Deuteronomy 33 & 34

Just prior to his death, Moses blesses each of the 12 tribes of Israel. One thing stands out to me. Pretty much everything in these first five books of the Bible take place in the realm of the temporal. You don’t really see references to the eternal and spiritual. Even those who die are gathered to their fathers, not said to be with God in eternity. One place where there is a vision of heaven and angels is Genesis 28, where Jacob dreams of a stairway to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. Other than that, and it was a dream, all of God’s dealings have been focused on earthly blessings and consequences.

But verse 27 of chapter 33 may be the first reference to things beyond. Moses says:

The eternal God is your refuge,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms.

The only other time the word eternal is used in the Pentateuch is in Genesis 21:33. After Abraham negotiates a treating a treaty, it says that he plants a tree and “called upon the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.” The word everlasting is found more often, but almost every reference is to “everlasting covenant.” We know what God meant by that word, literally forever, but to an ancient near eastern people everlasting probably meant a really long time. Conceiving of eternity would have been incomprehensible. That would only be revealed slowly in the course of redemptive history. Until then, it was all about the land and temporal blessings from God.

In chapter 34 we see Moses’ end. God shows him the land one last time, but he tells him again he will not “cross over into it.” Moses a type of Christ, could not take God’s people into the promised land, a type of heaven. That would require a perfect mediator, which Moses was most definitely not. He dies and is buried in an unmarked grave, and Joshua takes over. I think it not a coincidence that the one to lead Israel into the land, to cross the river (a type of death), has the same name as the one who became our eternal mediator and leads us into eternal life. But there is a ways to go before we get there.


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