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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 3

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-29

CRITICAL NOTES.—Conquest of Og. Israel were able to advance to the Jordan after the defeat of Sihon and the conquest of his land. But Og, the Amonitish King, still kept the northern half of Gilead and all Bashan, a rugged mountainous country, valuable for rich and luxuriant pastures.

Deuteronomy 3:1. Came out. Without provocation, disliking the presence of the Israelites, or seeking to revenge the overthrow of his friends and allies, Og rushed to attack.

Deuteronomy 3:2. Cf. Numbers 21:31, etc.

Deuteronomy 3:4. Argob (stony). A region including the sixty towns which formed the kingdom of Og in Bashan, i.e., all the towns of the land of Bashan, viz. (according to Deuteronomy 3:5) all the fortified towns besides the unfortified and open country towns of Bashan. (cf. Porter’s “Giant Cities of Bashan,” and “Historico-Geographical sketch of Bashan;” Camb. Essays, Art, “Ancient Bashan and the Cities of Og,” by Cyril Graham and Speak. Com. in loco).

Deuteronomy 3:8-11. Moses takes a retrospective view of the whole of the land taken on the other side of the Jordan; first of all (Deuteronomy 3:9) in its whole extent from the Arnon to Hermon, then (Deuteronomy 3:10) in its separate parts, to bring out in all its grandeur what the Lord had done for Israel. The notices of the different names of Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:9), and of the bed of king Og (Deuteronomy 3:11), are also subservient to this end.—Keil.

Deuteronomy 3:11. Giant’s Rephaim (Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20) bedstead of iron for strength, durability, and a prevention against insects which infest wood in warm climates. The ordinary cubit was eighteen inches. Now a bed is always larger than the man who sleeps in it. Probably Og had his bed made so large, partly for ostentation, partly “as a memorial of his superhuman greatness, on the occasion of some expedition of his against the Ammonites; and this bed may have been preserved in their capital as a proof of the greatness of their foe.”—Keil.

Deuteronomy 3:12 -Ver. 20. A review of the conquered land. “The land taken from the two kings was given by Moses to the two tribes and a half for a possession. The southern portion from Aroer in the Arnon valley (cf. Numbers 32:34), and half Gilead (as far as the Jablak, Deuteronomy 3:10) with its towns (which are enumerated, Joshua 13:15-20; Joshua 13:24-28) to the Reubenites and Gadites; and the northern half of Gilead, with the whole of Bashan (i.e. all the region of Argob, Deuteronomy 3:4, and Numbers 32:33.) to the half tribe of Manasseh.”—Keil.

Deuteronomy 3:15. Cf. Numbers 32:39-40; 1 Chronicles 2:22.

Deuteronomy 3:16-17. The possession of Reuben and Gad is more exactly described according to its boundaries.

Deuteronomy 3:18-20. The two tribes and a half are reminded of the condition on which their possessions were given to them (cf. Numbers 32:20-32). Meet for war, lit., sons of power or might; not all men of war, or of age to war; but man specially powerful and fit for the enterprise.

Deuteronomy 3:22. He emphatic, if God Himself would fight, no need for fear.

Deuteronomy 3:25. Goodly mountain, the whole range of the mountains of Canaan, culminating in distant Lebanon—goodly, when contrasted with the arid desert. Moses longed to enter the land; naturally thought the Divine threatening was conditional and reversible, but his request not granted.

Deuteronomy 3:26. Wroth. Addressing the people, Moses mentions the punishment of their leaders as a most impressive warning to them (Speak. Com.). Their conduct was the occasion of his sin. Suffice, lit., enough for thee, be satisfied with what I have given and done for thee.

Deuteronomy 3:27. Pisgah, the northern portion of the mountains of Abarim. Top of Pisgah, i.e., Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 24:1).

Deuteronomy 3:28. Cf. Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:21; Deuteronomy 31:7; Numbers 27:23. A precise indication of the locality in which the address was given to Israel.


Before crossing Jordan, Israel turned and went northwards, “up the way to Bashan.” Og, a mighty king, ruled in that country. God purposed to give the Israelites all his lands, but they, perhaps, hesitated, or were afraid; hence the injunction, “Fear him not.”

I. The need of encouragement. In ordinary conflicts we have need of heart and courage. But special circumstances demand special help.

1. They were surrounded with dangers. In a rocky country (Argob), well suited to harass and entangle the invaders. With a powerful and warlike foe in front, well posted and defended in impregnable fortresses, they might well fear. Man, sinful man, is timid in spiritual conflict, and fear often leads to flight.

2. They were about to engage with a giant race. Og, the redoubtable leader, was the remnant of the Rephaim (Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20). The people were numerous and courageous. They “came out against us.” But giants are only pigmies before God.

II. The ground of encouragement. There is always reason for doing what God commands.

1. The Promise of God. “I will deliver him.” God’s promise is connected with His purpose, and what He has purposed He will do for us. Hence fear not, trust and obey.

2. Their own past experience. “Thou shalt do unto him as thou did’st unto Sihon.” One conquest gives joy and help for another. Every evil course forsaken, and every sinful habit subdued by God’s grace, give consciousness of God’s presence and qualify us for other contests. In our moral warfare let us have courage to do right, to resist temptation, and to serve God. To be undetermined when the work is so urgent, and the command to do it so authoritative, is disobedience and death.

THE CONQUEST OF OG.—Deuteronomy 3:1-7

“The last of his race in this region, he was still the ruler of his country; and the whole Amorite inhabitants from Hermon to the Jabbok, and from the Jordan to the desert, acknowledged the supremacy of this giant warrior. Og resolved to defend his country. It was a splendid inheritance, and he would not resign it without a struggle. Collecting his forces he marshalled them on the broad plain before Edrei. We have no details of the battle; but doubtless the Amorites and their leader fought bravely for country and for life. It was in vain; a stronger than human arm warred for Israel. Og’s army was defeated, and he himself was slain.”—Porter. Learn—

I. The power of right over might. God had given the land to Israel, and they were fighting for their possessions. Og was a mighty king. His people confided in his strength and their own prowess. They believed in worldly power, in physical force. In modern as well as in rude ages might is exalted and trusted. But “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” “The fortunes of war” change, and one incautious step may end in ruin. Truth and right, God and His cause are mightiest and will prevail.

II. The impotence of hostile preparations against God. Og was confident in his attack. His cities were impregnable, and it was impossible for Israel to overcome them or escape. But how impotent to defend themselves. The sixty cities, walled to heaven and stoutly defended, were levelled to the dust. The rout was most wonderful and complete. So will it be with all power and hostility against the cause of God. “Voltaire boasted that it took twelve men to set up Christianity, but he would show that one man was sufficient to overthrow it,” says a writer. The giant power of this world may assault. Paganism, infidelity, and modern science may oppose, but God will defend His people and advance His kingdom.

III. The mysterious providence of God on behalf of His people. “Humanly speaking, Israel could never have conquered Og had he remained in the cities. They could not have invested the country, or endured long sieges. 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 a 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.”—(Cyril Graham.) Thus by strange providences God helps His people.

THE CONQUEST OF TWO KINGS.—Deuteronomy 3:8-12

Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, were two famous kings; conspicuous for bravery, high, and distinguished from all others, such was the dread they inspired that God gave Israel special encouragement in attacking them. These giants were conquered. “We utterly destroyed them.”

I. Conquest of enemies strong and numerous. These giants were strong in themselves, and in their cities and armies. They were strong in their feeling of security, and in their hope of victory. God never destroys His enemies in their weakness, but in their might, that the glory may be to His name. “I will break the chief (choice or highest) of their strength.” (Jeremiah 49:35.)

II. Conquest to give place to others. Nations have their time, pass away, and give way to others. They are great one day and conquered the next. Their glory departs, and their inheritance is bestowed upon successors. Power, fame, and wealth are transferred from one to another; populations are destroyed and lands possessed to fulfil the purpose of God. Spiritually giant evils are overcome, and “rulers of the darkness of this world” are dislodged to secure and advance the interests of His people. In this we may learn—

1. God’s hatred to sin.

2. God’s severity against evil doers.

3. God’s kindness to His people.

III. Conquest most memorable. “This signal victory and its circumstances evidently impressed the people deeply at this time, and its memory, as the Psalms attest, lingered for ages after in the national mind.” (Speak Com.) Proverbs and inspired songs (cf. Numbers 21:27-30; Psalms 135:11-12; Psalms 136:19-21) commemorated the triumphs of Israel.


Deuteronomy 3:1-2. Came out.

1. The boldness and self-confidence of the enemy. Men often infatuated by those very measures which they think are most wisely adopted.

2. The readiness of God to help, (a) In timidity. “Fear not.” (b) In danger. “I will deliver.” (c) In contest. “Thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon.”

Deuteronomy 3:1-7. A famous victory. I. Victory promised before the battle. An evidence of God’s condescension and an encouragement to Israel. II. Victory gained by the strength of past experience. The conquest of Sihon prepared for the conquest of Og. The joy of victory spurs to further contest, and begets courageous faith. II. Victory most complete.

1. The cities destroyed.
2. The people exterminated.
3. The cattle taken; and
4. The land possessed and parcelled out to others.

Deuteronomy 3:11. King Og’s bedstead.

1. A monument of human folly. Trying to frighten by size.

2. A trophy of conquest. It might be seized as a prize, purchased from Israelites as a curiosity, or Og, being wounded, might have fled to Rabbath, and died on his own bedstead.


After the conquest of Sihon and Og, the remaining countries on the east side of Jordan were brought into subjection by the energy of Jair. This chief, according to the pastoral habits of his people, called the “Bashan villages”

(Numbers 32:41) by a name after his own, Bashan-havoth-jair. These conquered territories are reviewed in their extent and in their separate parts.

I. The method in which they were conquered. Whatever reason led the Israelites northwards, it was a matter of necessity as well as policy to secure a base of operations.

1. The lands were given by God, but acquired by human effort. God promised the land, but they had to fight and possess it. God’s purposes never interfere with our use of means, and the only way to secure possessions is to co-operate with Him.

2. The lands were finally subdued by chosen men. Jair occupied the pastoral parts, and Nobah (cf. Numbers 32:42), of the family of Machir, took Kenath, the capital, and gave his name to it. Pioneers have been found in all departments. In all warfare and enterprise a few heroic men have set examples, and stimulated others to follow them. They live among us in the records of history, and in the deeds of their lives. They bequeath to posterity a name to study, admire, and imitate.

II. The reasons for which they were held. Each tribe had its own conquests secured to them, and the boundaries so arranged as to prevent dispute. But wives and little ones were to be left in captured cities. Men of war were to go forward and drive out all the enemies before them, and then “return and be guiltless before the Lord” (cf. Numbers 32:20-23. The land was held on condition that they helped others. They fought for homes and inheritance for their brethren. Our wealth, position, and influence, are not given for selfish purposes, but to interest and help our fellow-men. We should be disinterested, for we can never be exempted in any service. This is the secret of personal enjoyment and successful work for Christ. “Then ye shall return unto the land of your posession and enjoy it.” Joshua 1:13-15.

JOSHUA NOMINATED.—Deuteronomy 3:21-22

This reminiscence recalls God’s goodness in the appointment of Joshua (Numbers 27:12) which took place “at that time,” that is, after the conquest of the land on the east of Jordan. Joshua was honoured and qualified to succeed Moses, in an eminent degree, through the special service of the high priest, and the endowments of the Spirit of God. Yet the people needed encouragement in such a leader as Joshua, “Fear not,” etc. In these words, notice—

I. Past experience reminds of God’s goodness. “Thine eyes have seen,” etc. The testimony of sense and experience should be convincing enough. God’s goodness is not a mere declaration or display, but a matter of feeling and enjoyment. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

II. Past success a pledge of future help. “So shall the Lord do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest.” What God had done to Sihon and Og, He could do unto all mighty men. His hand is never tired, never shortened, that it cannot save. What He begins for His people He will finish, and the victories of the past typify the future conquests of the gospel.

III. Present help should prompt to future courage. “The Lord your God shall fight for you,” therefore “fear not them.” When God is with us, our cause must be victorious. We reproach our leader, dishearten our comrades, and weaken ourselves, when we follow in fear and trembling. “Be strong, and quit yourselves like men,” that ye be not servants unto (your enemies). (1 Samuel 4:9.)

“Our doubts are traitors;

And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt it.”—Shakespeare.

THE PRAYER OF MOSES.—Deuteronomy 3:23-28

Moses knew that he would not be permitted to enter Canaan, yet he desired to cross the Jordan and see the land. His request was not granted. In the answer we “behold the goodness and severity of God”—severity in the punishment of his sin and goodness in its mitigation.

I. The request of Moses. The entreaty is most fervent and affecting, containing an appeal to God’s greatness and power by which he was distinguished from heathen deities and known to his people.

1. To enjoy further manifestations of Divine goodness. “Thou hast begun to show.” The past was only a beginning, a foretaste. The more we see of Divine power and taste of Divine love, the more we desire to see.

2. To enter the land. “Let me go over and see the good land.” For this object had he lived, and when about to be realised he was disappointed. How often do we come near to success and never gain it! The hopes of a lifetime may be frustrated when apparently about to be realised.

3. To finish his work. It was natural for Moses to wish to retain the leadership to the end instead of resigning it into other hands. He had brought the people out of Egypt, why not lead them into Canaan and settle them in it? It is possible through sin to leave our work undone, or be made to resign it to others. But we must seek the honour of God, not our own, and be ready to encourage others whom God puts in our place.

II. The answer of God to this request. The prayer of Moses was not answered. God, in His infinite wisdom, refused, and besought him to urge the request no further. It was good for Israel, and good for Moses himself to be denied. “God,” says Cecil, “denies a Christian nothing, but with a design to give him something better.”

1. God demands submission to His will. “Let it suffice thee.” Be satisfied with past favours and present arrangements, and submit. Grace given, will be grace all sufficient. When we know God’s will, we must acquiesce at once without murmuring and disputing. “I besought the Lord thrice; and He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee.”

2. God refused entrance, but permits him to see the land. “Lift up thine eyes.” This view has been memorable in history, impressed our theology, and become a proverb in Christian life. Perhaps Moses was specially prepared for this vision, for “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” Prayer is not always unsuccessful. God may refuse one thing and bestow another.

3. God assures him that his work shall be finished by the appointment of a successor. “Charge Joshua, for he shall go over before this people.” Workmen may be taken away, but the work shall go on. Moses may bring out of Egypt—Joshua must lead into Canaan. God finds the men; we are to train and charge them, to finish what we begin. Earnest workers, youthful vigour, shall never be wanting in the Christian Church. Hence, let us take encouragement, and fear to sin, lest we die before our special work is done. If Moses was excluded from Canaan, how can the sinner enter heaven? “They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes.”


This desire seemed improper. For God had expressly said unto Moses and Aaron, “Ye shall not bring this congregation into the land.” Did Moses, then, through infirmity, think that God was changeable? No, but he thought whether the threatening was absolute, especially as it was not ratified by oath, as the exclusion of the people was. For many of God’s denunciations, in the sentence against Nineveh, for instance, have a condition implied, though not expressed, i.e., they will be executed unless repentance intervene; upon this principle it was possible for Moses to hope for retraction of the interdict. But the desire was a natural one. Natural to wish to enter Canaan as an object of curiosity, of which he had heard so much; still more as an object of hope, which had been promised so long with every enhancement. This animated the people to leave Egypt, and encouraged them in the desert. This was the end, the recompense of their toils for forty years, and now they had nearly reached it. How painful to miss the prize when the hand was seizing it—to have the cup dashed even from the lip! Yet the desire was refused. God sometimes refuses the desires of His servants, even the most eminent. He does this in two ways. Sometimes He does it in love. What is desired might prove dangerous and injurious. We should think badly of a father who gave a stone for bread, or a scorpion for a fish. But if the son were to ask for a scorpion instead of a fish, or cry for a sharp instrument, then would he not hate his child unless he rejected his wish? In many cases must a wise and good parent distinguish between wishes and wants! A child may wish for liberty, and want restraint; for a holiday, and want schooling; for dainties, and want medicine. Here the parent must act, not according to the wish, but the welfare of the child. How much better for the Jews had God turned a deaf ear to their importunity? Who knows what is good for a man in this life? No one but God—the good God. He sometimes refuses in anger. Wrath is incompatible with love; but anger is not: anger may even flow from it. Though Christians cannot be condemned, they may be chastened: and the law of the house is, that if the children obey not, He will visit with the rod. Hence those saved eternally may fall under present rebuke, and be refused many things on which they set their heart. By such conduct Providence teaches submission to His people, and the evil of sin to others. Yet His desire was partially indulged. The command to get on the top of Pisgah was not to tantalize him, but to be a mitigation of the severe sentence. The preservation of his sight fitted him for the gaze—the prospect showed him how worthy the country was of all that had been said about it; and would give him high views of the truth and goodness of God in His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. With this also was the influence of Divine grace which satisfied him and made him content with his condition. While his mind also raised to things above, in type and emblem, to a better country, into which he was immediately to enter—and there would be no want of Canaan. Thus in judgment God remembers mercy, and though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion. “Like as a father pitieth his children,” etc. (Condensed from Jay.)


Deuteronomy 3:18-20. Your brethren. Armed before them to help them in warfare.

1. One party should not retire from active service or conflict until the rights of others are gained.
2. The welfare of one part of the community should be the concern of all.
3. There should be no schism nor separation in the body. This might easily have taken place with a geographical division so complete.

Deuteronomy 3:21; Deuteronomy 3:28. Appointment of Joshua 1:0. God’s care for His people.

2. God’s provision made for them—(a) In selecting suitable persons. (b) Securing them sympathy and co-operation. (c) In promising all needful help.

Deuteronomy 3:28.

1. The duties of Joshua (a) to lead into Canaan, “go over,” etc.; (b) divide the land and settle the tribes.” He shall cause them to inherit the land.”

2. The requirements of Joshua—(a) charge, (b) encourage, and (c) strengthen him.

Deuteronomy 3:25. Good land. Canaan promised—fruitful—the chosen home of God’s people and a type of heaven.

“All o’er those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God, the Sun, for ever reigns,
And scatters night away.”—Stennett.


Deuteronomy 3:1-3. Og came out. Man pro-poses but God disposes. How many plans are rendered abortive by death. On the tomb of Mohammed II is the inscription, “I proposed to myself the conquest of Rhodes and proud Italy.” Og thought to destroy Israel. How different the result!

Deuteronomy 3:4-10. These cities. The conquest of Bashan, began under the leadership of Moses in person, was completed by Jair, one of the most distinguished chiefs of the tribe of Manasseh. In narrating his achievements, the sacred historian brings out another remarkable fact connected with this kingdom of Bashan. In Argob, one of its little provinces, Jair took no less than sixty great cities, “fenced with high walls, gates and bars; besides unwalled towns a great many.” Such a statement seems all but incredible. It would not stand the arithmetic of Bishop Colenso for a moment. Often, when reading the passage, I used to think that some strange statistical mystery hung over it; for how could a province measuring not more than thirty miles by twenty support such a number of fortified cities, especially when the greater part of it was a wilderness of rocks? But mysterious, incredible as this seemed, on the spot with my own eyes, I have seen that it is literally true. The cities are there to this day. Some of them retain the ancient names recorded in the Bible. Porter’s Giant Cities of Bashan.

Deuteronomy 3:11. Og. King of the district which under the name of Bashan, extended from the Jabbok up to the base of Hermon. There is no direct notice as in the case of Sihon, of his having invaded the country, and this omission, combined with the mention of his gigantic stature, warrants the conjecture that he was one of the leaders of the aboriginal race, for which Bashan had always been renowned.—Stanley.

Deuteronomy 3:18-20. Patriotism. Rest unto your brethren. He who loathes war and will do everything in his power to avert it, but who will in the last extremity, encounter its perils, from love of country and of home—who is willing to sacrifice himself and all that is dear to him in life, to promote the well-being of his fellow-man, will ever receive a worthy homage.—Abbott.

Deuteronomy 3:21-28. Never in the history of the chosen people, could there have been such a blank as that when they became conscious that “Moses, the servant of the Lord was dead.” He who had been their leader, their law giver, their oracle, as far back as their memory could reach, was taken from them at the very moment when they seemed most to need him. It was to fill up this blank that Joshua was called. The narrative labours to impress upon us the sense that the continuity of the nation and of its high purpose was not broken by the change of person and situation. “As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee” (Joshua 1:5). There was indeed, as yet, no hereditary or fixed succession. But the germ of that succession is better represented by the very contrast between Moses and Joshua than in any other passage in the sacred history.—Stanley.

Deuteronomy 3:25. Let me go over. We wish to live; who can blame us? Life is sweet; but if our Maker have ordained that nothing but death can render us glorious, what madness is it to stick at the condition! Oh, our gross infidelity, if we do not believe that Great Arbitrer of the world infinitely wise, to know what is best for us; infinitely merciful, to will what He knows best; infinitely powerful, to do what He will!—Bp. Hall.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/deuteronomy-3.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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