How Moses Looked upon the Promised Land
Death of Moses Bible Story
Numbers xxvi: 1 to 4, 63 to 65; xxxii: 1 to 42; Deuteronomy xxxi: 1, to xxxiv: 12.
While the Israelites were in their camp on the plain beside the river Jordan, at the foot of the mountains of Moab, God told Moses to count the number of the men who were old enough and strong enough to go forth to war. And Moses caused the men to be counted who were above twenty years of age, and found them to be a little more than six hundred thousand in number. Besides these were the women and children.
And among them all were only three men who were above sixty years of age, men who had been more than twenty years old forty years before, when the Israelites came out of Egypt. The men who had been afraid to enter the land of Canaan, when they were at Kadesh-barnea the first time had all died. Some of them had been slain by the enemies in war; some had died in the wilderness during the forty years; some had perished by the plague; some had been bitten by the fiery serpents. Of all those who had come out of Egypt as men, the only ones living were Moses, and Joshua, and Caleb. Moses was now a hundred and twenty years old. He had lived forty years as a prince in Egypt, forty years as a shepherd in Midian, and forty years as the leader of Israel in the wilderness. But although he was so very old, God had kept his strength. His eyes were as bright, his mind was as clear, and his arm and heart were as strong as they had been when he was a young man.
The people of Israel had now full possession of all the land on the east of the river Jordan, from the brook Arnon up to the great Mount Hermon. Much of this land was well fitted for pasture; for grass was green and rich, and there were many streams of water. There were two of the twelve tribes, and half of another tribe, whose people had great flocks of sheep and goats, and herds of cattle. These were the tribes which had sprung from Reuben and Gad, the sons of Jacob, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. For there were two tribes that had sprung from Joseph, his descendants, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
The men of Reuben, Gad, and half the men of Manasseh came to Moses, and said:
"The land on this side of the river is good for the feeding of sheep and cattle; and we are shepherds and herdsmen. Cannot we have our possessions on this side of the river, and give all the land beyond the river to our brothers of the other tribes?"
Moses was not pleased at this; for he thought that the men of these tribes wished to have their home at once in order to avoid going to war with the rest of the tribes; and this may have been in their minds.
So Moses said to them:
"Shall your brothers of the other tribes go to the war? And shall you sit here in your own land, and not help them? That would be wicked, and would displease the Lord your God." Then the men of the two tribes and the half-tribe came again to Moses, and said to him:
"We will build sheepfolds here for our sheep, and we will choose some cities to place our wives and our children in; but we ourselves will go armed with our brothers of the other tribes, and will help them to take the land on the other side of the Jordan. We will not come back to this side of the river until the war is over, and our brothers have taken their shares of the land, each tribe its own part; and we will take no part on the other side of the river, because our place has been given to us here. And when the land is all won and divided, then we will come back here to our wives and our children."
Then Moses was satisfied with the promise that they had given, and he divided the land on the east of the Jordan to these tribes. To the men of Reuben he gave the land on the south; to the men of Gad the land in the middle; and to the half-tribe of Manasseh the land on the north, the country called Bashan. And after their wives and children and flocks had been placed safely, the men of war came to the camp, ready to go with the other tribes across the river when God should call them.
And now the work of Moses was almost done. God said to him:
"Gather the children of Israel together, and speak to them your last words, for you are not to lead the people across the Jordan. You are to die in this land, as I said to you at Kadesh."
Then Moses called the leaders of the twelve tribes before his tent, and said to them many things, which you can read in the book of the Bible called Deuteronomy. There all the long speech of Moses is given. He told them what wonderful things God had done for their fathers and for them. He gave them again all the words of God's law. He told them that they must not only keep God's law themselves, but must teach it to their children, so that it might never be forgotten. And Moses sang a song of farewell, and wrote down all his last words.
Then he gave a charge to Joshua, whom God had chosen to take his place as the ruler and leader of the people; though no man could take Moses' place as a prophet of God and the giver of God's law. He laid his hands on Joshua's head; and God gave to Joshua some of his Spirit that had been on Moses.
Then Moses, all alone, went out of the camp, while all the people looked at him and wept. Slowly he walked up the mountain side, until they saw him no more. He climbed to the top of Mount Nebo, and stood alone upon the height, and looked at the Land of Promise, which lay spread out before him. Far in the north he could see the white crown of Mount Hermon, where there is always snow. At his feet, but far below, the river Jordan was winding its way down to the Dead Sea. Across the river, at the foot of the mountains, was standing the city of Jericho, surrounded with a high wall. On the summits of the mountains beyond he could see Hebron, where Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob were buried; he could see Jerusalem, and Bethel, and the two mountains where Shechem lay hidden in the center of the land. And here and there, through the valleys, he could see afar in the west the gleaming water of the Great Sea.
Then Moses, all alone, lay down on the mountain's top, and died. Aaron and Hur, who had held up the hands of Moses in battle, had both died and there was no man on Mount Nebo to bury Moses; so God himself buried him, and no man knows where God laid the body of Moses, who had served God so faithfully.
And after Moses there was never a man who lived so near to God, and talked with God so freely, as one would talk face to face with his friend, until long afterward Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and greater than Moses, came among men.
Death of Moses