4-3-3 The Death Of Moses
How fitting that at the top of the mountain, he met that Angel
again, who had loving prepared for the death of Moses. The same
love, the same open-faced friendship would have been there. The
Angel showed him the Kingdom, opening his eyes to see to the very
boundaries of the land. It seems to me that in some sense the Lord
Jesus had a vision of us in the Kingdom just before his death (Is.
53:10; Heb. 12:2; Ps. 22:17,20 cp. Eph. 5:30). Moses died "by the mouth of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley... but no
man knoweth of his sepulchre" (Dt. 34:5,6 Heb.). "By
the mouth of the Lord" can imply a kiss; as if the Angel kissed
Moses, and this resulted in his death. Remember, the Angel was Moses
friend (Ex. 33:11). It was a reversal of how the Angel
created Adam and breathed into his nose the Spirit; now the Angel
kisses Moses and takes it away. And then he buried him, laying him
in the grave in hope of better days, when Christ would come and
raise his people, when God's people would at last be obedient. What
an end. Moses seems to have foreseen this when he said that “We
bring our years to an end with a sigh”, a final outbreathing (Ps.
90:9 RVmg.). And then the Angel built a sepulchre. Just picture
that Angel perhaps digging, yes digging the grave, building
the sepulchre of the rocks laying around in that cleft in the mountain
(1). In the context of Moses leading
Israel, we are told: "As a beast goeth down into the valley
(tired at the end of a day, led there to drink by a loving owner? Or the reference is perhaps to one of those noble animals which leave the herd to walk away and perish alone),
the Spirit (Angel) of the Lord caused him to rest" (Is. 63:14).
Remember how Moses was buried by the Angel in a valley in the mountain
(Dt. 34:6). The Hebrew translated "rest" means both to
physically lay down and to comfort. So we have the picture of the
Angel comforting Moses with the hope of resurrection, kissing him
goodnight as it were, and then laying him down in the grave. The
softness of God at the death of Moses, the gentleness, prefigured
above all the gentleness, in a sense, of the Father with His Son
at the cross; and His gentleness with each of us in out time of
dying. Let's remember this idea. For short of the second coming,
we're all mortal. There's something wondrous about the death of
Moses. It's as if God took Moses' funeral- and said in truth 'This
is the best man I've yet known', as a man might say at the funeral
of his best friend.
Through it all we sense the great love of Yahweh, manifest in that Angel,
for His servant. And this all typifies the tenderness of God for Jesus
in his time of dying. As we think of the Angel lowering the body of Moses,
with his arms around and underneath him, it seems no accident that the
last words of Moses spoke of this very thing: " There is none like
the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his
excellency in the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath
are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from
before thee....Israel then shall dwell in safety alone (language of the
future Kingdom, Ez. 29:26; 34:25): the fountain of Jacob shall be
upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy
art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by Yahweh...thine
enemies shall be subdued unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high
places" , i.e. their idols (Dt. 33:26-29). Surely these Moses' last
words could not have been said without his voice cracking with emotion.
A few hours before the death of Moses, he had been telling Israel: "
While I am yet alive with you this day (for a few more hours), ye have
been rebellious against Yahweh; and how much more after my death?"
(Dt. 31:27). Earlier that same day the Angel had told him: " Thou
shalt lie down (mg.) with thy fathers (cp. the Angel lying him
down in the grave)...and this people will rise up (i.e. immediately
after his death), and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of
the land" (Dt. 31:16). No wonder this was ringing in Moses' ears
as he came to his death. Yet he triumphed in the fact that a minority
would not give way. His very last words were a confident exaltation
that ultimately Israel would overcome their temptations, the influence
and idols of the surrounding world. But he knew that the majority of them
would spiritually fall because of these things. Therefore he was looking
forward to the minority in Israel who would gloriously overcome, who would
come to the Kingdom, the land of corn and wine, when the heavens would
drop dew. This is clearly the language of Ps. 72 and Isaiah about the
future Kingdom. Moses met death with the vision of the faithful minority
in the Kingdom, in the promised land, having overcome all their besetting
temptations. And the Lord Jesus died with exactly that same vision (Ps.
22:22-31; 69: 30-36).
What an end. Out of weakness, such weakness, he was made strong. His
temperamental faith, with its flashes of devotion, turned into a solid
rock, a real ongoing relationship with a loving Father. Every one
of his human relationships had failed: with his natural brother and sister,
with his wife, with his mother, with his adopted mother, with his people.
But finally that lonely man found his rest in Yahweh, Israel's God, he
came to know Him as his friend and saviour. No wonder he is held up, by
way of allusion throughout the New Testament, as both our example and
a superb type of our Lord Jesus. Israel mourned for Moses, but it is emphasized
that their weeping came to an end (Dt. 34:8). This is one of the most
tragic things about the whole record of the death of Moses. They rose
up, and forgot his love (Dt. 31:16,27). And what of us?
(1) An alternative reconstruction of
the death of Moses is possible. Rabbinical tradition says that "
he buried him" (Dt. 34:6) is reflexive; it means that Moses
buried himself. For confirmation of this, see S.R.Hirsch, The
Pentateuch, Vol. 5 p.685 (New York: Judaica Press, 1971). It
is the same Hebrew construction as in Lev. 22:16 and Num. 6:13.
In this case, the description of Christ as 'making his own grave'
(Is. 53:9) could be read as an allusion to the death of Moses. Therefore
the pattern of events was perhaps something like this: The Angel
showed Moses the land; Moses, in the presence of the Angel,
dug his own grave and lowered himself into it, as a conscious act
of the will, in obedience to God's command (as the prototype of
the Lord Jesus). The prophesy that Moses would lie down
in death takes on a literal sense in this case (Dt. 31:16). Then
the Angel kissed him, and he died. The Angel then built up the sepulchre
over his body. Personally I feel this was what happened, but I am
cautious to strongly push ideas which rely on a fine point
of Hebrew grammar.