Deuteronomy 1-11 presents Moses renarrating events from the wilderness period as a sort of survey of events leading up to the encampment on the plains of Moab some 40 years afterward. Yet in every single renarration the author of Deuteronomy has Moses alter, modify, and even contradict the details of these events/stories as they were told in the books of Exodus and Numbers. Most of these altered retellings happen to the older JE traditions, which I have been waiting to discuss when we get to the contradictions in the book of Deuteronomy. On a few occasions, however, the Deuteronomist has Moses renarrate with variation a story from the Priestly tradition. Our present entry is one such case.
Deuteronomy 3:23-25 is a short speech given by Moses that does not appear in the traditions preserved in Exodus–Numbers. In fact, Deuteronomy is full of speeches that Moses claims he had said “at that time”—referring to past events in the wilderness—that are in fact not attested in the versions that speak of what transpired “at those times,” that is traditions now preserved in Exodus and Numbers. These speeches are the creation of the author of Deuteronomy himself and serve to legitimate his religious beliefs and particular ideological program by presenting them from the authoritative mouthpiece of Moses—one of the literary techniques employed by this 7th century BCE author. See The Deuteronomist.
At any event, Deut 3:23-25 is one such case. Moses claims that “at that time” he implored Yahweh to allow him to crossover to the promised land, to which Yahweh replied, with indignation, “Not a chance!” In fact, the way that the Deuteronomist sets this story up is also unique. Moses’ begging and Yahweh’s refusal serve as a foil for Moses’ ascent to Pisgah (but see #305) where as a consolatory gesture Yahweh allows him to see the land. This too is a unique creation of the Deuteronomist’s retelling.
Back to the Priestly version in Numbers 27:12-21, we immediately notice that what Moses here in Deuteronomy claims to have said to Yahweh “at that time” is not recorded in the version that relates what happened “at that time.” Instead of Moses imploring Yahweh, Yahweh refusing, and then Yahweh offering a consolatory vision of the promised land atop Pisgah, in the original version in Num 27, Yahweh just commands Moses with no prompting: “Ascend this mountain, Abarim.”
Finally, although this was already treated in contradiction #266, both the Priestly version in Num 27 and the Deuteronomic version in Deut 3 give contradictory reasons for why Moses cannot crossover. Numbers 27:14 specifically references Moses’ disobedience at the waters of Meribath affair (see #262-265) for the reason why he cannot crossover. Yet nearly a couple months later—narratively speaking—Moses claims that it was on account of the Israelites’ sin in the spying of the land affair (Deut 3:26, 1:37). In other words, the Deuteronomist has changed, has Moses alter, the tradition and claim a different reason! Or is it that the Priestly writer has altered the tradition? Or are we talking about two independent traditions?