Where Was Moses?

When I was still in elementary school in Wau, Papua New Guinea, I was asked the riddle, “Where was Moses when the lights went out?” The answer was, “In the dark.” Whether it was my age, or my weak English, I was puzzled at first before I could make the leap and “get” it. There is a bigger riddle about Moses, which is intriguingly puzzling: “Where was Moses when his lights went out?” In other words, where was Moses when he died?

The children of Israel had come to the end of their “forty years” of wandering in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. They now had a younger leader Joshua who was about to take them into the low land, Canaan, seen as their Promised Land. This is the time when Moses, their former leader, departed from them.

In Deuteronomy 3.27, Moses is told to “get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.”  Mount Pisgah is usually said to be in the mountains on the other side of the river Jordan, collectively known as Mount Abarim.  (Looking eastward, Moses would have seen nothing of Palestine.) We have a description of what Moses sees. “On this side Jordan, in the valley over against Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon … And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah” (Deut. 4.46, 49). Finally,  “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 shewed him” the Promised Land. Moses died and the Lord “buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (Deut. 34. 1-6).

These sites, Bethpeor, Heshbon and Pisgah, are still unidentified. There is a Mount Nebo, but as Wikipedia points out, scholars continue to dispute whether the modern day Nebo is the same mountain referred to in the Torah.

Here now is the riddle. These places have not been identified in and around Palestine, but they are all in Kashmir, India. How did Moses get there?

Bethpeor (meaning “place of opening”) is Behat-poor (now called Bandipur) where the Jehlum (formerly Behat) river valley opens up. Heshbon (often referred to in the Bible as “the pools of Heshbon”) is the same as Hashba, known for its pools. Pisgah is the easiest to identify, for it is a place with “springs” three miles north west of Hashba. Mount Nebo is Baal Nabu, a peak eight miles north west of Behat-poor (Bandipur). From here the entire Kashmir valley is visible, including Wullar Lake. And here also, near the top of the mountain, there is a tomb, known as the tomb of Moses.

The Lord’s Promised Land is a heaven on earth, a land of hills and valleys that “drinketh the water of the rain of heaven” (Deut. 11.11), a land that is naturally irrigated, and that has a “sea of the plain under the springs of Pisgah” (Deut. 4.49). There are more references of a similar nature. These hardly describe Palestine, but they very well describe Kashmir, down to its very large lake of fresh water.

So the answer to the question, where was Moses when his lights went out, seems to be: in Kashmir, of all places.

(Note that there are other references in the Bible that describe the Promised Land in terms that befit Kashmir, rather than Palestine. The ones in Isaiah seem to suggest that this is the Promised Land for the ten “lost” tribes of Israel after their captivity. These references are detailed in Jesus in Heaven on Earth by K. N. Ahmad, of which Chapter 18 is the reference source for this blog.)