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Mt. Pisgah in America

May 3, 2012

While on a walk a while back, I came across a park surrounding a large sand dune. Someone, most likely one of the innumerable Christian Reformed residents of this area, decided it would be appropriate to name this little hill Mount Pisgah. The name piqued my curiosity — pisgah, pronounced “PISS-ghee” by the locals, is actually a Hebrew word (פסגה, pronounced “peace-GAH”) meaning “mountain top” or “summit.”

Wondering how Christians reading Bibles in English could come up with this word and apply it, however ironically, to a mountain of sorts, I turned to Google to find out where the word “pisgah” appears in the Christian Bible in English. It turns out it comes from the book of the Bible that is the most fun to say in English: Deuteronomy (based on the Greek interpretation of “second law”), which in Hebrew is mundanely dubbed דברים (Devarim, “Things” in modern Hebrew or “[Spoken] Words” in more traditional biblical language). In the English translation of the Bible, the summit of the mountain Moses was called to by God to view the promised land was interpreted as a proper name — Pisgah — instead of being literally translated as “the summit.” Oops.

Here’s the view from the local “pisgah” of the surrounding promised land. Like the two halves of the rapidly evaporating Dead Sea, the two lakes pictured below aren’t connected anymore either, save for a man-made channel.

View from Mt. Pisgah

View from Mt. Pisgah

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