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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Deuteronomy 34

 

 


Verses 1-12

DEATH AND BURIAL OF MOSES

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

1And Moses went up from the plains [steppes] 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 Daniel, 2And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Prayer of Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost [hindermost] sea, 3And the south [south land, Negeb], and the plain [circuit] of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar 4 And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according 6 to the word [mouth, command] of the Lord. And he [they, one] buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre[FN1] 7[burial, interment] unto this day. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim [extinguished, weak-sighted], nor his natural force [freshness] abated 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 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of [filled with] 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 10 And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11In all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; 12And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Deuteronomy 34:1-4. The plains of Moab.

Deuteronomy 34:1—as throughout in the book of Numbers is the locality in which the Israelites encamped after the victory over the Amorites. The transaction with Balaam occurred there, and this is the plain referred to in Deuteronomy 1:1 sq. That part of the Arabah lying contiguous to the northern side and end of the Dead Sea, and eastwards, is the Arboth Moab. Through the reception of this formula, usual in the book of Numbers, Deuteronomy is finally organically connected with it. Comp. besides upon Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 3:27; Deuteronomy 3:17. (“The remarkable and strong desire of the dwellers in the desert for burial upon mountain heights is certainly primitive,” says Consul Dr. Wetzstein in his Travels in Hauran and Trachonitis, Berlin, 1860, p26, in reference to the mountain sepulchres. An Arabic poem introduces the dying Sheikh as saying, “Bury me not under the vine which would overshadow me, but upon a mountain, so that my eye can see you. Then pass by my grave and call your names, and my bones shall be quickened when they hear you call.”) The emphatic details in the following description of the view, rest upon the knowledge of the writer of the wide prospect which presents itself there. All the land Isaiah, because especially grateful to Moses, at first Gilead (the East-Jordan land) unto Dan—not Daniel -Laish or Leschem, but as Genesis 14:14, the neighboring Dan Jaan ( 2 Samuel 24:6). Comp. Hengstenberg, Beitrage III. p194. Looking around from the north to the south, the West-Jordan land is described Deuteronomy 34:2 in a way similar to the later Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. Comp. Deuteronomy 11:24. The naming of the districts, as they afterwards were assigned the different tribes, points to Joshua as the writer. Lastly, in Deuteronomy 34:3, the eye rests upon the warmer South, with which comp. Deuteronomy 1:7. הכּר is the circuit more closely defined through the following clause, the low plain of Jericho, thus the Jordan valley. How well the eye could repose here! A feeling of the same kind lies at the basis of the proverb: “See Naples and die.” The description of Jericho as the city of palm trees (the high, erect) brings this out more fully still. Sepp: “At the time of the crusades the oasis of Jericho rose again into a garden of Palestine; now a wretched sight, where balsam-trees once waved, and stately palms swayed their crowns. Of the renowned palm-groves, whence the name palm city is derived, only one stunted tree remains to-day.” Josephus asserts that the district is correctly called an earthly paradise. Ritter, XV. p500. צער, Genesis 19:22; Genesis 13:10; Genesis 14:2, at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. The description which the writer could thus give from his knowledge of the outlook from Nebo, he completes by an application in Deuteronomy 34:4 of the passage Numbers 27:12 sq.: “And see the land which I gave to the children of Israel” (comp. Deuteronomy 32:49) for the present case. Comp. further Genesis 12:7; Deuteronomy 1:37. With thine eyes excludes as the testimony Deuteronomy 34:7, also every esctatic vision, still more any magical influence ( Matthew 4:8; Luke 4:5), but also, it seems clear, any miraculously elevated power of bodily vision for the purpose (Baumgarten, Keil). It was even a proof of his generally unimpaired strength of vision, which the soaring flight of winged faith rendered more penetrating.

2. Deuteronomy 34:5-8. After this introduction there follows now the death and burial of Moses, and the mourning for him. His death occurs upon Nebo, after this survey of the land granted to him in the room of an actual passage into it. Deuteronomy 34:5. עבד־יהוה here, in Deuteronomy 33:1, איש־האלהים. Essentially of the same import, although here the contrast to what is human could not be emphasized, since Moses dies even as all men must die. On the contrary, the emphasis rests upon יהוה, who sanctifies himself in his servant, when his servant failed to sanctify him at the proper place. If Deuteronomy 33:1 brings out more fully the official prophetic activity of Moses, so his official regal or theocratic activity is prominent here. In the land of Moabi.e., not in the promised land. ( Deuteronomy 17:11; Deuteronomy 1:26) על פי הוה does not mean that Moses died at the mouth, kiss of the Lord. [It means unquestionably that the death of Moses took place, not as a result of exhausted vital powers, but at the command of God—a command which came as a fruit of his sin, and as a punishment for it.—A. G.] Deuteronomy 34:6. ויקבר may be generally they, one, buried him; thus the Sept, De Wette, Ewald, Knobel, and others. The connection here does not require “an altogether peculiar kind of burial” (Kurtz), in the sense that Jehovah Himself must have buried him; the necessities of the case are met, if the burial was so secretly cared for by trusted, appointed ones, that the place where Moses was buried should be concealed from every one. But in the New Testament ( Jude, Deuteronomy 34:9) we have an intimation of mysterious and super-earthly forces or agencies in reference to the “body of Moses” (comp. further Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30). This may be only a fittting regard for the Jewish tradition, which Jude assumes in those whom he addressed, in the interest of the controversy he was then carrying on with his opponents. But the Jewish tradition does not conform itself precisely to the letter of the Apostle (comp. upon that passage), and the connection here appears on the whole, from the foregoing Deuteronomy 34:4, to be in favor of regarding Jehovah as the subject. Ziegler: “ Jude, Deuteronomy 34:9, intimates that God was not directly Himself, but indirectly, namely, through the Archangel Michael, who represents the Jewish people, the one who buried the body of Moses.” We may comp. upon this Daniel 10:13; Daniel 12:1 ( Revelation 12:7). קבר may signify primarily to bring together, collect, in agreement with Deuteronomy 32:50; but this supposition is not of such force that we should render: and Jehovah gathered him with his associates there in the valley; for although קְבוּרָה may signify “burial” ( Jeremiah 22:19), thus here; and no one knows how it occurred with his burial—whether he was really altogether buried; still the reference to the grave ( Genesis 35:20) is more obvious. There—not merely with גר (גוה, to compress; thus, valley, literally ravine, defile, בגי, is equivalent to, in some certain depression, hollow place,—so that it is not necessary to refer to Deuteronomy 3:29; Deuteronomy 4:46, but rather to Numbers 21:20, a high valley near the summit of Nebo (Hengstenberg, Hist. of Balaam), as Keil holds), but still so that the locality should be made prominent,—he was buried. Moses did not return from his so frequently repeated, and by Joshua declared, solitary death-journey to Nebo. They are no mere empty repetitions but designed and preparatory. His grave was not to be disclosed, so that there remains for the pious consciousness no other supposition than that of a peculiar divine arrangement in regard to the body of Moses (comp. Doct. and Eth. remarks), which a divine illumination raised to certain knowledge and conviction in the writer. We may observe that the case of Enoch, in his indeed peculiar manner of departure, was still ever received by Israel from Genesis 5:24. (Aben Ezra explains אֹתוֹ according to Exodus 5:19 : he buried himself, i.e. went into a cave and died there).—In the land of Moab, as in Deuteronomy 34:5. עד as in Deuteronomy 3:14. Since Moses, according to Deuteronomy 34:7, upon which Deuteronomy 34:1-4 rest, could have lived longer, so his death appears as a punishment, and the view of his grave and burial given above is confirmed. This view is to be maintained, as his grave and burial testify that he is truly dead. According to Jewish computation in the year of the world2533, and B. C1458. Comp. further Deuteronomy 31:2. Aaron died somewhat older, Numbers 33:39. Moses did not die as Isaac, Genesis 27:1.—Natural force, margin: moisture (freshness), mental and bodily soundness, full, vital energy. As the honoring of Moses, on the part of God, as to his death, so also the mourning, Deuteronomy 34:8, on the part of the people, corresponds to this divine preservation and blessing.—Thirty days, as with Aaron ( Numbers 20:29), as with Jacob (after the forty days for the embalming were closed), Genesis 1:3. In other cases seven days merely, Genesis 1:10 sq.; 1 Samuel 31:13. The distinguishing feature here is the full celebration of this mourning (בכי and אבל, the two together for the sake of strength and emphasis), as this same people, Exodus 32:1, had, instead of mourning for the absence of Moses, danced around the calf. Deuteronomy with the close of the time of mourning embraces a period of two months. Comp. Introd, p11.

3. Deuteronomy 34:9-12. Form the close of the supplement of Deuteronomy by Joshua, and give the point of union for the subsequent development of Israel and its characteristics, with the peculiar personality and official character of Moses (Introd, p4). Deuteronomy 34:9. Joshua personally, the Spirit of wisdom in its fulness really (חָכְמָה, “the power to perceive the nature in and through the appearances, σοφία, Delitzsch,” Isaiah 11:2); the latter bestowed upon the former officially “by the laying on of the hands, still customary in the New Testament” (Schultz). Comp. Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; 2 Timothy 1:6, and thus the next subsequent time of Israel, comp. Numbers 27:18 sq, is introduced.—[חָכְמָה is used in varied applications in the Scriptures, from the lowest exercises of wisdom to its highest, when it becomes equivalent to piety. Here perhaps it is the practical Wisdom of Solomon, that which was necessary to his office as the leader of the people—A. G.]—The obedience of Israel legitimates the succession of Joshua as a matter of fact; but Moses ever remains the first. The wisdom of Joshua reveals itself still further, and therefore the wisdom of the author and writer of these supplements of Deuteronomy, in Deuteronomy 34:10, when the peculiar, fundamental character of the appearance of Moses for all subsequent time is at the very first distinctly recognized and stated. (“That Joshua should already make this remark is explained upon the ground that he had from his stand-point an insight into the course of the history of Israel.” Baumgarten.) Comp. Deuteronomy 18:15 sq.; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8.—[The words do not necessarily imply that a long series of prophets had risen up since Moses. They are plainly prophetic, grounded upon special insight into the future, upon the passages referred to, and upon the known position of Moses as the founder of the Old Covenant.—A. G.]—It is especially the personal nearness and the confidential, conversational manner of Jehovah with Moses which are alluded to (Baumgarten: “who knew him, Jehovah” (?)), while Joshua, e.g. is dependent upon the high-priestly office ( Numbers 27:21). Upon this rests the “clear and all comprehensive revelation” (V. Gerlach), which fell to the lot of Moses. Comp. Doct. and Eth. upon chap, 32; from this arises also, Deuteronomy 34:11-12, the wonderful and mighty agency of Moses, of which all Israel is the witness. לכל, etc., must be taken in connection with ולא־קם. Deuteronomy 34:12. Mighty hand is equivalent to power shown and experienced, Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 11:3; Deuteronomy 26:8; Deuteronomy 29:1-2.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The look of Moses over Canaan reminds us of Genesis 13:14-15. Still, how different the end of Moses, and that of Abraham! Abraham died in a good old age, old and full of years; Moses dies under a divine judicial sentence, and it is remarkable, says Auberlen (Contributions to Christian Knowledge, p74), “that while the word faith never occurs expressly in the Pentateuch in reference to Moses, his unbelief as such is charged upon him, Numbers 20:12. There was nothing ever expressly blamed in Abraham; in the time of the law, God reproves and punishes sins more sharply. Thus the law-giver must experience the killing strength of the strict divine law. The man of promise and of faith receives a pleasant, peaceful departure out of this life; but there lies upon the death of the man of the law, somewhat of the curse of the law, something unatoned which calls so much the louder for the reconciliation in the New Covenant, for redemption from sin and death, Romans 4:15; Romans 3:20; 2 Corinthians 3:6.

2. “As Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, leaves His disciples before they were made partakers of the promise of the Holy Spirit, and were endowed with strength from on high for the new life, so Moses, the Mediator of the Old Covenant, must take his departure before the people in possession of the promised land saw the word of God fulfilled, and even were filled with it.” V. Gerlach.

3. “Moses saw the Holy Land from afar, as the saints of the Old Testament all the promises, Hebrews 11:13; he saw it as the shadow and outline of the true Canaan ( Hebrews 11:16), into which he should immediately pass without having seen it beforehand.” Richter.

4. The vision of the promised land is on one side indeed a favor; but then it was likewise added: and thither thou shalt not come, and thus there is contained in it on the other side also the full severity of the sentence against Moses. So also the preservation of the vital strength of Moses Isaiah, on one hand, a proof of special grace, and on the other presents this Moses as a transgressor likewise, who has cast away his life, and was led to death in the midst of his days. That Moses, the servant of Jehovah, must suffer this sore death, is a fearful triumph of the power of death, at which all human nature must grow faint and despair. But Israel could not endure this victory of death over its head and its leader, and would fall into doubt past recovery, whether his redemption and his law could work, secure, even the least enduring salvation, if no ray of light should fall upon this power of death over Moses, and this consoling ray streams forth from the burial of Moses. Because some have failed to look into the whole depth of the death of Moses, they have failed also rightly to understand his burial.” Baumgarten.

5. “Wonderful in his childhood and in his whole life, so also now in his death. The man whom the Lord had so known heretofore that no prophet should arise henceforth like him in Israel, was after his whole manifestation so hidden in God that even his body was not buried by any human hand. His appearance is like the lightning-flash, which breaks forth suddenly from the darkness, shows a shining path before the people for a moment, and then immediately vanishes, even as to its material substance, to a place which no one can find.” Ziegler. Josephus relates that Moses, after he had embraced Joshua and Eleazar for the last time, while he was still speaking to them, was suddenly borne away by a cloud into a valley, and so vanished from their sight. It is interesting also in reference to his character as a legislator, in which he stands related to Moses, that even Calvin’s grave cannot be found.

6. The reason usually given since the time of Augustine why the burial of Moses was held and kept so secret is not as Ziegler formulates it: “probably for this reason, that thereby his body and grave should be kept from being regarded as relies of the dead, thus for the sake of the distant future, and before that future, to debar any possible superstition or idolatrous reverence for his grave.” Schultz says correctly: “The Israelites were never inclined to human idolatry. But if he actually stood in so clear a relation to God as the history in the Pentateuch represents, he could not so fall under the power of death and corruption that nothing of that earlier distinction should remain. It was not necessary for the sake of Israel that they should look upon that face laid in death which had once so shone from communion with God, that he had to put a veil upon it, as Jerome has already remarked.” Comp. Kurtz, Geshich. II, pp526 sq, who urges against the reason above mentioned the fact that every one knew where the grave of Abraham was, and then asserts that the burial of Moses was intended “to place him in the same category with Enoch and Elijah, not indeed as to an exemption from death, but most probably from corruption; the form of existence in the life beyond was similar to theirs; the way to it for him was different from that for them; but still not in a condition of absolute perfection and glorification of which Christ must be the first-fruits ( 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23), although not either in the condition of the dark Sheol-life,” etc.

7. The wonderful burial of Moses has also its decided prophetic element with reference to the burial of Christ; the discourse, however, cannot relate to the resurrection, as to this a veil lies upon the Old Covenant generally. “The fact that Jehovah notwithstanding Satan’s protest” (remarks Kurtz, Geshich. II., p529 sq.), “exempts the body of Moses from the general doom of the sinful human race, becomes a type and example of future endlessly greater and more glorious things. That the founder of the Old Covenant must die on account of sin is a testimony to the truth, that he is not the true mediator, and that the covenant introduced by him is not complete; that it, although לדרת עולם founded, needs still a completion through a second Mediator, who lives forevermore. The death of Moses was not like the death of the first Adam which issued in corruption; but neither was it like the death of the second Adam which issues in the resurrection; it was rather a middle form of death between the two, as Moses himself and his office occupied a middle position between the first and the second Adam, between the head of the sinful, dying humanity and the head of the humanity redeemed from sin and death. Since the death of Moses was indeed a real death, but still as to its natural progress restrained, and his condition therefore an imperfect one, still in suspense, which demands and awaits a completion, it becomes itself a prophecy of this completion. And if Moses who was entrusted with the whole house of God could not still bring the organization of the house of God to its absolute perfection, and therefore received the promise of a second prophet and mediator, so we are justified also in regarding his peculiar, unique death and burial as a memorable type of the death and burial of this future prophet like unto Moses.”

8. “Compare the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. In this at the same time personal and universal historical Pauline deduction, we have stated the ground of that strife between Satan and Michael about the body of Moses. The fact that the law through the sin already existing before it, “becomes an incitement, a cause and temptation to wider sin; that through it sin is first truly set in its full light, first becomes strong, living, even more and more powerful and exceedingly sinful; this is the ground for the apparent claim of right on the part of Satan to the body of Moses, which claim was so apparent and plausible, that Michael did not bring against him a railing accusation, etc. But the fact that the law, notwithstanding its working evil, through the corrupted state of the human conscience, through which it could even become an instrument in the hands of Satan, is holy, just, and good, and as it was given by God originally, tended only to life,—this was the ground of the real and legal claim on the part of Michael to the body of Moses.” [“When the Israel of God goes into the spiritual Canaan, under the command and leading of Jesus, the divine Joshua, then the law which is as it were the body of Moses, is buried; for we are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that we should be joined to another, Jesus,—even to Him who is raised from the dead, ( Romans 7:1-4), and it is God only who can bury the body of Moses, because it is only God in Christ who could abolish its ordinances, and reclaim it from its curse ( Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:13; Colossians 2:14; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 9:9-11; Hebrews 10:1-9); and now that it is buried, let no one seek to revive it as the Judaizers did, ( Galatians 4:9-11; Galatians 5:4).” Wordsworth.—A. G.].

9. “The peculiar preservation” (Schultz upon Deuteronomy 34:7) of those who live more than others in the Lord, appears in another form; the outward eye is closed in order that the inward may see the more clearly; then arises a new world, and an inward life-energy unfolds itself, which is not less wonderful than the outward. But still for those whose mission concerns pre-eminently external things, Moses remains their permanent type.” Homer, on the other hand, is always represented as blind.

10. The personality of Moses at its beginning and close appears to be typical for the later prophetic order; at least in the first relation the calling of Jeremiah ( Deuteronomy 1:6, comp. Exodus 3:11), appears to be connected with that of Moses, and in the last we are reminded of the wonderful end of Elijah. Elisha as Joshua.

11. [“There is but One who is worthy of greater honor than Moses, namely, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, who is placed as a Son over all the house of God, in which Moses was found faithful as a servant (comp. Hebrews 3:2-6 with Numbers 12:7), Jesus Christ, the founder and Mediator of the New and Everlasting Covenant.” Keil. Whom God not only knew face to face as He knew Moses, but who is in the bosom of the Father, ( John 1:18), and in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom ( Colossians 2:3), and all the fulness of the Godhead ( Colossians 2:9), Wordsworth.—A. G.].

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Deuteronomy 34:1 sq. Starke: “Pious Christians do not fear death, but look forward to it; and go to meet it with peace, Luke 2:29; Philippians 1:23; Genesis 49:33.” Cramer: “Whoever will die blessed should refresh his faith in the ascension of Christ, and his hope that believers leaving the world follow him.” The God of peace has brought again from the dead, the great Shepherd of the sheep, etc., Hebrews 13:20.—Starke: “Faithful servants of God, who have borne great labor and care in their office, must often leave the world before they enjoy the fruits of their toil.—God does not permit His children to leave the world without consolation, but gives them a foretaste of future glory, Luke 2:29-30; Acts 7:55-56.” Berl. Bib.: “God leads men inwardly also to a mountain, and shows them the throne of eternity, and as then the sweet drops of the heavenly Jerusalem fall upon their hearts, so they look into the promised land.”—But Satan also imitates God, and stands upon the heights, Matthew 4.

Deuteronomy 34:4. Starke: “With God there is no respect of persons, He punishes whoever sins, the high as well as the lowly.”

Deuteronomy 34:5. Be faithful unto death, Revelation 2:10.—If the faithfulness of the Lord to us is our beginning and progress, our goal is our faithfulness to the Lord.—Starke: “The truest glory, and the most honorable title in death: a faithful servant of the Lord.”—Whether any one is faithful can first be said at the end.—Consider their conversation, end, Hebrews 13:7.—A good end places the crown upon a good life.—The last journey of Moses: may our end be that of this righteous one.—Florey: “The death of Moses a testimony, how the divine grace reveals itself to the faithful servants of God, even in their departure: 1) because the faithful servants of God have their departure in serene strength; 2) because they enjoy communion with God until their very end; 3) because they may in this life already have a view of the land of promise; 4) because they are blessed of the Lord with believing successors.” Berl. Bib.: “In the opinion of the Jews he died at the end of our February.—But the glory of the first covenant must cease, and it cannot bring ns to blessedness.”

Deuteronomy 34:6. We should not confound, as it concerns the guarding against possible idolatry, Moses with Mohammed.—Richter: “In the Ante-type, Christ, the angels also were active.” Lange: “At death the soul journeys upwards, but the body must come to the earth, the deep valley of its true humiliation.” Cramer: “Christ has buried Moses and silenced the curse of the law, ( 1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 6:14; Romans 8:1), therefore we do not fear in death.”—Starke: “The care of God for His own does not cease, neither in death nor after it.” Deuteronomy 34:7.—Zinzendorf: “In the world it occurs truly, that one grows so old that he is unable to do anything, and if he has been a great man some seventy years, still in his last days passes into oblivion. On the other hand, our verse is a testimony which is in part unique, that we do not come into rest, and obtain permission in weariness to lay aside our work before all His counsel has come to pass.” Lange: “The strength of Moses, even until his death, represents that his economy should remain in its full strength until the death of Christ. Until that occurred the disciples of Christ were bound by it,” Luke 17:14. Deuteronomy 34:8. Berlb. Bib.: “It is sad to separate from godly persons and guidance, especially if we through their service have seen and known much of the glory and power of God.” Deuteronomy 34:9. Wurth. Bib.: “Upon whom God imposes an office, him He qualifies with the necessary gifts for its duties.” Richter: “The cheerful obedience of Israel is confirmed through the book of Joshua. Moses brought the people to this, that it was obedient to Joshua; thus the law brings us to Christ, and remains our rule, if we will follow the true Joshua.” Deuteronomy 34:10 sq. Starke: “Pious, excellent people, may be held in honorable remembrance in funeral discourses, monumental inscriptions, and the like, Psalm 112:6.” Auberlen: “The relation of the promise to the law, impresses itself even upon their representatives. But with this is connected the fact that the work of Moses is altogether different from that of Abraham. The one receives, the other gives. Naturally Moses gave only to the people what he had received from God; but his essential work is to introduce what he had received to the people; he is the mediator between God and the people ( Galatians 3:20). Abraham, on the other hand, has only to receive in faith what God offered him, and to preserve it; he had to mediate for no one besides his family, and especially the children of the promise ( Genesis 18:19), but this even in no essential respect different from that in which every father of a family, and even Moses himself must care for the religious instruction of his own. Thus Abraham’s calling in relation to God is entirely closed in faith; here also lie the difficulties, temptations, and thorns of his path; he is exclusively the religious hero. In Moses on the contrary, his relation to the people grows out of, and rests upon his relation to God; faith in him Isaiah, so to speak, a presupposition, under which he has a great work to do, love to exercise, since the liberation and leading of the people was given into his hands. From religious roots there grew up for him mighty moral labors. The difficulties in his pathway lay therefore in relation to the people, in this, that he had ever anew to bear and overcome the murmuring and obstinacy of the children of Israel. God made faith much easier to him than to Abraham. While God appears to Abraham only now and then, and after long intervals, Moses has constantly the divine presence a presence which is a Revelation, in the pillar of cloud and fire, and was honored also with much oftener repeated, more lengthy, and more condescending, special Revelation, etc. While still further Abraham in the revelations of God, was accustomed only to receive words from him, words of promise, which offer to him no present good, but point him to a most indefinite future, Moses saw in Egypt and the desert, the great deeds of God, his faith was strengthened by these mighty wonders, which have somewhat not only directly convincing, but overpowering in themselves. Moreover Moses himself is endowed with miraculous strength, and could thus feel the Divine strength present in his own person, ( Exodus 4:1 sq.), which was not the case with Abraham, since he did not have to deal with an unbelieving people. Lastly, Moses was prepared for his task with all the means of human science and culture ( Acts 7:22) while Abraham was a simple shepherd, and his wisdom doubtless purely the divine. Thus Moses has fulfilled his calling entirely, with the same faithfulness that Abraham manifested in his, although he has not attained the same measure with him in the life of faith. He is so good a shepherd (comp. John 10:11), that he not only, when Jehovah offered him, to make him as it were a new Abraham, declined the offer ( Exodus 32:11) but will suffer himself to be blotted out from the book of life, for an atonement for the sins of his people, ( Deuteronomy 34:32). While he thus in self-denying love mediates for the people with God, he does not on the other hand grow weary in bearing their obstinacy and complaints. As therefore Abraham was renowned for the special charism of faith, so Moses was for that of patience ( Numbers 12:3). Compare the connection of faith and patience, Revelation 13:10. As therefore Abraham as the father of believers surpassed all his successors, in faith, so Moses is glorified, in the fact, that henceforth no prophet should arise in Israel like unto him, i.e., among all those who might have the same task with him, namely, to bring the word of God to the people, and to be through that word a leader and shepherd for it. Moses was, as in respect to time, so also in fact, as in the commencement of his calling, so in his faithfulness to it afterwards, the first and most prominent. Thus we recognize with a holy admiration how God adjusts so fitly their callings to His chosen, and measures to them with the same fitness the burdens and duties, the helps and alleviations. He is truly a God to whom one may safely entrust himself. But He will never permit heavy labors, temptations, and crushing sorrows, to fail any one of His servants; they all bear the cross, and must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Deuteronomy 34:6. The A. V. is preferable to that suggested by Schroeder. It is the place of burial, not the fact, which is unknown.—A. G.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 34:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/deuteronomy-34.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 29th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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