In Deuteronomy 31, Moses tells the Israelites that "I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you." He tells them that the LORD has told him that he will not cross the Jordan. He then tells that Joshua will lead them and that "your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Moses wrote down the law and gave it to the priests "and to all the elders of Israel," and told that every seven years during the feast of Tabernacles they should assemble all the people and "read this law before them in their hearing" because "their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess." Moses and Joshua went into the tent of Meeting, and the LORD commissioned Joshua. Then the LORD told Moses that he was "going to rest with [his] fathers" and that the Israelites would "soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering." He taught Moses a song to write down and "teach...to the Israelites and have them sing it so that it may be a witness for me against them." Moses wrote "in a book the words of this law from beginning to end" and gave it to the Levites to carry inside the ark of the covenant.
And in chapter 32, Moses "recited the words of this song from beginning to end." The song praises the Lord, repeatedly calls him "the rock," and condemns the people who have "acted corruptly toward him; to their shame they are no longer his children, but a warped and crooked generation." It is a song of both praise and judgement. Then, that same day, the LORD told Moses to go up to Mount Nebo in Moas and view Canaan, and then he would die and "be gathered to [his] people," just like Aaron died on Mount Hor, because they "broke faith" with God at the waters of Meribah Kadesh.
In chapter 33, Moses blesses the tribes of Israel, each tribe by name. Then, in chapter 34, Moses climbed Mount Nebo, "to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho," and the LORD "showed him the whole land" and told him it was "the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." And Moses died and was buring in the valley "opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is." he was one hundred and twenty years old "yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone." The Israelites grieved for thirty days. And after that, Joshua "was filled with the spirit of wisdom" and the Israelites "listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses."
Thoughts, questions, issues
- Moses's song would fit right in the book of Isaiah or Jeremiah, no questions asked. Parts of it would fit in Psalms, too. There is a common theme running through the Old Testament, and that is how badly the Israelites have strayed from God, no matter what he does for them.
- I've heard it said that the chapters had to be written by someone else, because Moses died, but I don't see any need for change in authorship. The whole Pentateuch is written in third person, and if Moses wrote some of the law specifically himself with his own hand, it seems doubtful that he would have written it all. Surely, there were scribes accessible to him, and whoever put the words down in "the book," they were certainly about Moses and with his cooperation and approval, until the last chapter. But that doesn't mean that there was any scribal change or significant difference in the way the last chapter was recorded. After all, it just says, essentially, "Moses died, the Israelites grieved, Joshua took over."
- Whatever else one wants to say about the relationship between God and the Israelites, one cannot say that they didn't get proper warning. Over and over and over again they were told what to do and what not to do. And over and over and over again they neglected the former and performed the latter.
A psalm of praise. Unadulterated and exuberant, uninhibited praise of the Lord. The kind of praise we should be giving every day!
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
1 Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
2 How awesome is the LORD Most High,
the great King over all the earth!
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.