Deut 34:5-7 say that when Moses died at the age of 120 years, his eyesight or strength had not diminished. That implies that he did not die of age-related ailments. One is left to assume that Moses died a sudden death for reasons like heart failure, or in an accident. Anyway, the Old Testament is silent on the cause of his death.

My question therefore: Is there a traditional belief in Christianity or Judaism on the cause of death of Moses?

  • I don't know if it's a consensus, but it seems pretty clear that God killed him as a punishment for unbelief; the means then matters little, as it was not necessarily a natural death. Heart failure seems just as likely as any other means. May 11 at 4:02
  • 2
    That sounds absurd. God did show Moses the promised land in all its glory, but did not let him step on it, as a punishment for his lack of belief. How does it mean that God ' killed ' Moses , that too at the ripe old age of 120 ? See Gen 6:3 where man's age was limited to 120 . May 11 at 10:17
  • @KadalikattJosephSibichan That 120 year figure did not seem to apply to Gen 5:32 or Gen 7:6 or elsewhere.
    – Henry
    May 11 at 15:24
  • Agreed, but the writer of Deuteronomy apparently wanted to show that Moses lived to the ripe old age. May 11 at 15:52
  • Deuteronomy 34:5-6: "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." Read here: gotquestions.org/death-of-Moses.html
    – Lesley
    May 13 at 6:58

2 Answers 2


The most detailed account I am aware of (from a reasonably consistent source) is the account written by Flavius Josephus, who concludes the relevant narrative with the following:

And as he [Moses] was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared, in a certain valley: although he wrote in the Holy Books that he died: which was done out of fear lest they should venture to say, that because of his extraordinary virtue he went to God. (Antiquities 4.8.48--a more detailed account is available for those who wish to read more of chapter 8 of the same work)

Thus, Josephus reports that Moses did not die of natural causes, violence, or accident, but was received into heaven (there are clear parallels to this account and the ascension of Elijah--for further discussion on this matter, see this article by Grossman)

This view is repeated by a variety of Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian sources. St Ambrose wrote:

Accordingly, we do not read of him [Moses], as we do of others, that he fell sick and died. We read that 'he died by the word of God...Hence Scripture added: 'No man hath known of his sepulture until this present day by which we are to understand that he was taken up into heaven rather than buried (On Cain and Abel 1.2.8)

Ambrose goes on to compare what happened to Moses to what happened to Elijah, suggesting both were translated/ascended into heaven, and thus living and available to participate on the mount of transfiguration.

  • HTR, you have a valid point. And that gives scope for another Question on CSE. Thanks. May 12 at 2:45

According to the Biblical record, Moses was alone with God, with no man with him, when he died--as commanded by God.

48And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, 49Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: 50And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: 51Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. 52Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52, KJV)

After being commanded to go to die, the record states the following:

1And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, . . . 4And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. 5So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. 7And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. 9And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses. 10And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, 12And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses showed in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:1-12, KJV)

Now there are some obvious problems with that final chapter, from a human perspective. Seeing as no one but God is recorded as present with him, no one knows where Moses was buried, and it was God who buried him, we have no human witness of the event. Further, if Moses did write this chapter, how could he have known what would take place after his death? But if Moses was not the writer, how could the writer have known where Moses went and what had become of him? Either way one approaches this, the only possibility for having a reliable source for the information is to have received it from God, who both sees the future and knows all.

In either case, there is no record for the manner of Moses' death beyond that God was with him at that time and it was at God's behest that he had gone there into the secluded mountain to die. And God Himself buried Moses.

In an interesting twist, perhaps after three days in his tomb to symbolize the resurrection of Christ, for whom Moses had been a type, God then sends Michael to raise Moses to life, as recorded in the book of Jude.

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. (Jude 1:9, KJV)

Moses is seen in the New Testament as speaking with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.

And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. (Mark 9:4; cf. Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30)

So sometime shortly after Moses had died, he was resurrected and taken to Heaven.


Nothing in the record indicates the cause of Moses' death, beyond the fact that God had ordered it, and since no human was there present to witness it there is no possible way of knowing its cause. Any human tradition or belief about it amounts to pure speculation. We simply do not, and cannot, know.


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