In Deuteronomy, the Bible says that Moses was buried in the valley of the land of Moab, but no one knows exactly where his burial place is.
Moses is one of the most well-known characters of the Bible and Jewish history. He was called by God to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and all the way to the doorstep of the promised land.
There’s not a lot of debate over the events of his life, but there is some confusion as to where exactly Moses was buried at the end of his life. Let’s investigate.
The Birth and Life of Moses
Moses was born to Egyptian parents but raised by the daughter of Pharaoh during a time when Pharaoh was harsh with the Israelites, commanding every newborn Hebrew boy be thrown into the Nile. To avoid having him killed, Moses’ mother and Moses’ father placed him in a basket and abandoned him as a baby (with good intentions) in the Nile, where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and essentially adopted. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s house but after he had grown up, he one day encountered an Egyptian beating an Israelite and in his anger, he killed the Egyptian and fled to the wilderness of Midian, exiling himself from Egypt.
It was in Midian that Moses hears from God out of the burning bush and agrees to play a role in the Exodus of God’s people out of Egypt. He was in Midian for 40 years before returning to Egypt. Moses and his brother Aaron approach Pharaoh, requesting God’s people be let go, and after God sends ten plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh gives in. But even after giving in, Pharaoh pursues the Israelites, only to be swept away in the waters of the Red Sea.
Moses in the Wilderness
Once Moses and the people were on the other side of the Red Sea, they found themselves in the desert wilderness, where God promised to give His people a Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. But He would first lead Moess and the people through the desert in a wilderness season. Moses leads the people to the Wilderness of Shur and then to Mt. Sinai where Moses meets with God, intercedes for the people, constructs the tabernacle, and delivers much of the Law of Moses. They leave Sinai and head for Kadesh-Barnea, which borders the promised land of Canaan.
When they get to the outskirts of the Promised Land, they sent 12 spies to spy out the land they would be taking for their own.
The Death and Burial of Moses
Ten of the spies gave a bad report about the land, and the people became nervous that they wouldn’t be able to fight and have victory over the current inhabitants. Because of their lack of belief and grumbling, God disciplined them, not letting any of their generation step into the land. Instead, this generation would wander in the wilderness desert with Moses for forty years.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.Numbers 14:27-30
It was during this time late in his life that Moses took his second wife after the passing of Zipporah. Moses died just on the outskirts of the promised land. But there’s no doubt he lived a full and meaningful life, nonetheless. Moses died and went to be with God at Mt. Nebo, just outside the Promised Land.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.Deuteronomy 34:1-8
So according to the scriptures, we know he died on Mount Nebo in Moab, at the top of Pisgah. But where was he buried?
The Burial Place of Moses
Deuteronomy 34:6 tells us, “He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, near Beth-peor, and no one knows his burial place to this day.”
That said, there’s a tomb on Mt. Nebo with inscription stating this is where Moses is buried. Many believe this to be true, despite the Bible’s note that he was buried in the valley – not atop the mountain.
So we may not know exactly where Moses was buried, but the Bible gives us a good idea. The valley of the land of Moab is a pretty big place, but at least we have a general idea of where Moses is buried. And unlike the prophet Elijah who was taken up to Heaven, Moses does have a burial place somewhere.
At the end of the day, it’s not the most important thing about Moses nor the Old Testament narrative. Wherever he’s buried, we know his soul is at rest with God in Heaven.