Moses’s Necessary Death
It was crucial that the Pentateuch include a report of Moses’s death, by which it sought to instill firmly and deeply in readers’ minds two related concepts: its war against a personality cult (we’ve already found clear expressions of this in the shaping of Moses’s birth story [chapter 18] and in the story of his splitting the Sea of Reeds [chapter 3]) and its determination to prevent a depiction of Moses that was of mythological proportions. Any image of a transition from life on earth to eternal life — such as of a heavenly ascension to join God — would have had the potential to transform Moses into a God-like figure and endanger the fledgling monotheistic religion that was defending itself against a pagan environment.
This is also the reason that the Pentateuch tried to muffle stories about the immortality of Enoch son of Jared, who, of all the figures in the line between Adam and Noah, is conspicuous not only because he represents the seventh generation of humanity but because he lived for 365 years, like the days of the solar year. (Is this perhaps an allusion to a mythological tradition that connects him with a solar deity?) Instead of reading “After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived [x amount of years],” as we find regarding all other figures in this “record of Adam’s line” in Genesis 5, the verse regarding Enoch differs: “Enoch walked with God after he begot Methuselah 300 years,” and instead of the usual “then he died,” we find: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, for God took him” (vv. 22, 24).
It appears that the Pentateuch responds here, with an ambiguous, partial concession, to a tradition that told of Enoch’s immortality. The