Questions From Readers
Why does the New World Translation say at Deuteronomy 31:2 that Moses would “no more be allowed to go out and come in” as Israel’s leader, when other translations indicate that he was no longer able to do so?
Although the Hebrew word in question can be translated either way, the rendering in some English translations of the Bible suggests that toward the end of his life, Moses was infirm, physically unable to carry out the responsibilities of leadership. For example, The New English Bible quotes Moses as saying: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old, and I can no longer move about as I please.” Similarly, The New American Bible says: “I am . . . no longer able to move about freely.”
Deuteronomy 34:7 shows, however, that even though Moses was advanced in years, he was not infirm. It says: “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old at his death. His eye had not grown dim, and his vital strength had not fled.” Thus, Moses was physically able to lead the nation, but it was not Jehovah’s will for him to continue to do so. This is evident from what Moses went on to say: “Jehovah has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan.’” Apparently, Jehovah was reiterating what he had decreed at the waters of Meribah.—Numbers 20:9-12.
Moses had lived a long and remarkable life, which can be divided into three periods. For 40 years he lived in Egypt, where he was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” and was “powerful in his words and deeds.” (Acts 7:20-22) For another 40 years, he resided in Midian. There he cultivated the spiritual qualities needed to lead Jehovah’s people. Finally, for 40 years Moses guided and governed the Israelites. Now, though, Jehovah had decided that it was Joshua, not Moses, who would lead the nation across the Jordan River into the Promised Land.—Deuteronomy 31:3.
Thus, the New World Translation captures the correct meaning of Deuteronomy 31:2. Moses would no longer continue as leader of Israel, not because of a lack of physical abilities, but because Jehovah did not allow him to do so.