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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 3

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) Then.—In the Hebrew, a simple And. The history of this movement is given in Numbers 21:32-33. For Edrei, see Numbers 21:33, from which this whole verse is repeated.

Verse 2

(2) And the Lord said unto me. . . .—This verse repeats Numbers 21:34.

For I will deliver him should be rather read thus, for into thy hand have I delivered him.

Verses 4-5

(4, 5) These details are not given in Numbers. Professor Porter, in the Griant Cities of Bashan, has well described the impression made upon him by verifying this description in detail. “The whole of Bashan,” he says, “is not larger than an ordinary English county.” That “sixty walled cities, ‘besides unwalled towns a great many,’ should exist in a small province, at such a remote age, far from the sea, with no rivers and little commerce, appeared to be inexplicable. Inexplicable, mysterious though it appeared, it was true. On the spot, with my own eyes, I had now verified it. A list of more than one hundred ruined cities and villages, situated in these mountains alone, I had in my hands; and on the spot I had tested it, and found it accurate, though not complete.” Many of the cities in the mountains are not ruins. Rooms, doors, bars are entire to this day. The region of Argob is distinctly marked out by its natural boundaries, and well described by the same writer.

Verse 6

(6) We utterly destroyed them.—Devoted them, made them chêrem, as above (Deuteronomy 2:34).

Verse 9

(9) Sirion.—(Sion,Deut.448.) Sirion, or Shirion, and Shenir, are thought to have similar meanings. But the Targum inteprets Shenir as the “rock of snow.” Shirion, according to Gesenius, means “glittering like a breastplate.” It would not be safe to assert that the mention of the Sidonian name of Hermon makes this verse an addition after Israel was in Palestine, though it might be so. The Jewish commentator Rashi points out that, including the name Sion (Deuteronomy 4:48), “this mountain has four names. Why mention them? To declare the praise of the land of Israel, which had four kingdoms glorifying themselves in it, and each of them saying, ‘It is called after my name!’” But there are several notes of this kind in the Pentateuch. (See Genesis 23:2; Genesis 31:47; Numbers 13:22; also Joshua 14:15.)

Verse 10

(10) Salchah.—“The present large town Salkhâd, east of Bashan” (Conder). (See also Giant Cities of Bashan, p. 75.)

Verse 11

(11) Of the remnant of giants—i.e., of the nation of Rephaim in these parts. (See Note on Genesis 14:5.)

His bedstead.—The word may mean either bedstead or coffin. Both the word for “bedstead” and the word for “iron” have given rise to some discussion and difficulty. An iron bedstead and an iron coffin are almost equally improbable. Basalt has been suggested as an alternative. But though there is basalt in Argob, there is none in Rabbath-Ammon. Conder, who has recently explored Rabbath, has discovered a remarkable throne of stone on the side of a hill there, and he suggests that the Hebrew word rendered “bedstead,” which properly signifies a couch with a canopy, may apply to this. The word for “iron” (barzîl) in Talmudical language means also “a prince,” and this meaning has been suggested for the name Barzillai, which we find in the same district in later times. “His canopied throne was a princely one, and yet remains in Rabbath of the Ammonites,” would be the meaning of the passage, on this hypothesis. The dimensions of the throne recently discovered are said to be nearly those given in this verse.

After the cubit of a man-Ish (not adam) the distinctive and emphatic word for a man. Some think that the cubit of any man is meant; others that the man himself for whom it was made, viz., Og, is intended. (Comp. Revelation 21:17, “according to the measure of a man—i.e., of an angel.”)

Verse 13

(13) The land of giants—i.e., of Rephaim.

Verses 13-17

(13-17) Comp. Numbers 32:33-42, and Notes thereon,

Verse 14

(14) Jair took . . . unto this day.—The last words of this chapter seem to point to a later hand, as of Joshua, describing the completion of the conquest. The expression “unto this day” is characteristically common in Joshua, or in the editorial notes inserted throughout that book. (See Introduction to Joshua, “On the Style of the Book.”)

Geshuri and Maachathii.e., the Geshurite and the Maachathite, the inhabitants of Geshur and Maachah. “The Maachathites, near the Jordan springs (comp. Abel-Beth-maachah, 2 Samuel 20:14-15), and the Geshurites, rather farther east” (Conder, Bible Handbook, p. 254). Talmai, king of Geshur, was the grandfather of Absalom (2 Samuel 3:3), who took refuge with him after he killed Ammon (2 Samuel 13:37). “Argob, Trachonitis, or El-Lejja, has been an asylum for all malefactors and refugees ever since” (Giant Cities of Bashan, p. 92).

Verses 16-17

(16, 17) And unto the Reubenites and unto the Gadites I gave.—The circumstances are detailed in Numbers 32:0. They desired the land for their cattle.

Verses 18-19

(18, 19) This is a summary of the agreement made and described in Numbers 32:20—-32. (See also Note on Joshua 1:12.)

Verses 21-22

(21, 22) I commanded Joshua at that time. . . . Thine eyes have seen.—“Thine eyes are the witnesses of all,” &c. The conquest of Sihon and Og, as well as that of Amalek, was to be impressed upon Joshua (comp. Exodus 17:14) as a precedent for his encouragement, and also for his instruction. It is remarkable that no details are given us of the battles against Sihon and Og, or of the capture of the cities, except in Joshua 12:6, “Them did Moses the servant of the Lord smite.” We see the reflection of Moses’ campaign, which is unwritten, in the recorded campaigns of Joshua. The peculiar form of the sentence, “Thine eyes are they that see,” may also serve to remind us of the fact, that though the Law was given by Moses, no eye saw its full breadth and grasp until it came into the hand of Jesus, the antitype of Joshua.

Verse 23

(23) Here begins the second section according to the Jewish division, called “And I besought” (vaeth channân).

Verses 23-28

(23-28) And I besought the Lord at that time.—Two things Moses is recorded to have asked for himself in the story of the exodus. The first is written in Exodus 33:18, “I beseech thee shew me thy glory;” the second is before us here. “O Lord GOD (Adonai Jehovah), thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness and thy mighty hand . . . I pray thee let me go over and see the good land beyond Jordan.” It would seem that Moses desired not so much to view the land (which, indeed, was granted him), but to see the greatness of Jehovah manifested in the conquest, as he had seen it in the victories over Og and Sihon. While we cannot allow for a moment that “the old fathers looked only for transitory promises” (see Notes on Deuteronomy 5:16; Deuteronomy 22:7), yet it is impossible not to feel in this prayer of Moses the pressure of the veil which hung over the unseen world before the coming of our Saviour, who “brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” Moses evidently did not realise that he might see the works of Jehovah and His glory still more clearly in the other world.

Verse 26

(26) Let it suffice thee.—Literally, enough for thee, or, as it is paraphrased by Rashi from older commontatore, “Far more than this is reserved for thee; plentiful goodness is hidden for thee.” And so indeed it proved. For on some “goodly mountain” (Hermon or “Lebanon,”) Moses and Elias stood with the Saviour of the world, and spake of a far more glorious conquest than Joshua’s, even “His exodus, which He should fulfil at Jerusalem” (St. Luke 9:31).

Verse 27

(27) Northward, and southward.—Southward, literally, Teman-ward. The negeb, or “south” of Palestine, is not named here.

Verse 28

(28) For he shall go over.—Emphatic, he it is that shall go over, and he it is that shall make them to inherit; not Moses.

Verse 29

(29) So we abode in the valley over against Beth-peor.—Moses’ burial-place, as appears by Deuteronomy 34:6. It is a significant finishing touch to the scene described above. This verse also concludes the recapitulation of Israel’s journey from Horeb (Deuteronomy 1:6) to the banks of Jordan, with which this first discourse of Moses begins. The remainder, contained in Deut. Iv., is the practical part of the discourse, which now begins.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/deuteronomy-3.html. 1905.
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