Mount Nebo, Jordan
Just across the border from Israel in Jordan is Mount Nebo, a tall ridge of rock that stands some 2,300 feet above the ancient town of Madaba, roughly midway between the Dead Sea and the Jordanian capital of Amman. Admittedly, you won’t find its name, Nebo, in the dictionary. Nor, for that matter, will you find it in the Bible. But that’s not to say that you won’t find it there at all
Where is Mount Nebo, Jordan? – Mount Nebo, Jordan Map – Mount Nebo, Jordan Map Download Free Photo Gallery
According to the Bible, having led the exodus from Egypt, Moses guided the Israelites into the wilderness, where they remained for the next forty years. Eventually, they came to the border of Canaan, the land God had promised the Israelites in return for their faith. Following God’s instruction, Moses climbed a nearby mountain, named Mount Pisgah, and from there was afforded a glimpse into the Promised Land:
Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.
True enough, just as it was explained to him, Moses shortly afterwards perished atop Mount Pisgah, leaving Joshua and the remaining Israelites to travel on to Canaan without him.
It is Moses’ Mount Pisgah (a Hebrew name that simply means ‘peak’) that most Bible scholars today identify as the Jordanian Mount Nebo: its summit provides a panoramic view across the Holy Land, the valley of the River Jordan, and even the cities of Jericho and Jerusalem, and in the early 1900s a Byzantine church commemorating the place of Moses’ death was found to have been constructed there in the early fourth century ce. It is through its connection with the Bible’s Mount Pisgah that Jordan’s Mount Nebo has, albeit indirectly, found its way into our language.
As Moses was merely permitted to see the Promised Land, but not to go there, the name Pisgah came to be used in various phrases and expressions to refer to something that remains tantalisingly out of reach. So a Pisgah sight, or a Pisgah view, is a glimpse of something unobtainable, or a faint view of something that ultimately remains too distant to be obtained, while a Pisgah hill is a position or viewpoint that proverbially provides an objective vision of an entire current state of affairs, or else a useful glimpse of the future.
It’s the perfect word to mark the halfway point of our journey.