Bemidbar 21:27-30 includes a "parable" (I'm assuming that that is the translation of the phrase in verse 27 - "על כן יאמרו המושלים " - Therefore those that tell parables say") about the city of Cheshbon which Moses and Israel conquered from King Sichon.

Who were these מושלים? Why does the Torah need to include verses of what they said?


3 Answers 3


Rashi says it was Bilaam and Beor. This cursing which Balak viewed as a success on the part of Bilaam was the reason Balak hired him to curse Klal Yisroel. We therefore find in these psukim the prelude to the entire parsha of Balak.

Rashi's words:

על כן. על אותה מלחמה שנלחם סיחון במואב: יאמרו המשלים. בלעם, שנאמר בו (במדבר כג, ז) וישא משלו: המשלים. בלעם ובעור. והם אמרו: באו חשבון. שלא היה סיחון יכול לכבשה והלך ושכר את בלעם לקללו, וזהו שאמר לו בלק (שם כב, ו) כי ידעתי את אשר תברך מברך וגו' : 


Rav Hirsch says that this teaches the lesson that the events of history are designed by Hashem to ensure that the results on the world stage are under His control. In this case, Yisrael is forbidden to conquer the territory of Moav, so Hashem allowed Sichon to conquer it and take it out of the area that Bnai Yisrael could not go through. Had Moav allowed them to pass, it would not have been necessary for it to be conquered.

Chukas 21:27

Go to, all ye who need to learn the teaching of the transience of dynasties and of the fluctuation of power built up on the illusion of the might of pagan gods. See how the proud Moabite luxurious city of Chesbon has been built up and changed and fortified to a city of Sichon, yea to one of his citadels (V 28) from where he accomplishes the captur of a great part of the rest of the Moabite territory.


According to the simple Peshat, these moshlim were Amorite poets that praised their king Sichon for his triumph over the Moabites. At the time the Torah was written down, this poem was well known to the scribes in the area and to the Israelites who lived there as well.

Moses (with divine inspiration) here wanted to preserve for the future generations to come the mighty deeds of Sichon, so they can get an idea of how powerful he was at the time, and to make it known that their (Israelites) triumph over the mighty Sichon was nothing short of miraculous. That's why he records part of this ancient poem, so that future generations see the might of his kingdom (after all even the advanced Moabites weren't able to fight him off, and it goes without saying that the unsophisticated Israelite's cannot conquer him) and that only with the help of god were they able to overcome him.

See Ibn Ezra Bamidbar 21:24 עד בני עמון for different explanation.

  • 1
    "Moses here wanted" This actually was a choice of God's not Moses'. Moses didn't have any say in the contents of the Torah according to traditional Judaism. (The Rambam says that Moshe points this out by saying כי לא מלבי 'it is not from me' but rather from God)
    – Double AA
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:27
  • Still pretty clearly complete heresy if you look past the semantic ambiguity. Why are you so hesitant about attributing the Torah to God?
    – Double AA
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:29
  • @DoubleAA well i beg to differ, there is nothing heretical here in my post (Moses wrote down everything through divine inspiration).
    – Bach
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:30
  • Moses didn't have "divine inspiration" when he wrote the Torah. G-d literally told him what to write down, word for word. The contents of the Torah have nothing to do with what Moses wanted but what G-d wanted.
    – ezra
    Jun 27, 2017 at 19:21
  • @ezra this is not the only Jewish view. See Radak Bereishit 1:5; 2:17. Bechor shor bereishit 1:26; 19:38; 35:20. Ibn Ezra bereishit 12:6; bamidbar 13:24. Moshav zekeinim bereishit 47:26. They all seem to use the phrase "דברי משה" liberally, i am merely following in their footsteps. See also Midrash Aggada (bereishit 2:17): לא אמר הקב"ה עץ הדעת, אלא משה שכתב התורה קראו עץ הדעת. You see chazal didn't have a problem voicing their opinion that "Moses" wrote something with divine inspiration. see also Megilla 31b: והללו בלשון יחיד אמורות ומשה מפי עצמו אמרן.
    – Bach
    Jun 28, 2017 at 0:09

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