Pethor

PETHOR (pē'thôr, Heb. pethôr). Mentioned twice in connection with the hireling prophet Balaam (Num.22.5; Deut.23.4). Both passages place Pethor in Mesopotamia on the Euphrates. There is a reference in an Assyrian inscription of Shalmaneser II to a place called Pitru on the Sagur near its confluence with the Euphrates. It cannot be proved that Pitru is Pethor, but if such a reasonable inference is true, Pethor would be just west of Carchemish on the west bank of the Euphrates.


PETHOR pə’ thôr (פְּתֹ֛ור; Assyrian-Babylonian Pitru). A city of N Mesopotamia, located on the W banks of the Upper Euphrates at the point where it is joined by the river Sagura (now Sajur), a few m. S of Carchemish. It was known as Pitru to the Hittites and as Ana-Ashur-utîr-aṩbat (“I settled it again for Asshur”) to the Assyrians. While the Israelites were sojourning in Egypt, the town was captured by the Hittites and held by them until the 9th cent. b.c. when it was wrested from them by Shalmaneser III (859-824), who recorded his victory: “I crossed the Euphrates and took the city Ana-Ashur-utîr-aṩbat on the other side of the Euphrates on the Sajur which the Hittites called Pitru.” Long before this time, however, it had appeared in Thutmose III’s list of Syrian towns conquered.

Pethor was the home of Balaam, the prophet, son of Beor, who was summoned by King Balak of Moab to curse the Israelites who were entering the land (Num 22:5; Deut 23:4).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The dwelling-place of Balaam, situated on "the river" (the Euphrates) (Nu 22:5).13). This is Paradise restored. We have sure ground for the expectancy; the last two chapters of Re contain the prophetic fulfillment: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more." The accomplishment of these sublime predictions will involve a fundamental change in the constitution of the globe. Life would be impossible if the sea was no more. But He who made the world can surely recreate it, clearing it of every vestige of sin and misery and imperfection, fitting it for the dwelling of perfect beings and of His supreme glory. Immanuel will dwell with the holy inhabitants of the new earth and in the new Jerusalem which is to descend into the glorified planet. John is bidden, "Write, for the predictions are faithful and true; they shall not fail to come to pass."

1. Possibly the Asyrian Pitru:

In De 23:4, it is further described as being in Mesopotamia (Aram-naharaim). Pethor is identified with the Pedru(i) of the geographical lists of Thothmes III (circa 1500 BC) and the Pitru (Pithru) of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser II, who states that in his 3rd year (857 BC) he took the city Ana-Assur-utir-acbat (meaning: "I founded (it) anew for Assur"), which the Hattaa (Hittites) called Pitru. He says that it lay on the farther (western) bank of the Euphrates, by the Sagurru or Sagura River, the modern Sajur. The importance of Pitru is indicated by the fact that he received there the tribute of the kings of Carchemish, Comagene, Melitene and other districts.

2. Difficulties of Identification:

As Pitru is about 400 miles from Moab, this meant for Balaam a three or four weeks’ journey, but the messengers sent to fetch him, though they had to travel that distance twice, could naturally, by pressing their mounts, have performed it much less time. Doubt may likewise be entertained as to the identity of Pethor with Pitru by the absence in the latter of the o, which would lead one to expect rather the Assyrian form Pit(h)uru. Shalmaneser, however, says that Pitru was the Hittite name, and that may account for it. With regard to the derivation, nothing can at present be said, except that, as a Hittite name, Tomkins (Records of the Past, V (London, 1891), 38) has compared the name Pitru with the Pteria of Herodotus i.76 (identified with Bog-haz-keui, the great Hittite capital in Cappadocia, in ancient times called Hattu).