Moses died in Moab, on the east side of the Jordan, and was buried there in an unmarked and unknown grave (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). This, Yahweh says, is Moses being “gathered to your people” (Deuteronomy 32:50).

Several things are remarkable here: First, that an ancient man should be gathered to his people outside his homeland. Abraham goes to great lengths to secure a burial place for Sarah in the land of promise. But Moses dies and is buried in a foreign land. Second, that an ancient her, a founding hero, should be buried in an unmarked and unknown site. As late as the early centuries of Christianity, the burial sites of heroes were remembered and honored as sacred sites suitable to sacred rites. That Israel never knows the final resting place of its founding hero is a signal of something quite unique about Israel’s religious culture. It’s as if from the beginning the Bible anticipates an empty tomb.

Finally, that Moses should be buried in Moab. There is perhaps here a veiled sign that Moab would eventually be incorporated into Israel, at least for a time. Moses’ burial in Moab might also account in some degree for the favorable way Yahweh regards Moab later in biblical history. Despite the divergence of Israel from ancient patterns, there is perhaps still this glimmer of honor to ground consecrated by the death of the great.