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21:18 A well was dug by princes

Sunk by the people's leaders

Carved out with their staffs.

From the desert, [the Israelites went to] Matanah,
Be'er chafaruha sarim karuha nedivey ha'am bimchokek bemish'anotam umimidbar Matanah.

21:19 from Matanah to Nachaliel, and from Nachaliel to Bamoth.
UmiMatanah Nachali'el umiNachali'el Bamot.


  And not slaves (Baaley Tosafoth; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). Some say that the 'princes' were Moses and Aaron (Rashi; Rashbam), while others say that they were Moses and Eleazar (Lekach Tov); see Numbers 21:16. According to others, the 'princes' were the Patriarchs (Targum Yonathan).

  Nadiv in Hebrew. Or, 'volunteers.'

Carved out
  (Saadia; Ibn Ezra; Septuagint). Mechokek in Hebrew. Some say that this indicates that they dug a trench bringing the well's water from the desert to Matanah, etc. (Baaley Tosafoth; Chizzkuni). Some see mechokek as a noun, indicating a lawgiver, namely Moses (Rashi), a scribe (Targum), or God (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). See Genesis 49:10.

From the desert
  Some say that this is not part of the song (Rashbam; Abarbanel). According to others, however, it is part of the song. See note this verse, 'Matanah.'

  A place name (Saadia; Rashbam; Midrash HaGadol). Some identify it with Vahev (see Numbers 21:14), Almon Divlathaymah in Numbers 33:47 (Ibn Ezra) or the Avarim Mountains in Numbers 33:48 (Chizzkuni; see note on Numbers 21:11). It may also be the Bashan, which the Targum translates as Mathnan (on Numbers 21:33). The Septuagint renders Mathan as Mantanaim. See Deuteronomy 2:26.

Some say that Matanah was a place from which the Israelites retreated after the encounter with Edom (Abarbanel), while others say that it represents the next stage on their journey (Chizzkuni). Others say that the Israelites carved a trench or canal, causing the well's water to flow to Matanah (Yehudah HaChasid; Chizzkuni). Some identify Matanah with Khirbet el-Medeiyineh.

The word matanah, however, also denotes a 'gift,' and some render the verse, '[The well] was a gift from the desert'(Targum; Baaley Tosafoth).

  Some commentators take this as a proper name (Ibn Ezra; Rashbam; Septuagint). Indeed, some say that it is the stream Arnon (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). Some sources identify it with Divon Gad and Almon Devlathaymah (Lekach Tov; see note on Numbers 21:12,14). According to others, it is the area filled with streams and wadis on the east bank of the Jordan (Midrash Aggadah).

Others take nachaliel to be a common noun, meaning 'mighty stream' (Saadia). Some say that the well increased from a mere 'gift' to a 'mighty stream' (Baaley Tosafoth). Others translate nachaliel as 'God's inheritance' (Targum; Rashi).

Geographically, Nachaliel appears to be the large stream some 11 miles north of the Arnon. This would indicate that the Israelites were proceeding along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.

  Also a place name. Some identify it with the Avarim mountains in Numbers 33:47, which are the mountains to the east of the Dead Sea (Lekach Tov; see notes on Numbers 21:11,15). Some say that Nachaliel was a stream that flowed from Bamoth (Chizzkuni).

According to others, bamoth simply means 'high places' or 'high altars' (Targum; Rashi). Thus, those who maintain that the verses are speaking about the well (rather than the Israelites' travels) say that the stream flowing from the well eventually covered 'high places' (Baaley Tosafoth). Others translate bamoth as 'idolatrous altars' (Saadia).

Some identify Bamoth with Bamoth Baal (Numbers 22:41, Joshua 13:17), which may be identical with Bamoth Moab (Isaiah 16:2). Also see Numbers 21:28. Looking at a detailed map of the area, it appears that the Israelites passed by the edge of the Aravah range that juts out to within 3 miles of the Dead Sea, some 10 miles from its northern end.

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