Contents Calendar Find Reference
Navigating the Bible
Numbers Chukat
First Reading, Second Reading, Third Reading, Fourth Reading, Fifth Reading, Sixth Reading, Seventh Reading, Last Reading
First Reading, Second Reading, Third Reading, Fourth Reading, Fifth Reading, Sixth Reading, Seventh Reading, Last Reading


21:13 They traveled further and camped in the desert extending from the Amorite border, on the opposite side of the Arnon [River]. The Arnon is the Moabite border, separating Moab from the Amorites.
Misham nasa'u vayachanu me'ever Arnon asher bamidbar hayotse migvul ha'Emori ki Arnon gvul Moav beyn Moav uveyn ha'Emori.
21:14 It is therefore told in the Book of God's Wars, 'As an outermost boundary, I have given [you] the streams of Arnon,
Al-ken ye'amar besefer milchamot Adonay et-vahev besufah ve'et-hanechalim Arnon.
21:15 as well as the valley's rapids that hug Moab's borders, turning aside at the fortress settlement.'
Ve'eshed hanechalim asher natah leshevet ar venish'an ligvul Moav.


in the desert extending...
  (Septuagint). Or 'extending beyond the Amorite border' (Saadia). This may have been a strip of land along the eastern end of the Arnon, on the north shore, to the south of the Ammonite territory (Rashi; Chizzkuni).

opposite side
  That is, to the north, so as not to enter Moabite territory, which had been forbidden in Deuteronomy 2:9.

Arnon River
  (Baaley Tosafoth). The Arnon is an enormous trench across the plateau of Moab, some 1700 feet deep and two miles broad. Some say that Arnon here is a city (Ramban), possibly identified with Almon Divlathaymah in Numbers 33:46 (Chizzkuni ad loc.; Adereth Eliahu). See Numbers 24:18. Some say that Arnon is the same as Nachaliel in Numbers 21:19 (Adereth Eliahu).

Book of God's Wars
  An ancient lost book (Baaley Tosafoth; Ramban; Chizzkuni). Some say that it existed among the gentiles (Abarbanel), while others say that it was a book of records kept from Abraham's time (Ibn Ezra; Bachya). Others, however, identify this book with the Torah as a whole (Targum Yonathan), or, in particular, the book of Exodus (Midrash Aggadah) or Deuteronomy (Yehudah HaChasid). To some degree, this depends upon the meaning of the quotation, as we shall see below.

According to others, it is not actually a book, but 'the telling of God's wars' (Rashi; Rashbam; Lekach Tov; Bachya). Or, 'It is therefore written in this book, 'God's wars...' (Targum; Lekach Tov; Septuagint).

As an outermost boundary
  (Chizzkuni; Malbim). Be-Sufah in Hebrew. Others say that sufah denotes 'whirlwind' (Baaley Tosafoth; Abarbanel; cf. Isaiah 29:6, Amos 1:14), and hence, 'quickly' (Baal HaTurim). Or, 'in the reeds' (Ralbag; Adereth Eliahu; cf. Exodus 2:3), and thus, possibly denoted the Red Sea, Yam Suf in Hebrew (Targum; Saadia; Rashi). Others say that Sufah is a place name, denoting a location on the Arnon river (Midrash HaGadol; Ibn Janach; cf. Septuagint). See Deuteronomy 1:1. In the Hebrew, be-sufah comes after the word vahev.

I have given...
  Following the authorities that have eth-vahev as a single word (Radak, Sherashim; Chizzkuni). Some indicate that as a reflexive form it means 'I have given Myself' (Baaley Tosafoth). Others take vahev as a separate word related to the root yahav, and hence denoting a gift (Rashi; Lekach Tov) or a 'burden' to be cast upon God (Rashbam, cf. Psalms 55:23). Others see vahev as denoting a whirlpool (Saadia), or, on the basis of Semitic cognates, a pool in the desert. According to other ancient sources, vahev is related to the word lahav, and denotes a fire (Septuagint).

According to a number of sources, however, Vahev is a place name, denoting a town along the Moabite border (Midrash HaGadol; Ibn Janach; Abarbanel). Since it means 'gift,' some identify it with Matanah in Numbers 21:18 (Adereth Eliahu; Malbim). This in turn is identified with Divon Gad (see Numbers 21:12).

Others see the word eth here as a separate word rather than a preposition. Hence, it can also be translated as 'come' (Lekach Tov). A Talmudic source states that Eth and Hav are the names of two lepers (Berakhoth 54 a,b; cf. Baaley Tosafoth on Numbers 26:59).

Therefore, the very difficult expression eth vahev be-sufah can be translated as we have it, 'As an outermost boundary, I have given you...' (Chizzkuni on Numbers 21:17); 'I have given Myself in the whirlwind' (Baaley Tosafoth); 'a gift in the whirlwind' (Lekach Tov; Baal HaTurim); 'a gift at the Red Sea' (Rashi; Hirsch); 'a whirlpool was in the Red Sea' (Saadia); 'God's wars were a fire in Sufah' (Septuagint).

If Vahev is taken as a place name, the verse can be translated, 'Vahev is on [Moab's] border' (Chizzkuni; Malbim); 'God's wars were against Vahev in a whirlwind' (Tur); 'Vahev is in the reeds' (Ralbag) 'Vahev in Sufah... hugs the border of Moab' (Ibn Janach; cf. Midrash HaGadol); '[The Israelites traveled through] Vahev in Sufah' (Rashbam; Adereth Eliahu); 'God's wars were fought against Vahev in Sufah' (Ibn Ezra); '[The Amorites conquered] until Vahev in Sufah' (Abarbanel).

If eth is taken as a separate word, the verse is, '[God] came and gave [miracles] at the Red Sea' (Lekach Tov); or, 'written by Eth and Hav who were at the edge [of the camp]' (Berakhoth 54 a,b).

We have chosen the first translation cited, since it flows from the context of the verse. The Torah states that the Arnon was Moab's border (Numbers 21:13; 22:36). God, however, had told the Israelites not to attack Moab (Deuteronomy 2:9). However, since the Amorites had conquered the Moabite territory as far as the Arnon (Numbers 21:26), this was permitted to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 2:24). The Israelites therefore conquered as far as the Arnon (Numbers 21:24, Deuteronomy 3:8,12), and their borders extended from Arnon to Mount Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:8, Joshua 12:1).

the streams of Arnon
  The streams in the Arnon valley. Some identify this with Almon Divlathaymah in Numbers 33:46 (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). See Numbers 21:13.

  Or 'waterfall'; eshed in Hebrew (Targum; Rashi; Saadia). See Deuteronomy 3:17, Joshua 10:40, 12:3. Or 'spilling,' alluding to the blood of the Amorites who were miraculously killed on the cliffs of the Arnon (Rashi; Berakhoth 54b). Other sources translate eshed as projections (Tanchuma 20) or 'appointed' (Septuagint). Some identify this with Mount Abarim (HaKethav VeHaKabbalah; see Numbers 21:11).

  Literally, 'lean on.' Or, 'They relied [on God] at Moab's borders (Baal HaTurim).

  (Targum). Ar in Hebrew. Other sources have Ar as a place name (Saadia; Chizzkuni), and indeed some have Shebheth Ar as a place name (Ralbag). As we see here, it was on the Arnon, most probably on the southern branch. It was attacked by the Amorites (Numbers 21:28), but apparently retained by Moab or inhabited by them (Deuteronomy 2:9,29, Isaiah 15:1). Therefore, although the Israelites passed through Ar, they did not conquer it (Deuteronomy 2:18; Midrash HaGadol). Some say that Ammon's borders extended as far south as Ar (Lekach Tov).

The Septuagint translates this verse, '[God] has appointed brooks to cause Ar to dwell there.'

Copyright © 2000 World ORT
Notice: This computer program is protected by copyright law and international treaties. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this program, or any portion of it, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under the law.