Chukat: Language and Translation

Verse 21:27 begins the third bit of quoted poetry/song in this portion:

“Therefore the [moshlim] would recite: Come to Heshbon, it is built firm…”

Moshlim is translated as “bards”in the Jewish Publication Society translation;
Alter calls them “rhapsodes”;
Fox says “parable-makers”;
Stone says “poets,” explaining, “i.e., those who use similes [mashlim] to give force to their words,” and identifying the poets as Balaam and his father. (see Source Materials for references)

The Talmud tractate Bava Batra (last gate), on the other hand, links the place name “Heshbon” with the concept of “accounting” or “reckoning” and says ha-moshlim are the ones who rule their evil inclinations:

Ha-moshlim means those who rule their evil inclinations. Come Heshbon means let us consider the account of the world; the loss incurred by fulfillment of a precept against the reward secured by its observance, and the gain gotten by a transgression against the loss it involves. (Bava Batra 78b)

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