Today’s reading begins with the command to leave Horeb and concludes with God reiterating to Moses that he was not to enter the Promised Land.
After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites had finally arrived at the land that God had promised to them. As told towards the end of the book of Numbers, all of the generation that had rebelled against God and given a bad report of the Promised Land to the people of Israel had passed away and now God was ready to bring the people into the land.
Moses spends most of today’s reading rehashing the journey through the wilderness and some of the various events that happened along the way:
- The appointing of leaders over the people to handle disagreements,
- The sending out of spies into the Promised Land,
- The bad report from the spies,
- The attempt to take the land without God’s help,
- The punishment of God of 40 years of wandering for the rebellion of the Israelites,
- The many years of wandering in the wilderness,
- The battle with and defeat of King Sihon, and
- The battle with and defeat of King Og.
The final passage in today’s reading is the reiteration of God forbidding Moses from entering the Promised Land. I think this is probably one of the most devastating aspects of the story of Moses. Although the ending for Moses is tragic, what’s encouraging about this sad ending to the long journey is that it reinforces the argument that Moses really had spoken with God. If all of these interactions with God were all an elaborate fiction devised by Moses, it’s almost impossible to conceive that Moses would have indicated an instance when he had failed God, and so much so that it would prevent him from the prize of completing the journey. If Moses wasn’t convinced of his own sinfulness, the reality of God’s commands, and the holy jealousy God had for his own righteousness; would he have essentially written himself out of the victory lap? If this was all just an elaborate story, why would he have ever painted himself in a negative light? Why would he have ever documented a story of a personal offense so odious to God that it prevented what he had waited over 40 years for and over which he suffered so much personal stress and anguish. It’s a tragic chapter for Moses, but it reveals the actions of a man convinced of God’s reality, God’s commands, and God’s holiness.