Who wrote the last 5 verses of Deuteronomy 34?

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Moses’ authorship of the book of Deuteronomy is unquestioned. Based on this fact, some ask if Moses died in Deuteronomy 34:7, then who wrote the last 5 verses of that chapter?

Deuteronomy 34:7-12

“Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended.

Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

10 But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, 12 and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.”

Opinions

The Bible has not indicated the authorship of the last 5 verses of Deuteronomy 34. Some Bible commentators have believed that Moses wrote this part of the book before his death, but others have felt that Joshua or some other unnamed writer wrote it at some point later on, as an afterthought to the Pentateuch.

Either opinion is wholly in harmony with the method in which the Holy Spirit has worked in other instances. However, certain words in vs. 6–12 seem best understood as suggesting that Joshua was the author of the last five verses:

  1. The words “but no one knows his grave to this day” (v. 6) show attention by those who survived Moses, concerning the place of burial. There is additional reason to believe that this statement was written by another person after Moses’ death, by inspiration, than that it was recorded by Moses himself before that incident.
  2. The words of v. 9, confirming the authority of Joshua and his capability as a leader, seem to be more a clear historical story of the change of leadership, than a prediction about it. In Moses’ report of the future experiences of the twelve tribes (Deuteronomy 33), he writes in an obviously prophetic words (vs. 10, 12, 19, etc.); here, the words are that of a simple historical story.
  3. The words, “there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses” (v. 10), seem more proper as a eulogy by Joshua or some other person than by Moses himself.

Paul’s authorship of the book of Romans is undisputed, yet the copyist who wrote for Paul felt free to add a salutation of his own, to friends at Rome (Romans 16:22–24). The presence of this postscript in no way changes the fact that the epistle is the work of Paul rather than of “Tertius, who wrote this epistle” (v. 22), nor does it in any way change the quality of its inspiration. The Holy Spirit could lead Tertius as well as He could lead the apostle Paul. In a similar manner, the Holy Spirit might simply have led Joshua in recording the closing verses of Deuteronomy as He had Moses in recording the earlier part of the book, or as He later led Joshua in recording the book that bears his name.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

This answer is also available in: हिन्दी

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