Pis'gah (Heb. Pisgah', פַּסגָּה, always with the art.), the name of a mountain of Moab. It is in fact an ancient topographical name found, in the Pentateuch and Joshua only, in two connections:
1. The top, or head, of the Pisgah (ראֹשׁ הִפַּ), from which Moses took his dying survey of Canaan (Nu 21:20; Nu 23:14; De 3:27; De 34:1);
2. Ashdoth hap-Pisgah, perhaps the springs, or roots, of the Pisgah (De 3:17; De 4:49; Jos 12:3; Jos 13:20). SEE ASHDOTH- PISGAH. The word hap Pisgaih, הִפַּסגָּה, literally is the section, from פסג= פסק, to divide, and hence it may mean an isolated hill or peak. The rendering of the Sept. is not uniform. In De 3:17; De 34:1; Jos 12:3; Jos 13:20, it is Φασγά; but in Nu 21:20; Nu 23:14; and De 3:27, the phrase ראש הפסגה is rendered κορυφὴ τοῦ λελαξευμένου, which is a translation of the Hebrew, top of the cut mountain. The Vulgate has everywhere Phasga. The reference to the scene of Moses's death by Josephus (Ant. 4, 8, 48) affords no additional light.
"The Pisgah" must have been in the mountain range or district, the same as or a part of that called the mountains of Abarim (comp. De 32:49 with 34:1). SEE ABARIM. Its situation is minutely described by the sacred writers. It is first mentioned in connection with the approach of the Israelites to Palestine. They marched "from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh towards Jeshimon" (Nu 21:20). Pisgah was thus on the plateau of Moab, and commanded a view of the western desert. SEE JESHMON. Another passage (Nu 23:13-14) proves that it commanded a view of the Israelitish camp in the valley on the east bank of the Jordan; and from other incidental no times we learn that it was opposite to and in sight of (על פני) Jericho (De 34:1), and overhanging the northeastern angle of the Dead Sea (De 4:49; Jos 12:3). The names Abarim, Nebo, and Pisgah are connected in such a way by the sacred writers as to create some difficulty to the geographer. In De 32:49 the Lord commands Moses, "Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, Mount Nebo," etc.; and in De 34:1 we read that Moses, obeying, "went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, the top of Pisgah" (ראש הפסגה אלאּהר נבו). From these passages we may infer, (1) that Abarim was the name of a range or group of mountains; (2) that Nebo was one of its peaks; and (3) that the name Pisgah was either equivalent to Abarim, or that it is (as represented in some passages in the Sept., and in the margin of the A. V.) a common noun, signifying "an isolated hill or peak." If the latter view be taken, then De 34:1 may be rendered, "Moses went up to Mount Nebo, to the top of the hill." The construction rather favors the view that Pisgah, like Abarim, was the name of the range, and that Nebo was one of its peaks. Others have taken precisely the opposite view, namely, that Pisgah was a particular summit of Nebo as a range; but in that case Pisgah would not be so often mentioned (as a mountain at the foot of which the Israelitish host encamped, and as furnishing springs of water), while Nebo is but once named (as the peak on which Moses died). (See below.) Upon Pisgah Balaam built altars and offered sacrifices, so that it was probably one of the ancient "high places" of Moab (Nu 23:14). From its summit Moses obtained his panoramic view of the Holy Land, and there he died (De 34:1-5). Beneath the mountains were celebrated "springs" or "torrents" (אִשׁדּוֹת), which are several times mentioned in defining the boundaries of Reuben, as Ashdoth-Pisgah (De 3:17; De 4:49 in the Hebrew; Jos 12:3; Jos 13:20). Pisgah therefore lay on the east of Jordan, contiguous to the field of Moab, and immediately opposite Jericho. The field of Zophim was situated on it, and its highest point or summit-its "head"-was the Mount Nebo. If it was a proper name, we can only conjecture that it denoted the whole or part of the range of the highlands on the east of the lower Jordan. In the late Targums of Jerusalem and Pseudo-Jonathan, Pisgah is invariably rendered by ramatha, a term in common use for a hill it will be observed that the Sept. also does not treat it as a proper name. On the other hand, Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s. 5. Abarim, Fasga) report the name as existing in their day in its ancient locality. Mount Abarim and Mount Nabau were pointed out on the road leading from Livias to Heshbon (i.e. the Wady Hesban), still bearing their old names, and close to Mount Phogor (Peor), which also retained its name, whence, says Jerome (a quo), the contiguous region was even then called Phasgo. This connection between Phogor and Phasgo is puzzling, and suggests a possible error of copyists. SEE PEOR.
No traces of the name Pisgah have been met with in later times on the east of Jordan, but in the Arabic garb of Ras el-Feshkah (almost identical with the Hebrew Rosh hap-Pisgah) it is attached to a well-known headland on the north-western end of the Dead Sea, a mass of mountain bounded on the south by the Wady en-Nar, and on the north by the Wady Sidr, and on the northern part of which is situated the great Mussulman sanctuary of Neby Misa (Moses). This association of the names of Moses and Pisgah on the west side of the Dead Sea-where to suppose that Moses ever set foot would be to stultify the whole narrative of his decease-is extremely startling. No explanation of it has yet been offered.. Certainly that of M. De Saulcy and of his translator (see De Saulcy's Voyage, etc., and the notes to 2, 58-66 of the American edition), that the Ras elFeshkah is identical with Pisgah, cannot be entertained. Against this the words of De 3:27, "Thou shalt not go over this Jordan," are decisive. SEE DEAD SEA.
The mountain itself is chiefly memorable as the height from which Moses got his most distinct view of the Land of Promise; from thence "the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah unto the utmost sea; and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar (De 34:1-3). Mr. Tristam (Land of Israel, 1865, p. 535 sq.) describes a visit which he and his fellowtravellers paid to the range of Nebo or Abarim, and the magnificent prospect they had from the height which they supposed might possibly be the Pisgah of Moses. It was about three miles southwest of Heshbon, and one and a half miles due west of Main. The elevation was considered to be about 4500 feet; yet the ascent was not rugged, and for several hours they rode along the ridge. The day was clear, and to the north and east they saw the hills of Gilead, and "the vast expanse of the goodly Belka, one waving ocean of corn and grass." Southwards appeared Mounts Hor and Seir, with other granite peaks of Arabia, in the direction of Akabah. Then, turning westwards, there lay distinctly before them the Dead Sea and the whole valley of the Jordan," all the familiar points in the neighborhood of Jerusalem." Looking over Jordan, "the eye rested on Gerizim's rounded top; and farther still opened the plain of Esdraelon, the shoulder of Carmel, or some other intervening height, just showing to the right of Gerizim, while the faint and distant bluish haze beyond it told us that there was 'the sea, the utmost sea.' It seemed as if but a whiff were needed to brush off the haze, and reveal it clearly. Northward, again, rose the distant outline of unmistakable Tabor, aided by which we could identify Gilboa and Jebel Duhy (Littie Hermon). Snowy Hermon's top was mantled with cloud, and Lebanon's highest range must have been exactly shut behind it; but in front, due north of us, stretched in long line the dark forests of Ajlun, bold and undulating, with the deep sides of mountains, here and there whitened by cliffs, terminating in Mount Gilead, behind Es-Salt (Ramoth-Gilead)." This seems to realize to the full what was anciently exhibited to the eve of Moses, and shows the representation given of his extensive prospect to have been no ideal picture.
The spot has more recently been the subject of a considerable discussion by Prof. Paine, of the American exploring party, in report No. 3 of these operations (N. Y. Jan. 1875). Prof. Paine contends that Jebel Neba, the highest point of the range, is Mount Nebo, that Jebel Siaghah, the extreme headland of the hill, is Mount Pisgah, and that "the mountains of Abarim" are the cliffs west of these points, and descending towards the Dead Sea. He maintains these positions by the following arguments:
I. There is still an old road leading down to the Jordan valley in this direction, which he thinks the Israelites pursued on their way from Almon- diblathaim to the plains of Moab (Nu 33:47-48). It has generally been supposed, however, that they took the route now usual with travelers, down Wady Hesban. The position of the Israelites on Abarim is there said to have been "before" (לַפנֵי) Nebo, a particle which generally signifies east and not west. The parallel account of the station in question (Nu 21:29) places it on "the top of the Pisgah" (ראֹשׁ הִפַּסגָּה); and this certainly discountenances Paine's location on a lower peak of the ridge. It is true the phrase is added, "which looketh towards Jeshimon," i.e. the Ghor or Jordan valley (see Keil, Comment. ad loc.); but this may possibly mean only pointing in that direction from the station last left. The preceding clause, "the valley that is in the field of Moab," is ambiguous; as it may qualify either the point of departure, ie. Bamoth, or the destination, i.e. Pisgah. The A. V. adopts the former construction; but this is not favored by the syntax of the adjoining verses, and conflicts with the idea of a high place (Bamoth), which could hardly have been in a valley. The latter reference is therefore adopted by most interpreters, but (as Rosenmüller remarks) seems to disagree with the phraseology "top of Pisgah." We suggest as the only consistent translation, "And from Bamoth [to] the valley which [is] in the plateau of Moab (the summit of the Pisgah [range]), and overlooks the Ghor." This makes Pisgah but another name for the edge of the table-land of Moab overhanging the Jordan valley or Dead Sea. The particular "top" in question was apparently Nebo itself, which is in fact but a crest of the Moabitic table-land, that shows as a "mountain" only from the western point of View. The sole considerable "valley" (הִגִּיא) answering to this description is Wady es-Sowanieh, which is the southern head-branch of Wady Hesban, and intersects the plain up to the very crest of Nebo. Prof. Paine, however, appears to identify it with the valley in which the "Springs of Moses" are situated, a deep, wild glen hardly answering to the requirements of the case, except that it contains water and looks directly down upon the Dead Sea. At the encampment as we have located it, the Israelites would have been precisely on the route to Heshbon, which they next attacked (Nu 21:21-26), and thence to the Ghor opposite Jericho (Nu 22:1), by way of Wady Hesban.
2. Paine's next argument is drawn from the history of Balaam and Balak immediately following the passages last cited. After lodging at Kirjath- huzoth (Nu 22:39), which Paine regards as the site of Kufeir Abi- Bed, just east of the crest of Nebo, the two proceeded first to "the high places of Baal" (ver. 41), which the professor deems to be "the extremity of Jebel Siaghah, the first chief summit of Pisgah"—a description which, if we correctly understand the somewhat confused statements, designates the outer or westernmost peak, as from this "the whole of Israel" could be seen. Balaam next repaired to a point called "the top of Pisgah" (ver. 14), which Paine regards as "the third" or easternmost peak, because from it only a part of the Israelitish camp could be seen. Finally, the prophet ascended "the top of Peor" (ver. 28), which the professor thinks was the middle or ruin-crowned peak of Siaghah, as from it the various surrounding countries there enumerated can be seen to advantage. But this distribution of the several localities seems rather arbitrary. The first name is a very indefinite one, being identical with Bamoth-baal (Jos 13:17), apparently nearer the Arnon (Nu 21:28), if not identical with the Bamoth previously referred to (ver. 20); and surely there are many spots in the vicinity from which "the utmost part of the people" could be seen-a phrase that designates not the whole, but only the rear. In Nu 23:13, where the same expression is used, the same place is referred to, and the words must be rendered, "And Balak said to him, Come now with me to another place, whence thou mayest see him (only his extremity canst thou see [here], and not all of him canst thou see); and thou shalt curse him for me from there" (see Keil, ad loc.). The next locality accordingly was one commanding a view of the entire encampment, namely, "the top of the Pisgah" range, probably Jebel Neba itself. It seems to have been much farther than Paine makes it from Balak's previous station, for there the two adjoining eminences are spoken of in very different phraseology ("the high- places of Baal— to a high place," Nu 22:41; Nu 23:3). As this second outlook of Balaam is called (Nu 23:14) "the field of Zophim," or the watchers, Paine holds that it was Wady Haisa, which he reports as being partly under cultivation; but this affords no good prospect of the "plains of Moab" eastward, such as Keil thinks the import of the name requires (Comment. ad loc.). The third of Balaam's posts of observation was "the top of Peor, that looketh towards Jeshimon," or the desert [of Judah] (Nu 23:28); and as the next to the last day's journey of the Israelites was "to the top of Pisgah, that looketh towards Jeshimon" (Nu 22:28), and as, moreover, Moses died on the top of Pisgah, and was buried "in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor" (De 34:6), Paine concludes that all these were designations of the same or immediately adjoining spots, thus making the ruin-crowned summit of Siaghah the site of the sanctuary of Peor, and he adduces the character of the remains as evidence that they were an early temple. He thinks they are not sufficiently extensive for those of the town of Nebo (q.v.), which he inclines to identify with the more considerable ruins called Kharhb el-Mukheyat, a little more than a mile south of Jebel Neba.
Other collateral arguments of less moment adduced by Prof. Paine in support of his views are drawn from the name "Ashdoth-Pisgah" (De 2:17; De 4:49; Jos 12:3; Jos 13:20), which he renders springs of Pisgah, and identifies with those of Ayfin Mfsa; and from the Bible accounts of Moses's death and burial. He also adduces the statements of later writers (Josephus, Eusebius, etc.) on these points. His attempt to trace the name Pisgah in the modern Siaghah is an obvious failure. His main conclusion that Pisgah is a special name for a particular part of Mount Nebo, and that the mountains of Abarirm are likewise limited to the hills immediately overhanging the north-east end of the Dead Sea, can hardly be said to be sustained by his ingenious reasoning; and we therefore incline to the generally entertained view that the reverse is true. Dr. J. L. Porter has still more recently traveled over this locality, and he states, in his account of his journey in the London Athenaeum, that Jebel Nebbeh is a common name for many of the eminences in this vicinity. He is inclined to regard Sidghah as a relic of the name Pisgah. SEE NEBO.