Moses is seen as the leader of the Exodus, the one through whom God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. God entrusted Moses with the Law, and Jesus showed that Moses foreshadowed His work as the Messiah in John 3:14-15. In Hebrews 11, Moses is listed as an exemplary of faith, and in Deuteronomy 34, we read about how God Himself buried Moses. We also read that since no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, who the Lord knew face to face. No one has ever shown the power or performed the outstanding deeds that Moses did in front of all of Israel. However, for all of his blessings, Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land. Why not?
Why wasn’t Moses allowed into the Promised Land?
God gives the reason why Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 32:51-52, saying that it was because Moses broke faith with God in front of the Israelites at Meribah Kadesh in the desert of Zin. He also wasn’t allowed in because Moses didn’t uphold God’s holiness among the Israelites. For those reasons, Moses could only see the Promised Land from a distance and wouldn’t be allowed into the land God was giving the people of Israel. God kept His promise: He showed the Promised Land to Moses but didn’t let him in.
We can read about the incident at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in Numbers 20. The Israelites came to the desert of Zin as they were nearing the end of their 40 years of wandering. There was no water, and the community turned against Aaron and Moses. Moses and Aaron went to the meeting tent and surrendered themselves before God. God told Aaron and Moses to gather the assembly and speak to the rock, and water would flow. Moses took the staff, gathered the men and, in anger, asked if they had to bring water out of the rock. Then, Moses hit the rock twice with his staff. Water came from the rock, as God promised.
However, God immediately told Aaron and Moses that because they didn’t trust Him enough to honor Him, they wouldn’t bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land. This may seem like a harsh punishment, but when we examine Moses’ actions, there are several mistakes, the most apparent being that Moses disobeyed a direct command from God. God told Moses to speak to the rock, but instead, Moses hit it with his staff. Earlier, in Exodus 17, when God brought water from a rock, He told Moses to hit it with a staff. However, God’s instructions were different here. God wanted Moses’ trust, especially after they’d been so close for many years.
Moses didn’t need to use force; all he had to do was obey God and know that He would keep His promise. His punishment for pride, disobedience, and the misrepresentation of Jesus’s sacrifice was steep. He was banned from entering the Promised Land. However, Moses didn’t complain about his punishment and instead continued to lead the people and honor God faithfully. In His holiness, God also shows compassion. God invited Moses to Mount Nebo, where He showed him the Promised Land before his death. In Deuteronomy 34:4-5, we read how God showed Moses the Promised Land and told him that He would give it to his descendants.
God also told Moses that He would allow him to see the Promised Land, but he wasn’t allowed to enter. And Moses died in Moab, as God said he would. Moses’ failure at the rock didn’t break or negate his relationship with God, as God continued to use him and loved him with tenderness.
How did Moses write Deuteronomy if it records his death?
Most of Deuteronomy is made up of farewell speeches that Moses gave to Israel’s children before they went to the Promised Land. Before his death, Moses wrote his collection of speeches and gave them to the Levitical priests, who held the ark of the covenant of God and to all of Israel’s elders, as described in Deuteronomy 3:19. Moses is named the author of the book of Deuteronomy in Deuteronomy 31:9, and Jesus often quoted Deuteronomy. However, the last chapter of Deuteronomy asks the question: Who wrote Deuteronomy 34 since it records Moses’s death?
God told Moses that he wouldn’t be able to lead Israel’s children into the Promised Land because of his disobedience and that he would die in Moab. Deuteronomy 34 relates how Moses was permitted to see Canaan from afar before his death. After Moses died, Israel’s leadership fell to Joshua. Beyond reasonable question, Moses wrote Deuteronomy near the end of his life. It’s likely that Joshua, as Moses’ successor, wrote the account of his death. Other theories say Ezra wrote Deuteronomy 34 or the 70 elders who served under Moses wrote it.
As Moses’ time on earth drew to a close, Moses tied up some loose ends in his ministry, following God’s commands and setting everything in order. God told Moses to write a song, typically called “The Song of Moses,” and teach it to the people. Then, the Lord chose Joshua as Moses’ successor. Then, Moses wrote down the Law as he received it from God, giving it to the Levites to keep with the ark of the covenant. God required the Israelites to learn this song in anticipation of their future apostasy in the Promised Land.
Moses led a faithful life. Despite his transgressions and not being permitted into the Promised Land, he continued to follow God until his death. Moses may have written some of Deuteronomy, but Joshua, Ezra, or the 70 elders may have finished the job once Moses died.