The Sin and Punishment of Moses
Deuteronomy 32:49-52
Get you up into this mountain Abarim, to mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho…

It is a remarkable circumstance, not without an obvious moral, that the greatest favourites of the Almighty have been among the persons most severely dealt with by His providence. Not to mention our Saviour Himself — the only sinless, yet the most grievously afflicted of men — Abraham, "the friend of God," was put to a trial; the afflictions of Jacob were also great; Job's are proverbial; the painful vicissitudes of David's life outnumber its successes; and St. Paul, the most heroic servant of God in New Testament times, was subject to a long course of calamities. The real cause of the affliction is always sin. If it be asked — How can this be consistent with the fact that the sufferings of the most distinguished instruments of God's glory have been severe beyond the common lot of mortals? the answer is — that either we may observe in such persons great crimes set against signal virtues; or, at least, sin against peculiar light, and in spite of unusual grace: moreover, such are to be raised to remarkable heights of perfection; and this is not to be done but by means of chastisement and the stern discipline of affliction. Pass we, however, from general considerations to the individual instance before us.

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH GAVE OCCASION TO THE DIVINE DECREE AGAINST MOSES — that he should not live to enter the promised land (see Numbers 20). The ground of the whole transgression seems to have been a hasty yielding to carnal passions; which in this case, as it ever does, shut out faith and reliance on God, and substituted distrust and self-confidence. And the criminality of this conduct was doubtless increased by the eminent dignity and great endowments of the offenders. It was for the head and legislator, and for the anointed High Priest, to set an example to the people of meekness and patient confidence.


1. The inclination of the Israelites to idolatrous worship, imbibed chiefly in that nursery of superstitions, Egypt, was strong at all early periods of their history. Profound, also, must have been their veneration for that man of wonderful gifts, who had brought them with the arm of God out of the house of bondage, and for forty years had led them in the wilderness. Hence if Moses had finished his great work in his own person, and, together with the Israelites of this generation, the children and grandchildren of his early contemporaries, had taken possession of Canaan as the design and completion of the enterprise, it is most probable that he would, in spite of himself, have been deified by his superstitious countrymen; and either substituted for, or confounded with, the Divine Liberator, whose vicegerent he was.

2. That the commission to lead into Canaan the children of the people whom Moses by the Divine power had freed from Egypt, now devolved upon Joshua — or, as he is called in the New Testament, Jesus — is an instance which I cannot wholly pass by in silence, of the typical character of all Bible history. Moses was a type of Christ, in his office and character, as the deliverer, leader, and pastor of God's flock, through the mingled trials and mercies of the wilderness; but Joshua was more remarkably so, in prefiguring our Lord's going before His people into heaven, at His ascension, to take possession for and with them of the celestial inheritance.

3. There is an obvious and sublime sense, in the fact of Moses, the giver of the Law — the administrator of that imperfect and temporary dispensation, not going over into the Promised Land. His work was now done — his function was at an end. The conducting of the people was now handed over to another — to Joshua, the type of Christ as ascending up on high and entering into His rest; "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."

III. THIS SEVERITY OF GOD TOWARDS HIS SERVANT MOSES, SO FAVOURED AND "FAITHFUL IN ALL HIS HOUSE," PRESENTS A VERY AFFECTING CIRCUMSTANCE. It admonishes us, how much of the good consequences of a life may be defeated by one act of prevarication and disobedience. It admonishes us to be careful how we "finish our course," lest we "lose these things which we have wrought," even within sight of "the prize of our high calling."

(R. Cattermole, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession:

WEB: "Go up into this mountain of Abarim, to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and see the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel for a possession;

The Scene and Circumstances of Moses' Death
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