“Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his eyes were not weak, and his vitality had not left him. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days” (Deuteronomy 34:7–8). Even at the ripe-old-age of one-hundred-twenty, Moses was still strong and healthy. He didn’t appear to be ready to lay down and die, and the Nation wasn’t ready to lose him. But, after faithfully shepherding the Israelites for four decades, Moses died. The mourning, weeping, and public grieving lasted for a month.
Moses knew he was going to die. God had told him that he would not accompany the conquering Israelites into Canaan. When Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock, God declared, “Because you did not trust me to demonstrate my holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them” (Numbers 20:12).
Faithful to God’s instruction, Moses left the camp and headed for Mount Nebo ... alone. Nebo, meaning “height” towers over the plains to a height of about four thousand feet. Pisgah seems to be another name for Nebo, or possibly it’s an adjoining peak.
“Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which faces Jericho, and the Lord showed him all the land: Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev, and the plain in the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. The Lord then said to him, “This is the land I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you will not cross into it” (Deuteronomy 34:1–4). Mercifully and graciously, God allowed Moses to rejoice in gazing over Jordan into the Promised Land. It was a beautiful sight.
After seeing Canaan from afar, “Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the Lord’s word. He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab facing Beth-peor, and no one to this day knows where his grave is” (Deuteronomy 34:5–6).
Millions and millions of Muslims make an annual pilgrimage to Mecca to celebrate a dead prophet and a dead religion. How many more would travel to Nebo to visit the burial site of Moses, the great prophet of the Living God?
“No prophet has arisen again in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unparalleled for all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do against the land of Egypt—to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to all his land— and for all the mighty acts of power and terrifying deeds that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:10–12).
By the way... Moses wouldn’t have wanted any fanfare. He wouldn’t have wanted a towering obelisk marking his tomb. He wouldn’t have wanted crowds of weeping mourners, because “Moses was a very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).
Moses would encourage us to sing along: “Proclaim the Lord’s name. Declare the greatness of our God! The Rock—his work is perfect; all his ways are just. A faithful God, without bias, he is righteous and true” (Deuteronomy 32:3–4).