Taking the Promised Land - Part 1
TIME TO FULFILL THE PROMISE
So, now that Moses has laid down the law, it’s time to take possession of the Promised Land.
At present Moses and his gang are still on the east side of the Jordan River and the Promised Land is basically from the Jordan River west, all the way to the ocean.1
So the first thing Moses does is send spies into the land to see what it’s like. When the spies come back they say it’s a great place, flowing with milk and honey, but the people are strong and it will be very difficult to steal their land.
As you might expect, a lot of Moses’ band lost faith (again) and wanted to stone Moses for bringing them out here to die in the desert. Why didn’t they just stay in Egypt where they were happy slaves?
And predictably, God got pissed (again) and wanted to kill them all (again) and raise up a new nation from the descendants of Moses. But Moses argued with God (again) and was able to convince him not to do it (again). We’re well into a pattern here now, do you see it?
But in return for not killing them all God said none of the people who came up out of Egypt would see the Promised Land. None of them. This whole generation would die off in the desert and it would be their children who would inherit the Promised Land. Why the people who didn’t protest had to pay the price is not mentioned.2 Hence, they were doomed to wander the desert for 40 years.3
Again, as you might imagine, a lot of the people weren’t happy about this so there was a major uprising against Moses. But, lo and behold, the ground opened up and swallowed up the uprisers. That put a quick end to this particular uprising.
You’d think God would be super happy with how Moses had handled these stiff-necked people.4 No such luck.
Eventually the people grumbled against Moses (again) because they had no water. God told Moses to go stand on a rock and command the water to come forth. Maybe he was frustrated, maybe he’d had a bad day or was tired, maybe he just didn’t understand the instructions but, for whatever reason, Moses didn’t do exactly as he was told. Instead he struck the rock with his staff and the water came out anyway.
All is well, right. Not so. God got pissed at Moses for not following his orders exactly. Apparently this striking the rock was not cool. So what did God do? Even after all he’d gone through, all the loyalty he’d shown, all the arguing and convincing, God told Moses he didn’t get to go to the Promised Land. All because he hit the rock with his stick. This time Moses couldn’t argue his way out of it. Sorry, bro. Again, God acting like a petty, vindictive, demagogue.
To make it worse, for some reason God was pissed at Aaron too.5 He told Moses to take Aaron and his son up to the top of Mt. Hor. Once there, Moses stripped Aaron of his priestly garments and put them on his son, Eleazar. So now Eleazar was the High Priest.
So what of Aaron? All it says is Aaron died up there. Did Moses kill him? Did he commit suicide? We’ll never know. All we know is he went up but didn’t come down.
KILL ‘EM ALL
Even though Moses knew he’d never set foot in the Promised Land it didn’t stop him from fighting to get there. From that point forward it was Israel against the world.
But before they could take the Promised Land they had to fight their way to the Jordan River.
First they took out the Canaanites in Hormah6, destroying all their cities. Next they conquered the Amorites, killing everybody and taking their land. Then Og, King of Bashan, again killing everybody.7
By now everyone in the area was deathly afraid of Israel so they went to this guy named Balaam, a powerful priest and soothsayer. The kings of the land wanted Balaam to curse Moses and his people. But God told Balaam not to do it, so he didn’t.
The only reason I mention this is because, after a bunch of stuff happened, Balaam’s donkey talked to him. That’s right, talked to him.8 So, if you’re a literalist, you already believe in talking snakes and now in talking donkeys.
Anyway, it all turned out well for Moses because Balaam ended up blessing the Israelites who wasted no time in wiping out these particular kings who had tried to set Balaam against them..
But it didn’t take long for the people to go astray once again9. They started hanging out with the local women and even worshiped their God, Baal.
Moses’ response was typical. He promptly gathered up all the people who’d been worshiping Baal and killed them, 24,000 in all.
So much for the ‘thou shalt not kill’ thing (again).
Once all was right again in Moses’ world, God sent him off to war against Midian. Remembering how those foreign women had led his people astray before, Moses commanded his soldiers to kill all the men, women and male children while keeping for themselves only the virgin girls, of which there were 32,000. Gives you an idea about how much killing was going on.
These Israelites were getting a well deserved reputation as a scorched earth kind of people. Talk about putting the fear of God in you. It looked like Israel’s god was the baddest dude in town.
Next Moses gave specific instructions on how to divide up the Promised Land.10
After all this killing and conquering, Moses recited a long list of blessings and curses that boil down to; if you do what God wants, things will go well, and if you don’t, things will go very badly.
You’d think God might give Moses a break on the stick and water thing, but no such luck. God sent Moses up to Mount Nebo to take a look at the Promised Land one last time. That’s all he was gonna get, a look. I guess God just wanted to rub salt in the wound. He could see it, but he couldn’t go in.
So Moses died up there on the mountain and God buried him somewhere, nobody knows where.
There’s an interesting sideline regarding this story that’s worth a note. After we learn of Moses’ death it literally says, “…and no one knows the place of his burial to this day.” Emphasis on “…to this day.” How long after the fact was this written?11
So that’s it for Moses.
1It might help if you look at a map or, better yet, Google it.
3A long time, not literally 40 years
4His words, not mine
5This I can understand, after the golden calf fiasco
6Canaan bites the dust again.
7Men, women, children and often the animals
9Did I mention stiff necked people
10After they’d stolen it and killed everybody
11See Documentary Hypothesis