After 40 years leading the headstrong Israelites in the desert, Moses stood on the windswept summit of Mount Nebo and viewed the Promised Land after having been told by God “you shall not cross over there”.
On a clear day, today’s pilgrims can see the panorama Moses viewed: The Dead Sea, the Jordan River, Valley, Jericho, Bethlehem and the hills of Jerusalem
Deuteronomy 34:5-6 recounts, Moses died there in the land of Moab “but no one knows his burial place to this day”. Moses
Mount Nebo is now in western Jordan. At 820 metres high, it looks down 1220 metres on the nearby Dead Sea (which is about 400 metres below sea level).
Early Christians from Jerusalem made it a place of pilgrimage. In the 3rd or 4th century monks from Egypt built a small church on one of its peaks to commemorate the end of Moses’ life. By the end of the 4th century, an empty “tomb of Moses” was being shown to pilgrims on the mountain.
The monks’ church was expanded in the 5th and 6th centuries into a large basilica with a stunning collection of Byzantine Mosaics and an elaborate baptistery. Though little remains of the early buildings, the mosaics can be seen inside the present-day shrine.
Outside the present-day shrine stands an enigmatic serpentine cross, the Brazen Serpent Monument. Created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni, it imaginatively merges the life-saving bronze serpent set up by Moses into the desert (Numbers 21:4-9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
A less well-known site is at Khirbet al-Mukhayyat, a small town to the east, between Mount Nebo and Madaba. Here are the remains of the village of Nebo, mentioned twice in the Bible, where villagers in the 6th and 7th centuries constructed several churches.