What biblical traditions are associated with Mount Nebo?
Mount Nebo is located atop a prominent mountain at the edge of the highlands of western Jordan. Alternatively called Pisgah, Mount Nebo is best known within the biblical text through its association with the traditions of Moses and the early Israelites. In the Hebrew Bible, after the Israelite exodus and desert wanderings, the Israelites camped in the vicinity of Mount Nebo prior to their conquest of Canaan (e.g.,
The Hebrew Bible also records a town called Nebo that is related to the Israelite tribe of Reuben (
How was Mount Nebo commemorated?
Mount Nebo does not appear in the New Testament, although the site was revered by Christians for its associations with Moses. Christian reverence of the site is well attested by the construction of a church on the mountain during the Byzantine period (324–640 CE) and by the monastic communities living in the surrounding region.
The Byzantine church was a pilgrimage site, as attested by the female Christian Egeria, who journeyed from western Europe to the holy land in the late-fourth century CE. Egeria describes a visit to the church atop Mount Nebo as well as a small spring to the northwest, traditionally associated with the narrative of Moses striking a rock with his staff to receive water (
What archaeological research is happening at Mount Nebo?
While archaeology cannot substantiate the traditions of Moses, research has clarified two important points. First, it appears that the location currently commemorated as Mount Nebo, locally called Jabal Siyagha, was primarily occupied during the Byzantine period. Second, the Iron Age (1200–500 BCE) town associated with Nebo, as recorded in the Mesha Inscription and the biblical texts, was most likely located 2.5 km to the southeast of Jabal Siyagha at a site called Khirbat al-Mukhayyat. Today, cultural heritage work and archaeological research are conducted at both sites by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum and the Town of Nebo Archaeological Project in coordination with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.
- Dolan, Annlee, and Debra Foran. “Immersion Is the New Ritual: The Miqveh at Khirbat al-Mukhayyat (Jordan) and Hasmonean Agro-Economic Policies in the Late Hellenistic Period.” Levant 48 (2016): 284–99.
- Piccirillo, Michele, and Eugenio Alliata, eds. Mount Nebo: New Archaeological Excavations 1967–1997. Jerusalem: Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, 1998.
- Piccirillo, Michele. Mount Nebo. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Guide Books. Custodia Terra Santa, 1988.
- Danielson, Andrew, and Debra Foran. “Iron Age Nebo: Preliminary Investigations at Khirbat al-Mukhayyat and Rujm al-Mukhayyat.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 152.3 (2020): 1–30.