You can’t tell the story of Moses without talking about mountains. He had five significant mountain-top experiences in which God spoke to him. These high-altitude meetings literally represented the “high points” of Moses’ long life.
On Mt. Horeb, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called him to deliver His people (Exodus 3:1-2). At Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the Law. On Mt. Hor, God took Aaron the priest, Moses’ brother and ministry partner, and told Moses to appoint his nephew Eleazar as the replacement. On Mt. Abarim (a range of mountains), God told Moses that he would not enter the Promised Land. Moses asked the Lord to give the people someone to lead them, and God promised Joshua.
There was one last mountain for Moses to climb: Mt. Nebo (v.1). Nebo was in the Abarim Range, a high plateau east of the Jordan River. The highest peak of Nebo was called Pisgah (elev. 2,600 feet). From the top of Nebo, Moses would have an unobstructed view of the entire Promised Land.
It is noteworthy that Moses’ ministry began talking with God on a mountain, and it would end in the very same way. Moses had left that first mountain, Horeb, with a new purpose; he left Mt. Sinai with new principles; he left Mt. Hor with a new priest; he left Mt. Abarim with a new point man – but he would not leave Mt. Nebo at all.
The Bible’s account of the actual death and funeral of Moses is marked by dignity and brevity (v.5-6). Moses died at 120 years old with vision and vigor that was younger than his years (v.7). The Lord Himself buried him in an unmarked grave and the people of Israel mourned his death for an entire month. His epitaph is a fitting tribute to a great man of God (v.10-12):
He was an unparalleled prophet. He knew God face-to-face. He was greatly used by God to deliver His people from Egypt. He was the human instrument of the mighty, miraculous power of God. He was an important man, so we should respect him; but he was an imperfect man, so we can relate to him.
Thank you, God, for your servant Moses, and for all you have taught me in the Books of Moses, from the Law of Moses, and through the example of Moses.
One final thing about this chapter: I have often thought about how humbling it is to me as a ministry leader that Moses, the great leader, died, the people were sad for a while, but in the very next verse there was another great leader to take his place (v.9). In the Kingdom of God, everyone is important but no one is indispensable.