excerpt from the book :

Why Moses  was not allowed

to enter the promised land 

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Why Moses

was not allowed to enter the promised land


Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egyptian captivity and through the desert for forty years to guide them to the land east of the Jordan, which God had once promised to the fathers and their descendants. 

But at the end of the way he was not destined to go over there himself.

He was one hundred and twenty years old when he climbed Mount Nebo, the highest elevation west of the Jordan, from which, far beyond the Jordan Valley, one looks to the region that extends east of the river. From there, God showed Moses the land. He reminded of his promise and then said to Moses:

I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.  5 Moses 34,4


Why was it destined to Moses to see the promised land after the forty-year desert migration, but not to enter it?


The reason is less familiar, but is articulated in the preceding texts, in the descriptions at the end of the desert migration: The people were dissatisfied because they suffered from a lack of water. 

There were allegations against Moses, whereupon he and his brother Aharon visited the tabernacle to ask for God's help. God told him to take a staff and to gather the congregation. In front of their eyes he should tell to a rock to let water flow:

Take the staff; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink. 4 Moses 20, 8


Moses initially did as he was told. He stepped before the people and said: Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?

Then, instead of speaking to the rock, as instructed, Moses, it is said, beats twice with the staff at the rock. There was a lot of water coming out and the community could drink and their cattle.

Then it goes on to say:

But the Eternal said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as the saint in the sight of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them“


The water had flowed out of the rock before the eyes of the congregation, in such a quantity that all, and also the cattle, could drink enough. But what was the omission of Moses, after all that, not to have sanctify God before the eyes of the Israelites as the saint?


One might think It could be seen in the announcement with which he stepped in front of the crowd: Listen, you rebels,  shall we bring water for you out of this rock?

He refers to himself and Aharon, without mentioning God.


 But this interpretation doesn‘t realy grasps content and background of the encounter between God and Moses, it would be an assumption that disregards the essential and articulated difference between the instruction of God and the behavior of Moses: Moses should speak to the rock - instead he had hit the rock with the staff twice.


It was not the first time the people had complained about a lack of water and Moses, at God's command, had poured water from a rock.  Once before, at the beginning of the desert migration, it had already happened. At that time, God had specifically instructed Moses to hit the rock with his staff. 2 Moses 17, 5


Now he instructs him to take the staff, but then to speak to the rock, to let the water flow. It should, so it seems, be made clear to all eyes that now not the staff, but the word opens the rock.

Moses again grabs the staff and hits the rock.

The commentator Rashi emphasizes: Because God had not commanded to strike the rock, but 'you shall speak to the rock ....' if Moses and Aharon had not passed away here, they would have entered the land. 

Rashi Comments, The Fourth Book of Moses, 20, 12


This is the reason, that is mentioned, why Moses was only allowed to see the Promised Land, but not to enter it.

He had not, as commanded, spoken to the rock to let water flow, but used the staff, an instrument. And did not let the word become presence.

What was it about the staff?



The staff of Aharon



It was the second time that the people had complained about a lack of water, here it was towards the end of the desert migration. At the first complaint, at the beginning of the journey through the desert, when God had commanded Moses to strike the rock with the staff for water to flow out of it, he had called a certain staff: ... take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile.  2 Moses 17, 5


This is pointed to an earlier use of the staff. It was supposed to be the staff that Aharon had used to hit the Nile, so that it turns into blood. This was the first of the ten Egyptian plagues that came in because Pharaoh did not want to let the Hebrews go. 

There, at this event, again, a reference is made to a previous use of the staff: (...)