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The Last Days of Moses

When the children of Israel were in camp near the river Jordan, Moses talked to them for the last time. He reminded them of how the Lord had brought them out of Egypt, and had kept them for forty years in the wilderness and had promised to make of them a very great nation. He went over all the laws and commandments of the Lord and instructed the people in the service of God, and told them what was His will concerning them.

He told them the time had come for them to march into the promised land and to take possession of it. There they would find beautiful cities which they had not built, and houses full of goods which they had not bought, and wells they had not digged, and vineyards and olive trees they had not planted. There should be plenty to eat and to drink, only they must not forget the Lord.

Always they must remember their journey in the wilderness, and how for forty years they had been led by the Lord, and how the manna had fallen for their food, and how their clothes had not worn out, and how their feet had not been sore or swollen on the long marches. The Lord would take care of them in the new land just as he had in the wilderness.

Moses told the people that the Lord would go before them as they passed over Jordan, and that He would give them the victory over the nations they would find there. When they reached this land they would find streams that ran through the fields, and springs of water that ran out of the ground. They would find land where the wheat grew, and grapes and figs and pomegranates and olives. Under the ground there was iron and other metals from which they could make the things they needed to use.

The people of Canaan worshiped idols, and built altars on the mountains and high places where they offered sacrifices. They even slew their own sons and daughters in offerings to their heathen gods. Moses told the people of Israel to destroy all these idols and tear down all the altars and images to the false gods. By no means must the children of Israel be led into the worship of these heathen gods, lest the wrath of the Lord be kindled against them.

Some of the cities of Canaan were to be set aside as cities of refuge. They meant that certain places should be named, where any man who had killed another by accident might flee and be safe from punishment. All murders, of course, were to be punished by death, but if one killed another without intending to do it, he was to flee at once to one of these cities of refuge, where he could live safely and not suffer from the vengeance of the relatives and friends of the man he had unintentionally killed.

Finally Moses told the people that if they would obey the word of the Lord they would become greater than any other nation. The Lord would bless them and their children, and their enemies would be afraid and flee before their faces. They were the chosen people and God's care was to be always about them in the land of promise. If they did not heed the words of the Lord and did not obey his commandments they should suffer great disasters. The seed they sowed would bear but little grain, and the locusts would destroy even that; the grapes they hoped to gather would be eaten by worms; and they should have sickness that no one could cure. Worse than all, their enemies should take them captive and destroy all their cattle and food, and take them away as slaves to distant lands.

All this and much more did the old Moses tell the people of Israel as they camped by Jordan. They listened to him day after day as he preached to them and instructed them, and told them of the life that was before them in the land of Canaan.

The time had come for them to have a new leader, for Moses was old and was not to go over Jordan with the hosts of Israel. The Lord was going to take him to Himself and Joshua would be the leader of Israel. Then Moses took Joshua into the tabernacle, and the Lord appeared to them in a pillar of cloud. Then he anointed Joshua to be the leader of Israel after Moses had died.

Moses wrote all the laws down in a book and gave them to the priests. Then he commanded them every seven years to gather the people together and read these laws to them, so that they might know them well and obey them. He gave the book to the Levites who put it in the ark which they bore on their journeys from place to place.

The time had come for Moses to die. He was a hundred and twenty years old; but his eye was not dim nor was his body weak. He had been kept by the Lord in all the vigor and power of his manhood, so that no man could say he was old and feeble. The Lord told him to go to the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, and Moses did as the Lord had commanded. There he looked over all the land of Gilead, and across the Jordan to the places where the people of Israel were to go. The Lord then said to Moses: "This is the land which I swore with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. I have caused you to see it but you shall not go over there."

Then Moses died alone with God on top of the mountain and God buried him, but no man knew where, nor has any one found his grave to this day.

The people of Israel wept for Moses thirty days as was their custom. Joshua the son of Nun became their leader, for Moses had laid his hands upon him, and the Lord had given him wisdom. Therefore, the people of Israel obeyed the words of Joshua even as they had obeyed the words of Moses.