SIHON (sī'hŏn, Heb. sîhôn). A king of the Amorites who became prominent chiefly because of his opposition to Israel on their journey from Egypt to Palestine. His capital in the land east of the Jordan River was Heshbon. Prior to Israel’s journey the Amorites under his leadership had driven out the Moabites from this section of land and had taken over this territory. God permitted him to dispossess the Moabites, but when he led the attack against Israel, he was killed and his forces scattered (Num.21.21-Num.21.24; Deut.1.4, Deut.1.20, Deut.1.24-Deut.1.30). His capital was taken and the territory given to Israel. This episode is often referred to as a reminder to Israel of what God had done for them and became a source of encouragement to them (Deut.3.2). When the Moabites came and demanded that Israel return this land to them (Judg.11.12-Judg.11.13), Jephthah reminded them that Sihon had seized this property and God had given it to Israel. Therefore, neither they nor the Ammonites had any right to it.

SIHON sī’ hŏn (סִיחֹ֥ן, סִיחֹֽון). Name of the Amorite king the Israelites defeated on their way to Canaan.

A Trans-Jordan king Moses defeated

(Num 21:21-30). Sihon was the king of the Amorites to whom Moses sent messengers, hoping to obtain permission to lead the Israelites through his land. He refused to grant this permission; rather he went out against Israel with his army, was defeated and slain. Israel then claimed his land as its first conquered area. Heshbon had been his capital city; his southern boundary was the Arnon; and his northern boundary was the Jabbok (Num 21:24). Further, his land was a land of many villages and cities (21:25). His land became a part of the Trans-Jordan claimed and settled by Reuben, Gad, and part of Manasseh.

Defeat of Sihon remembered and retold.

Moses’ defeat of Sihon was a great event remembered centuries later, because of Israel’s phenomenal historical memory. Ballad singers made a poetic account of Sihon’s downfall a part of their repertoire (Num 21:27-30). Moses used it as a meaningful reference to the past when he spoke to Israel “beyond the Jordan” and endeavored “to explain the law” (Deut 1:5). He retold the great victory over Sihon (2:24-37) in order to recall how it had been a rallying point in going against Og of Bashan (3:1-11), and to inspire confidence in God with respect to nations still before them across the Jordan (29:7; 31:4). It is of interest to observe that other peoples told about Sihon’s defeat and spread the news, causing dread among the inhabitants on the W side of the Jordan (Josh 2:10; 9:10).


R. F. Johnson, “Sihon,” IDB, R-Z (1962), 351.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)