Deuteronomy 31-34: The Final Address

The final days of Moses and the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua is covered

Introduction

The chapters in Deuteronomy aren't necessarily an address to the people so much as an address to us. From replacing Moses with Joshua to Moses' actual death, these chapters are the culmination of Moses' journey. At this point, Moses is 120 years old, with no ailments. Moses suggests that he is too old to continue, but even at 120 years old, we are told that he had no ailments and the only reason he can't continue is simply because God commanded him not to.

Moses' message to the Israelites is to be strong and have courage, to never be afraid. He assures them that God will continue to be with them as Joshua leads. Moses is formally handing over his role as leader, but he is also reminding the Israelites that it was never about him and it will never be about the leader; it's always about God. Moses gives Joshua the same pep talk. He reminds Joshua that God will not forsake him.

The Levites already have the ark of the covenant and the law, so all that was left was for the Israelites to follow the law. Every 7 years, during the Feast of Tabernacles, they were to read the law before everyone at the temple. This was to be a reminder for those who already knew and an introduction for children who had not yet learned. This meant that by age 7, all Israelites should have heard the law.
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Prediction

God instructs both Moses and Joshua to come before him at the tabernacle of the congregation. They are greeted by God, who appears as a pillar of cloud. There, God tells Moses he must die soon—proving that Moses had fore knowledge of his death to record it in Deuteronomy. God also tells the two men that Israel will not keep the covenant, but instead go after false gods. God already knew His people will fail, His anger would be kindled, and suffering would befall the Israelites. He knew that they wouldn't be able to keep the law, yet He chose them and gave them the option anyway. This was all preparation for Jesus and fulfillment of the gift He had promised Abraham.
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A Song For Israel

God instructs Moses to write a song that was to be the witness of the covenant. When they failed and evil befell them, they were to have this song which would remind them of the covenant and the God they were to serve. God already knew about the imagination of the people; they had shown it even before crossing the Jordan. This song was a gift meant to help them back to Him when they strayed. The words to the song are recorded in Deuteronomy 32.
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Just & Right

The first part of the song is a reminder of their origin, of God's leadership of and promises to the forefathers. It likens God to an eagle protecting her young—a message that they were the chosen people. Also included is the reminder of God giving them their inheritance. A series of verses cover the goods God has blessed them with, as well. These verses focus on how righteous God is, everything He does is perfect and just.
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.Deuteronomy 32:4 KJV
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God is a Jealous God

Throughout the Bible, God is described as a jealous God. This is confirmed by His insistence that the Israelites don't worship other gods. God says anyone or anything that they sacrifice to other than Him is a devil. God is described as the Rock of Salvation. When Israel began to fall into idolatry, God would hide His face from them and exact judgment. The fire in "the lowest hell" of Deuteronomy 32:22 refers to the grave (Sheol); this verse suggests His wrath will even spread to the realm of the dead.[1]
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The Pride of Israel's Captors

God knew that if He completely demolished Israel and wiped them from the memory of the world, it damage His reputation with the other nations. This is the reason He doesn't carry out such a drastic punishment, but opts to scatter them instead. God choses not to fight for them once they reject the covenant. They would lose wars even if the numbers were in their favor. Everything from the other nations was less than that of what God had given Israel, but Israel would lose their treasures when they turned away from God.
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Vengeance

Vengeance belongs to God because God is the only one who can execute just revenge. He is the only person who has all the facts in every situation. When the time came for judgment, He would remember the covenant and rescue the Israelites. God also promises to inquire of their false gods who could not provide for the Israelites (as a means of rubbing in their ignorance for following false gods). Vengeance upon those who hate God is as sure as His immortality. God states that when He judges, His sword will devour flesh and be covered in the blood of His enemies, but this is just the beginning.
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God of Mercy

The song ends with the promise of God's mercy. He would avenge those who served Him. In the end, He would be merciful to His people and their land.
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Moses Speaks

Moses gives this song to the people with Joshua. This was the culmination of his speech to the people. He ended his addresses with the advice of setting our hearts toward God and His law. Moses says this is not vain because it is life.
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Levites & The Book of Law

Deuteronomy tells us that Moses writes the law in a book; this reference is most likely Deuteronomy, but possibly all 5 books of law. This book was to be placed in the care and keeping of the Levites and kept in the side of the ark of the covenant. It served as a witness against them.
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Gathering

Moses calls together the elders of the Israelites, along with officers to hear the message. He wants to make sure the elders get all of God's message so when they are suffering for their rebellion, they can find their way back. Moses also mentions the latter days, which makes me wonder how much God told him about the end of the world (if anything other than that it would come).
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Moses on Mount Nebo

Moses is given the opportunity to view the promised land from on top of Mt. Nebo before he dies. God reminds Moses that his death is near and he can't enter the promised land due to his sin at Meribah-Kadesh (Moses disobeyed God and took credit for the act).
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Blessings From Moses

Before his death, Moses blesses Israel followed by blessings for each tribe. Moses uses the name Jeshurun to refer to Israel; it is a poetic nickname.[1] The information in these verses (Deuteronomy 33) is often used to determine the symbols of each tribe (as discussed in my post on The First Census of Numbers).

Moses' blessing to Reuben offsets Jacob's curse. For the Levites he comments on their ability to remain impartial, as wll as, their importance to issuing the law and judgments. Benjamin is to be a protector; the people are able to rest there in peace. Moses places an agricultural blessing upon Joseph (the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim). They are to be well with all that is precious to the Lord. Zebulun and Issachar are given blessings together. In all they did and in their homes, they were to be blessed. They were also to give sacrifices at a mountain and reap the benefits of the seas. Gad is likened to a lion and a law giver executing justice. Dan is also likened to a lion, to be aggressive and reigning over land near the defeated Bashon. Naphtali was blessed to receive divine favor from God—likely referencing the fertile region this tribe acquired as an inheritance. Asher was blessed with material wealth. Lastly, Judah was to have strong hands sufficient for the tribe and to protect from enemies.
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Moses' Final Moments

Photocredit: FreeImages.com/oli mohd
When Moses climbs Mount Nebo, God is Moses a visual tour of the land they will inherit. Although he never gets to set foot in the land, but he does get the peace of mind to view the land from afar. Moses dies on top of the mountain and God buries him in an unknown location (likely to avoid people seeking out his tomb or creating any form of worship of the dead). After his death, the people mourn for 30 days.

It is suggested that someone like Joshua added this type of information to the end of the book after Moses' death.
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Joshua, the New Leader

Joshua takes over as leader. He is counseled by the Lord just as Moses was before him. The people now look to Joshua the way they looked to Moses.
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References

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 352-353. 2014

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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