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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Nebo

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(Heb. Nebo', נְבוֹ, prob. of Chaldeaan origin, see below, No. 1), the name of a heathen deity, and of three places in or around Palestine. In treating of them we give a general description with references to collateral heads for farther details.

1. (Sept. Ναβώ, v.r. Ναβαῦ and [in Isaiah] even Δαγών ; Vulg. Nabo.) The title of a Chaldaean idol or god which occurs both in Isaiah (66:1) and Jeremiah (68:1), being the name of a well-known deity of the Babylonians and Assvrians. The original native name was, in Hamitic Babylonian, Nabiu; in Shemitic Babylonian and Assyrian, Narbu. It is reasonably conjectured to be connected with the Hebrew נבא,"to prophesy" (see Gesenius, Thes. Heb. page 841), whence the common word נָבַיא, "prophet" (Arab. Neby). Nebo was the god who presided over learning and letters. He is called "the far-hearing," "he who possesses intelligence," "he who teaches or instructs." Generally, however, he enjoys the high-sounding titles of "Lord of lords," "Holder of the sceptre of power," etc. Hence Layard thinks the name is derived from the Egyptian Neb, "Lord" (Nineveh and Bab. page 77). The wedge or arrow-headt-the essential element of cuneiform writing appears to have been his emblem; and hence he bore the name of Tir, which signifies "a shaft or arrow." His general character corresponds to that of the Egyptian Thoth, the Greek Hermes, and the Latin Mercury. Astronomically he is identified with the planet nearest the sun, called Nebo also by the Mendaeais, and Tir by the ancient Persians.

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Nebo was of Babylonian rather than of Assyrian origin. In the early Assyrian Pantheon he occupies a very inferior position, being either omitted from the lists altogether, or occurring as the last of the minor gods. The king supposed to be Pul first brings him prominently forward in Assyria, and then apparently in consequence of some peculiar connection which he himself had with Babylon. A statue of Nebo was set up by this monarch at Calah (Nimrud),which is now in the British Museum. It has a long inscription, written across the body, and consisting chiefly of the god's various epithets. In Babyloinia Nebo held a prominelnt place from an early time. The ancient town of Borsippa was especially under hiis protection, and the great temple there (the modern Birs-Nimrud) was dedicated to him from a very remote age. (See BABEL, TOWER OF).

He was the tutelar god of the most important Babylonian kings, in whose names the word Nabu, or Nebo, appears as an element: e.g. Nabo-nassar, Nabopolassar, Nebu- chadnezzar, and Nabonadius or Labynetus; and appears to have been honored next to Belmerodach by the later kings. Nebuchadnezzar completely rebuilt his temple at Borsippa, and called after him his famous seaport upon the Persian Gulf, which became known to the Greeks as Teredon or Diridotis "given to Tir," i.e., to Nebo. The worship of Nebo appears to have continued at Borsippa to the 3d or 4th century after Christ, and the Sabaeans of Haran may have preserved it even to a later date. (See Rawlinson's Ilerodotus, 1:637-640; and his Ancient Mfonarchies, 1:140 sq.; and compare Norberg's Onomasticon, s.v.; Chwolson, Sabier; Muinter, Babylonien, page 15.)

2. (Sept. Ναβαῦ ; Vulg. Nebo.) A name of the mountain (הִר ) from which Moses took his first and last view of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 32:49; Deuteronomy 34:1). It is so minutely described that it would seem impossible not to recognize it in the land of Moab; facing Jericho; the head or summit of a mountain called "the Pisgah," which again seems to have formed a portion of the general range of the "mountains of Abarim." Its position is further denoted by the mention of the valley (or perhaps more correctly the ravine) in which Moses was buried, and which was apparently one of the clefts of the mount itself (Deuteronomy 32:50) "the ravine in the land of Moab facing Beth-Peor" (Deuteronomy 34:6). Josephus, speaking of the death of Moses, says of Abarim, "It is a very high mountain opposite Jericho, and one that affords a prospect of the greater part of Canaan" (Ant. 4:8, 48). Eusebius and Jerome say that Nebo is a mountain "over the Jordan opposite Jericho in Moab, and until this day it is shown in the sixth mile west of Heshbon" (Onomast. s.v. Nabau). In another place they locate it between Heshbon and Livias (ibid& s.v. Abarim). Gesenius derives the name Nebo from the root נבה, "to project;" and hence נבו would signify a projection (Thesaurus, page 841). Others trace the name to the heathen deity Nebo, and suppose that there was an ancient high place on the peak where that deity was worshipped (Stanley, p. 294). For fuller information, see Ritter, Pal. und Syr. 2:1176 sq., 1186 sq.: Porter, Hand-book, page 299; Drew, Scripture Lands, page 96; Reland, Palaest. pages 342, 496.

Yet, notwithstanding the minuteness of the scriptural descriptions, till lately no one succeeded in pointing out any spot which answers to Nebo. Viewed from the western side of Jordan (the nearest point at which most travellers are able to view them) the mountains of Moab present the appearance of a wall or cliff, the upper line of which is almost straight and horizontal. "There is no peak or point perceptibly higher than the rest; but all is one apparently level line of summit without peaks or gaps" (Robinson, Bib. Res. 1:570). "On ne distingue pas un sommet, pas la moindre cime; seulement on apercoit, ca et la, de legres inflexions, comme si la main du peintre qui a trace cette ligne horizontale sur le ciel eut tremble dans quelques endroits" (Chateaubriand, Itineraire, part 3). "Possibly," continues Robinson, "on travelling among these mountains, some isolated point or summit might be found answering to the position and character of Nebo." Three such points have been named.

1. Seetzen (March 17, 1806; Reise, 1:408) seems to have been the first to suggest the Jebel Attarus (between the Wady Zerka-main and the Arnon, three miles below the former, and ten or twelve south of Heshbon) as the Nebo of Moses. In this he is followed (though probably without any communication) by Burckhardt (July 14, 1812), who mentions it as the highest point in that locality, and therefore probably "Mount Nebo of the Scripture." This is adopted by Irby and Mangles, though with hesitation (Travels, June 8, 1818).

2. Another elevation above the general summit level of these highlands is the Jebel 'Osha, or Ausha', or Jebel el-Jil'ad, "the highest point in all the eastern mountains," "overtopping the whole of the Belka, and rising about 3000 feet above the Ghor" (Burckhardt, July 2, 1812: Robinson, 1:527 note, 570).

But these eminences are alike wanting in one main essential of the Nebo of the Scripture, which is stated to have been "facing Jericho," words which in the widest interpretation must imply that it was "some elevation immediately over the last stage of the Jordan," while Osha and Attarius are equallyremote in opposite directions, the one fifteen miles north, the other fifteeii miles south of a line drawn eastward from Jericho. Another requisite for the identification is that a view should be obtainable from the summit, corresponding to that prospect over the whole land which Moses is said to have had from Mount Nebo. 'The view from Jebel Jil'ad has, been briefly described by Dr. Porter (Handbook, page 309), though without reference to the possibility of its being Nebo. Of that from Jebel Attarus no description is extant, for, almost incredible as it seems, none of the travellers above named, although they believed it to be Nebo, appear to have made any attempt to deviate so far from their route as to ascend an eminence which, if their conjectures be correct, must be the most interesting spot in the world.

3. De Saulcey is the first traveller who discovered the name still extant in Jebel Nebbah, an eminence on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, not far from its northern end (Voyage en Terre Sainte, 1:289 sq.). The duc de Luynes, however, appears to have been the first to actually visit and accurately locate the summit (Voyage, under April 13, 1864). Mr. Tristram next visited it, and he graphically describes the outlook from its top (Land of Israel, page 536 sq.; comp. also his Land ofMoab, page 338 sq.). The place in question lies nearly four miles southwest of Hesban. Prof. Paine, of the American Exploring Party, carefully examined it, and has given a detailed report of his researches and conclusions (in the "Third Statement" of the Am. Pal. Exploration Soc., N.Y. January 1875), in which, while admitting the identity of the modern and ancient names and localities, he enters into a minute argument to prove that Pisgah was a specific title of the particular spot on which Moses stood rather than a general name of the entire range, as usually held. (See PISGAH).

3. (Sept. Ναβαῦ ; Vulg. Nebo, Nabo.) A town on the eastern side of Jordan, situated in the pastoral country (Numbers 32:3), one of those which were taken possession of and rebuilt by the tribe of Reuben (Numbers 32:38). In these lists it is associated with Kirjathaim and Baalmeon or Beon; and in another record (1 Chronicles 5:8) with Aroer, as marking one extremity, possibly the west, of a principal part of the tribe. In the remarkable prophecy uttered by Isaiah (Isaiah 15:2) and Jeremiah (48:1, 22) concerning Moab, Nebo is mentioned in the same connection as before, though no longer an Israelitish town, but in the hands of Moab. It does not occur in the catalogue of the towns of Reuben in Joshua (Joshua 13:15-23); but whether this is an accidental omission, or whether it appears under another name according to the statement of Numbers 32:38, that the Israelites changed the names of the heathen cities they retained in this district is uncertain. In the case of Nebo, which was doubtless called after the deity of that name, there would be a double reason for such a change (see Joshua 23:7). There is nothing positive except the name to show that there was a connection between Nebo the town and Mount Nebo. The notices of Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast.) are confused, but they rather denote that the two were distinct, and distant from each other. The town (Ναβώρ, Nabo) they identify with Nobah and Kenath, and locate it eight miles south of Heshbon, where the ruins of el-Habis appear to stand at present; while the mountain (Ναβαῦ , Nabau) is stated to be six miles east (Jeremiah) or west (Euseb.) from the same spot. But the former statement is certainly an error; and hence we may presume that the town and the mountain were not distinct, especially as we find the associated towns (Medeba and Baal-meon) in the same vicinity. In the list of places south of es-Salt given by Dr. Robinson (Bib. Res. 3, App. page 170) one occurs named Neba, which may be identical with Nebo. It perhaps indicates the ruins now extant on the present Jebel Nebbah, or Mount Nebo (above).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nebo'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/n/nebo.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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