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Numbers 21:27-30

Context
21:27 That is why those who speak in proverbs 1  say,

“Come to Heshbon, let it be built.

Let the city of Sihon be established! 2 

21:28 For fire went out from Heshbon,

a flame from the city of Sihon.

It has consumed Ar of Moab

and the lords 3  of the high places of Arnon.

21:29 Woe to you, Moab.

You are ruined, O people of Chemosh! 4 

He has made his sons fugitives,

and his daughters the prisoners of King Sihon of the Amorites.

21:30 We have overpowered them; 5 

Heshbon has perished as far as Dibon.

We have shattered them as far as Nophah,

which 6  reaches to Medeba.”

1 sn Proverbs of antiquity could include pithy sayings or longer songs, riddles, or poems composed to catch the significance or the irony of an event. This is a brief poem to remember the event, like an Egyptian victory song. It may have originated as an Amorite war taunt song; it was sung to commemorate this victory. It was cited later by Jeremiah (48:45-46). The composer invites his victorious people to rebuild the conquered city as a new capital for Sihon. He then turns to address the other cities which his God(s) has/have given to him. See P. D. Hanson, “The Song of Heshbon and David’s Nir,” HTR 61 (1968): 301.

2 tn Meaning, “rebuilt and restored.”

3 tc Some scholars emend to בָּלְעָה (balah), reading “and devoured,” instead of בַּעֲלֵי (baaley, “its lords”); cf. NAB, NRSV, TEV. This emendation is closer to the Greek and makes a better parallelism, but the MT makes good sense as it stands.

4 sn The note of holy war emerges here as the victory is a victory over the local gods as well as over the people.

5 tc The first verb is difficult. MT has “we shot at them.” The Greek has “their posterity perished” (see GKC 218 §76.f).

6 tc The relative pronoun “which” (אֲשֶׁר, ’asher) posed a problem for the ancient scribes here, as indicated by the so-called extraordinary point (punta extraordinaria) over the letter ר (resh) of אֲשֶׁר. Smr and the LXX have “fire” (אֵשׁ, ’esh) here (cf. NAB, NJB, RSV, NRSV). Some modern scholars emend the word to שֹׁאָה (shoah, “devastation”).



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