The assessment of blame for the exclusion of Moses from the Promised Land


Author/Creator ORCID





Towson University. Jewish Studies Program

Citation of Original Publication




The book of Deuteronomy assigns blame for Moses’ exclusion from the Promised Land to two individuals. Deut 1:37; 3:23-28; and 4:21 place the blame on Israel while Deut. 32:50-51 place the blame on Moses. Why is the blame assessed differently? Is there an open contradiction in the book, or is there some way of meshing the two assignments? It is the goal of this thesis to use techniques developed within narrative criticism to examine the accounts of the interactions between Moses and Israel prior to and during the wilderness journey to observe how each are characterized. This thesis will demonstrate that Moses’ dominant trait is his willingness to intercede on behalf of people and that Israel's dominant trait is its consistent complaining, resistance, and/or outright rebellious nature. It will be further shown that over time, Israel's contentious behavior slowly wore down Moses until, in a fit of anger, he failed to obey God and provide a basic need to the people. The fact that every time Moses deviated from his normal characterization as intercessor is preceded by resistance, demands, and complaints from the nation warrants the conclusion that Israel played a major part in Moses’ exclusion from the Promised Land. Blame is thus assigned asymmetrically—Moses bears primary responsibility for his exclusion but Israel was the major contributor to Moses’ downfall.