I am aware that the Talmud discusses a debate as to who wrote the last few verses in the Torah about Moses's death.

Near the end of the story about mahn, in Shmot (Exodus) 16:35, the verse says that B'nai Israel ate mannah for 40 years in the desert. It seems quite obvious that that verse must have been written many years after the event of the mahn happened, so I assume that this fact must have been written, later. If G-d conveyed to Moses to write this in the Torah immediately, people then would have known future events.

Did Moshe write this verse at the beginning of the 40 year travel in the desert, perhaps with God revealing when the mahn would stop, or did Joshua write it at the point or just after the man actually did stop? In short, who wrote Shmot 16:35?

  • I don't understand the question. The Torah is full of future events. In both of the last two parashot, Bene'i Yisra'el are explicitly told the future: that they will enter Erez Yisra'el (Shemot 6:8, Shemot 12:25).
    – Lee
    Feb 7, 2017 at 14:58
  • 1
    @Lee of course the Torah speaks of the future - but it speaks in general terms about what they should do when they arrive in Cana'an. But here, the verse says that they ate the mahn 40 years. There was no original plan to be in the desert for 40 years. This implies "prior knowledge" of the sin of the spies.
    – DanF
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:16
  • I haven't seen this question addressed directly on the passuq in question in any of RaSh"I, Sephorno, Ibn `Ezra, RaMBa"N, Or HaHayim, Da`at Zeqenim, Talmud Bavli, Tosephta, Mekhileta, Shemot Rabbah, or Yalqut Shim`oni. Obviously, it may be addressed elsewhere (as Danny points out in his answer).
    – Lee
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:38
  • @Lee Same idea, here. Had I located something, I probably wouldn't have asked, or I would have answered my own question ;-) Danny's answer seems to be the most focused, so far. I have to view the Ramba"n, later. I'm still not completely convinced that there is a problem with rewriting the entire Torah as sabbahillel mentioned. I have to view the halacha on this, better. Technically, a whole parchment can be rewritten in a way to "squeeze in" missing info and still make the Torah contiguous.
    – DanF
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:45
  • What's the problem with Moshe having written it at the end of 40 years on the edge of Canaan?
    – Loewian
    Feb 12, 2017 at 0:17

5 Answers 5


The discussion as to whether Yeshoshua wrote the last eight lines or Moshe wrote them "bedimah" (either with tears or "confused") applies only to those lines.

And Moshe the servant of HaShem died in the land of Moav by the word of HaShem.[Devarim 34:5]

On this verse Rashi quotes a famous debate regarding the last eight verses of the Tora; is it possible that Moshe died and wrote “and Moshe died”? Rather, up to here Moshe wrote and from here on Yehoshua wrote. Rebbe Meir says “is it possible that the Sefer Tora is deficient, for it says ‘take this Sefer Tora’ ”? Rather G-d dictated and Moshe wrote in tears (‘b’dima’).

Also note that the Pasuk of the 40 years (Shmos 16:35) is before the sin of the meraglim when the 40 years in the desert was decreed. Thus, it could not have been put in until after the chait hameraglim in the first place.

The statement about the mann could have been dictated when Moshe Rabbeinu wrote the entire Torah just before he died. Thus, since the man was now scheduled to stop immediately thereafter, Moshe Rabbeinu would have been able to write it as part of the final dictation without any problem.

Another point is that since Moshe Rabbeinu gave every shevet a sefer Torah, Yehoshua could not have added extra pesukim in the middle of the Torah. Only the end pesukim could have been added to each already written sefer torah. If Yehoshuah had added pesukim in the middle, the entire torah would have had to be written from scratch (or at least from sheet of parchment with the new pasuk all the way to the end). That is, adding the extra words to the appropriate sheet would have caused words at the end of the sheet to be pushed to the next sheet which would have to be written anew all the way to the end. The torah would have to be taken apart and resewn together as well.

Indeed, we see from the discussions in the Bava Basra 15 that only those pesukim (minor differences in which pesukim do not matter to this inyan) were being discussed. In fact, Rabbi Meir and Rabb Shimon Shezuri (menachos 30) refuse to accept that Yehoshua wrote the last pesukim because they say that the torah that Moshe Rabbeinu gave to the shevatim had to have been complete.


Who Wrote the Torah?

Who Wrote the Torah?

How did we get the Torah? Who wrote it down? If it was Moses, how could he write about his own death at the end of Deuteronomy?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Torah was given to the entire Jewish people at Mount Sinai. (In fact, all Jewish souls – past, present and future – were there at the time.)

As for the actual verses, the Torah was dictated from God to Moses, letter-for-letter. From there, the Midrash (Devarim Rabba 9:4) tells us that prior to his death, Moses wrote 13 scrolls. Twelve of these were distributed to each of the Twelve Tribes. The thirteenth was placed in the Ark of the Covenant (with the stone Tablets). If anyone would come and attempt to rewrite or falsify the Torah, the one in the Ark would "testify" against him.

As for the final 8 verses of Deuteronomy, the Talmud has two opinions: 1) Moshe wrote it himself, simply following God's instruction to write about his own death, or 2) The final 8 verses were written by Joshua.

(sources: Talmud – Menachot 30a, Gittin 60a)

  • 1
    This indeed could be. Do you have a source for it? What about according to opinions that the Torah was dictating "on the go"? Also can you source your first line? It is well known that Ibn Ezra disagreed with it slightly.
    – Double AA
    May 14, 2014 at 21:38
  • @DoubleAA I do not have the sources with me. The discussions as to which lines were and were not written by Yehoshua only go into the very end with Moshe's death. Everything else is based on the idea that Moshe was commanded to write the entire Torah the day of his death and went around giving a copy to each Shevet on that day. We see other things that imply that not everything could have been "as it happened" since parts of different seforim overlapped. Thus, he could have had the "final edition" dictated at the end and put in. Also Yehoshua could not have added into the middle May 14, 2014 at 21:59
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    Again, you are listing wonderful possibilities...
    – Double AA
    May 14, 2014 at 22:01
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    While not addressed in the question there are quite a few verses like this, that appear to have been written later. For example, the ones about the chiefs of Esav and Edom.
    – Shmuel
    May 15, 2014 at 9:39
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    Funny how Aish calls distributing 12 Torahs a "Midrash", but every soul being at Sinai a "fact".
    – Double AA
    May 15, 2014 at 12:31

B"H Via Google and Da`at, I found R' Yizhaq Avrabanel addressing this question (my translation) although he doesn't seem bothered by the revealing of future events and chalks it up to Omniscience.

ומהם אמרו שזה הפסוק כתב יהושע בתורה ואין הדבר כן. אבל משה רבינו כתב כל זה עם היותו עתיד להיות מפני הגבורה שצוהו לכתוב כן כמו שכתב ויעל משה וימת שם משה כפי הדעת האמתי וכמו שאבארו במקומו בע"ה

And some say Yehoshua` wrote this verse - and this is false. Rather, Moshe Rabbe'inu wrote all this despite it being in the future for [HaShem] commanded him to write like so, just as he wrote "And Moses went up [...]. And Moses [...] died there" (Devarim 34:1,5) according to the "True Knowledge" [Lee: Divine Omniscience] as I will clarify in its place B"H.

B"H Via Google and Da`at, I also found R' Yosef Shani addressing this question (my translation). In summary, he concludes that Moshe Rabbe'inu wrote the verse and that, only retroactively, it came to refer to the forty years in the desert decreed after the Sin of the Spies.

ויש להבין מתי נכתב פסוק זה והלא טרם נגזרה גזירת המרגלים והיו אמורים להכנס לארץ מיד.

ואפשר שפסוק זה נכתב מיד ברדת המן כי רצה ה' שישראל יאכלו מן ארבעים שנה. כי את המן לא אכלו מחוסר מזון, כי לא חסר להם מזון במדבר מהגויים שהביאו ומכרו להם, וכמו ערב רב שלא ירד להם מן אכלו ושתו, כך גם ישראל יכלו לאכול ולשתות. גם אחרי שכבשו ארצות סיחון ועוג שהיו משופעים בתבואות ומקנה המשיך המן לרדת. ואעפ"י שנאמר בו "את המן אכלו ארבעים שנה עד בואם אל ארץ נושבת" ,לא התפעלו ולא פחדו משה וישראל כי פירוש הפסוק היה שונה, כי יהושע לא כבש אפי' חצי מא"י בשבע שנים שכבשו ושבע שחלקו, וכמ"ש "ויאמר ה' ליהושע עוד רב הארץ וכו'".

ואולי שאם לא היו חוטאים במרגלים היו צריכים לכבוש את כל הארץ ולחלקה בארבעים שנה, ובמשך כל הזמן הזה לאכול מן. ואז היה ביאור הפסוק "את המן אכלו ארבעים שנה, עד בואם אל ארץ נושבת" שהכוונה עד שיישבו את ארץ ישראל אחר כבוש וחלוק. "עד בואם אל קצה ארץ כנען". כשהכוונה לקצה השני של סיום כל הכבוש והחלוק, אבל לאחר חטא המרגלים כשנגזרה גזרת הארבעים שנה, הפך פירוש "קצה ארץ כנען" להיות הקצה הראשון של תחילת הכבוש.

We must understand when this verse was written for the decree of the Spies had not taken place and [Bene'i Yisra'el] were to enter the Land immediately.

And it is possible that this verse was written immediately upon the Mahn falling since HaShem wanted them to eat Mahn for forty years. For they did not eat the Mahn due to lack of food - for they didn't lack food since the surrounding peoples brought and sold them food or as a result of the `Erev Rav who ate and drank [food] since they didn't have Mahn fall for them, so too [Bene'i Yisra'el] could have eaten and drank. Furthermore, after they conquered the lands of Sihon and `Og, who were blessed with crops and livestock, Mahn [nevertheless] continued to fall.

And despite the verse stating that "[Bene'i Yisra'el] ate the Mahn for forty years until their arrival at the inherited land", Moshe and [Bene'i] Yisra'el did not marvel or fear since the verse was interpreted differently since Yehoshua` didn't even conquer half of Erez Yisra'el in the seven years they conquered and the seven years they allotted as it is stated, "And HaShem said to Yehoshua` the land is still large".*

And perhaps if they had not sinned at the Spies they should have conquered the entire Land and allotted her in forty years, eating Mahn the entire time. And then the verse would be interpreted "they ate the Mahn for forty years until their arrival at the inherited land" with the intent being until they settled Erez Yisra'el after conquering and allotting [it]; "until their arrival at the border of Erez Kena'an" with the intent being until the other border after completely conquering and allotting. But, after the Sin of the Spies when the forty years in the desert were decreed, the interpretation of "the border of Erez Kena'an" became the Eastern [lit. first] border of the beginning of the conquest.

* I could not find a verse like this. I think the verse being recalled is Yehoshua` 13:1.

  • One part is unclear to me. Moshe was told that they would eat mahn for 40 years, but did not understand or was not told that this was due to the sin of the spies? What other reason might he have been told that they would eat it for 40 years?
    – DanF
    Feb 7, 2017 at 19:20
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    @DanF Neither Rabbi entertains the question of why this needed to be told to Moshe specifically here; but, then again, that wasn't the original question. Bear in mind that Avrabanel doesn't specify if Moshe was told the reason for this statement and that, according to R' Shani, this statement originally could have been interpreted either negatively or positively.
    – Lee
    Feb 7, 2017 at 19:39
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    Recycling this question was a smart idea. All the answers are good, but yours had the most innovative analysis, IMO. It was a tough choice to decide how to award the bounty, and I may put up another one to award an additional one. I have to ponder that. I've created an interesting discussion on this question among people in my community. It's not an area even well-learned people think about. Perhaps, my being a Ba'al Kri'a has the advantage that I have time to focus on the nuance of why a pasuk seems "misplaced". I'm a bit surprised that no "classic" Rishon analyzed things this way.
    – DanF
    Feb 13, 2017 at 23:37

The Ramban in במדבר פרק-כא addresses this:

השלים הכתוב להזכיר הענין בכאן וזה כענין הפרשה שאמרה ברדת המן (שמות טז לד לה) ויניחהו אהרן לפני העדות למשמרת ובני ישראל אכלו את המן ארבעים שנה עד בואם אל ארץ נושבת את המן אכלו עד בואם אל קצה ארץ כנען והוא לאחר מיתתו של משה עד ממחרת הפסח (יהושע ה יב)‏

He brings other examples of the future being added as a postscript.

He says that it happens that a verse is added in order for the story to be complete in one place.

He doesn't explicitly say who did the editing, but from his terminology "the scripture completed itself" it sounds like the Divine Author of the scriptures.

The Ramban uses a similar phrase in Dvarim 18:16 when he wants to say that [the Well Known Author of] the verse omitted a detail:

לא השלים הכתוב בכאן השאלה ששאלו

  • Danny - I need to view this Ramba"m a bit better, B"N. The last sentence makes it quite obscure, I think.
    – DanF
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:18
  • @DanF - I just added another example - לא השלים הכתוב בכאן השאלה ששאלו Feb 7, 2017 at 15:24

If one assumes that the Torah was written in the order that the events happened (lest this occur), then it is only logical to conclude that this verse was written at the end of the 40 years, when "they came to the border of the land of Canaan" and the mahn had stopped. When did this happen? In Joshua ch. 5 we are explicitly told:

10 Encamped at Gilgal, in the steppes of Jericho, the Israelites offered the passover sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the month, toward evening. 11 On the day after the passover offering, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the country, unleavened bread and parched grain. 12 On that same day, when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. The Israelites got no more manna; that year they ate of the yield of the land of Canaan. (NJPS)

Thus, as the mahn did not stop until after Moshe's death, it is only logical to conclude that Joshua wrote this verse.

The Rashbam appears to agree with this assessment, as he writes that the verse in Shemot is referring to the verse in Joshua

אל קצה ארץ כנען - כדכת' ביהושוע וישבת המן ממחרת:

as does the Midrash (מדרש אגדה שמות פרשת בשלח פרק טז)

אכלו את המן ארבעים שנה עד באם וגו' אל קצה וגו'. במה שכתוב בספר יהושע:

However, Rashi and Kiddushin 38a write that the manna stopped upon Moshe's death, which may mean that the discussion in Baba Bathra 15a comes into play, as it deals with the verses of Moshe's death. As such, R. Judah would hold that Joshua wrote it, and R. Shimon that Moshe wrote it. (Yes, I'm aware that the Gemara is only discussing the last 8 verses. However, the Ibn Ezra (Dt 34:1) writes that Joshua wrote the last 12 verses, indicating that may extrapolation to include this verse as well isn't completely farfetched.)

The Sifre (‫סד—סז‪.‬‬ ‫פוסקא‬ ‫בהעלותך‬ ‫ספרי‬) on this verse comments that "אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה," thus rejecting our main assumption, and implying that Moshe wrote it.

  • This doesn't really add anything over the question itself other than speculation.
    – Yishai
    May 15, 2014 at 21:57
  • Why does something which is confirmed in Sefer Yehoshua mean that Joshua wrote it? Does that mean that he wrote the parsha of Har Grizim and Har Eival just because it is referring to something that happened in Sefer Yehoshua? May 15, 2014 at 21:57
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    @Yishai - As this question is not explicitly addressed by any commentators (as far as I can tell), extrapolations based on what they do say is the best we can do.
    – Shmuel
    May 15, 2014 at 21:59
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    @YEZ - It's not confirmed in Yehoshua, it happens then. The manna stopped after Moshe died, after Yehoshua became the leader. The pasuk in Shemot is referring to the pasuk in Yehoshua, as stated in Rashbam and Midrash.
    – Shmuel
    May 15, 2014 at 22:02
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    +1 for the Sifre. The rest of the discussion is highly speculative.
    – Double AA
    May 15, 2014 at 22:08

Shadal to shemos 16:35 writes that this posuk does not imply that Moshe didnt wrote it, because he did not wrote "וישבות המן" as stated in Yehoshua (5:12). He says that the posuk register that bnei Yisroel ate the manna until they "came unto the קצה ארץ כנען", thus, Moshe wrote this there before he died.

[לה] ובני ישראל אכלו את המן ארבעים שנה וגו' : אין שום ראיה לומר (כדעת קצת) שלא כתב משה את המקרא הזה, כי משה בסוף ימיו היה יכול לכתבו, ובפרט אחר שלא כתב וישבות המן ככתוב ביהושע (ה' י"ב ), רק אמר שאכלו את המן עד בואם אל קצה ארץ כנען, מקום שהיו שם בסוף ימיו של משה.

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