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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 1

A commentary on the first speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 1-4. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 16

The Death of Moses

When Moses begged God to allow him to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land with the others, God was quite blunt in His refusal, as Moses says in Deut. 3:26,

26 But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, “Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter.”

Changing God’s Mind

When the Israelites refused to enter Canaan in Numbers 13 and 14, God rendered a verdict, stating that those adults would die in the wilderness and that Israel would remain in the wilderness for a full 40 years. Once His verdict had been rendered, no man could appeal the case, for there was no higher court of appeal.

There are times, however, when we may appear to change God's mind. Such occasions will not change God's plan, but they may change His will. In other words, if God's plan calls for a change in His will, then He will motivate someone to pray to change His will in order to conform to the long-term plan.

When the Israelites believed the evil report of the ten spies, God presented His will to Moses in Num. 14:12,

12 I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.

We then read how Moses argued against this, and God appeared to change His mind accordingly. Did God already know what He would do? Of course. If Moses knew a good reason why God should not dispossess Israel, then certainly God knew it as well. God did not need Moses to keep Him informed or to challenge His loss of memory. It was actually God's way of testing Moses, so that later generations would understand that Moses was not acting out of self-interest.

Jeremiah gives us an example of God telling the prophet not to pray further about a matter. Jeremiah 7 gives us the final verdict against Judah and Jerusalem coming from the Divine Court, saying that God would forsake Jerusalem as He had forsaken Shiloh many years earlier. The case was closed, the matter was settled. Jer. 7:16 says,

16 As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.

Throughout Scripture, God warns people of the final verdict that will be rendered if they continue their courses of action. During the time of warning, repentance can always change things. Nineveh was spared because the people repented. Israel and Judah were spared many times when they repented. But if men do not repent, or if their repentance proves temporary, the divine verdict eventually will be rendered, and at that point, the case is closed. At that point, to pray further is not only useless, but may also be a matter of disobedience.

In Deuteronomy 3:26 Moses does not tell us when God told him to stop asking for entry into the Promised Land. We only know that he was no longer allowed to bring up the subject again. The verdict was final.

The Death of Moses

God then gave Moses some final instructions in verses 27-29,

27 “Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. 28 But charge Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he shall give them as an inheritance the land which you will see.” 29 So we remained in the valley opposite Beth-peor.

At the end of Moses' speeches, we read in Deut. 34,

1 Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea [Mediterranean] . . . 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

It is unlikely that Moses wrote the account of his own death ahead of the fact. Ferrar Fenton attributes this addendum to Eliazar the high priest. How did he know what God would show Moses from Pisgah at the top of Mount Nebo? Perhaps Moses told him what God would do, or perhaps it was simply revealed to him.

Pisgah and Mount Nebo

Pisgah means “cleft or gap,” and it was the dual peak of Mount Nebo. Nebo literally means “prophet,” because it was the Babylonian name for Mercury, the messenger (prophet) of the gods. The Romans called him Mercurius, and the Greeks called him Hermes.

Recall that when Paul and Barnabas performed a miracle in Iconium, the people thought that Barnabas was Zeus and that Paul was Hermes (Mercury). Acts 14:11, 12 says,

11 And when the multitudes saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” 12 And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

(The KJV uses the Roman names Jupiter and Mercurius, although the text actually uses the Greek names for these gods, since it was written in Greek.)

Hence, we see that Moses died in Mount Nebo, signifying that he was God's prophet, messenger, or “chief speaker.” He was indeed God's spokesman, the “mediator” of his day between God and men (Gal. 3:19), and a type of Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).

Perhaps the passage in Acts 14:12 suggest also that Paul himself was a type of spokesman for Christ insofar as the New Covenant is concerned. Recall that Paul went to Arabia for three years after his conversion in order to obtain the revelation of law and grace (Gal. 1:17; 4:25). No doubt he sat in the same cave on Mount Sinai where Moses had been given the law.

Moses was a spokesman for Yahweh-Yeshua in giving the law to Israel. Likewise, Paul was a spokesman for Yeshua the Christ in giving us a greater understanding of the law from the New Covenant perspective.

Perhaps this also reveals the divine reason for Moses going to the “cleft” between the twin peaks called Pisgah. The two peaks represent the two covenants. Under Moses, God had come down to earth in the appearance of fire to give us the Old Covenant. But the people did not want to hear God's voice, so Moses became His spokesman (Ex. 20:19). Later, Christ came down to earth and was again rejected. So Paul became His chief spokesman to reveal the New Covenant.

Meanwhile, the pagans in Iconium prophesied without understanding: “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” In Christ, God (Elohim, plural) did indeed become a man and came down to us. Furthermore, He made it possible for us to be like Him, having authority in heaven and earth to minister to both God and men. This is prophesied in the instructions for the feast of Tabernacles and in the prophecy of the Melchizedek Order in Ezekiel 44:17-19.

Finally, when we look at the numerical value of Pisgah (148), we see more hidden prophecy. The number 148 is the numerical value of both Pisgah and Pascha (Passover). When Jesus died on the cross, that day was the 1480th Passover since Israel left Egypt. The number 1480 is also the numerical value of the Greek word christos, “Christ.”

This indicates that the only one who could fulfill the prophecy of the Passover Lamb was the Christ (Messiah), and that He would have to do so on the 1480th Passover since Israel left Egypt. Israel's sojourn thus began at Passover (148) and ended with Moses' death at Pisgah (148).

This also prophesied of the NT Church that has had its own wilderness journey of 40 Jubilee cycles. It began with Christ's death on the cross at Passover, and we are now at Pisgah. Even as Moses received his crown of life at Pisgah, so also must Jesus Christ be crowned in our time, along with His Body.

Hence, Moses' death at Pisgah was not all bad.