After 40 years leading the headstrong Israelites in the desert, Moses stood on the windswept summit of Mount Nebo and viewed the Promised Land of Canaan — after having been told by God “you shall not cross over there”.
On a clear day, today’s pilgrims can see the panorama Moses viewed: The Dead Sea, the Jordan River valley, Jericho, Bethlehem and the distant hills of Jerusalem.
As Deuteronomy 34:5-6 recounts, Moses died there in the land of Moab “but no one knows his burial place to this day”. Moses did, however, eventually reach the Promised Land. He and Elijah were seen with Jesus at the latter’s Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).
Mount Nebo is located in western Jordan. At 820 metres high, it looks down 1220 metres on the nearby Dead Sea (which is about 400 metres below sea level). Early Christians from Jerusalem made it a place of pilgrimage. In the 3rd or 4th century monks from Egypt built a small church on one of its peaks, to commemorate the end of Moses’ life. By the end of the 4th century, an empty “tomb of Moses” was being shown to pilgrims on the mountain.