Moses in Denial (Deut. 1:37)

Deuteronomy opens with Moses retelling the history and law of the Israelites before they enter before the promised land. If you’ve been following along, most of this should sound familiar. Consequently, it’s actually quite easy to plow through Deuteronomy uncritically. In fact, that’s what I did. Realizing this wouldn’t do for Holey Books, I sat back down with a fresh cup of coffee and a notepad for a re-read, and this time I caught something unexpected—and in first chapter, no less.

When Moses is reviewing the Israelites’ rebellion (Deut. 1:26-46), he claims that the Israelites are responsible for him not being able to enter the promised land:

37 Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. (Deut. 1:37)

He reaffirms this position later (Deut. 3:26-29). That’s not what I remember happening. I guess it’s my word against his. Ah, that’s right, if we’re to take the traditional approach to the Pentateuch (i.e. Moses wrote it), then it’s his word against his:

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Num. 20:12)

This was after Moses and Aaron took the credit for bringing water from a rock for the thirsty Israelites (Num. 20:1-13). This version of the story is maintained later by God (Deut. 32:48-52).

So what? Well, to the religious liberal this is probably a non-issue, but to anyone who holds the Bible to be inerrant and God-breathed, this is the type of contradiction that should be impossible to find.

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