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Home » Daily Readings

The Death of Moses

Submitted by on Wednesday, 12 August 2009No Comment

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NAB HomepageToday’s Readings

At the end of Deuteronomy, we are told four things:

  1. God showed Moses the extent of the Promised Land just as He did to Abraham, from Mt. Nebo. But He showed it to Moses as to one who will not set foot on it.
  2. An account of the death and burial of Moses. We are told that despite his 120 years, Moses was still in vigor. He was buried in a ravine “opposite Beth-peor”. Yet the author tells us that “until this day no one knows the burial place”
  3. Joshua takes the place of Moses who had laid his hands on him as one passing the torch to another. Later Joshua will lead the confederation of the tribe of Israel to a renewal of the covenant in Canaan.
  4. The final remarks of the redactor is like a tribute to Moses and describes how Moses will be remembered in Israel: (
    1. he knew the Lord face to face
    2. and he had no equal in the signs and wonders he performed for the Lord.

One of the things that people wonder about Moses is that God did not allow him to enter the Promised Land. And this despite the fact that he was like God’s best friend. The answer is Moses’s sin; even Moses failed to trust to God.

In Numbers 20:2-13 we are given the account of Moses striking the Rock. Scholars see here at least three possible sins of Moses:

  1. God told Moses to “speak to the Rock” so that it will yield water, but Moses struck the Rock twice showing his lack of trust.
  2. In Psalm 106:33 we are informed that because Moses was provoked by the Israelites, he uttered rash words. Two possibilities come from this: the first is that because of the harsh words of Moses (see v. 10) Israel failed to see the act of providing water as an act of mercy from God.
  3. The second possibility deriving from the note from Psalm 106:33 is that the words of Moses and Aaron make it appear that they are the ones who have the power of bringing forth water.

Psalm 106 however attributes Moses’ affliction in not being able to enter the Promised Land to the provocations of Israel in the desert (v. 32). In this sense, Moses was like an object lesson and example of those who rebelled against the Lord.

On the other hand, Joshua, Moses’ apprentice all throughout the books of Exodus and Numbers now takes on the role of Moses. He will lead the Israelites across the waters of the Jordan in a way similar to the crossing of the Red Sea and will lead Israel in the destruction of Jericho. Joshua was a layman who comes from the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe that will become dominant among the Northern tribes of Israel. The tribe became known as the most militaristic of the Twelve tribes because of the invasions Joshua led in the land of Canaan. From Ephraim too will rise the first king of Israel, Saul.

Numbers 20:2-13
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
2And the people wanting water, came together against Moses and Aaron:
3And making a sedition, they said: Would God we had perished among our brethren before the Lord.
4Why have you brought out the church of the Lord into the wilderness, that both we and our cattle should die?
5Why have you made us come up out of Egypt, and have brought us into this wretched place which cannot be sowed, nor bringeth forth figs, nor vines, nor pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink?
6And Moses and Aaron leaving the multitude, went into the tabernacle of the covenant, and fell flat upon the ground, and cried to the Lord, and said: O Lord God, hear the cry of this people, and open to them thy treasure, a fountain of living water, that being satisfied, they may cease to murmur. And the glory of the Lord appeared over them.
7And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
8Take the rod, and assemble the people together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak to the rock before them, and it shall yield waters. And when thou hast brought forth water out of the rock, all the multitude and their cattle shall drink.
9Moses therefore took the rod, which was before the Lord, as he had commanded him,
10And having gathered together the multitude before the rock, he said to them: Hear, ye rebellious and incredulous: Can we bring you forth water out of this rock?
11And when Moses had lifted up his hand, and struck the rock twice with the rod, there came forth water in great abundance, so that the people and their cattle drank,
12And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron: Because you have not believed me, to sanctify me before the children of Israel, you shall not bring these people into the land, which I will give them.
13This is the Water of contradiction, where the children of Israel strove with words against the Lord, and he was sanctified in them.
Psalm 106:33
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
33Because they exasperated his spirit. And he distinguished with his lips.
Psalm 106:33
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
33Because they exasperated his spirit. And he distinguished with his lips.

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