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4.5 Moses Not Entering The Land

Israel hated him, they thrust him from them (Acts 7:39); due to their provocation he failed to enter the land. He had done so much for them, yet they bitterly rejected him- " this Moses" , as they called him (Ex. 32:1,23 cp. Acts 7:35). But when God wanted to destroy them and make of Moses a great nation, he pleaded for them with such intensity that he achieved what few prayerful men have: a change (not just a delay in outworking) in God's categorically stated intention. And especially, consider that time when Israel had sinned with the golden calf. Moses said that he would climb that mighty mountain yet again, and " I will make an atonement for your sin" (Ex. 32:30). He knew well enough that no atonement was possible without the shedding of blood (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22; and see the similarity with Phinehas making an atonement for Israel’s forgiveness through the slaying of Zimri and Cozbi in Num. 25:8,13). And yet he hoped (" peradventure" ) that God would accept him as an atonement: " I will make an atonement" . He intended to offer his own life as an atonement for them- for that people who hated him, who pushed him from them and in their hearts returned to Egypt. He climbed that mountain (nearly a day's work), and at the top he made an even finer and altogether higher offer to the Angel: " If thou wilt forgive their sin...blot me,  I pray thee (notice the earnestness of his desire) out of thy book" (Ex. 32:32) (1). And he begged Yahweh to accept this for 40 days and nights, fasting without food or water (Dt. 9:17; 10:10). It wasn’t just a once off, emotional outburst of a moment. Omission of the name from God's book is a clear reference to a believer losing his part in God's Kingdom (Ex. 32:33; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 17:8; 21:27; 22:19). This was not an offer made in hot blood; after the hours of climbing the mountain, Moses had decided what he sorely wished to do: to offer his place in God's Kingdom, so that Israel might be forgiven one awful sin. This is just superb. To offer one's physical life is one thing; to offer one's eternal life is quite another, and this is what Moses' not entering the land amounted to. And he pleaded with God to accept his offer, just for the forgiveness of one sin, of a people who hated him and were evidently bent on fulfilling the lust of the flesh. If this is how much Moses loved sinful Israel, think how much more Christ loved them. And if that's the level of Christ's love for sinful Israel, consider (or try to) the level of Christ's love for us who at least try not to thrust Him from us, who wish, in our weakness, to follow Him to the end. 

To be blotted out of the book God had written may have been understood by Moses as asking for him to be excluded from an inheritance in the promised land; for later, a ‘book’ was written describing the various portions (Josh. 18:9). The connection is made explicit in Ez. 13:9: “…neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel”. To be blotted out of the book meant to not enter the land (surely Ezekiel is alluding to Moses’ experience). If Israel were to be blotted out there and then in the wilderness, then Moses wanted to share this experience. God had just spoken of ‘blotting out’ Israel from before Him (Dt. 9:14), and making a nation of Moses; but now Moses is asking to share in their condemnation rather than experience salvation without them. This was the extent of his devotion. On the last day of his life, Moses reeled off the great speech of Deuteronomy, knowing full well that he was to die without entering the land. In Dt. 9:18 he says that his prayer of Ex. 32:32 was heard- in that he was not going to enter the land, but they would. Hence his urging of them to go ahead and enter the land- to experience what his self-sacrifice had enabled. In this we see the economy of God, and how He works even through sin. On account of Moses’ temporary rashness of speech, he was excluded; Moses didn't enter the land. And yet by this, his prayer was heard. He was temporarily blotted out of the book, so that they might enter the land. Moses’ fleeting requests to enter the land must be read as a flagging from the height of devotion he reached, rather like the Lord’s request to escape the cross in Gethsemane. But ultimately he did what he intended- he gave his place in the Kingdom / land so that they might enter [although of course he will be in the future Kingdom]. This is why Moses stresses on the last day of his life that he wouldn’t enter the land for Israel’s sake (Dt. 1:37; 3:26; 4:21). He saw that his sin had been worked through, and the essential reason for him not entering was because of the offer he had made. It “went ill with him for their sakes” (Ps. 106:32).  

In all this, Moses was typifying the death of the Lord. Is. 53:8 describes His cross as being “cut off [Strong: ‘excluded’] from the land of the living” (s.w. ‘the congregation’- of Israel), for the transgression of His people. This is undoubtedly reference to the self-sacrificial exclusion of Moses from the land, that Israel might enter. The Lord died the death of a sinner, He chose like Moses to suffer affliction with us, that we might be saved. The intense prayer of Moses for Israel’s salvation inspired David in prayer (Ps. 25:11 = Ex. 32:30,31). And Paul makes a series of allusions to Moses, which climax in an invitation to pray like Moses for the salvation of others: 

2 Tim. 2:24,25


“the servant of the Lord

A very common title of Moses

must not strive

As Israel did with him (Num. 26:9)

but be gentle unto all

The spirit of Moses

apt to teach

As was Moses (Ex. 18:20; 24:12; Dt. 4:1,5,14; 6:1; 31:22)


As was Moses

in meekness

Moses was the meekest man (Num. 12:3)

instructing those that oppose themselves

at the time of Aaron and Miriam’s self-opposing rebellion

if God peradventure will give them repentance [i.e. forgiveness]”

Peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin” (Ex. 32:30)- and he prayed 40 days and nights for it.

And note too:

2:19 = Num. 16:5,26

2:20 = Num. 12:7

2:21 = Num. 16:37

2:22 = Num. 12:2; 16:3

2:26 = Num. 16:33

This is quite something. The height of Moses’ devotion for His people, the passion of his praying, shadowing as it did the matchless intercession and self-giving of the Lord, really is our example. It isn’t just a height to be admired. It means that we will not half heartedly ask our God to ‘be with’ brother x and sister y and the brethren in country z, as we lie half asleep in bed. This is a call to sustained, on our knees prayer and devotion to the salvation of others.


(1) It is difficult to interpret the Hebraism here. Moses may have meant: 'If you bar them from the Kingdom, then take my part out of it too; I don't want to be there without them'. Considering how they had treated him, this likewise shows his great love for them. A lesser man would have reasoned that being without that rabble of apostate renegades was what he looked forward to in the Kingdom.