Deuteronomy 34:5-8: The Death and Burial of Moses

Verse 5:  (Deut. 32:50; Josh 1:1, 2) So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.

[And Moses died, etc.]  This was written, either, 1.  by Moses, prophetically (Josephus and Philo in Bonfrerius, Malvenda):  or, 2.  by Eleazar,[1] who added both this, and that concerning the death of Joshua, Joshua 24 (Estius):  or, 3.  by Ezra (certain interpreters in Menochius):  or, 4.  by Joshua (Menochius, Bonfrerius, Tirinus, Munster); and that some years after the death of Moses, because it says, unto this day[2] (Munster).

[The servant of the Lord]  Thus he is called, because, even while dying, he performed the commands of God, as a servant, namely, he went up, etc. (Ibn Ezra in Muis).  He was not called the Servant of the Lord until he passed from this life.  By this title is designated the highest excellence of status obtained.  For a servant lives continually with his master, enters upon his more private chambers, and is always ready at his command.  Without any fear of contradiction they said, THE FATHERS ARE RIGHTEOUS IN DEATH, AS IN LIFE (Bechai in Muis).  With (his) soul separated from his body, he ascends to the ministry on High; and therefore he is called THE SERVANT OF THE LORD with respect to the coming age, as he obtained as a faithful servant (Abarbanel in Muis).

[In the land of Moab]  That is, which the Israelites had seized from the Amorites, which formerly had been a region of Moab (Tirinus).

In the land of Moab:  i.e. In the land which Israel took from the Amorites, which anciently was the land of Moab.

[With the Lord appointing[3]]  Hebrew:  according to (or, upon [Montanus, Malvenda]) the mouth (Tigurinus, Ainsworth), or, speech, of the Lord (Pagnine).  Either, 1.  according to the foreordination of Jehovah (certain interpreters in Malvenda):  or, 2.  as the Lord had often foretold to him[4] (Malvenda):  or perhaps, 3.  according to the royal edict (that is, of death) brought against the first man on account of sin (Muis).


Verse 6:  And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor:  but (see Jude 9) no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

[And he buried]  Who?  Understand, God, or an Angel (Vatablus).  God by the ministry of Angels (Menochius, Tirinus, Bonfrerius, likewise the Septuagint and Philo in Tirinus, Grotius).  Whose prince was Michael (Grotius).  Jehovah, or Michael,[5] that is, Christ:  With this signifying that it belongs to Christ alone to abolish the Law of Moses (Ainsworth).  Others:  And he buried himself, that is, he entered into a narrow cave, where he exhaled his spirit (certain Hebrews in Munster).  Others maintain that the third person, preterite, active, is taken passively, or impersonally, after the manner of the Hebrews, and he buried, in the place of, and he was buried (Malvenda, Vatablus).

He, i.e. the Lord, last mentioned, buried him either immediately, or by the ministry of angels, whereof Michael was the chief or prince, Jude 9.

[In a valley[6]]  Or, in Gai (Septuagint, Vatablus), so that it might a name of mount Nebo, by which he has regard to Moab (certain interpreters in Malvenda).  See Numbers 21:20 (Vatablus).  He died on the mountain; he was buried in the valley (Ainsworth).

[And no one knew his sepulchre]  The reason was so that the Israelites, inclined to idolatry, might not worship him as God (Menochius, Bonfrerius, Lapide, Malvenda, Estius, Lyra).  Lest they should offer superstitious worship to the relics of such a man (Grotius).  Concerning this was the contention of Michael with the Devil:  see Jude 9.  In a perverse imitation of Moses, the Heathen appear to have feigned the rapture of their legislators; as of Romulus,[7] and of Apollonius of Tyana[8] in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana[9] 8:12 (Malvenda).

No man knoweth of his sepulchre, i.e. of the particular place of the valley where he was buried; which God hid from the Israelites, to prevent their superstition and idolatry, to which he knew their great proneness.  And for this very reason the devil endeavoured to have it known, and contended with Michael about it, Jude 9.  And seeing God would not endure the worship of the relics or tomb of so eminent a person as Moses was, it is ridiculous to think God would permit this honour to be given to any of the succeeding saints, who were so far inferior to him.


[1451 BC]  Verse 7:  (Deut. 31:2) And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died:  (see Gen. 27:1; 48:10; Josh. 14:10, 11) his eye was not dim, nor his natural force (Heb. moisture[10]) abated (Heb. fled[11]).

[An hundred and twenty years]  Trebellius Pollio in “Claudius” 11, The most learned of the Mathematicians judge that one hundred and twenty years have been given to man in order to live, and they do not mention that anything more was conceded to anyone; even adding that Moses alone, as the books of the Jews say, the intimate of God, lived one hundred and twenty-five [indeed, only one hundred and twenty] years; who, when he complained that he died as a young man, they brought a response to him from an uncertain God (by which this Gentile writers imprudently indicates the passage in Genesis 6:3), No one is going to live more (Malvenda, Gataker).

[His eye was not dark (thus the Septuagint, Chaldean, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Ainsworth), as in Genesis 27:1[12] (Ainsworth), לֹֽא־כָהֲתָ֥ה עֵינ֖וֹ]  His eye did not restrict itself; that is, his sight was not diminished (Oleaster).  It was not heavy (Syriac); it was not contracted into wrinkles (Oleaster).  Or thus, his face was not contracted into wrinklesEye is taken for color, etc., Exodus 10:5;[13] Numbers 11:7.[14]  Chizkuni explains it of the splendor of his face, Exodus 34:30 (Ainsworth).

[Nor his teeth wanting, וְלֹא־נָ֥ס לֵחֹֽה׃]  Neither did flee (or, had begun to lose vigor [Samaritan Text]) his verdure (Oleaster, Malvenda, Syriac, Montanus, Ainsworth), that is, robustness, or vivacity of color (Oleaster).  Vigor (Pagnine, Munster, Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals); innate moisture, or, radical humor (Ainsworth).  Neither did his moisture depart (Arabic).  Neither had he withered, faded; that is to say, his face was always full of sap.  For old age is wont to be dry (Vatablus).  Neither did his cheek, or jaw, fade (When Augustus was about to die…he ordered his falling cheeks to be set right, Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelves Cæsars 99 [Malvenda]).  Thus the Syriac and Arabic Manuscripts and the Septuagint (χελώνια αὐτοῦ, his lips).  They read לחיו, his jaw (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:45:506:21).  Neither did his cheeks contract wrinkles (Syriac).  The splendor of the rays (concerning which, Exodus 34) never vanished or ebbed (certain interpreters in Malvenda).  Neither did the splendor of the glory of his face change (Chaldean).

His eye was not dim, etc.:  By a miraculous work of God in mercy to his church and people.


Verse 8:  And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab (see Gen. 50:3, 10; Num. 20:29; Ecclus. 38:16, 17[15]) thirty days:  so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.

[Thirty days]  As they did for Aaron, Numbers 20:28, 29 (Ainsworth, Grotius), and Miriam, as Josephus testifies.  In mourning over men of the common sort, seven days sufficed:  Ecclesiasticus 22:12;[16] Josephus’ Jewish Antinquities 6 at the end; Ammianus Marcellinus’[17] Matters Conducted[18] 19 (Grotius).

Thirty days was the usual time of mourning for persons of high place and eminency.  See Genesis 50:3, 10; Numbers 20:29.  For others seven days sufficed.

[1] See Deuteronomy 10:6.

[2] Verse 6.

[3] Hebrew:  עַל־פִּ֥י יְהוָֽה׃.

[4] Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 1:37; 3:26, 27; 32:49, 50.

[5] Michael means who is like God?

[6] Hebrew:  בַגַּיְ.

[7] Romulus and Remus, twins, were the mythical founders of Rome.

[8] Apollonius of Tyana (first century AD) was a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher from Tyana, in the province of Cappadocia.  He was known for practicing divination, alchemy, and magic, and working miracles.

[9] Very little is known about Philostratus “the Athenian” (c. 170-247).  His Life of Apollonius Tyana describes the life and travels of Apollonius of Tyana.

[10] Hebrew:  לֵחֹה.

[11] Hebrew:  נָס.

[12] Genesis 27:1a:  “And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim (וַתִּכְהֶ֥יןָ עֵינָ֖יו), so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son…”

[13] Exodus 10:5a:  “And they shall cover the face (עֵין/eye) of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth…”

[14] Numbers 11:7:  “And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof (וְעֵינוֹ, and the eye thereof) as the colour of bdellium.”

[15] Ecclesiasticus 38:16, 17:  “My son, let tears fall down over the dead, and begin to lament, as if thou hadst suffered great harm thyself; and then cover his body according to the custom, and neglect not his burial.  Weep bitterly, and make great moan, and use lamentation, as he is worthy, and that a day or two, lest thou be evil spoken of:  and then comfort thyself for thy heaviness.”

[16] Ecclesiasticus 22:12:  “Seven days do men mourn for him that is dead; but for a fool and an ungodly man all the days of his life.”

[17] Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330-c. 390) was Roman noble, soldier, and historian.

[18] Res Gestæ.

1 thought on “Deuteronomy 34:5-8: The Death and Burial of Moses

  1. Although there is somewhat to be lamented in the death of Moses, there can be nothing better than to be owned by God as His own servant. “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

    –Dr. Dilday

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