According to Deut. xxxii. 49 and xxxiv. 1-3, it was from this mountain that Moses, just before his death, surveyed the promised land. Both these passages belong to the Priestly Code (P). This mountain is probably the same as the "Pisgah" of Deut. iii. 27 (D) and Num. xxi. 20 (J). In Num. xxxiii. 47 (P) Nebo is said to be in the "mountains of Abarim." Abarim therefore must have been a general name for the mountains of the region, while Pisgah was the mountain the top of which was called "Nebo" (comp. Deut. iii. 27).
The name "Nebo" survives in "Jabal Naba," by which name one of the mountains which form the ragged edge of Moab overlooking the Dead Sea is known. Scholars now generally identify this mountain with the Biblical Nebo. It lies five miles southwest of Heshbon, two miles northwest of Madeba, and nine miles east of the northern end of the Dead Sea. From the plain on which Madeba stands the ground slopes gently downward. At the summit of Jabal Naba it rises again slightly, and a cairn marks an ancient holy site. An extensive view is obtained from this point, but not so extensive as the one described in Deut. xxxiv. 1-3. Following the ridge somewhat more than a mile to the northwest, one comes out upon a spur now called "Jabal Ṣijagha," which, though lower, affords a still wider view because of its overhanging position. It is the prevailing opinion of modern scholars that this is the point indicated as the "top of Pisgah." The outlook from this point is beautiful, extensive, and interesting. Hermon can be seen far to the north; a great extent of the Jordan valley, the hills of the central range from Carmel to Hebron, and all of the northern end of the Dead Sea are in view. The east-Jordanic country is not visible, and projecting ridges cut off the view to the south; nor can the Mediterranean be seen.
Various explanations have been suggested to account for the inconsistency between this view and the description of Deut. xxxiv. 1-3, which leaves it to be supposed that the land of Gilead, and even the Mediterranean, could be seen. Driver ("Deuteronomy," p. 420) regards the description as hyperbolical; Chapman (Hastings, "Dict. Bible") thinks the writer gave the boundaries of the land, the greater portion of which could be seen from this point; while Peters ("Jour. Bib. Lit." xxii. 28 et seq.) thinks that he had in mind the view from Jabal Usha', near Al-Salṭ, but wrongly connected it with Jabal Naba. Chapman's explanation seems the most probable.
The name "Nebo" is the Hebrew form of the name of the Babylonian god Nabu, and was no doubt attached to the spot during the time prior to the reign of Thothmes III., when Babylonian civilization was dominant in Syria and Palestine.
- G. A. Smith, Historical Geog, of the Holy Land, 1895, pp. 562 et seq.;
- Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästina, 1896, p. 122;
- Driver, Deuteronomy, 1895, pp. 419 et seq.