Table of Contents
What is Nebo in the Bible?
Mount Nebo is one of the mystical places steeped in history that cannot be missed when visiting Jordan. Indeed, it is a sacred place for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Every year, it is visited by thousands of pilgrims.
As written in Deuteronomy, Mount Nebo is where Moses saw the Promised Land. Which God destined for his Chosen People and where he later died. In this place is preserved the sizeable circular stone. Which is also said to have been placed as a closure to the tomb of the Prophet.
Mount Nebo has been a place of pilgrimage since ancient times and is located within an Archaeological Park. Managed by the Franciscans. The top of Siyagha, as this place was called in ancient times, was purchased in 1932 by the Custody of the Holy Land. Some archaeological excavations were carried out between 1933 and 1937 under Father Bellarmino Bagatti and, in recent times, by Father Michele Piccirillo.
Archaeological pieces of evidence of Mount Nebo in the Bible
Archaeological research has so far mainly concerned with the Byzantine period monuments on the top of Sīyagha. The ruins of al-Mukhayyat and the valley of ‘Ayūn Musa. The archaeologists of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem conducted the exploration. Which began in 1933 and continues to this day.
The identification of the ruins on the top of Sīyagha with the Memorial of Moses was made possible by a passage from the Itinerarium Egeriae (chap. X-XII). The origin of the sanctuary is narrated by Vita Petri, the Ibero bishop (Georgia) who lived in the 5th century.
In the sixth century, the sanctuaries of the mountain are mentioned by Theodosius (530). He also indicates in the vicinity of Livias, “the water that (Moses) caused to flow from the rock, the place of Moses’ death. And the baths of Moses where lepers are treated” ( De situ Terrae Sanctae, 19). Indeed, the anonymous Pellegrino di Piacenza (570) writes that “there are 8 miles from the Jordan to the place where Moses died” ( Itinerarium, X, 13).
The architecture of the church from Mount Nebo
Memorial Church of Moses
Mount Nebo and the church with the memorial of Moses are located about 40 km southwest of Amman. Therefore, it offers spectacular panoramic views of the Dead Sea depression and Israel. So, if the mist permits, you can see, beyond the Jordan, Jericho: the place of entry into the promised land.
On the edge of the large panoramic terrace stands a monument representing the stick of Moses wrapped in a snake: a work in bronze created by the Florentine artist Gian Paolo Fantoni. Therefore, the current church, recently restored, stands on the remains of previous religious buildings dating back to the 4th, 6th, and 7th centuries. Inside the church, you can admire a splendid recently restored mosaic measuring 9 x 3 meters.
This mosaic was part of the ancient baptistery. It depicted hunting and grazing scenes interspersed with an assortment of African animals. With beautiful features and colors that are worth the visit! Mount Nebo and the memorial of Moses are located near the Dead Sea. And also Bethany beyond the Jordan and the thermal waterfalls of Ma’In.
Mount of Nebo in the Bible is one of the highest mountains of the Abarim range of the Dead Sea. They were facing Jerusalem. Perennial springs of water have allowed the continuity of the settlements on the mountain. Attested from the prehistoric era to the present day. For the most ancient times (up to the second millennium BC). In addition to siliceous artifacts, megalithic circles, dolmens, menhirs, and tombs are preserved.
Therefore, for the 1st millennium BC, Iron Age pottery was recovered from the ruins of the el-Mešhad fortress, guarding the wādī ‘Ayūn Musa. So, the fortress of el-Mešhad protected in the Roman-Byzantine period the road that connected the city of Livias in the Jordan valley, at the foot of Mount Nebo in the Bible, to the town of Esbous on the plateau, station of the Via Nova Traiana.
Therefore, the mountain of Nebo in the Bible is linked, in the biblical tradition, to the death of Moses ( Deut ., 34); this identification is already attested in Eusebius’ Onomastikòn (136,6). The Christians built a memorial church in honor of Moses on the top of Sīyagha, the most advanced towards the valley.