“Ascend these heights of Abarim, and view the land that I have given to the Israelite people. When you have seen it, you too shall be gathered to your kin”: So God forewarns Moses of his death in Numbers 27:12–13. In this detail of a fresco by Luca Signorelli (1441–1523) on the Sistine Chapel walls, “The Death and Testament of Moses,” an angel accompanies the aged Moses to the mountaintop and directs Moses’ gaze across the valley, to the land he will never enter. Although Moses constantly struggles with God’s ban on entering the Holy Land, God is adamant: “Enough!” he scolds Moses, as if a recalcitrant son. “Never speak to Me of this matter again!” (Deuteronomy 3:26).
In the accompanying article, Erica S. Brown contemplates how the lives of Moses and his siblings unlock the key to the more mysterious aspects of their deaths. Moses’ final resistance against God at the time of his death, she finds, is characteristic of a man who was quick to fight God for his people and his people for God.