The Deuteronomic (D) and Priestly source (P) differ on their reason for why Moses could not enter the land of Canaan. Since this issue is not presented in the older Yahwist nor Elohist traditions, we might assume that this story derived from a later “need” and was thus inserted into the tradition. At any event, D and P give competing answers.
As we saw in the previous entry (#262-265), the Priestly writer completely rewrites the Yahwist version of the Waters at Meribah story, specifically adding into his version a reason why Yahweh was wroth with Moses and thus denied him entry. Even here, the specific reason is unclear. We know that P changes “striking” the rock to “speaking” to it, whereupon Moses strikes it! But specifically why or how, in P’s view, Moses “made a breach” (Deut 32:51 [P]) against Yahweh is unclear. This of course receives much speculation in the rabbinic tradition.
At any event, the Deuteronomist provides a different rationale and what is significant in the Deuteronomic tradition’s version is that this rationale excludes Moses of any wrongdoing, rebelliousness, or sin against Yahweh. Rather, because Moses bears the sins of the people, he does not enter Canaan! This is what the Deuteronomist provides us:
- “Yahweh was incensed at me too, because of you, saying ‘You too shall not come there!” (Deut 1:37; context: D’s spy story. The idea that Yahweh was somehow angry with Moses on account of the spy’s sin here in D is a narrative detail completely absent from the original J version)
- “But Yahweh was cross at me because of you… ‘see it with your eyes, because you won’t cross this Jordan!” (Deut 3:26)
- “And Yahweh had been incensed at me over your matters, and he swore that I would not cross the Jordan and not come to the good land…” (Deut 4:21)
We must additionally bear in mind that the Deuteronomist’s retelling of the Meribah incident also makes no reference to any sin or disobedience that Moses did! Thus it would appear that for this author (D), Moses does not cross over to the land for no fault/sin of his! Again, this is just one way in which handed-down traditions and stories were rewritten by later writers so that they better suited these later writers’ agendas and/or ideologies.
Moses was the Deuteronomist’s hero. And it may be for this and other unknown reasons that when this author narrates the reason why Yahweh did not allowing Moses to enter the promised land that it is a different reason from that given by the Priestly writer. It was not Moses fault or something that Moses did, claims D! The Deuteronomist clearly states, through Moses’ own mouth, that he was not allowed to enter the land of Canaan because of the people’s sins, which apparently Moses carried or bore himself!