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by Wayne Blank
It must have been a very emotional moment for Moses, looking out from the top of Mount Nebo and seeing the promised land, while knowing he would not enter. After all of his exploits during the Exodus, and after struggling 40 years in the wilderness leading the constantly complaining and disobedient Israelites, he was being allowed to go this far and no farther. He had made a serious error in judgment regarding The Lord's miraculous power, in effect claiming supernatural ability to himself, and was then paying the price:
"Now there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people contended with Moses, and said, "Would that we had died when our brethren died before The Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of The Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink."
Mount Nebo is located in Moab, east of the Jordan River, which today is in the Kingdom of Jordan. It rises more than 1,200 meters / 4,000 feet over the nearby Dead Sea, and from it a great amount of Israel can be seen on a clear day. The magnificent view would have made the scene all that more bittersweet - a tear or two very possibly ran down that noble old weather-beaten face as he gazed out over the land he would not now enter.
Soon after viewing the promised land, Moses died and was buried there in Moab. He was by then very elderly, but apparently still very strong and vigorous: "Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." (Deuteronomy 34:7 RSV). The Lord probably just had him have something like a sudden massive heart attack - quick and relatively painless.
Despite the troubles and insubordination that they gave him while he was alive, after he died the Israelites realized that they had lost a great leader: "And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended." (Deuteronomy 34:8 RSV). His exact grave location is unknown, likely to keep people then, and today, from idolizing it.
We need not feel too sorry for Moses for the way he died however. While he didn't quite make it into Israel's physical promised land, he was nearly always a loyal, obedient and hardworking servant of The Lord. His humanity failed him, but he didn't fail God. He is still held in very high regard by God, and the Bible clearly states that he will be in The Kingdom of God (Matthew 17:3), the true and eternal Promised Land.
Fact Finder: Did Satan try to steal Moses' dead body?