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Moses Dies and Is Buried in the Land of Moab


Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the L ord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4The L ord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5Then Moses, the servant of the L ord, died there in the land of Moab, at the L ord’s command. 6He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the L ord had commanded Moses.

10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the L ord knew face to face. 11He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the L ord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

1. And Moses went. up from the plains of Moab. It is not certain who wrote this chapter; unless we admit the probable conjecture of the ancients, that Joshua was its author. But since Eleazar the priest might have performed this office, it will be better to leave a matter of no very great importance undecided.

We have elsewhere said, that one part of mount Abarim was called Nebo, as another was called Pisgah, because they were distinct summits.

Now, the ascent of Moses was equivalent to a voluntary going forth to death: for he was not ignorant of what was to happen, but being called by God to die, he went to meet death of his own accord. Such willing submission proceeded from no other source than faith in God’s grace, whereby alone all terror is mitigated, and set at rest, and the bitterness of death is sweetened. Doubtless to Moses, as to every one else, it must have been naturally an awful thing to die; but inasmuch as the testimony of God’s grace is interposed, he does not hesitate to offer himself without alarm; and Because he was firmly persuaded that the inheritance of the people would be there set before his eyes, he cheerfully ascended to the place from which he was to behold it. Already, indeed, by faith had he beheld the land, and the promise of God had been, as it were, a lively representation of it; but; since some remaining infirmities of the flesh still environ even the most holy persons, an ocular view of it was no slight consolation, in order to mitigate the bitterness of his punishment, when he knew that he was prevented from actually entering it by the just sentence of God.

When it is said, that God “showed him all the land,” it could not have been the case without a miracle. For, although history records that some have been endued with incredible powers of vision, so as to have been able to see further than the whole length of Canaan; there is still a peculiarity to be remarked in this case, that Moses distinctly examined every portion of it, as if he had been really on the spot. I allow, indeed, that Naphtali, and Ephraim, and Manasseh are mentioned by anticipation, but, nevertheless, the Holy Spirit would express that every part was shown to Moses, as if they were close beneath his feet. Else the vision would have been but unsatisfactory and useless, if he had not been allowed to behold the future habitation of the people. And to the same effect is also what is afterwards added, that it was the land, which God sware to give unto His servants; for otherwise the desire of Moses would not have been satisfied, unless he had seen what a pleasant, fertile, and wealthy region the sons of Abraham were about to inhabit.

5. So Moses the servant of the Lord died. Since it was mark of ignominy to die without the borders of the Holy Land, Moses is honored with high eulogy, in order that the Israelites might learn the more to tremble at the judgment of God, who did not spare even his most illustrious servant. And it is expressly added, “according to the word (or mouth) of the Lord,” lest they should despise the threatenings which were accomplished in so memorable a manner. For, if God spared not His own distinguished Prophet, but at length executed upon him what He had threatened, how should the ordinary multitude escape?

What follows, “he buried him,” some render passively, “he was buried;” and others transitively, “he buried himself;” but in both cases improperly; for, whilst they are afraid to assign this office to God, they labor to avoid an absurdity which does not exist; since it may be gathered from the end of the verse, that Moses was buried by divine means, for it is said that his sepulcher is unknown. It is likely that an effort to discover it was not omitted, or neglected to be made by the people; since it would have been barbarous for them not to discharge the last offices of humanity towards such, and so great a man. Since, therefore, no signs of his funeral, nor his body itself, were anywhere to be found, it might be inferred that he was hidden by God’s determinate counsel; whilst it is superfluous to discuss in what manner God buried him, inasmuch as all the elements are under His control. It was enough, therefore, for Him to signify (annuere) to the earth, that it was to receive the body of the holy man into its bosom: nor was there any necessity to call in the assistance of angels, as some think, since the earth would have instantly obeyed the command of its Creator. From the Epistle of Jude (Jude 9) we learn that it was a matter of no slight importance that the sepulcher of Moses should be concealed from the eyes of men, for he informs us that a dispute arose respecting it. between Michael the archangel, and Satan: and, although the cause of its concealment is not stated, still it appears to have been God’s intention to prevent superstition; for it was usual with the Jews, and it is a custom for which Christ reproves them, to kill the prophets, and then to pay reverence to their tombs. (Luke 11:47.) It would have, therefore, been probable that, in order to blot out the recollection of their ingratitude, they would have paid superstitious veneration to the holy prophet, and so have carried his corpse into the land, from which the sentence of God had excluded it. Timely precaution, then, was taken, lest in their inconsiderate zeal the people should attempt to subvert the decree of heaven.

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