Devotional Short Notes on Deuteronomy 3

Moses returned to his diaries that he kept. The daily entries indicate where they went and when. The recordkeeping is not just by memory since memory fades out easily. One cannot remember the names of people and especially foreign people properly. But Moses did. He kept keen records. Moses remembered that they turned (אוַנֵּ֣פֶן). Turned from where to where? Changing direction. If they went in one direction, this point was where they turned to go another way. There was a road and they started to travel on it in the direction of Bashan. In verse 4 it is indicated by Moses that the “kingdom of Bashan” is the entire Argov group of 60 cities. Og had control over it. F. Delitzsch in his commentary on Deuteronomy also understood that all three these terms in verse 4 refers to Bashan. It is a large area. Those who visited Transjordan or Israel may lament and say, what for? It is such a barren dry area and who wants to live there? Wrong. Ellen White made the point as early as 1893 from Australia and Newzealand were she was at that time, that what she saw in Visions of Israel in the time of Jesus, is that it was much greener than it is today. She saw drawings or photos of Israel in 1893 but felt it is not a true depiction of the climatology of Jesus’ time. A couple of serious articles on climatology with dendronchronology studies, Ice at the North and South poles studies indicated that the north and south pole were melted more than it is today so that the middle belt around the earth was greener in those days than it is today. Thus supporting what Ellen White saw in vision about the times of Jesus. Also in the times of Moses it was more greener than it is today. It was a land worth travelling to. There are theories that the Romans deforestated the region so that around 250 A.D. the region became drier. The poles also became colder at that time. Today we have a reverse to the pre-250 A.D. conditions and one should expect Israel and Transjordan to become greener in the near future.

Og and his troops came to confront at Edre’i. Og was not an Arab but an Amorite. For those interested in anti-colonialism of the modern era, the concept Canaanites is not a nation or the Arabic nation or one particular nation, they are a conglomerate of nations. Amorites one of them who came from a region where they actually belong to settle for trade reasons at first but then secondary reasons since it is a nice are to live at.

God told Moses not to be afraid of Og (3:2). God gave them over to the Israelites. They got the message from God that they will win and then they won. They did not first win the Amorites and then attached God to the picture saying that they were given permission to do so to clear their conscience. God was directly involved in all here. The Bible is not Jewish propaganda as even some Jewish scholars today are maintaining.

The cities that were taken were many and they had high walls in those days. In the end of the Middle Bronze period and start of the Late Bronze period, the city of Ashkelon, for example, had large mudbrick walls. Jericho too. Why did archaeology not find any mudbrick walls at Heshbon for example and other cities in Transjordan? Did Moses lie? Is he fabricating data? This is the year 1411-1410 BCE and the answer is that not enough archaeology was done in both Israel and Transjordan to establish a conclusion on the matter. Megiddo also had a high wall. Gezer too. It was the fashion of those days to have high walls. “They were all cities fortified with high walls, gates and bars, and there were also very many ‘cities of the furious ones’ (הַרְבֵּ֥ה מְאֹֽד מֵֽעָרֵ֥י הַפְּרָזִ֖י)”. The words ‘cities of the furious ones’ (for the Hebrew מֵֽעָרֵ֥י הַפְּרָזִ֖י) is my own reading and it is seen as the Perizzites by the Septuagint since the noun looks like that in the original. But the Septuagint is a translation and only the corrupt text has survived from the Byzantine period and onwards. Constantine insisted that 50 copies of the Septuagint must be made for him with high speed and thus every Uncial of the Old Testament has a different face due to slips of all kinds, eye, ear, tongue, memory, hand. Laziness caused omissions and alcohol use caused additions as well, probably. This is called the Septuagint. The Targum and Rashi of the Middle Ages wondered if the word means “open towns” (3:5). The etymology was deduced from Arabic by the Targum and Rashi which disqualify because in the 7th century it was a space between two mountains which will be open. Moses in 1411 BCE is too remote from 690 A.D. or Rashi’s 12th century A.D. existence. Even F. Delitszch fell in the trap of relying on 7th century A.D. Arabic to dictate for him what Moses meant in 1410 BCE. There is a word prt or prš in Late Egyptian (Moses was Middle Egyptian Grammar) that meant “to break open” or “furious” which can be also a meaning that it was the “furious ones of the cities”. They were furious that is why they all came out to fight and that is why all of them got killed. Violence breeds violence.

They destroyed men, women and children (3:6) and took “all the animals” and “all the spoils” in the cities (3:7).

Two Amorite kings were in control of a region between the Arnon and Mount Hermon (3:8). Hermon is the mountain to the north of Israel. It is a very high mountain “At 9232 feet high, it is the highest mountain of the southern Lebanon range” says Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his online commentary (ORT 2000). Keil and Delitzsch in their commentary also wanted to elaborate on mount Hermon and mentioned the different names it was known for: Sirion by the people of Sidon; the Amorites according to him, called it Senir. The first is in Psalm 29 and the last form is in Canticles 4:8, they say. That is what Moses knew in 1411 BCE of the place names at his time (3:9). Ice was brought from mount Hermon to help the people to have underground refrigerators in biblical times, according to Izak Cornelius of Stellenbosch University. The etymology of Hermon may have been through Moses and the Middle Egyptian hr meaning “pleasing or pleasant” with cn and m meaning “to a person”. Thus with the methathesis of the m the meaning was “pleasant to a person” = Heronm > Hermon.

Moses knew well for he was educated in the University of Egypt under Hatshepsut from 1518 BCE. He was a learned person fluent in Egyptian and other languages like Akkadian. The Amarna corpus is after Moses but near enough to say that he knew the customs of writing of the Amarna Akkadian corpus.

It is not correct for Aryeh Kaplan to add in his 2000 commentary online that the whole Gilead and the whole Bashan was “the occupied territory” (3:10). The modern slang or colloquial phrases for Israel controlled areas was not in the vocabulary of the Bible. One must remember that when Lot chose Sodom and Gemorrah, the descendants of them lived in those areas ever since 2154 BCE. So the Amorites were invaders from outside taking over control of lands that their ancestors were not living at. When God gave these territories to Israel, He was giving them merely what their ancestors had way back then scooping away the in-betweeners. Anti-colonialism in modern days will not work here. There is no need to superimpose these political driven sideshows over the religious designed Bible that God gave us.

When one talks about the events in Genesis 15 and the Rephaim are mentioned living in Bashan, Og is a connection to those in 2154 BCE living there through blood-lines. “Of all the Rephaim, only Og had survived” (3:11). “His bed was made of iron” = בַּרְזֶ֔ל (3:11) which is remarkable because scholars believe that iron (בַּרְזֶ֔ל) only entered Israel in the Iron Ages from the 14th centuries and onward. The Philistines were the iron producers. Is it an anomaly? By no means. In the publication of A. Perrot of Mari Palace II page 173 at fig.96 is an Iron? Bull? This is the period of 1764 BCE? Have to confirm again. But my catalogue (Van Wyk Notes Vol. 27) indicates that. In Anatolia XIII (1986): 27 there is a discussion of 13th to 14th centuries BCE iron. It is still 100 years short of Moses’ 1410 BCE mention of it. See also Anatolia XXXV of 1985 page 67ff. and Anatolia XLI of 1991: 182? Iron ore was known earlier than the Philistines. They did refine the art of iron tools and weapons, of course. It is not a later writer who included an anachronism here in Moses’ writing.

Moses saw the bed and measured it so he could give the exact size. Keil and Delitzsch (p. 302) in their commentary mentioned that it was the custom of Alexander the Great to make for each soldier two beds the size of 5 cubits and two stalls size for the horses to give the impression that the Greeks were gigantic. Is that the image that Og tried to convey to his enemies by this oversize bed?

Moses then distributed the land to the Reubenites and Gadites between Aro’er and the Arnon Gorge and half of the Gilead highlands (3:12).

The other half of Gilead and Bashan was given to Manasseh. This was historically known as the land of the Rephaim. Moses knew about it since he wrote Genesis in 1460 BCE while in Midian.

Moses recorded that Yair, who was a descendant of Manasseh, took the Argov group and gave the area of Bashan the name Chavvath Yair. On the day Moses compiled the book of Deuteronomy, that name was still used. Why did Moses say that it was still in use? Because when Habiru took over a city and gave it new names, the danger was always there that the name swtich or change back again. But, Moses witnessed that it remained the same.

The name Havoth Jair has been translated as “villages of JaIr” by some. Keil and Delitzsch suggested that the word חַוֹּ֣ת יָאִ֔יר is from the Hebrew word “life”. This expression is just used for Jair’s area. A better solution is to see it as a Hebraizing of an Egyptian word 3wtyw which meant “foremost” or “leader”. They were seen as the “foremost of Jair”. A second generation Exodus kid would still use Egytpianisms and Egyptian language alongside with the Hebrew just like any second generation returnees are using when they return to Israel today. Some even suggested that it means a tentdweller utilizing the Arabic word for it. But, Arabic is to late and distant from the time of Moses to be involved in unlocking difficult words in Moses’ usage. Gesenius once gave an excellent lecture on this very same matter of lexicography and the insuffiencency of Arabic. And he was not the only one. Moses may have been surprised that an Egyptian-Hebraized loanword could still remain the name of a city, seeing that they just escaped the hard conditions of Egypt. Whereas all tries to unlock the meaning with Arabic via Hebrew modern dictionaries, I rather say, go and look at Middle Egyptian Dictionaries.

The Gilead region was given to Makhir (3:15).

Moses repeated what he gave to the Reubenites and Gaddites since he remembered that he gave them also the “interior of the river and its boundary as far as the river of the Jabbok, which use to be the border of the Ammonites” (3:16). Because of present-day dryness, people try to translate “river” as “gorge” but climate today was not climate back then. It was a wet period globally with more melted ice at the poles and wetter conditions in the Levant. Transjordan was green. As the 2012 article on “Climate Change during and After the Roman Empire” indicates on page 175, the Alpine glaciers were retreating between 200 BCE to 100 A.D. Weather was favorable. Temparatures in Greenland were warm between 20 BCE to 75 A.D.

The Aravah Sea (3:17) in connection with the Dead Sea must have been a large water basin existing in the good climate and even better climate of Israel in those days of Moses. Of course, with the dry hot climate of today, it is no longer extant.

Moses told them that God gave them the land and that they should all participate to take it (3:18). If you look at the territory today, people would not consider it a gift but back then everything was green woods.

David for example, running from Saul in the book of 1 Samuel, hid in one wood after another and they must have been large to be able to effectively hide from armies.

Although they got their lion’s share of land from God, their woman and children are to stay in the cities with their livestock but they are to help their bretheren to get theirs as well (3:19-20).

Moses turned his attention to Joshua to give him the instructions of leadership and command over Israel (3:21).

“Do not fear them, since God your Lord is the One who will be fighting for you” (3:22).

Then follows a special diary note of Moses how he pleaded with God about the entry (3:23).

Moses wanted to go into the land but God said: “Enough. Do not speak to Me any more about this” (3:26). He was to climb the cliff and gaze to the west, north, south and east. His eyes were to “feast on it” but he was not to cross the Jordan (3:27).

God then handed the powers of leadership over from Moses to Joshua, and he was to encourage him and he was the one who will divide the land that Moses will see on the mountain (3:28-29).

Moses made the footnote to this chapter by saying that navigationally they were staying in the valley facing Beth-Peor.


Dear God

Moses wanted to see the promised land and You gave him the Promised Land. The real one promised to Abraham and his faithful seed in all nations, the remnant of spiritual Israel. Save us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.