The Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14–20): Philology and Hydrology, Geography and Ethnography.
Steiner, Richard C.
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Num. 21:14 contains one of the most enigmatic phrases in the Pentateuch: אֶת־וָהֵב בְּסוּפָה . The usual interpretations of אֶת turn the phrase into gibberish because they require the presence of a verb, which is nowhere to be found. Some scholars have supplied an understood verb; others have resorted to emendation. A better solution is available: אֶת in our passage is a verb masquerading as a preposition. It is easily construed, without the slightest change, as an archaic apocopated/biliteral imperative of א-ת-י, meaning “come!” This construal of אֶת transforms our understanding of Num. 21:14–20 in many ways. For example, it reveals that אֶת־וָהֵב ʹ עַל־כֵּן יאֵָמַר בְּסֵפֶר מִלְחֲמתֹ ה, “On account of that, it is said in the Book of the Wars of the Lord, ‘Come to (Mount) Waheb’,” bears a striking resemblance to עַל־כֵּן יאֹמְרוּ הַמּשְֹׁלִים בּאֹוּ חֶשְׁבּוֹן, “On account of that, the bards say, ‘Come to Heshbon’,” thirteen verses later. More generally, the new construal, taken together with some pertinent geographic, ethnographic, and hydrologic facts, makes possible a new, more coherent reading of the entire passage. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
Peer-reviewed research article / Open access
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