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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Deuteronomy 34

 

 

Verses 1-12

THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF MOSES

(vs.1-12)

Thus Moses has given his last message to Israel, so that this chapter is necessarily penned by a different writer. Moses, fully aware that he would die on Mount Nebo, goes with calm confidence in the living God to his appointed end. Evidently he went alone, and the writer of this history therefore received his information of this occasion directly from the Lord. Ascending to the top of Pisgah, which means "survey," he was there shown by God all the land of Gilead as far as Dan (v.1) at the extreme north of the land, all Naphtali, Ephraim and Manasseh and Judah as far as the Western Sea (the Mediterranean). These of course were the possessions that God had purposed for these tribes. The south of the land also was included and the plain of the valley of Jericho, which was much closer (v.3). Certainly all of this panoramic view would not normally be visible from that point, but God made it visible to Moses on this one occasion.

In this beautiful way the grace of God transcended His stern government. His government could not allow Moses to enter the land, but His grace enabled him to see it all, which he would not do by entering it, and which no Israelite who entered would see. More than this, in the New Testament (Matthew 17:1-3) Moses is seen in the land, but with his interest not fixed on the land at all, but on the Lord Jesus, transfigured before his eyes. Marvelous blessing indeed for the deeply tried leader of Israel!

The Lord told Moses on Mount Nebo that this was the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to their descendants, and though Moses had seen it, he would not cross over the Jordan to enter it. Thus this faithful servant of the Lord died as the Lord had told him he would (v.5). But Israel could have no burial service for him. Instead, Moses had the unique distinction of being buried by God with no observer present. Not even Satan knew his burying place, for Judges 1:9 tells us that there was a dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil concerning the body of Moses, which was settled by Michael's wise words, "The Lord rebuke you." If Satan had known where Moses' body was buried, how likely it is he would have moved people to build a shrine of idolatrous worship there. But Moses, faithful man of God as he was, is not to be worshiped.

The age of Moses at his death was 120 years, yet his eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished (v.7). He did not die of disease nor of old age, but God took his life at God's appointed time. What a life indeed of faithful devotedness to God in the face of almost every kind of opposition! Yet he was a man subject to the same sinful tendencies as we are. He is a striking proof of the fact that God will provide the necessary grace and strength for the carrying out of any responsibility that He may put upon any believer.

Though they could not attend his funeral, the children of Israel mourned for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days (v.8). No indication is given that Israel thought Moses might just be lost on the mountain, and therefore send men to search for him, as the sons of the prophets did when Elijah had been translated by God (2 Kings 2:15-18). There was no precipitate action on Israel's part to press into the land. God would have them in a state of calm submission to Him and to His working before He called them to attack their enemies. The thirty days mourning was therefore a good preparation

However, God had prepared Joshua as a successor to Moses, giving him a spirit of wisdom for the service he was now to take up in a way clearly distinct from that of Moses, yet with the full fellowship of Moses, who had laid his hands on Joshua, an expression of identification with him as the new leader of Israel (v.9). Whatever service may be necessary to be performed, only the person God prepares for it will be able to perform it.

Yet we are told that since that time there has not arisen another prophet like Moses (v.10). Are we not absolutely amazed at the tremendous accomplishments of that one man in leading over two million people through a wilderness for forty years? His nearness to God was the one secret of his endurance (Hebrews 11:27).

All the signs and wonders that God sent him to do in Egypt are specifically mentioned, which would include the ten plagues sent on Egypt and the passage of the Red Sea (v.11). The wilderness history also was attended by "mighty power and great terror," such as the destruction of Korab, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:28-35). Through all of these things Moses remained the faithful, humble servant of God, never exalting himself or glorying in his prominence. Yet throughout his life he was too greatly dishonored by Israel. Since his death, however, Israel has held him in great esteem! Such is the sad perversity of the hearts of people generally!

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 34:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/deuteronomy-34.html. 1897-1910.

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