Q&A: Moses and the Last Chapter of His Life - Deuteronomy 34

Moses and the Last Chapter of His Life - Deuteronomy 34

Question

Deuteronomy 34 records the death of Moses. How could Moses be the author of this chapter that records his own death?

Answer

Some state that God could have told Moses about his own death - as he is all-knowing and could reveal the future in detail (Dan. 2; 7; 9; 12) - therefore, Moses could have scribed it. However, while this is certainly a possibility, it is more probable that someone else added this final chapter to the books of Moses. There is a comparison of prophets in Deuteronomy 34:10-12 that suggests that generations may have passed since Moses' death:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt - to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
Who are these "prophets"? (Elijah, Elisha, or possibly anticipating all the Former Prophets - Deut. 18:18). While ultimately one greater than Moses came on the scene - Christ (Matt. 4:23-25; Acts 2:22; Heb. 3) - the lack of prophets immediately after Moses (Joshua does not mention prophets and Judges does not refer to any by name) infers that this part of the book was probably added at some later date when prophets of some stature could be used as a comparison.

However, the fact that someone other than Moses added the last chapter to the book of Deuteronomy does not change the fact that the book should be read as coming from the time of Moses. We know Moses wrote the majority of it. In the Pentateuch there are internal references to Mosaic authorship, such as the mention of Moses writing down all that the Lord had told him (Ex. 24:4; Deut. 31:9, 24). Additionally, Jesus and the New Testament also confirm Mosaic authorship (Mark 10:5; 12:19-27; Luke 20:28-38; John 1:45; 5:46).

See:

What is JEDP?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).