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2014-03-25

In Numbers 21:26-31, the narrator explains that the land which the Israelites just took from Sihon and the Amorites was previously taken from the Moabites, specifically their city of Ar. This is described in a masturbatory war anthem poem which appears to be quoting from an earlier, unsourced, work.

In the “poem,” the author gives the range of the region the Israelites stole from Sihon which are completely different from those in the previous passage. Rather than reaching from Arnon to Jabbok, now the Israelites own from Dibon to Nophah and Medeba.

So the Israelites finally have a home in which to live and all it took were a couple more genocides. Now, I’ve always been a sucker for a happy ending, but something isn’t sitting right with me. I thought the Israelites were supposed to be wandering around the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years. Isn’t that how the story goes? They wander for 40 years, and after the evil generation dies off, they finally enter into the Promised Land? Why am I not familiar with the tale of them wiping out entire regions and living off the existing infrastructures of other cultures? Did my Sunday School teachers purposely omit this part of the story because it’s pure evil? Surely that can’t be the case!

One other thing to point out is that in this poem, the Moabites are called “people of Chemosh.” According to the bible, Chemosh is the god of the Moabites, and the deity forsook his people letting them fall to the Amorites, who in turn fell to the Israelites. This is quite different than the history left behind by the Moabites on a big stone called the Mesha Stele. Engraved on the slab are the words of Mesha, a Moabite leader, who says their lands became occupied by the Israelites without any mention of an Amorite invasion. Also, Mesha’s story gives a completely different account compared to that found in II Kings 3 where Mesha retakes Dibon, Nophah, Medeba, Jahaz and overthrows the Israelites and their god Yahweh because of the superior power of Chemosh.

Regardless of what really happened, the fact that the bible talks about Chemosh like an actual god with influence over his people sure doesn’t help that whole “God is the only god” message of modern believers.

 

Comments

Maju writes:

 

I'm losing track: is Moab the first land the Hebrews conquered or is it the second one?

As for Amorites, is it possible that Moab had an Amorite (Canaanite?) dynasty at the time of the purported events, while still remaining an autonomous distinct realm?

TheAlmightyGuru writes:

 

The first conquering appears to have been the Amorites, who previously conquered the Moabites, which is strange, because the Moabites will be conquered in the near future.

Maju writes:

 

Following Wikipedia links, Amorites (Amurru, Martu) were a NW Semitic (same family as Hebrew, Aramean, Phoenician) speaking people from Syria not clearly distinct from the later Arameans (possibly absorbed by these).

They are said (in several Biblical books but mostly Deuteronomy) to have conquered the Jordan Valley (both banks but unclear borders) and to have two distinct kings: Og and Sihon.

This Sihon, ruling in the East Bank apparently, was also confronted by the Hebrew militarist cult at some point, always according to their propaganda book (Numbers specifically).

It's hard to discern a clear route however, unless thei were initially lurking in the Syrian (and not the Sinai/Negev) desert and this conquest of Moab is a an expansion of the previous conquest of the Eastern Amorite realm... it could make sense. Maybe they were first allied with Moab against the Amorites and later broke up. No reason to mention betrayed allies in a propaganda book, right?

Some archaeological findings (and related historical data, see: http://leherensuge.blogspot.com/2009/04/ancient-canaan-city-razed-by-hebrews.html) suggest that the Hebrew cult was first based west of Jerusalem: in Beit Shemesh, where the first evidence of a community not eating porc was found and seems related to a request of help to Egypt by a local queen. If this is correct, then the Hebrews may have been expanding Eastwards with whatever help from nomadic allies from the various deserts, maybe even the Moabites themselves.

Maju writes:

 

PS- the Mesha of the stele apparently liberated Moab from the Hebrews. It seems a later episode to this one of Sihon (Amorite king of Moab?)

So maybe they first conquered the Western Bank (parts of it) and later Moab. And later Mesha liberated Moab.

TheAlmightyGuru writes:

 

Yes, Mesha's account appears to take place after this where he drove the Israelites out of the land, retaking it for the Moabites. Although, just as the Torah wasn't written by Moses, it's unlikely that the Mesha Stele was written by Mesha.

Also, thanks for contributing that research!

Ladyofthemasque writes:

 

Sharing research. <3

 

Oh the irony!