If you told someone that one of your loved ones lived to 120 years old, they probably wouldn’t believe you, saying, “Wow! They lived a long life here on earth.” However, if you asked someone in the Old Testament how long Moses lived, and you answered 120 years, they would say he died too young. According to Deuteronomy 34:7, Moses died with his eyes undimmed and freshness unabated.
Other figures throughout the Bible went blind due to old age, like Issac, but Moses died with his vision unharmed, and he could have lived for several more years or decades. So why would God let Moses die early? Did Moses do something during his life to justify a premature death?
The outline of Moses’ life.
Moses lived an extraordinary life. Although a Hebrew woman gave birth to him, God supplied a way for Moses to have a safe harbor growing up due to a proclamation from Pharoah for Egyptians to kill every male Hebrew baby. An Egyptian princess found Moses in the Nile, had Moses’ mother care for him during infancy, and raised him as her own, as detailed in Exodus 2.
For almost 40 years, Moses lived in Egypt as royalty until he killed an Egyptian over the cruel treatment of a Hebrew slave. Moses ran away into the wilderness to Midian, where he met his wife and settled there for another 40 years. When Moses was 80, God appeared to him in the burning bush and commanded him to return to Egypt to tell Pharoah to let his people go. He returned to Egypt, and 10 plagues ravaged Egypt because they refused to release the Hebrews. After the final plague, the Egyptians let them go but changed their minds and chased them to the Red Sea.
Now that they’ve escaped Egypt, the Israelites travel to the promised land. During their journey, Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God, a list of rules to follow, on Mount Sinai. However, due to Israel’s celebration of idols, disobedience, and constant complaining, God prevented many of them from entering the promised land, leaving them to wander the desert for 40 years. Unfortunately, this group included Moses. Moses died at 120 before the Israelites reached the promised land.
The reason why people lived so long in the New Testament.
You might notice that in the Bible, many people lived long lives before the flood. Methuselah lived to be 969 years old before he died right before the flood. Moses made it to 120 and seemed like he could’ve lived longer. However, isn’t there a Bible verse that says people wouldn’t live past 120 after the flood? Genesis 6:3 reminds us that when God sees a man’s evil, the Lord declares His spirit won’t argue with humans forever because they’re mortal and their days will be 120 years.
However, after the flood, people seem to live past 120 years. For example, Abraham lived to 175, and Isaac lived to 180. Why is that? Some scholars suggest that God gave humans 120 years to repent before the flood when He saw their wickedness. However, this idea doesn’t explain how, before and after the flood, people live for a long time. Josephus discussed this idea in the first book of his Antiquities, saying God allowed them to live longer due to their virtue. He also said their food was better for living longer.
In other words, people living back then had healthier DNA, better food supplies, and the sin’s effects hadn’t latched onto them as much as they did in future generations. Moses lived quite some time away from Methuselah’s time, which may explain why Moses lived to 120 and not 969.
Why couldn’t Moses go to the promised land?
Because of disobedience, much of Israel, including Moses, didn’t make it to the promised land. Numbers 20:7-12 tells how God told Moses to take his staff, gather a crowd with his brother Aaron, and tell the rock to share its water, bringing water from the rock for them to give to the congregation and their cattle. Before the Lord, Moses took the staff, as the Lord commanded. Then, Aaron and Moses gathered the crowd, telling them, “should we bring water for you from this rock?” After that, Moses lifted his hand and hit the rock with his staff twice, and water rushed from the rock. The congregation and their livestock drank. Then God told Aaron and Moses because you didn’t believe me, to maintain me as holy in the eyes of Israel’s people, you shall not bring this group into the land I have given them.
Instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord commanded, Moses hit it. But why does this justify his inability to enter the promised land? Scholars have debated this topic. Some say Moses called the Israelites rebels but acted hypocritically by disobeying God’s command. Others believe that Moses took credit for the water rushing from the rock, which was something God did. Moses and Aaron committed a double whammy: not giving proper credit and disobedience. Moses’ life was cut short for those reasons.
What can Moses’ death teach us?
We can learn a lot from Moses’ life. He showed what it looks like to faithfully follow God during terrifying circumstances and step outside our comfort zones. However, Moses’ death can teach a few lessons. The first lesson is every gift comes from our Heavenly Father. If we let pride keep us from the talents He’s given us, we miss why He gave us these gifts in the first place.
The second lesson is we should take hypocrisy seriously. Moses was so upset with the Israelites for their rebellion that he didn’t see his rebellion. Jesus preached a lot about hypocrites. Before pointing out the sins of others, we should look at our sins. Even though Moses’ life was shorter than expected, God still brought numerous blessings because of it. Maybe, in the same way, we might not live as long as we hope to, but that doesn’t mean God can’t use our time on earth to shine a light on others.