Deuteronomy 3 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Deuteronomy 3
Pulpit Commentary
Then we turned, and went up the way to Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei.
Verses 1-11. - CONQUEST OF OG, KING OF BASHAN. The Amorites had wrested from Moab a portion of the territory taken by the Moabites and the Edomites from the giant aborigines; and Og, who was of the same giant race, ruled over the northern half of the region of Gilead and over all Bashan. This district also God purposed Israel to possess; and therefore, before crossing the Jordan, a diversion was made north. wards by the Israelites, for the purpose of attacking this powerful chief. Og encountered them with all his host, but was signally defeated, and he and all his people were exterminated. Not fewer than three score fortified cities, besides villages, were captured by the Israelites, the whole country was subjugated, and all the cattle and material property taken as booty (cf. Numbers 21:33-35). Verse 1. - (Cf. Numbers 21:33 ) We turned - i.e. took a new route - and went up (וַנַּעַל, and we ascended). As Bashan was an upland region, they are very properly said to have gone up. Edrei, hod. Draa, with Roman and Arabian ruins, nearly three miles in circumference, but without inhabitants; not the same as the Edrei of ver. 10.
And the LORD said unto me, Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand; and thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.
Verse 2. - (Cf. Numbers 21:31, etc.)
So the LORD our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining.
And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan.
Verse 4. - Threescore cities; probably the same as the Bashan-havoth jair, afterwards mentioned (ver. 14). The region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. The region of Argob comprised the kingdom of Og, and Bashan was another name for the same country; extending from the Jabbok to Hermon, and embracing both the northern part of Gilead, and what was afterwards in a stricter sense Bashan, viz. the land north of the Wady Zerka (hod. Jebel Ajlan) to Hermon. The name Argob is supposed by some to be given to the district from a town of that name, fifteen Roman miles eastward from Gerasa, a city of Arabia (Eusebius); but more probably it is derived from the character of the district, either as deep-soiled (from רֶגֶב, a clod), or as rugged and uneven (רְגוב, from רָגַב akin to רָגָם, to heap up), just as the neighboring district to the east and northeast received the name Traohonitis (from τραχών, rough, rugged); in the Targum, indeed, Trachona (טרכונא) is the name given here for Argob. This district is now known as the province of El-Lejah (The Retreat). It is described as oval in form, about twenty-two miles long by fourteen wide; a plateau elevated about thirty feet above the surrounding plain. Its features are most remarkable. It is composed of a thick stratum of black basalt, which seems to have been emitted in a liquid state from pores in the earth, and to have flowed out on all sides till the whole surface was covered. It is rent and shattered as if by internal convulsion. The cup-like cavities from which the liquid mass was projected are still seen, and also the wavy surface such as a thick liquid generally assumes which cools as it is flowing. There are deep fissures and yawning gulfs with rugged, broken edges; and there are jagged mounds that seem not to have been sufficiently heated to flow, but which were forced up by some mighty agency, and then rent and shattered to their centers. The rock is filled with air-bubbles, and is almost as hard as iron. (Dr. Porter, in Kitto, 'Biblical Cyclopaedia,' 3:1032; see also the same author's 'Five Years in Damascus,' 2:240, etc.; and 'The Giant Cities of Bashan'; Burckhardt, 'Travels in Syria,' p. 110, etc.; Wetstein, 'Reisebericht fib. Hauran,' p. 82, etc.; a paper by Mr. Cyrill Graham in the Cambridge Essays for 1858; and Smith's 'Dictionary,' art. 'Trachonitis.') The entire trans-Jordanic region was thus captured by the Israelites.
All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many.
Verse 5. - All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; literally, double gates and a bar. These cities, with their marvelous erections, are believed to be still existing in the Hauran. Over that district tire strewn a multitude of towns of various sizes, all constructed after the same remarkable fashion. "The streets are perfect, the walls perfect, and, what seems more astonish. tug, the stone doors are still hanging on their hinges, so little impression has been made during these many centuries on the hard and durable stone of which they are built" (Graham, Cambridge Essays, p. 160). These doors are "formed of slabs of stone, opening on pivots which are projecting parts of the stone itself, and working in sockets in the lintel and threshold." Some of these gates are large enough to admit of a camel passing through them, and the doors are of proportionate dimensions, some of the stones of which they are formed being eighteen inches in thickness. The roofs also are formed of huge stone slabs resting on the massive walls. All betoken the workmanship of a race endowed with powers far exceeding those of ordinary men; and give credibility to the supposition that we have in them the dwellings of the giant race that occupied that district before it was invaded by the Israelites. "We could not help," says Mr. Graham, "being impressed with the belief that had we never known anything of the early portion of Scripture history before visiting this country, we should have been forced to the conclusion that its original inhabitants, the people who had constructed those cities, were not only a powerful and mighty nation, but individuals of greater strength than ourselves." Ver. 6. - (See Deuteronomy 2:34.)
And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city.
But all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities, we took for a prey to ourselves.
And we took at that time out of the hand of the two kings of the Amorites the land that was on this side Jordan, from the river of Arnon unto mount Hermon;
Verse 8. - Hermon (חֶרְמון), probably from חָרַם, to be high, "the lofty peak," conspicuous on all sides. By some the name is supposed to be connected with חֶרֶם, a devoted thing, because this mountain marked the limit of the country devoted or placed under a ban; and it is certainly remarkable that, at the extreme north-east and the extreme southwest of the laud conquered by the Israelites, names derived from Hereto, viz. Hermon and Hormah (Deuteronomy 1:44), should be found; as if to indicate that all between was devoted. Hermon is the southernmost spur of the Autilibanus range. It is "the second mountain in Syria, ranking next to the highest peak of Lebanon behind the cedars. The elevation of Hermon may be estimated at about 10,000 feet. The whole body of the mountain is limestone, similar to that which composes the main ridge of Lebanon, the central peak rises up an obtuse truncated cone, from 2000 to 3000 feet above the ridges that radiate from it, thus giving it a more commanding aspect than any other mountain in Syria. This cone is entirely naked, destitute alike of trees and vegetation. The snow never disappears from its summit" (Porter, 'Handbook, Syria and Palestine,' p. 431). At the present day it is known as Jebel esh-Sheikh (The Chief Mountain), also Jebel eth Thel (The Snow Mountain). Anciently also it had various names. By the Hebrews it was known also as Sion (שִׂיאֹן, the high, Deuteronomy 4:48); by the Sidonians it was called Sirion (שִׂרְיון = שִׁרְיון, a cuirass or coat of mail), probably from its shining appearance, especially when covered with snow and by the Amorites it was called Senir, a word probably of the same meaning. These names continued in use to a late period (cf. Psalm 99:6; Ezekiel 27:4; Song of Solomon 4:8; 1 Chronicles 5:23).
(Which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion; and the Amorites call it Shenir;)
All the cities of the plain, and all Gilead, and all Bashan, unto Salchah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan.
Verse 10. - The different portions of the conquered territory are here mentioned.

1. The plain (הַמִּישׁור, the level country); the table-land south of Mount Gilead, as far as the Arnon.

2. The whole of Gilead; the hilly country north of the Jabbok, between Heshbon and Bashan, between the northern and southern table-land.

3. All Bashan, as far eastward as Salchah, the modern Szal-khat or Szarkhad, about seven hours to the east of Busra, and northwards to Edrei, hod. Edra, Ezra or Edhra, an extensive ruin to the west of Busra, still partially inhabited.
For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.
Verse 11. - Bashan was of old possessed by a giant race, the Rephaim (Genesis 14:5); but of these Og, King of Bashan, was, at the time of the Israelitish invasion, the sole remnant. His vast size is indicated by the size of his bedstead, which was preserved in Rabbath-Ammon, perhaps as a trophy of some victory obtained by the Ammonites over their gigantic foe. This measured nine cubits in length, and four in breadth, "after the cubit of a man," i.e. according to the cubit in common use. Taking the cubit as equal to eighteen inches, the measure of the bedstead would be thirteen feet and a half by six feet. That Og even approximated to this height is incredible; if he reached nine or ten feet his height would exceed that of any one on record. It is probable, however, that he may have had his bed made vastly larger than himself, partly from ostentation, partly that he might leave a memorial that should impress upon posterity a sense of his gigantic size and resistless might; just as Alexander the Great is said (Died. Sic., 17:95) to have, on his march to India, caused couches to be made for his soldiers in their tents, each five cubits long, in order to impress the natives with an overwhelming sense of the greatness of his host. It has been suggested that it is not a bed that is here referred to, but a sarcophagus of basalt or ironstone in which, it is supposed, the corpse of Og was placed, and which was afterwards carried to Rabbath, and there deposited (J. D. Michaelis, Winer, Knobel, etc.). This implies that the passage is a later insertion, and not part of the original narrative as given by Moses. But with what view could such an insertion be introduced? Not to establish the credibility of the story of the victory of the Israelites over Og, for the existence of a sarcophagus in which a corpse had been placed would only attest the fact that such a one once lived and died, but would prove nothing as to how or when or where he came by his death. Not to show the vast size of the man, for a sarcophagus affords no measure whatever of the size of the person whose remains are placed in it, being an honorary monument, the size of which is proportioned to the real or supposed dignity of the person for whose honor it is made. A bed, on the contrary, which a man had used, or at least had caused to be made for himself, would afford some evidence of his size; and there is an obvious reason for Moses referring to this here, inasmuch as thereby he recalled-to the Israelites the remembrance, on the one hand, of what occasioned the fear with which they anticipated the approach of this terrible foe, and, on the other, of the grace of God to them in that he had delivered Og and all his people into their hand. It is idle to inquire how Moses could know of the existence of this bed at Rabbath; for we may be well assured that from all the peoples through whose territories he had passed reports of the strength and prowess and doings of this giant warrior would be poured into his ear.
And this land, which we possessed at that time, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, and half mount Gilead, and the cities thereof, gave I unto the Reubenites and to the Gadites.
Verses 12-17. - Distribution of the conquered land. The countries thus conquered by the Israelites were assigned by Moses to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. The southern portion, from Aroer, in the valley of the Amen, to the Jabbok, with its towns (see Joshua 12:15-20, 24-28), was assigned to the Reubenites and the Gadites; and the northern portion, from the Jabbok, comprehending, with Gilead, the whole of Bashan, or Argob, to the half tribe of Manasseh.
And the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, being the kingdom of Og, gave I unto the half tribe of Manasseh; all the region of Argob, with all Bashan, which was called the land of giants.
Verse 13. - The last part of this verse is differently construed and rendered by different translators. By some the clause all the region of Argob is connected with what precedes, while others regard this clause as in apposition with what follows. Targum: "All the region of Trachona, and all that province was called the land of giants;" LXX. "And all the region of Argob, all that Bashan: the land of the Rephaim it was reckoned:" Vulgate: "The whole region of Argob, and all Bashan is called the land of giants." Modern interpreters for the most part adopt the order of the Targum. The clause may be rendered thus: The whole region of Argob as respects all Bashan [i.e. in so far as it formed part of the kingdom of Bashan under Og] was reputed the land of the Rephaim.
Jair the son of Manasseh took all the country of Argob unto the coasts of Geshuri and Maachathi; and called them after his own name, Bashanhavothjair, unto this day.
Verse 14. - Jair, a descendant of Manasseh by the mother's side (his father was of the tribe of Judah, 1 Chronicles 2:22), obtained the Argob region unto - i.e., inclusive of (see Joshua 13:13) - the territory of the Geshuri and Maachathi. These were small Syrian tribes located to the east of Hermon. As Geshur signifies a bridge, it has been conjectured that the Geshurites were located near some well-known bridge across the Jordan, of which, perhaps, they were the keepers, and from this took their name. Maachah is called Aram (Syria) Maachah in 1 Chronicles 19:6. According to the 'Ono-masticon,' it was "a city of the Amorites, by the Jordan, near Mount Hermon" (s.v. Μαχαθί). It had in later times a king, who allied himself with the Ammonites against David (1 Chronicles 19:7). These tribes were subdued, but not destroyed, by the Israelites; and at a later period seem to have regained their independence, and to have formed one kingdom (comp. 2 Samuel 3:3; 2 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 13:37; 2 Samuel 15:8; 1 Chronicles 3:2). And called them after his own name, Bashan-havoth-jair. The word havoth (properly chavvoth, חַלֺוּת) is the plural of a word meaning life, and Char-voth-Jair probably signifies Jair's livings, not Jair's villages, for these were apparently fortified cities (vers. 4, 5; Joshua 13:30; 1 Kings 4:13). These were recaptured by the Geshurites, aided by the Arameans (1 Chronicles 2:23, "And Geshur and Aram took Chavvoth-Jair from them," etc.); at what time is unknown. From Numbers 32:42, it appears that Nobah, also a family descended from Machir, took certain towns, viz. "Kenath and her daughters" in this district; these, with the twenty-three Hay-voth-Jair, made up the sixty towns which "belonged to the sons of Machir the father of Gilead" (1 Chronicles 2:23). Nobah was probably in some way subordinate to Jair, and so in this rhetorical discourse, where it is not the purpose of the author to enter on minute details, the whole of these cities are included under the name Havvoth-Jair. Unto this day. "This does not necessarily imply a long time; and Moses himself may have used this expression, though only shortly after the event, in order to give prominence to the capture of the fortified cities of the giant' king Og, by the Manassites for the encouragement of the Israelites" (Herzheimer).
And I gave Gilead unto Machir.
Verse 15. - Cf. Numbers 32:40; 1 Chronicles 2:22.)
And unto the Reubenites and unto the Gadites I gave from Gilead even unto the river Arnon half the valley, and the border even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon;
Verses 16, 17. - The possession of the tribes of Reuben and Gad is here more exactly defined. Its southern boundary was the middle of the valley (the wady) of the Arnon; half the valley, and the border, i.e. the middle of the ravine (or wady) and its edge; a more precise definition of the river Arnon; the brook which flowed through the middle of the ravine was to be their boundary line to the south. On the northeast the Upper Jabbok (Nahr Amman) was to be their boundary; this separated them from Ammonitis, the region of the children of Ammon (Numbers 21:24). On the west the 'Arabah (Ghor), and the Jordan and its border (its east bank), from Chinnereth (Kinnereth), a fenced city by the sea of Galilee, thence called "the sea of Chinnereth" (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 12:3; Joshua 19:35), to the sea of the 'Arabah, the salt sea, under Ashdoth-pisgah - the slopes (literally, the outpourings, the place where the mountain torrents flow out, hence the base of the hill) of Pisgah (Numbers 21:15; Numbers 27:12) - eastward; i.e. simply the east side of the 'Arabah and the Jordan. CONCLUSION OF HISTORICAL RECAPITULATION. Vers. 18-29.
The plain also, and Jordan, and the coast thereof, from Chinnereth even unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, under Ashdothpisgah eastward.
And I commanded you at that time, saying, The LORD your God hath given you this land to possess it: ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all that are meet for the war.
Verses 18-20. - Moses reminds the two and a half tribes of the conditions on which they had received the possessions they had desired beyond Jordan (see Numbers 32:20-32). All that are meet for the war; literally, all the sons of might (בְּנֵי חַיִל), i.e. not all who were men of war or of age to go to war, but men specially powerful and fitted for warlike enterprise. Until the Lord hath given rest auto your brethren (corer. Exodus 33:14).
But your wives, and your little ones, and your cattle, (for I know that ye have much cattle,) shall abide in your cities which I have given you;
Until the LORD have given rest unto your brethren, as well as unto you, and until they also possess the land which the LORD your God hath given them beyond Jordan: and then shall ye return every man unto his possession, which I have given you.
And I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, Thine eyes have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto these two kings: so shall the LORD do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest.
Verses 21, 22. - Joshua appointed as Moses successor in the leadership. Verse 21. - At that time, i.e. after the conquest of the land on the east of the Jordan (see Numbers 27:12, etc.). Thine eyes have seen, etc. Joshua was directed to what he had himself witnessed, what his own eyes had seen, in the destruction of Sihon and Og and their hosts, that he might be encouraged to go forward in the course to which he had been called; and the people are reminded of this, that they may keep in mind what God had done for Israel, and may without fear follow Joshua as their leader to the conquest of Canaan (comp. Deuteronomy 31:23).
Ye shall not fear them: for the LORD your God he shall fight for you.
Verse 22. - The "he" here is emphatic; as God himself would fight for them, why should they be afraid?
And I besought the LORD at that time, saying,
Verses 23-29. - Prayer of Moses. Moses knew that he was not to enter the Promised Land with the people; but, reluctant to relinquish the enterprise which he had so far conducted until he should see it successfully finished, he besought the Lord that at least he might be permitted to cross the Jordan, and see the goodly land. This prayer was presented probably just before Moses asked God to set a man over the congregation to be their leader to the promised land (Numbers 27:15-17); for the command to give a charge to Joshua, in that office, follows immediately, as part of God's answer to Moses' request (ver. 28), and the expression "at that time" (ver. 23) points back to the charge of Moses to Joshua, as contemporaneous with the offering of his prayer. In this prayer Moses appeals to what he had already experienced of God's favor to him, in that he had begun to show him his greatness and his mighty power. The reference is to the victories already achieved over the Amorites; these were tokens of the Divine power graciously manifested to Israel, and Moses appeals to them as strengthening his plea for further favors (comp. the pleading, Exodus 33:12, etc.).
O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?
Verse 24. - O Lord God: O Lord Jehovah. For what God, etc. (comp. Exodus 15:11; Psalm 86:8; Psalm 89:6; Psalm 113:5, etc.). "The contrast drawn between Jehovah and other gods does not involve the reality of heathen deities, but simply presupposes a belief in the existence of other gods, without deciding as to the truth of that belief" (Keil).
I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.
Verse 25. - That goodly mountain; not any mountain specially, but the whole mountain elevation of Canaan, culminating in the distant Lebanon, as it appeared to the eye of Moses from the lower level of the 'Arabah. This was "goodly," especially in contrast with the arid and sunburnt desert through which the Israelites had passed; the hills gave promise of streams that should cool the air and refresh and fertilize the land (see Deuteronomy 8:7, etc.). Moses longed to go over if but to see this land, and to plant his foot on it; but his request was not granted.
But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.
Verse 26. - The Lord was wroth, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 1:37; Numbers 20:12; Numbers 27:13, 14). Let it suffice thee; literally, Enough for thee! i.e. either Thou hast said enough; say no more, or Be content; let what I have done, and the grace I have given, be enough for thee (comp. the use of this formula in Genesis 45:28; Numbers 16:3; Deuteronomy 1:6; Deuteronomy 2:3). Keil and others refer to 2 Corinthians 12:8, as" substantially equivalent," but the expression there seems to have quite a different meaning and reference from that used here.
Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
Verse 27. - Comp. Numbers 27:12, of which this is a rhetorical amplification. There the mountains of Abarim are mentioned; here Pisgah, the northern portion of that range, is specified. The top of Pisgah; i.e. Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1). Westward; literally, seaward, i.e. towards the Mediterranean; northward (צָפון, hidden or dark place, where darkness gathers, as opposed to the bright and sunny south); southward, towards the right-hand quarter (תֵּימָן from יָמִין, the right hand; cf. Exodus 26:18, "to the south towards the right hand "); eastward, towards the dawn or sun rising; cf. Deuteronomy 4:47 (מִזְרָח, from זָרַח to shine forth).
But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.
Verse 28. - (Comp. Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:21; Deuteronomy 31:7; Numbers 27:23.)
So we abode in the valley over against Bethpeor.
Verse 29. - In the valley over against Beth-peor; i.e. in the plains of Moab (Arboth Moab, Numbers 22:1; cf. Deuteronomy 4:46; Deuteronomy 34:6). Beth-pe'or, i.e. the house or temple of Pe'or, the Moabitish Baah There was a hill Pe'or, in the Abarim range, near to which this town was; it was opposite to Jericho, six Roman miles north of Libias (Eusebius); it was given to the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 13:20). In passing from the historical recapitulation, Moses indicates precisely the locality in which they were when this address was delivered.

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