Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Phasga was the highest part of Nebo, which was a summit of the Abarim mountains. — Dan. All the conquered countries east of the Jordan, as far as the source of that river, chap. xxxiii. 22., and Genesis xiv. 14. (Calmet) — God miraculously enabled Moses to see so far. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. Nephthali, from Libanus to the lake of Genesareth. (Calmet) — The other three tribes occupied the greatest part of the country southward, as far as Idumea. (Haydock) — Sea. Hebrew, “the sea behind,” or to the west; as, in determining the situation of places, the Jews looked towards the east. Moses took a view of all the countries which the people should possess, as far as the Mediterranean.
Ver. 3. South part: the mountains of Judea. (Calmet) — Trees. Jericho, (Haydock) or Engaddi. — Segor was on the south of the Dead Sea. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. This land, which has been just described, is what God chiefly promised to the Patriarchs, comprising the countries on the east, as well as those on the western side of the Jordan. (Haydock) — To it. But thou shalt be translated to a better land, the land of the living. Moses was now perfectly resigned to the will of God. (Salien) — He no longer cherished those ardent desires of introducing the people into Chanaan, which he had not long before expressed: as he found that God had decreed that he should be deprived of the honour. He received this refusal as a just punishment of his transgression, and calmly reposed in the Lord. There seems no reason why Moses might not have written the preceding verses at least, though the names of some of the tribes are mentioned, who obtained possession only after his death. As he knew the limits of the promised land, so by the prophetic spirit, he might know that these tribes would be settled in the country; and he does not mark out their divisions with any degree of precision. In a word, there seems to be hardly a single passage in the Pentateuch, which may not have Moses for its author. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Died there. This last chapter of Deuteronomy, in which the death of Moses is related, was written by Josue, or by some of the prophets. (Challoner) — Josephus ([Antiquities] iv. 9.), Philo, and Origen (contra Cels. ii. p. 95,) believe, however, that Moses wrote the account of his own death. See preface to Deuteronomy. (Haydock) — Moab, which had formerly belonged to that nation. (Menochius) — Commandment. Hebrew literally, “the mouth.” The Rabbins say God kissed him, and thus released his soul. Some have nevertheless pretended that Moses was translated, like Elias, without dying. (Chaldean; Catharin; &c.) But his death and burial are too clearly mentioned in Scripture. St. Jerome (in Amos viii.) seems, at first view, to countenance the former opinion: but he only speaks of a spiritual translation, and not of the body. (Calmet) — Josephus thinks that it was to prevent this mistake, that Moses wrote this chapter.
Ver. 6. He buried him, viz., by the ministry of angels, and would have the place of his burial to be unknown, lest the Israelites, who were so prone to idolatry, might worship him with divine honours. (Challoner) — St. Michael therefore contended with satan about his body, Jude 9. Some have maintained that Josue and Eleazar performed these last rites to their deceased lawgiver. (Calmet) — But then some men would have known where he was buried. (Haydock) — Day. It is pretended that Jeremias discovered the place, 2 Machabees ii. 4, 5. He found indeed a hollow cave….and so stopped the door. Yet this does not prove that he found the sepulchre of Moses, (Calmet) who was buried in some valley over-against Phogor, but it is not said in a cave. (Haydock) — Cajetan infers from the body of Moses not being buried in the mountain, that it was conveyed by angels to some vale, where his attendants could not see him.
Ver. 7. Eye. Hebrew also, “colour.” His sight and complexion were as good as in his youth, though he was 120 years old. — Moved. The rays “of glory never changed,” but attended him to the grave. (Chaldean) Hebrew, “his natural force (and vigour) never left him; or his cheeks did not fall in.” (Calmet) — The Roman Martyrology places the death of Moses on the 4th of September, though the Rabbins say he died in the 12th month. (Salien)
Ver. 8. Days, as they had done for Mary [Miriam] and for Aaron: (Josephus) the usual term was only seven days. (Calmet) — The Jews would probably have prolonged their mourning for Moses forty days, in honour of the years of his government, if they had not been ordered to cross the Jordan. (Salien)
Ver. 9. Because. God was pleased to accompany this exterior sign with his blessing. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Moses. No prophet ever appeared with greater dignity, in the old law, than Moses. He behaved in all respects as the envoy of God, who has been pleased to give his character and eulogium, Numbers xii. 6., and Ecclesiasticus xlv. 1. His miracles were most astonishing, performed in the presence both of friends and of enemies, not for a short time, but for a continuance of many years. (Calmet) — But when we compare Moses with the Messias, his person and law must be regarded indeed as illustrious figures, but infinitely beneath the reality. Moses was liable to failings, which caused him to be debarred from entering the land of promise; and he wore a veil, to shew that his law was only the shadow of a better, and that it could bring nothing to perfection. He works miracles in the name of the Lord, and with a rod: Jesus performs all by the word of his own power, (Hebrews i. 3,) as the sovereign of the world. But though Moses must sink in a comparison with Christ, yet no other personage sustained a more exalted character, or shone with greater splendour, as lawgiver, priest, prophet, ruler of a great and ungovernable people, and a sacred writer of the highest antiquity. Hence the Jews almost adore him. The Mahometans place him next to Jesus and their false prophet. (Haydock) — The pagans have very probably ascribed many parts of his history to their idols, Bacchus, Mercury, and Typhon; and their greatest philosophers, Pythagoras, Plato, &c., have borrowed many things from his writings. “What, said Numenius, is Plato, but Moses in the Attic language?” See Exodus xxxiv. 29.; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 1. and 5.; Josephus, contra Apion i.; Bochart, &c. (Calmet) — In a word, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose, (de Cain 2,) and Philo, represent Moses as the most perfect example of a great and pious leader and legislator. (Salien, the year of the world 2583.) (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Moses seeth the promised land, but is not suffered to go into it. He dieth at the age of 120 years. God burieth his body secretly, and all Israel mourn for him thirty days. Josue, replenished (by the imposition of Moses’ hands) with the spirit of God, succeedeth. But Moses, for his special familiarity with God and for most wonderful miracles, is commended above all other prophets.
1 Then *Moses went up from the plains of Moab, upon Mount Nebo, to the top of Phasga, **over-against Jericho: and the Lord shewed him all the land of Galaad, as far as Dan,
2 And all Nephthali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasses, and all the land of Juda unto the furthermost sea,
3 And the south part, and the breadth of the plain of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, as far as Segor.
4 And the Lord said to him: *This is the land, for which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to thy seed. Thou hast seen it with thy eyes, and shalt not pass over to it.
5 And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there, in the land of Moab, by the commandment of the Lord:
6 And he buried him in the valley of the land of Moab, over-against Phogor: and no man hath known of his sepulchre until this present day.
7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, neither were his teeth moved.
8 And the children of Israel mourned for him, in the plains of Moab, thirty days: and the days of their mourning, in which they mourned for Moses, were ended.
9 And Josue, the son of Nun, was filled with the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands upon him. And the children of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.
10 And there arose no more a prophet in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,
11 In all the signs and wonders which he sent by him, to do in the land of Egypt to Pharao, and to all his servants, and to his whole land,
12 And all the mighty hand, and great miracles, which Moses did before all Israel.
1: Year of the World 2553. — ** Deuteronomy iii. 27. and xxxii. 49.; 2 Machabees ii. 4.
4: Genesis xii. 7. and xv. 18.