to have been written subsequently to the death of Moses; and it probably formed at one time an introduction to the book of Joshua, the first eight verses being probably written by him immediately after the death of Moses, and the last four verses by Ezra. Josephus says that Moses wrote the account of his death before his ascent to Nebo ('Antiquities,' b. 4:, ch. 8:, sec. 48).

Unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah - literally, the head or summit of the Pisgah; i:e., the height (cf. Numbers 23:14; Deuteronomy 3:17-27; Deuteronomy 4:49). The general name given to the whole mountain range east of Jordan was Abarim (cf. Deuteronomy 32:49): and the peak to which Moses ascended was dedicated to the pagan Nebo, as Balaam's standing place had been consecrated to Peor. Some modern travelers have fixed on Jebel-Attarus, a high mountain south of the Jabbok (Zerka), as the Nebo of this passage, (Burckhardt, Seetzen, etc.) But it is situated too far north for a height which, being described as "over against Jericho," must be looked for above the last stage of the Jordan, between the Jordan and Heshbon.

The credit of discovering the precise peak, bearing the name and answering to the position of mount Nebo, appears due to M. De Sauley, and it has been confirmed by the recent scientific traveler, Mr. Tristram, 'On leaving the plain,' says De Sauley, 'to the south of Heshbon, and entering on the hilly district which reaches to Medeba and Main, I found myself in a shallow valley between two eminences-the one on the right (west) called Jebel Neba, the one on the left (east) Jebel Jelul-i.e, "the glorious, illustrious mountain." The former of these is mount Nebo. From this mount the view over the Ghor and the highlands of Canaan beyond it is magnificent; and it is easy to understand how Moses was brought to that spot to see the promised land before his death' ('Voyage en Terre Sainte ').

The Lord showed him all the land of Gilead. That pastoral region was discernible at the northern extremity of the mountain-line on which he stood, until it ended, far beyond his sight, in Dan. Westward, there were on the horizon the distant hills of "all Naphtali." Coming nearer, was "the land of Ephraim and Manasseh." Immediately opposite was "all the land of Judah" - a title at first restricted to the portion of this tribe beyond which were "the utmost sea" (the Mediterranean) and the desert of the "south." These were the four great marks of the future inheritance of his people, on which the narrative fixes our attention.

Immediately below him was 'the circle' of the plain of Jericho, with its forest of palm trees eight miles long; and far away on his left, the last inhabited spot before the great desert, "Zoar." The foreground of the picture alone was clearly discernible. There was no miraculous power of vision imparted to Moses. That he should see all that is described is what any man could do, if he attained sufficient elevation. The atmosphere of the climate is so subtle and free from vapour that the sight is carried to a distance of which the beholder, who judges from the more dense air of Europe, can form no idea (Vere Munro). But between him and that 'good land' the deep valley of the Jordan intervened; he was not to "go over there."

Verses 2-4

And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 5

So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.

So Moses the servant of the Lord, [ `ebed (H5650) Yahweh (H3068)] - sometimes used to designate a worshipper of Yahweh (Ezra 5:11; Neb. 1:10; 6:21), but specially a minister or ambassador called of God, and commissioned to perform a particular service. This title - "the servant of the Lord" - was bestowed upon Moses as a distinguished honour (cf. Joshua 1:2, etc.), not only to enhance his dignity, but to impart authority and influence to his laws and institutions.

Died - after having governed the Israelites forty years.

According to the word of the Lord, [ `al (H5921) piy (H6310) Yahweh (H3068)] - by the mouth of the Lord. (The Jewish rabbis render it. 'by the kiss of the Lord.') [Septuagint, dia reematos kuriou.] The unalterable decree of God was, that Moses should not be permitted, in consequence of his unbelief, to enter into the promised land of Canaan. And in this fact we have an instance that sin may be forgiven, and the sinner pardoned, so as to be received into the divine favour, while yet he may be doomed to suffer its temporal penalty (cf. 2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Chronicles 35:22-25).

Verse 6

And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

He buried him - or, impersonally, 'he was buried in a valley;' i:e., a ravine or gorge of the Pisgah. Some think that he entered a cave and there died, being, according to an ancient tradition of Jews and Christians, carried by angels (Numbers 21:20; Jude 1:9) into heaven. The obscure allusion of Jude to Satan's contest about the body of Moses, as if a translation were depriving him 'that has the power of death' of his rights, seems to countenance the idea that the body of the great lawgiver was not left to mingle with the dust; and his re-appearance in the scene of the transfiguration, with Elijah, seems to give it additional support.

No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day This concealment seems to have been owing to a special No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. This concealment seems to have been owing to a special and wise arrangement of Providence, to prevent its being ranked among 'holy places,' and made the resort of superstitious pilgrims or idolatrous veneration in later ages.

Verse 7

And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. He seems to have been endowed with supernatural vigour, which sustained his bodily and mental powers to the eve of the entrance into Canaan, when his work was completed.

Verse 8

And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.

Wept for Moses thirty days. Seven days was the usual period of mourning; but for persons of high rank or official eminence, it was extended to thirty (Genesis 50:3-10; Numbers 20:29). It was and is customary in the East for friends to mourn very bitterly over such as were absent from home when they died, and were buried at a distance from their relations. It was after this manner that the Israelites lamented the death of Moses. He was absent from them when he died; nor did they carry him in public procession, but they wept for him in the plains of Moab. Josephus gives a highly embellished account of this universal mourning (see 'Antiquities,' b.

iv., ch. 8:, sec. 48).

Verse 9

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.

Joshua ... was full of the spirit of wisdom - he was appointed to a special and extraordinary office: he was not the successor of Moses; for he was not a prophet or civil ruler, but the general or leader, called to head the people in the war of invasion and the subsequent allocation of the tribes.

Verses 10-12

And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,

There arose not a prophet since. In whatever light we view this extraordinary man, the eulogy pronounced in these inspired words will appear just. No Hebrew prophet or ruler equalled him in character, official dignity, as well as knowledge of God's will, and opportunities of announcing it.

(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 34". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-34.html. 1871-8.
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