Is there an alternate interpretation of God prohibiting Moses from entering the Promised Land?
Answer: I believe there is. However, to see this, it is necessary that we consider the great symbolism being used throughout the Pentateuch (and beyond).
It is certainly true that Moses would never physically enter the Promised Land:
Numbers 20:12: "But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.'"
If we learn anything from the O/T, it should at least consist of the many profound O/T parallels to the N/T. Exodus through Joshua contains mountains of symbolism if we are prepared to look for it.
God did not forsake Moses. In fact, Moses may have been able to see more of the Promised Land than any other human being:
Deuteronomy 34:1b-3: "And the LORD showed [Moses] all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar" (emphasis added).
Since ALL human beings are fallible, why did God choose this one incident to prevent Moses from entering the land? Perhaps we might recognize that Moses was emblematic of the Law. The Pentateuch (first 5 Books of the Bible) was, after all, the "Law of Moses." However, the Law had no salvational aspects, only condemnation when broken.
Suppose we look at it this way: Are we to expect a reward if we drive within the speed limit? Are we congratulated or offered praises when we abstain from shoplifting? This is not to suggest that the Law is bad, only that the Law was never intended to offer rewards. And, in Moses' case, that reward was the Promised Land.
We learn some of this from Paul:
Romans 8:3: "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh" (emphasis added).
Here, the Law is insufficient. It is through the grace of Christ that the blessing is bestowed on us. Suppose we observe the first four passages of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians regarding some of the typology of the O/T (including Moses' role):
1 Corinthians 10:1-4: "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3and all ate the same spiritual food; 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ."
Based on Paul's words, there is much more that we might recognize upon reflection1 (I have added bracketed comments):
- Egypt typifies sin and bondage.
- God's sending Moses to deliver Israel foreshadows God delivering us from sin.
- Pharaoh is a type of the devil.
- Israel's crossing the Red Sea typifies Christian baptism.
- Israel's entering the wilderness is typical of [a Christian's life of testing in their faith, cf. 1 Peter 1:7].
- The wilderness is ["the world" which all saints must endure].
- That Israel sinned is typical of the [apostasy of those who fall away from Christ (cf. 2 Peter 2:22)].
- The majority of [these] failed to enter [the Promised Land, typical] of those [who defect, and] will not be saved eternally.
- Canaan [their Promised Land] is a type of heaven.
- [The Law was insufficient to offer this reward.]
- Some of Israel entering Canaan is typical of the [victory] of Christians who [persevere to enter into the joy of the Lord].
- God's providential care of Israel in the wilderness is typical of his providential care of Christians until "the end of the time."
- The manna in the desert typified devotion to Christ, the "bread of life."
Further, we might understand that:
- Israel would ultimately be led by Joshua — not Moses.
- [Joshua typified Christ, the One to lead the faithful across the Jordan River, the "river of death".]
- [Moses typified the Law which could never offer the gift of Promise; this would have to be accomplished by Joshua (above).]
There is every reason to believe that the Law (Moses) could never enter the Promised Land. One could easily find other examples where Moses, like any other man, was flawed and disobeyed God. But none of those other flaws prevented Moses from entering the P/L — only striking the rock is "condemned." How curious that this seemingly insignificant act disallowed Moses from his lifelong expectation.
Naturally, we could view Moses' transgression as an example of how slight a sin could keep us from heaven. But, the larger issue appears to be that Moses — the Law — was utterly insufficient to provide a promise because the Law falls short of the blessings God has to offer, both in the O/T as well as the N/T. That is only achieved by the grace of Christ, Hebrew: Joshua = "Yeshua" = Greek: Jesus.
1Coffman, Dr. James Burton. Coffman's Commentary on the Bible, 1 Corinthians 10.