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Bible: What Does Deuteronomy 32-4 Teach Us About Moses' Final Days?

Updated on September 15, 2016

Moses Sees the Land of Canaan


Moses' Address

Deuteronomy 32

Addressing the heavens and the earth as witnesses, Moses employs similes, asking that his words/teaching/speech would affect his hearers in the same way that rain affects vegetation, i.e., provide life-sustaining nourishment (vv. 1-2).

He desires that Israel should come to know their great God of truth and righteousness, whose work is perfect (vv. 3-4).

Moses bemoans Israel’s unrighteousness, actually calling them “not His children,” (v. 5), but then reminds them that Yahweh is their Father who redeemed, made, and established them (v. 6).

[Is their corruption, perversion, and crookedness evidence of an unregenerate state, or does their behavior exemplify the sins of believers?]

He exhorts them to ask their leaders about ancient history when God chose Israel and parceled out the Land to the nations (vv. 7-9).

After having taken the people from the desert, Moses writes that Yahweh instructed, protected, and provided for him, and Israel was faithful to Him alone (vv. 10-12).

God blessed him with great abundance until he became fat and lazy, and the people rebelled against their Maker and Savior (vv. 13-15) by worshiping foreign gods/demons/gods/new gods and forgetting their Father (vv. 16-18).

Having been provoked to jealousy by Israel’s idols, Yahweh then spurned this perverse generation, even these faithless children, hiding His face from them and provoking them to jealousy by a foolish nation (vv. 19-21).

[The time frame here is uncertain].

Suffice it to say, the LORD moved in fury against His people (v. 22).

Verses twenty-three through twenty-five furnish ample proof of the horror Israel would endure from enemies, wild animals, and natural calamities.

Israel would have ceased to exist if the LORD had not “feared” adversaries taking credit for His people’s destruction (vv. 26-27).

[The statement that the LORD “feared the wrath of the enemy’’ seems incongruous with His character; the context does not lend itself to the fear being that of Moses].

Again, Moses sighs as he considers Israel’s utter lack of spiritual understanding, wondering how they could not see “their latter end” if they forsook God (vv. 28-29).

He sees no way for Israel’s enemies to defeat them unless the LORD had allowed it (v. 30).

Even these nations recognize Yahweh’s superiority (vv. 31-33).

Israel’s judgment at the LORD’s hand of vengeance will surely come, and the nation’s strength and numbers will shrink (vv. 34-36).

The LORD seems to mock them now for their false worship of impotent gods (vv. 37-38), and declares His sovereign power over life and death, His willingness to render bloody judgment upon His enemies (vv. 39-42).

Verse forty-three indicates that God will command Gentiles and Israel alike to rejoice when He sets everything right in the end.

So ends the song of Moses/Yahweh (cf. Exodus 15 for another “Song of Moses”).

After finishing the words of the song, Moses admonishes his audience to “set their hearts” on this law, because “it is their life.”

If they carefully observe its instruction, they will prolong their days in Canaan (vv. 44-47).

Yahweh tells Moses to ascend Mount Nebo, take a look at the Land, and then die there (vv. 48-50).

He reminds him that this chastening results from his trespass at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin (v. 51).

Seeing the land without being permitted to go there must have been a difficult pill for the prophet to swallow (v. 52).


Deuteronomy 33

Since the text speaks of Moses as “the man of God” who “blessed the children of Israel before his death,” the interpreter can argue that another author (probably Joshua) pens this prophetic “blessing” to the tribes of Israel (v. 1).

The introduction alludes to several divine “comings” or “epiphanies”—Sinai, Seir (Edom), and Paran—in which the LORD appeared in a fiery cloud (v. 2a).

An additional coming mentions His being accompanied by “ten thousands of saints”; this event has no historical referent, but may have a future aspect when the Son of Man sets up His messianic kingdom (v. 2b; cf. Dan. 7:10).

Joshua also records Moses’ words regarding the time God’s “right hand” gave Israel “a fiery law” (v. 2b)—an indication of His love for them (v. 3a)—and the saints obediently received it (v. 3b).

He credits the prophet with charging Israel with this law, and understands God’s word as an inheritance for them (v. 4).

Yahweh reigned over “Jeshurun” in that day when leaders and tribes alike assembled before Him (v. 5).

[Could the reference to “King” also point to Moses in a mediatorial sense?]

Now Moses addresses each of the tribes (except Simeon), beginning with

(1) Jacob’s first-born, Reuben, whom he desires to survive and grow (v. 6).

For Judah (2) he prays that God hear him and grant him victory over enemies (v. 7).

Moses also asks the LORD to “let Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one.”

Since the high priest used these articles to discover God’s will, the prophet desires Him to give “Levi” (3) ability to discern His will through their use (v. 8a).

Verse nine indicates that the priests, whom the holy one represents, sacrifice family obligations in order to serve God and teach His word (vv. 8b-10).

Moses’ blessing for Levi consists of divine prospering of his “substance,” acceptance of his work, and protection of his person (v. 11).

The future augurs well for Benjamin (4), as Moses declares the LORD’s protection upon him (v. 12).

Joseph (5) also can expect blessings on his land with the “precious things” of the sun, hills, and earth, and the “precious produce” of the months (vv. 13-16).

His glory is in his strength to conquer foes (v. 17).

Zebulun (6) and Issachar (7) will assemble for righteous worship in the mountains, and prosper from sea trade and “treasures hidden in the sand” (vv. 18-19).

The one who enlarges Gad (8) possesses military and legal clout (vv. 20-21).

Moses pictures Dan (9) as a young lion leaping on his prey (v. 22), Napthali (10) as filling the west and south (v. 23), and Asher (11) as most blessed—“dipping his foot in oil,” having “iron and bronze” sandals, and maintaining great strength through a long life (vv. 24-25).

Now Moses finishes his blessing by extolling the unique God of Jeshurun: He is the eternal Refuge, the excellent Helper, and the everlasting Savior (vv. 26-27) who will destroy the enemy, so that Israel may dwell safely and prosper in the Land (v. 28).

The man of God delights to tell Israel of their glorious future of victory (v. 29).

Mount Nebo


The Site of Moses' Death

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Deuteronomy 34

In this final chapter of the Pentateuch (and of Moses’ life), the prophet ascends Mount Nebo—Joshua provides the general location of his burial ground—and God shows him the great expanse of the Land of promise (vv. 1-3).

The LORD says, in essence, “This is it, my son; you can see it, but you cannot feel its ground beneath your feet” (v. 4).

[We must not understand God’s final words as a parting shot. However, why does He remind Moses of this painful loss?]

Moses, still strong and clear-sighted, passes away at age one hundred twenty, and God Himself buries His servant in a valley of Moab in an unmarked grave (vv. 5-7).

After thirty days of mourning his death, Israel follows Spirit-filled Joshua (vv. 8-9) who acknowledges the uniqueness of Moses’ life and ministry.

His intimacy with God was unparalleled as were his signs, wonders, and mighty power (vv. 10-12).


1. How long does the trip from Sinai to Kadesh take?

2. What objective did Moses seek to achieve through his sermon/historical prologue in the early chapters?

3. In his sermon at Peor, what admonition does Moses repeat several times?

4. Beginning in chapter five, what does Moses commence?

5. What does the famous Sh’ma enjoin?

6. How must Israel behave toward the seven peoples inhabiting the Land?

7. What purpose did the LORD have in Israel’s forty-year trial?

8. Why did God give the Land to Israel? Why did He not give it to them?

9. What is Israel’s five-fold responsibility to God and His torah?

10. Where in Canaan did God instruct Israel to pronounce His blessings? His cursings?

11. What is God’s ultimate concern when Israel arrives in Canaan? In light of this circumstance, what must His people do?

12. Where did God’s people have to worship in the Land?

13. How must Israel treat false teachers and prophets? What is the standard of a true prophet?

14. Discuss the triennial tithe and other charitable giving.

15. What are the qualifications for the Israelite king?

16. What are the rights of the priesthood?

17. What opportunities did men have to withdraw from armed conflict?

18. Who may not enter the assembly of the LORD?

19. Interact with the laws regarding sexual behavior.

20. Interact with Moses’ teaching on divorce.

21. List the actions/attitudes for which God will curse Israel.

22. What are the LORD’s blessings for obedience? His cursings for disobedience?

23. How does the “Palestinian covenant” differ from the Mosaic?

24. What does God promise Israel in the distant future?

25. What admonition does Joshua continually hear?

26. Interact with the gist of the second “Song of Moses.”

27. What is the tone of Moses’ messages to the sons of Israel?

28. Where is Moses buried? Who buried him?

29. With what quality in community and home life does this book seem greatly concerned?

© 2013 glynch1


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