V'zot HaBeracha: This Is The Blessing
V’zot Haberecha ‘And this is the blessing’ (Deuteronomy 33 – 34:12)
And so we come to the end, not only of our Torah reading for the year, but the end for our great teacher, Mosheh. I couldn’t imagine God saying to anyone ‘go up this mountain…and die on the mountain you ascend…’ (Deut 33:49 – 50), yet for Moses, like his brother before him, received these words and without fight, without struggle, goes to his death.
This fact alone causes one to pause. It’s a death like no other; planned, without natural cause, without illness or violence, simply death in that it was God’s decision for it to be so; with the compliance of Moses, the faithful servant.
So our teacher, who went willingly, ends here as we too turn the scroll and come to an end of sorts. Just like that, one of the greatest men, with one of the greatest influences on the world, comes to his death. Just before the greatest military operation the world has ever known, surely for such a time as this Israel would need its great leader? Moses, the one who years before ascended another mountain for the receiving of life, God’s Torah, yet here who now ascends unto death, by divine instruction.
The Father explains why;
Deuteronomy 32:51 (The Scriptures)
51 because you trespassed against Me in the midst of the children of Yisra’ěl at the waters of Meriḇah Qaḏěsh, in the Wilderness of Tsin, because you did not set Me apart in the midst of the children of Yisra’ěl.
And returning to Meribah Qadesh we read;
Numbers 20:7–12 (The Scriptures)
7 And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying,
8 “Take the rod and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aharon. And you shall speak to the rock before their eyes, and it shall give its water. And you shall bring water for them out of the rock and give drink to the congregation and their livestock.”
9 And Mosheh took the rod from before יהוה as He commanded him.
10 And Mosheh and Aharon assembled the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”
11 Then Mosheh lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. And much water came out, and the congregation and their livestock drank.
12 But יהוה spoke to Mosheh and to Aharon, “Because you did not believe Me, to set Me apart in the eyes of the children of Yisra’ěl, therefore you do not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Perhaps you missed the why in those verses.
Simply put, at Meribah the Father told Moses to speak to the rock in order to bring forth water, yet Moses, apparently in anger for those Israelite ‘rebels’, struck the rock in order for the water to come forth.
We’re to believe that this is it? This is the reason why Mosheh Rabbeinu (Moses Our Teacher) passes away?
Inspection of the verses yields much, and opinions vary stating that it was Moses’ lack of faith, that it was for Moses’ anger etc. that he no longer could enter our land. Surely if these things were true, that Moses lacked faith, or that Moses had flaws, it wouldn’t be enough to withhold him from the land though?
Regardless of the above, allow me to suggest that despite Moses’ actions that day that he would always find himself ascending that mountain. For the Father, before Meribah happened promised;
Numbers 14:28–30 (The Scriptures)
28 “… ‘As I live,’ declares יהוה, ‘as you have spoken in My hearing, so I do to you:
29 ‘The carcasses of you who have grumbled against Me are going to fall in this wilderness, all of you who were registered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
30 ‘None of you except Kalěḇ son of Yephunneh, and Yehoshua son of Nun, shall enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.
Before there was any incident with Meribah Moses was ordained to die. As the Father said, all who were counted, from twenty years old and above, would not enter into the land. What we fail to notice is that this declaration included Moses, who from then on, and arguably before time itself, was ordained to never complete the journey from Egypt into Israel. All with the exception for Caleb and Joshua, the two spies from that fateful incident been described in Numbers 14who remained faithful; that incident which caused God to deny that very generation the right of entry into Israel. In a sense it was the death sentence for those in the wilderness, including Moses.
Moses, then, as a leader had to die with his people, in the wilderness on the mountain overlooking the land he so strove to enter. Their leader, alone on a mountain once again.
None Like Moses
Deuteronomy 34:10 says;
Deuteronomy 34:10 (The Scriptures)
10 And since then no prophet has arisen in Yisra’ěl like Mosheh, whom יהוה knew face to face
Based on this verse the famous codifier of Jewish law, Maimonides, derived one of his 13 principals for Jewish faith; been that Moses ‘was the chief of all prophets, both before and after him.’
Contrary to the words of Maimonides though, the Torah doesn’t say that there wouldn’t be another prophet like Moses. Moses himself says;
Deuteronomy 18:15 (The Scriptures)
15 “יהוה your Elohim shall raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brothers…
And we, with the luxury of time, can safely say that Yeshua the Messiah is that prophet like Moses. As it is written in the book of Acts;
Acts 3:19–22 (The Scriptures)
19 “Repent therefore and turn back, for the blotting out of your sins, in order that times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Master,
20 and that He sends Yeshua Messiah, pre-appointed for you,
21 whom heaven needs to receive until the times of restoration of all matters, of which Elohim spoke through the mouth of all His set-apart prophets since of old.
22 “For Mosheh truly said to the fathers, ‘יהוה your Elohim shall raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brothers. Him you shall hear according to all matters, whatever He says to you.
For these reasons the people of the New Testament are focused on finding this prophet like unto Moses. This is ‘the’ prophet the priests are referring to when they speak to John the Baptist, asking him if he is ‘the prophet’.
John 1:19–21 (The Scriptures)
19 Now this was the witness of Yoḥanan when the Yehuḏim sent from Yerushalayim priests and Lěwites to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 And he confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 And they asked him, “What then, are you Ěliyahu?” So he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
In that time, keeping in mind the only Bible then was the Old Testament, Jews were taught that the Messiah would be like Moses and they were taught, rightly so, that the Messiah must be in alignment with the teachings of Moses.
There is a great maxim in Hebrew thinking, one as old as the Bible, that ‘the great redeemer, will be as the former redeemer’. Meaning, that the Messiah, will be like Israel’s savior, Moses.
Moses then is our blue print for Messiah and we can absolutely look to him to learn as to who the Messiah is. Many have done so and lists on the internet which show the various similarities; naming things like the fact that Moses and Yeshua were both sought after by the rulers of the time who killed children under the age of 2 to try and eliminate them, both resided in Egypt, both were concealed from Israel; Moses was a shepherd, Yeshua is the shepherd; Moses taught the law, Yeshua taught the law, and so on.
Most controversial though is that last point. That they both taught the law.
Well allow us, for a moment, to inspect this fact because when we look to Moses, and the books of Deuteronomy we learn some of the ‘rules’ and boundaries that the Messiah must operate within.
For example, from our text today the Scripture says;
Deuteronomy 34:10–11 (The Scriptures)
10 And since then no prophet has arisen in Yisra’ěl like Mosheh, whom יהוה knew face to face,
11 for all the signs and wonders which יהוה sent him to do in the land of Mitsrayim, before Pharaoh, and before all his servants, and in all his land,
So we can deduce that ‘the’ prophet will 1) arise from Israel 2) will know the Father ‘face to face’ 3) perform signs and wonders, and perhaps even 4) have a connection to Egypt(which we can figure from elsewhere in Scripture). All these criteria Yeshua meets.
From Deuteronomy 18, where Moses prophecies that another will come ‘like me’ we can deduce certain things about the Messiah too. The relevant verses read as;
Deuteronomy 18:15–18 (The Scriptures)
15 “יהוה your Elohim shall raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brothers. Listen to Him,
16 according to all you asked of יהוה your Elohim in Ḥorěḇ in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of יהוה my Elohim, nor let me see this great fire any more, lest I die.’
17 “And יהוה said to me, ‘What they have spoken is good.
18 ‘I shall raise up for them a Prophet like you out of the midst of their brothers. And I shall put My Words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.
So we can deduce 1) again the prophet will be from Israel 2) he will intercede on behalf of Israel 3) God will put his words in His mouth and 4) the prophet will speak all that the Father commands him and even 5) the prophet will be like Moses.
That last criteria in and of itself creates many of its own criterion for the Messiah to meet. As above with the focus on the first and latter redeemer within the first century; this helps explain the people’s focus on Yeshua in comparison to Moses, even with things like Yeshua providing the people with bread, because that’s what Moses did with the manna, he provided ‘the bread of life’.
Deuteronomy 13 also comes to bear as it provides God’s law regarding prophets and those who allegedly speak His words.
The relevant verses are;
Deuteronomy 13:1–5 (The Scriptures)
“When there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he shall give you a sign or a wonder,
2 and the sign or the wonder shall come true, of which he has spoken to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other mighty ones—which you have not known—and serve them,’
3 do not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for יהוה your Elohim is trying you to know whether you love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart and with all your being.
4 “Walk after יהוה your Elohim and fear Him, and guard His commands and obey His voice, and serve Him and cling to Him.
5 “And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams is put to death, because he has spoken apostasy against יהוה your Elohim—who brought you out of the land of Mitsrayim and redeemed you from the house of bondage—to make you stray from the way in which יהוה your Elohim commanded you to walk. Thus you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Firstly there are the signs and wonders again, but point 2 from Deuteronomy 13 can be assumed based on what the false prophet does to lead Israel astray. From this we can safely assume that the prophet of YHWH does not lead people astray from ‘the way in which YHWH your Elohim commanded you to walk’ i.e. he will not spread a message contrary to God’s law.
As Deuteronomy 18 ends;
Deuteronomy 13:17–18 (The Scriptures)
17 ….יהוה turns from the fierceness of His displeasure and shall show you compassion, love you and increase you, as He swore to your fathers,
18 when you obey the voice of יהוה your Elohim, to guard all His commands which I command you today, to do what is right in the eyes of יהוה your Elohim.
Of all the criteria for the Messiah to meet; the main point must be that he is line with, and teaches the law (Torah). Of which the Messiah does;
Matthew 5:17–19 (The Scriptures)
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete.
18 “For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done.
19 “Whoever, then, breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the reign of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens.
Regarding the false prophet the Father himself says, as we read before, that they are sent to test to see if we love the Father, and to see whether or not we would stand true to His way of life.
1 John 5:2–3 (The Scriptures)
2 By this we know that we love the children of Elohim, when we love Elohim and guard His commands.
3 For this is the love for Elohim, that we guard His commands, and His commands are not heavy
Moses is alike the Messiah in many ways which can be easily learnt.
Some fascinating ways in which Moses is like the Messiah that are not so easy can be be found within the traditions and teachings of the Midrash. These lessons all bear upon Moses’ death, as I hope we will see.
For example, Exodus Rabbah (a book of ancient Jewish tradition) 1:18 tells us that the astrologers of Egypt foresaw Moses’ birth and that a star was associated with his coming. To the pharaoh they said ‘the Mother of Israel’s savior is already pregnant’.
Shockingly the birth of Abraham in the Midrash is likewise associated with the astrologers of Babylon seeing a star and predicting the birth of Abraham.
The birth of Messiah then, with the star and the wise men, was a reminder to the sons of Israel, who in growing up heard the stories of Abraham and Moses and of how their birth and their announcement as a savior was predicted by our enemies via signs in the sky. It might be a shock but the story of birth of Yeshua greatly parallels the births of Abraham and Moses within Jewish tradition.
Continuing in the Midrash, another tradition is taught that upon Moses’ birth that he shone like light and lit up his house.
The Talmud teaches thus;
And the Sages say: At the time when Moses was born, the whole house was filled with light. It is written here ‘and she saw that he was good,’ and it is written there ‘and the Lord saw that the light was good’ (Genesis1:4)
This is told in various places in rabbinic literature as above. The sages teach here though why the tradition exists, showing that it is not so ridiculous. Now it may not spell it out as well as it could but the sages see that the creation of light in Genesis 1 is linked to the birth of Moses. They do so using a ‘remez’, which is ‘hint’, where verses are connected due to a verbal or textual similarity (common in Hebrew thinking and one of many ways to make connections).
Literally, in Exodus 2 verse 2 when Moses was born, the verse doesn’t read ‘he was a lovely child’ or whatever your translation says. It literally reads ‘it was good’; using the exact same phrase so well known and repeated during the creation account. For this reason, when Moses was born, we learn that light came into the world, and our savior was born.
The connections one can make are endless.
Another example, Moses was placed in the ark on birth and put within the Nile river. The ark is a remez to the ark of Noah (it’s using the same language in Hebrew to describe it). Ark also means ‘casket’, which yes you can obviously associate with death, and this teaches us that Messiah will prevail over death and arise from death. That same ark, likened to Noah’s, did not actually float on the water as per your English translation, but the ark literally ‘walked’ (Gen 7:18) on the water; as per the Messiah, who walked upon the waters and conquered death.
When one truly looks, there is nothing new at all in the New Testament.
Back to the End
But we were discussing the death of Moses, our great teacher, who has met his end. Surely in this, he is different to the Messiah? Well the answer is yes, his death doesn’t save you, but even in death Moses is more alike to the Messiah then we realize. For you and I are not really at the end. Though we have finished the Torah cycle for this year what this time really signifies is the beginning. This is not the end of our Torah reading; it is the beginning of our Torah reading and the tradition that has existed for centuries is that when one finishes the Torah scroll that we read, immediately with it, the first verse of Genesis with it. So we would read;
Deuteronomy 34:12 – Genesis 1:1
12 .. for all that strong hand and all the great fearsome deeds which Mosheh did before the eyes of all Yisra’ěl. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
This teaches many things, and highlights that not only is the end really the beginning of something new, but that the focus of our lives lay not in the destination, but the journey itself. Though we may fail and feel an ending of sorts within our lives, the Father is really sowing the seeds of something new. Though we may never actually see the end of something, the journey is the reason, to walk with the Father, and to strive with the Father. If we all arrived at our destination comfortably God would not be so needed and would be neglected by man. He did after all, give us manna every day and not give us a week or even a year’s supply. The Father likes to journey with us and keep us reliant on Him, and through the struggle, we connect.
This new beginning holds many ‘mystical’ truths too.
I may have mentioned that the tradition of reading verse 1 of Genesis straight after the end of Deuteronomy was an old tradition. Well it is very old and like the vast majority of the Jewish traditions that I cite, is old enough that it was taught and practiced in the time of the apostles.
I want to re-read it again for you and please sit with it.
The last verse of the Torah, with the new verse reads like this;
‘before the eyes of all of Israel…God created the heavens and the earth.’
Have you ever heard the tradition that before the creation of the world, that God went to every nation and presented them with His law? Well it’s a Jewish story told throughout Jewish literature. In it God presented His law to the nations, and only Israel accepted it, and for this reason it is taught that the Father chose Israel, pre-ordained before the creation of time etc. It may not be literally true but herein is the tradition’s foundation; or the suggestion, that ‘before the eyes of Israel’, was the creation of the world.
Think what you may of this, but this is your context for reading Ephesians 1 which states;
Ephesians 1:3–5 (The Scriptures)
3 Blessed be the Elohim and Father of our Master יהושׁע Messiah, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Messiah,
4 even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be set-apart and blameless before Him in love,
5 having previously ordained us to adoption as sons through יהושׁע Messiah to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His desire,
The death of Moses then, also then, homiletically at least, is before the creation of the world and is part of your context for the lamb slain, ‘from the foundation of the world’ (Rev 3:18).
‘Moses the servant of God’ takes on higher importance then. Moses is not just given that title in Deuteronomy 34 for no reason. It’s a connection, a remez, to ‘the’ servant of God, Messiah. In fact, to be more specific, it is a connection to the servant of Isaiah 53, who like Moses, was ordained to die for a sin he did not participate in (remember Numbers 14).
Yet he too went silently and willingly, for as Messiah;
John 10:18 (The Scriptures)
18 “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself….”
This too, as per the tradition of Moses and the light of creation, connects again to Genesis. It does so, because Moses, in that he knew the Father ‘face to face’, is likened to Adam here, who knew the Father face to face.
Adam then and his fall in the beginning, as per Moses’ death, prefigures the death of Messiah.
There are many ways to connect Adam with Messiah, but the book of Romans does it directly for us and says that Adam is a ‘type’ for the Messiah.
Romans 5:14 (The Scriptures)
14 But death reigned from Aḏam until Mosheh, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Aḏam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
Yet how is the willingness of Moses and Messiah prefigured in Adam?
The ‘secret’, is in the gem of 1 Timothy 2:14;
1 Timothy 2:14 (The Scriptures)
14 And Aḏam was not deceived…
Adam then, despite popular opinion, was not deceived in eating the apple but took upon the sin of wife knowingly and willingly. As Moses with his people, as Messiah with His Bride, Adam could not be without his love.
This same Adam who was clothed in light, like Moses, who in his birth came with light, is like Messiah, who is the light.
The end then, is in the beginning.
One has to wonder then, what did Moses truly see when he was on the mountain?
One doesn’t have to speculate because the verses teach that God showed him the land of Israel.
There is more though.
Verses 1 – 2 of Deuteronomy 34 read;
Deuteronomy 34:1–2 (The Scriptures)
And Mosheh went up from the desert plains of Mo’aḇ to Mount Neḇo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Yeriḥo. And יהוה showed him all the land of Gil‘aḏ as far as Dan,
2 and all Naphtali and the land of Ephrayim and Menashsheh, all the land of Yehuḏah as far as the Western Sea,
‘As far as the Western Sea…’
I’ve taught it many times and will continue to do so. But in the Hebrew language words are written with only consonants. There are no vowels given except for those developed in latter days. Because Hebrew is written in only consonants there are multiple ways in which a word can be pronounced. These different pronunciations can in fact completely change the meaning of a word and quite often, and quite intentionally, will give a word a double meaning.
One such example is in the story of the famine of Israel, where the 12 sons of Jacob go to Egypt to buy grain unknowingly from their brother Joseph. Well, within the story, one of the words used for grain (there’s a couple in Hebrew) can be understood as the word for ‘hope’ also. So when the Bible says that the sons of Israel ‘heard that there was grain in the land of Egypt’, it can be understood as ‘the sons of Israel heard that there was ‘hope’ in the land of Egypt’, giving the verse, and the story, a deeper meaning than just simply referring to a journey for food (it also teaches us that Joseph, the hidden Messiah, who accumulated all the grain, holds all the hope for humanity…)
Here the word ‘sea’ is ‘yam’. It can also be understood as the word ‘yom’. Rather than meaning ‘sea’ the word ‘yom’ means ‘day. The word for ‘western’ (as in the western sea) can mean ‘ancient’, or ‘last’, which for various reasons is associated with the direction west (just check your lexicon and see it to be so). Therefore, God showed Moses ‘as far as the last day’ and the sages rightly teach that Moses saw the progression of Israel’s history, throughout all of history, right up until the day when ‘the dead will be revived’ (from the Sifrei).
The land of Israel, in Hebraic thinking, is often associated with ‘the world to come’ (heaven in Christian thought), and so been shown the land, up until the end of days, this alludes that Moses saw the redemption of Israel, including our regathering to our homeland by the hand of Messiah in the end of days, including the resurrection of the dead. When one understands that the Old Testament, all of it, is prophecy, then you’ll understand the absolute significance of the fact that Moses’ predecessor was Joshua. Joshua, who took Israel into the land, which prophetically speaks of Israel entering ‘the world to come’, and the fact his name, in Hebrew; ‘Yehoshua’, is shortened in Hebrew as time goes on to ‘Yeshua’; which translates as ‘Jesus’ in our modern language. Who then takes Israel into the world to come, into the resurrection, as prophesied here in Deuteronomy 34? Jesus.
Now that word ‘western’ (acharon) is actually related to the word ‘acharei’ which means, as above, ‘last’ or is even translated as ‘behind’, as in something that is behind something else but in a sense of time and not physical location. It’s the same ‘behind’ (no pun intended) that God showed Moses in Exodus 33:21-23 when the Father showed Moses His glory. The verses read;
Exodus 33:21–23 (The Scriptures)
21 And יהוה said, “See, there is a place with Me! And you shall stand on the rock.
22 “And it shall be, while My esteem passes by, that I shall put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand while I pass by.
23 “Then I shall take away My hand and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
In this translation ‘acharie’ is translated as ‘back’; which again is reference to time, and is actually the word used when the prophets speak of the ‘end of days’ or the ‘last days’. From these verses, as per Deuteronomy 34, the sages teach that Moses saw the coming of the Messiah, the glory of God (!), in the end of days and the resurrection and redemption of Israel; the ‘acharei’.
The Resurrection of Moses
Upon his death and burial the Scriptures says ‘no one knows his burial to this day’.
Yet, that didn’t stop the sages from attempting to locate Moses’ burial place; perhaps not in a literal way, but within the Scripture itself the sages went looking.
They make an interesting point found within the blessing that Moses gave to the children of Gad. It goes like this;
Deuteronomy 33:21 (The Scriptures)
21 “And he chose the best for himself, for there the portion of the lawgiver was hidden. And he came with the heads of the people. The righteousness of יהוה he did, and His right-rulings with Yisra’ěl.”
And the sages point out that the ‘portion of the lawgiver’ must refer to the plot of land used for Moses’ burial. They do this because Moses is called the ‘lawgiver’ in Jewish thought, rightly so given that Moses brought down the Torah from Sinai.
Whilst this is probably not true in the literal sense when referring to Moses burial place, the sages go on to identify the rest of the verse with Moses; the rest of the verse which states that ‘he came with the heads of the people’, the ‘he’, they say been Moses.
The Midrash reads;
Lest people suppose that the generation that fell in the wilderness has no share in the world to come, you must be buried beside them. Then in the time to come, you shall enter with them, as it says, ‘for there the ruler’s portion was reserved, and he came at the head of the people’.
(Numbers Rabbah 19:13)
Again, probably not literally true, yet the relationship between Moses and the resurrection teaches us much about Messiah. More so when one understands, as I hope you do now, that the end is only the beginning, as it is for us, so it is for Moses.
His day will come, when the dead will raise and when our great leader Moses will walk, this time perhaps behind the true leader, Yeshua the Messiah, but nonetheless when he will walk before his people, those part of the generation that stayed true yet died in the wilderness, into the land of Israel and the world to come.
Israel, we stand at the very end; yet the resurrection and the offer of renewal is ever with us; constantly a new beginning, and every day a chance to accept the light and the life that is our Master Yeshua; the one who leads us on to places where no man can lead.
‘Before all of Israel’, God said let ‘there be light’; so that all mankind can live again.
From the Midrash;
Then God Kissed Moses and took away his soul with a kiss of the mouth. And God wept (if one might say so). (So it is written in Psalm 94:16), ‘Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?’ And the Holy Spirit said, ‘since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses’ (Deut 34:10). The heavens wept and said, ‘the godly person has perished from the land’ (Micah 7:2). The earth wept and said ‘and there is no upright person among them’ (Micah 7:2). And Joshua was looking for his master and did not find him. Then he also wept, ‘Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men’(Psalm 12:1). And the ministering angels spoke ‘He executed the righteousness of the LORD’ (Deut 33:21)’ And Israel responded ‘and his ordinance is with Israel’ (Deut 33:21). These and those said, ‘He enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walked in his upright way’ (Isaiah 57:2).
‘The memory of the righteous is blessed,’ (Proverbs 10:7) and his soul for the life of the World to Come. Amen. May this be His will. Blessed be the LORD forever. Amen.
- Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:10