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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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.

We turned, and want up the way to Bashan (cf. Numbers 21:33-35). Bashan-fruitful or flat-now El-Bottein, lay situated to the north of Gilead, and extended as far as Hermon. It was a rugged, mountainous country, valuable, however, for its rich and luxuriant pastures.

Og the king of Bashan came out against us. Without provocation, he rushed to attack the Israelites, either disliking the presence of such dangerous neighbours, or burning to avenge the overthrow of his friends and allies.

At Edrei. It was in the western side of Argob, and about midway between its northern and southern limits, that the capital city, the city of Edrei, at a distance of scarcely more than 300 yards from the plain, was built, actually among the black basalt rocks, on a promontory which projects from the south west corner of the Lejjah, and thus held a very strong position. The Rephaim, no doubt, considered all their cities to be of such extraordinary strength that none but a very powerful army could take them. But these cries of Argob, above all, were deemed utterly impregnable. The children of Israel, it seems, were permitted to advance a long way across the plain of Bashan before they met with any determined resistance. They may, indeed, have had skirmishes with Og's people; but, at all events, no account of any pitched battle is given. On the contrary, the Rephaim, probably, like most people who build strong places, liked fighting behind walls, and preferred engaging the invading army within the rocks of Argob, where, if they once became entangled, they might be harassed with impunity, to meeting them in battle in the open field. And, besides, however lightly they may before have been inclined to treat this Hebrew army, now, since the conquest of the Amorites, they must have felt some fear of them.

The Israelites still continued their march northward until they found themselves before the capital, Edrei. 'Had Og remained within the city, humanly speaking, it would have been impossible for the Israelites to have conquered him. The only hope they would have had of taking the place would be by a long siege, and that would hardly have been possible to maintain, because they could not, without great difficulty, invest the city. The western side, next the plain, they might watch, and cut off all supplies from that quarter-the most fruitful, indeed, in that part of Bashan; but to reach the eastern side of Edrei they must have penetrated some distance among the rocks; and not only would this have been too dangerous a work to attempt, but, even were they able to watch ever so well on that side, the people of Argob, knowing all the winding ways within the rocks, could always have managed to bring provisions to the city without being seen.

The only real hope of taking the city was by drawing the Rephaim out into the plain. Whether some ruse was employed to entice the people from their stronghold, or whether Og, in full confidence of his great strength and invulnerability, planned a sudden attack, or, as we should now say, a sortie, on the Israelites as they lay before the city, we are not told. Either would be difficult. It would require no small amount of skill to entice these people from behind walls; and it is more improbable that such a people should of their own free will risk a battle in the open plain. There must have been some almost miraculous interference in favour of the Israelites. And, from casual notice in another place (Joshua 24:12), we find that God sent a special scourge among these Rephaim in the shape of swarms of hornets, which, we may suppose, harassed them so much in their stone houses that they were driven out of their towns, and preferred the alternative of meeting the Israelites to perishing from the stings of these creatures. So, forced from his city, Og met the Israelites in the plain, and in a pitched battle he was defeated, and Edrei taken' ('Cambridge Essays,' 1858, art. 'The Ancient Bashan and the Cities of Og,' by Cyril Graham).

Verse 2

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.

The Lord said ... Fear him not. His gigantic appearance, and the formidable array of forces he will bring to the field, need not discourage you; because, belonging to a doomed race, he is destined to share the fate of Sihon.

Verse 3

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

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.

We took all his cities - not 'captured,' as Colenso renders it, assuming that this result followed a close and protracted siege, but entered into the possession of them.

Threescore cities. 'These cities were of stone, with high walls, bars, and gates; and these very cities are still standing, and bearing testimony to the truth of God's word. Suppose that no one had ever yet traveled in the Hauran, on reading the different passages in the Old Testament which refer to that country, should we not, when we read the account of such prodigious numbers of stone have expected to find at least some remnant of them now? And when we read in this chapter of "threescore walled towns, and unwalled towns a great number," and we see how small a space Og's kingdom occupies on the map, we might almost feel tempted to think that some mistake with regard to the numbers of these places had crept into the text. But when we go to the very country, and find one after another great stone cities, walled and unwalled, with stone gates, and so crowded together that it becomes a matter of wonder how all the people could have lived in so small a tract of country; when we see houses built of such huge and massive stones, that no force that could ever have been brought against them would have been sufficient to batter them down; when we find rooms in these houses so large and so lofty, that many of them would be considered fine rooms in a large house in Europe; and lastly, when we find some of these towns bearing the very names that cities in that country bore before the Israelites came out of Egypt, I think we cannot help feeling the strongest conviction that we have before us the cities of the giant Rephaim. These cities have become gradually deserted as the Arabs of the desert have increased in number; and now, south and east of Salkhad (the ancient Salcah, which marked the southeast ern coast of Bashan) not one of these many towns is inhabited' (Cyril Graham, 'Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 1858').

(See, for a further account of the monolithic habitations and cyclopean fortresses of the extinct Rephaim, the walls of whose houses and cities were composed of enormous polygonal blocks, Porter's 'Damascus,' 2:, 219-222; also p. 196, where he says, 'The huge doors and gates of stone, some of which are nearly 18 inches in thickness, and the ponderous bars, the places for which can still be seen, are in every way characteristic of a period when architecture was in its infancy, when manual labour was of little comparative value, and when strength and security were the great requisites. Time produces but little effect on such buildings as these. The heavy stone flags of the roofs, resting on the massive walls, render the whole structure as firm as if built of solid masonry; and the black basalt rock of which they are constructed is almost as hard as iron. I had sometimes turned to my atlas, where I found the whole of Bashan delineated, and not larger than an ordinary English county.

I was surprised; and though my faith in the divine record was not shaken, yet I thought some strange statistical mystery hung over the passage. That 60 walled cities, besides unwalled towns a great many, should be found at such a remote age, far from the sea, with no rivers, and little commerce, appeared quite inexplicable. Inexplicable and mysterious though it appeared, it was strictly true. On the spot, with my own eyes, I had now verified it. More than 30 of these I had myself either visited or observed, so as to fix their positions on the map. The Arabic lists of Eli Smith include about 500 names of inhabited places, either actually occupied or in ruins-tels or mounds, the relics of the fortified cities of the Rephaim. Of the high antiquity of these ruins scarcely a doubt can be entertained. Here, then, we have a venerable record, more than 3,000 years old, containing incidental statements and statistics which few would be inclined to receive on trust, and not a few to cast aside as glaring absurdities; yet which close examination shows to be minutely accurate,' (See further, Porter, 'The Giant Cities of Bashan,' p. 24; also 'Historico-Geographical Sketch of Bashan,' by the same author; 'Journal of Sacred Literature,' No. 12:, July, 1854; Trail's 'Josephus,' vol. 1:, p. 38, note on the sources whence those cities obtained supplies.)

All the region of Argob - or "country" (Deuteronomy 3:14) - [ chebel (H2256), a rope, or cord, alluding to the Cyclopean wall of basaltic rocks which, like a cordon, encompasses and defines the Lejjah]. Some writers suppose that what is meant is rather a line of frontier cities extending northwards from Argob all along the borders. [Septuagint, panta ta perichoora Argob.] Argob (stony) was a district in Bashan whose cities were conspicuous for their lofty and fortified walls.

Verse 5

All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city.

We utterly destroyed them. It was a war of extermination: all classes of people were put to the sword, and nothing was saved but the cattle, of which an immense amount fell as spoil into the hands of the conquerors. Thus, the two Amorite kings and the entire population of their dominions were extirpated, and the whole country east of the Jordan-first, upland downs from the torrent of the Arnon on the south to that of the Jabbok on the north; next, the high mountain tract of Gilead and Bashan, from the deep ravine of Jabbok-became the possession of the Israelites.

Verse 7

But all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities, we took for a prey to ourselves.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

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;

Hermon, [Septuagint, to Aermoon] - now Jebel-Es-Shiech; the majestic hill on which the long and elevated range of anti-Lebanon terminates as its southern point. Its summit and the ridges on its sides are almost constantly covered with snow. It is not so much one high mountain as a whole cluster of mountain peaks-the highest in Palestine (Psalms 42:7). According to the survey taken by the English Government engineers in 1840 they were about 9,376 feet above the sea. Being a mountain chain, it is no wonder that it should have received different names at different points from the different tribes which lay along the base (as the Arabs have, in the present day, different names for different parts of the Lebanon range), all of them designating extraordinary height-Hermon, the lofty prominent peak; "Sirion," or, in an abbreviated form, "Sion" (Deuteronomy 4:8), the upraised, glittering; "Shenir," the glittering cuirass, or breastplate of ice (see the note at 1 Chronicles 5:23). It formed the northernmost limit of the country east of Jordan (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 3:, pp. 344, 357; Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 395).

Verse 9

(Which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion; and the Amorites call it Shenir;)

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 10

All the cities of the plain, and all Gilead, and all Bashan, unto Salchah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan.

All the cities of the plain, [ hamiyshor (H4334)] - the downs, the high tableland used topographically for the country east of the Jordan (Numbers 21:20; Joshua 21:9; Joshua 21:16; Joshua 21:21: cf. Genesis 36:35).

And all Gilead - the name given to the mountain region eastward of Argob, and derived from the Gal-ed, or mound of witness, raised by Laban and Jacob on the highest summit of the highland region of Jebel-Ajlun.

Jebel-Jelad - a lofty peak of the hill country-formed the southern limit of Bashan.

All Bashan - already described (see the note at Numbers 21:33).

Salchah - now Salkhad, a royal city on the eastern confines of Jebel-Hauran.

Verse 11

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. Only Og ... remained of the remnant of giants - literally, of Rephaim. He was not the last giant, but the only living remnant in the Transjordanic country (Joshua 15:14) of a certain gigantic race (the Rephaim), supposed to be the most ancient inhabitants of Palestine.

Behold, his bedstead ... of iron - [ `eres (H6210) barzel (H1270)]. Although beds in the East are, with the common people, nothing more than a simple mattress, bedsteads are not unknown: they are in use among the great, who prefer them of iron or other metals, not only for strength and durability; but for the prevention of the troublesome insects which, in warm climates, commonly infest wood. Some writers, however, suppose that black basalt is meant-a species of stone with which the Hauran abounds, and which contains a large proportion of iron ore.

Taking the cubit at half a yard ("after the cubit of a man" - i:e., the common cubit = 18 inches, the Memphis measure; as Sir Isaac, Newton calls it, 'the profane and adventitious cubit'-a mode of reckoning used by the Jews only in coarse operations and inferior things), the bedstead of Og would measure 13 1/2 feet, so that, as beds are usually a little larger than the persons who occupy them, the stature of the Amorite king maybe estimated about 11 or 12 feet; or he might have caused his bed to be made much larger than was necessary, as Alexander the Great did for each of his foot soldiers, to impress the Indians with an idea of the extraordinary strength and stature of his men, (see other instances of gigantic stature, Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 18:, ch.

iv., sec. 5; 'Herodotus,' b. 1:, ch. 68:)

But how did Og's bedstead come to be in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? In answer to this question a variety of conjectures have been suggested-namely, that the Ammonites had carried it off as a trophy in some victory over Og; that Og had, on the eve of engagement, conveyed it to Rabbath for safety; or, upon his defeat, had fled to Rabbath, where he died and was buried in this coffin; or finally, that Moses, after capturing it, may have sold it to the Ammonites, who had kept it as an antiquarian curiosity, until their capital was sacked in the time of David (2 Samuel 12:26-31). This is a most unlikely supposition, and, besides, renders it necessary to consider the latter clause of this verse as an interpolation inserted long after the time of Moses.

To avoid this some eminent critics take the Hebrew word rendered "bedstead" to mean 'coffin,' 'bier,' or 'sarcophagus.' They think that the king of Bashan, having been wounded in battle, fled to Rabbath, where he died and was buried; hence, the dimensions of his 'coffin' are given (Dathe, Ros).

Rabbath of the children of Ammon. Rabbah, signifying 'multitude,' 'greatness,' was a name given to several Canaanite towns both in the east and west of Jordan. But it is chiefly applied in Scripture to the capitals of the Moabites and Ammonites. The metropolis of the latter is sometimes called by the simple designation of Rabbath, at other times as here, 'Rabbath of beni-Ammon.' It was originally in the possession of the Zuzim, a branch of the Rephaim; and on the extinction of that ancient race the Ammonites extended their territory to that eastern frontier. It stood embosomed amid hills, on a small stream, which is now known as Moiet-Amman (the Ammon Water), a small tributary of the Jabbok (Wady Zerka). Since Og's iron bedstead was in that city, the presumption is that it was included within his dominions, and, being but a recent acquisition, retained its former name, as "the plains of Moab" did, after it had fallen, by right of conquest, to Sihon.

Verse 12

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.

This land, which we possessed at that time. The whole territory occupied by Sihon was parcelled out among the pastoral tribes of Reuben and Gad. It extended from the north bank of the Arnon to the south half of mount Gilead-a small mountain ridge, now called Jelad, about 6 or 7 miles south of the Jabbok, and 8 miles in length. The northern portion of Gilead, which extended as far north as the Yarmuk, and the rich pasture lands of Bashan-a large province, consisting, with the exception of a few bleak and rocky spots, of strong and fertile soil-was assigned to the half tribe of Manasseh.

Verse 13

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 14

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, Bashan-havothjair, unto this day.

Jair ... took all the country of Argob. The original inhabitants of the province north of Bashan, comprising 60 cities (Deuteronomy 3:4), not having been extirpated along with Og, this people were afterward brought into subjection by the energy of Jair. This chief of the tribe of Manasseh, in accordance with the pastoral habits of his people, called these newly-acquired towns, which had formerly borne the name of 'Bashan villages' (Numbers 32:41), by a name which signifies 'Jair's Bedouin villages of tents.' Osborn ('Monumental History,' 2:, pp. 409, 410) says that this name, 'the village of Bashan,' occurs exactly in the same form as here in hieroglyphics as part of an Egyptian picture representing the defeat of the Zuzim by Sethos (see the note at 1 Kings 4:13).

Unto this day. This remark must evidently have been introduced by Ezra, or some of the pious men who arranged and collected the books of Moses.

Verse 15

And I gave Gilead unto Machir.

I gave Gilead unto Machir. It was only the half of Gilead (Deuteronomy 3:12-13) which was given to the descendants of Machir, who was now dead.

Verse 16

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;

From Gilead - i:e., not the mountainous region, but the town Ramoth-gilead.

Even unto the river Arnon half the valley. The word "valley" signifies a wady, either filled with water or dry, as the Arnon is in summer; and thus the proper rendering of the passage will be-`even to the half or middle of the river Arnon' (cf. Joshua 12:2). This prudent arrangement of the boundaries was evidently made to prevent all disputes between the adjacent tribes about the exclusive right to the water.

Verse 17

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.

The plain also - i:e., the Arabah, including the Ghor.

Verses 18-20

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.

I commanded you at that time - (see the notes at Numbers 32:20-33).

Verses 21-24

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 25

I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.

That goodly mountain, and Lebanon. The name Lebanon denotes 'whiteness,' and was given to that gigantic mountain pile either from the chalky colour of its cliffs, or from its summits being capped with perpetual snow. The natural and very earnest wish of Moses to be allowed to cross the Jordan was founded on the idea that the divine threatening might be conditional and reversible. "That goodly mountain" is supposed by Jewish writers to have pointed to the hill on which the temple was to be built (Exodus 15:2), thus making a reference to two mountains-namely, Zion, as "that goodly mountain," and Lebanon. These, if they were both objects of longing desire to Moses, must have excited his interest on different grounds; because he could only look in a prophetic spirit on mount Zion, as to be distinguished for "the glorious things that were to be spoken of it," and on Lebanon, as far-famed for its natural grandeur and productions. But biblical scholars now generally render the words, 'that goodly mountain, even Lebanon,' and consider it to be mentioned as typifying the beauty of Palestine, of which hills and mountains were so prominent a feature.

Verse 26

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.

Speak no more unto me of this matter - i:e., my decree is unalterable.

Verse 27

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.

Get thee up into the top of Pisgah - (see the note at Deuteronomy 34:1).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/deuteronomy-3.html. 1871-8.
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