Deuteronomy 3





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 northwards 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 (Numbers 21:33-35).


1 “Then we turned,”   i.e. took a new route – “and went up” - (וַנַּעַל, and we

ascended) -“the way to Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan  came out against us,

he and all his people, to battle at Edrei.”  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 v. 10. 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.  (Ibid. v.33 )


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. 4 And

we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from

them, threescore cities,” -  probably the same as the Bashan-havoth jair, afterwards

mentioned (v.14) - “all 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 bg,r,,

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 trachon -  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.


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 are 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 astonishing, 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” - “beside unwalled towns a great many.  6  And we utterly

destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying

the men, women, and children, of every city.”  (ch. 2:34)  7 But all the cattle,

and the spoil of the cities, we took for a prey to ourselves.  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 (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; (see God’s plans and reasons in Genesis 15:13-16) and it is certainly remarkable

that, at the extreme northeast and the extreme southwest of the land conquered by the

Israelites, names derived from Herem, viz. Hermon and Hormah (ch. 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, ch. 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 (compare Song of Solomon 4:8; I Chronicles 5:23).



9  (Which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion; and the Amorites call it

Shenir;)  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.” The different

portions of the conquered territory are here mentioned:


  • The plain (הַמִּישׁור, the level country); the table-land south of Mount

Gilead, as far as the Arnon.


  • The whole of Gilead; the hilly country north of the Jabbok, between

Heshbon and Bashan, between the northern and southern table-land.


  • 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.


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.”  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.



The Last of the Giants (ch. 2:24-3:11)


Though Israel was not allowed to plunder or in any way to behave uncourteously to

peoples who permitted them to pass through their territory without obstruction, yet,

if they were obstinately opposed, they were to maintain their ground, and to force

a passage through. There are recorded here two conflicts of this kind, which were

memorable in after-days, and which gave a coloring to the sanctuary songs (Psalm 136.).

Sihon, King of the Amorites, and Og, the King of Bashan, fought against the people of

God, were utterly vanquished, and their land was taken possession of by those whose

course they obstructed. We may find in this apparently unpromising theme a topic for

pulpit teaching, which may furnish instruction in the ways of God, of which we cannot

afford to lose sight. Either of the two cases before us will equally avail for this purpose.

We propose to study the overthrow of Og, and the passing await of the

last of the giants. Observe:



WHICH WE PROPOSE TO CLEAR UP. There are three points

respecting Og which, at first sight, have an aspect of romance about them:


Ø      The account of the king and his bedstead.

Ø      The race of giants.

Ø      The sixty great cities and unwalled towns - a great many, and that

within a space less than that covered by some of our English counties.


We can quite imagine a superficial reader, specially if he be one who has a

keen appreciation of the liberty of doubting, and who restlessly chafes against

the Old Book, saying, “There, it is absurd upon the face of it, just like the legends

of other peoples — a piece of mythology.” That is the rough-and-ready way in

which Moses is dealt with now by many who ought to know better. We are

prepared to contest these skeptics at every point, and, what is more, to affirm

that a careful study of the latest researches will confirm Moses’ statements,

and not overthrow them. When we sufficiently avail ourselves of the light which

modern travel and research have thrown upon-the Bible, we find that what

seemed romantic and almost legendary before, appears to be exact, literal,

sober truth. This is an age of skepticism as regards the old Word, and of

resurrections as regards the old world; the latter at every step are putting the

former to shame.  Every word of God is pure, and, however some may load

it with reproach, it shall be more than vindicated, and shall abide when

the last of the skeptics, like the last of the giants, SHALL HAVE





as we are presented with this topic for meditation. THE PASSING AWAY



Ø      What a retrospect does the history of the rise, progress, and

abandonment of these giant cities, and the dwindling away

of a stalwart race, call up before our imagination! Sixty strong

cities! More than forty unwalled towns, of which the remains may

even now be seen! What a hum of busy life must there have been

at one time! and what a degree of civilization at that remote period!

“When Israel was a child” (Hosea 11:1), a world of strong,

skilled life had reached its prime; of some arts a knowledge was

then possessed which, somehow or other, we have lost and cannot

regain.  We can gather, to some extent, what they were, from silent,

monumental speech; but while the cities remain, the nation which

reared and owned them has quite passed away! Strange spectacle!

Huge mystery! That pillars and monuments and records (even on

papyrus) should survive the wreck of ages, WHILE MEN WHO



Ø      How humiliating to see the powerlessness of a nation to guard

 itself, even when it erects buildings which for ages will survive

 itself! Those stout walls of Bashan have defied the tempests of three

thousand years! But of the men whose wit devised and whose

hands wrought them not a trace is left. Is it so? Can a nation

fashion that which shall resist the wear and tear of millenniums,

 and yet do nothing to arrest its own decay? How insignificant

does this make a nation seem (compare Isaiah 40:17)!


Ø      How unimportant is it to the world at large whether one nation

or another is uppermost! Bashan’s people are gone, and not for

thousands of years has there been a lament that that race has ceased to

be! We ought to learn this lesson: A nation that seems great at one

moment, may disappear from the scene of busy life, and, after a temporary

shock, a short inconvenience, perhaps, the world would soon adjust itself

to the change, and would go on as before!


Ø      Nevertheless, no nation passes away without some advance in the

unrolling of the great map of Gods providence. God may make

much of that of which men make nothing. It was not for naught that

Og and his people were dispossessed, Great strength was combined

with ghastly wickedness. This is the reason why they were swept away.

The wheels of providence are “full of eyes.” Unless a nation is

accomplishing God’s purposes, it will not be spared to fulfill its own!

God will rid the world of plague-spots.


Ø      By sweeping away Og and his people, the way was cleared for

planting in their territory a people who should have a nobler faith,

even a faith in the One living and true God, and who should also

set up a higher standard for national life and personal character.

The CORNERSTONE of Israel’s polity was RIGHTEOUSNESS!

 Hence we should be prepared to sing right joyously the old Hebrew song

 in Psalm 136., and to see in the dispossession of Og a proof of the

Divine mercy to the world! Hence:


Ø      Those who know Gods Name can look with calm serenity on

national catastrophes. Nations have been, and may yet be, swept off;

but in all the transitions of power from one people to another, we see the

onward march of One who is but putting down that which is ill, that He

may ultimately reset the world in goodness, truth, and love. We can

join anticipatively in the song in Revelation 15:4-5. Note, in conclusion:


o       Whether a nation is likely to continue in being or no depends on

the degree to which it is fulfilling Gods designs, and not

 at all on the measure with which it is carrying out its own.


o       Whether it is best for the world that a nation should continue in

being depends on the virtue, purity, and piety of the people

 who compose it.


o       If virtue be wanting, no number of cities and towns, nor

 any strength and hardness in the race, will ever shield a

nation from ABSOLUTE EXTINCTION!  God can raise up

better peoples.  He is able “of these stones” to raise up

children to Abraham”  (Matthew 3:9).  God dealeth with

nations in this life; with individuals in the next life also! 

“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

(Galatians 6:7)



Distribution of the Conquered Land (vs. 12-17)


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 Arnon, to the Jabbok, with its towns (see Joshua 13:15-20, 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.


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.  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.”  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.


14 Jair the son of Manasseh” -  a descendant of Manasseh by the mother’s side

(his father was of the  tribe of Judah, I Chronicles 2:22), obtained the Argob region –

“took all the country of Argob unto” - i.e., inclusive of (see Joshua 13:13) –

“the coasts of 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 I Chronicles 19:6.

According to the ‘Ono-masticon,’ it was “a city of the Amorites, by the

Jordan, near Mount Hermon” (s.v. Μαχαθί - Machathi - Machathi). It had in

later times a king, who allied himself with the Ammonites against David (I 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 (compare II Samuel 3:3; 10:6; 13:37; 15:8; I Chronicles 3:2) –

“and called them after his own name, Bashan-ha-voth-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 (vs. 4-5; Joshua 13:30; I Kings 4:13). These were recaptured by the Geshurites,

aided by the Arameans (I Chronicles 2:23, “And Geshur and Aram took

Chavvoth-Jair from them,); 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 Hav-voth-Jair,

made up the sixty towns which “belonged to the sons of Machir the father of Gilead

(I 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.


15 “And I gave Gilead unto Machir.” (Compare Numbers 32:40; I Chronicles 2:22.)


16  “And unto the Reubenites and unto the Gadites I gave from Gilead

even unto the river Arnon” -  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 -“even unto the river Jabbok, which is the

border of the children of Ammon;” - 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).  17  “The plain also,

and Jordan, and the coast thereof, from Chinnereth” - 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; 19:35), to the sea of

the ‘Arabah, “even unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea,

under Ash-doth-pisgahthe slopes (literally, the outpourings, the place

where the mountain torrents flow out, hence the base of the hill) of Pisgah

(Numbers 21:15; 27:12) -  “eastward.” - i.e. simply the east side of the ‘

Arabah and the Jordan.





18 “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,” - 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.  19  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;  20 Until the LORD have given

rest unto your brethren,” - (compare Exodus 33:14).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.”


     Joshua Appointed as MosesSuccessor in the Leadership (vs. 21-22)


21  And I commanded Joshua at that time,” - i.e. after the conquest of the land

on the east of the Jordan (see Numbers 27:15-23).  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.”  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 (compare ch.31:23).


22 Ye shall not fear them: for the LORD your God He shall fight for you.” 

The “He” here is emphatic; as God Himself would fight for them, why should

they be afraid?



The Prayer of Moses (vs. 23-29)


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 (v. 28), and the expression “at that

time” (v. 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 (compare the pleading in Exodus 33:12).


23 “And I besought the LORD at that time, saying,  24  O Lord GOD,” - 

“O Lord Jehovah” - 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?” For what God, (compare

Exodus 15:11; Psalm 86:8; 89:6; 113:5). 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!


25 “I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond

Jordan, 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 sun burnt 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 ch.8:7-20).

Moses longed to go over if but to see this land, and to plant his foot on it;

but his request was not granted  (And for good reason – Numbers 20:10-13 –

CY - 2012) - “and Lebanon.”


26 “But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not

hear me:” -   (compare ch.1:37; Numbers 20:12; 27:13-14) - “and the LORD

said unto me, 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 (compare the use of this formula in

Genesis 45:28; Numbers 16:3; ch. 1:6; 2:3). Keil and others refer to “my grace

is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” -

II Corinthians 12:8, as “substantially equivalent,” but the expression there seems

to have quite a different meaning and reference from that used here - “speak no

more unto me of this matter.”  (Note the FINALITY in this statement –

CY – 2012)


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.” Compare 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

(ch. 34:1). Westward; literally, seaward, i.e. towards the Mediterranean; northward

(ˆצָפון, 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; compare Exodus 26:18, “to the south towards the right hand “); - eastward,

towards the dawn or sun rising; ch.4:47 (מִזְרָח, from זָרַח to shine forth).


28 “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.”  (Compare ch.1:38; v.21 here; 31:7; Numbers 27:23.)


29 “So we abode in the valley over against Bethpeor.” -  i.e. in the plains of

Moab (Arboth Moab, Numbers 22:1; ch. 4:46; 34:6).  Beth-pe’or, i.e. the house

or temple of Pe’or, the Moabitish Baal.  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.



Prospect of Death (vs. 21-29)


In the full career of triumph, Moses has inward presentiment, and external

announcement, that his end was near. Nature has a greater repugnance to

death when we are enveloped in the bright sunshine of prosperity. The

contrast is more marked. Decay and disease are natural forerunners of

dissolution; but in Moses these were wanting. (“Moses was an hundred

and twenty years old when he died:  his eye was not dim, nor his

natural force abated.”  - ch. 34:7)  With him, the gravamen of the trial was

that his life-work was incomplete. The closer we approach to

the final stroke of an undertaking, the deeper becomes our anxiety for a

successful issue. Jesus said “How am I straitened till it be accomplished!”

(Luke 12:50)



HIS WORK. In the judgment of a good man, the perpetuation of his work

by others is vastly more important than the continuance of his own life.

Individuals pass away, but the progress of the race continues. Up to this

point in Israel’s pilgrimage, Moses had been unequalled as a leader; no one

among the tribes could have filled his place. But now, a military general,

rather than a legislator, is needed, and Joshua has been gradually molded

by a Divine hand for this work. We may safely trust human interests

with God.


Ø      The experience of age conveys its lessons to youth. Joshua

was scarcely a young man, as we reckon years; yet, compared with

Moses, he was juvenile and inexperienced in governing men. Age is

a relative quality. The lesson was directly to the point — straight at

the bull’s-eye of the target.  “Fear not.” Courage, just then, was

the “one thing needful.”


The command was founded on the most solid reasons, viz. THE


unchangeableness of His purposes. What He had done, HE CAN

YET DO!   What He had done was a revelation of what He designed

to do. Observation of God’s deeds and methods fosters valorous faith.

“Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall

understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.”  (Psalm 107:43)



submissive meekness to the Divine will that Moses first provided for the

nation’s welfare, in view of the contingency of death, and then prays that

the stroke may be delayed. The latter is secondary.


Ø      The prayer was earnest. “I besought the Lord.” There is indication

that it was oft repeated and long continued.


Ø      The prayer was inspired by noble motive. An unusual display of

God’s greatness had been made in the defeat of the two kings, and


MIGHT!   Still, his prayer was, “I pray thee show me thy glory!”

(Exodus 33:18)  God had only begun to act; Moses yearned to see the



Ø      Yet this prayer was refused. Unerring wisdom perceived that it was

Best to refuse — best, perhaps, for Moses himself — and best for Israel

It is better for a man to present an unsuccessful prayer, than not to pray

at all.  Some blessing is the fruit.


Ø      The denial was a vicarious chastisement. We have, in God’s kingdom,

vicarious blessing and vicarious suffering. For Joseph’s sake, the house of

Potiphar was blessed. For David’s sake, Solomon finished his reign in

peace. For Paul’s sake, the crew of the doomed vessel escaped. (Acts

27:22-26)  On the other side, God was wroth with Moses for the

Hebrews’ sake.  Present chastisement better far than final banishment.


Ø      Divine tenderness is displayed even in refusal. The refusal was not

wholly from anger; there was a large admixture of kindness. Anger for

the sin; kindness for the man. It is as if God had said, “It pains me sore to

impose this chastisement; nevertheless, it must be done, and you will add

to my pain by seeking an escape.” God beseeches him to urge no further.

Up to this point, prayer was fitting; beyond this, prayer would have been

fresh guilt.


Ø      Yet compensation for the loss is granted. Prayer is never wholly

unsuccessful. A gracious concession is made. Moses had asked to see

 the land; he shall see it, although his foot shall not tread it. The eye and

the heart of the man of God shall be gladdened. Without doubt,

Moses’ natural eyesight had been preserved for this selfsame occasion,

and special power of vision also was vouchsafed in that eventful hour,

when Moses stood on Pisgah’s peak. He shall see it without the toil of

travel, without the peril of the conflict.


Ø      A crowning kindness is shown in confirming the succession to

Joshua.  Though the workman is to be removed, the work shall advance.

It was a sweet solace to the mind of Moses that Joshua should have

been accepted in his stead. His cherished purpose shall be accomplished,

although by other hands. The spirit of Moses would survive in Joshua.

“Being dead,” Moses would still speak and act. The body may dissolve,

but the moral courage and heroic valor are transmitted to another.


Rest is the reward of toil, and the cradle of new exertion. “So we abode in

the valley.” The valley of Beth-peor was the preparation for Pisgah’s peak.

 Humiliation before exaltation.



God’s Refusal of Man’s Wishes (vs. 23-29)


We have in this singularly pathetic passage of the private history of Moses:


  • AN AFFECTING ENTREATY. “I pray thee, let me go over, and see

the good land,” (vs. 24-25). In this speaks:


Ø      The man. How hard to flesh and blood to be cut off just then! To

see the goodly land (v. 25), but not to enter it. Yet not an uncommon

experience. Few things are more painful than to be removed when just on

the verge of some great success; when the hopes of a lifetime seem just

about to be realized; when some great cause with which we are identified

is on the eve of final victory.


Ø      The patriot. There never beat in human breast a more patriotic heart

than that of Moses, and it was supremely hard to step aside and commit

the leadership into other hands, when all his wishes for his nation were so

nearly fulfilled. It was Israel’s triumph, not his own, he wished to



Ø      The saint. For Moses’ deepest longing in the matter after all was to see

God glorified — to witness    His greatness and His mighty hand (v. 24).

No man had ever seen as much of God’s greatness and glory as he had,

but what he had seen only whetted his desire to see more. It is always

thus with saintly natures. The thirst for the manifestation of God increases

with the gratification of it (Psalm 63:1-6; compare Exodus 33:18-20).

Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:28).




Ø      The cause of it. “Wroth with me for your sakes” (v. 26). How

painful to feel that misconduct of ours has involved any:


o       in sin,

o       in penalty,

o       in disappointment!


Ø      The severity of it. It seems a great punishment for a not very great

offence. Yet how often do we find that one false step, “one pause in

self-control,” entails on the individual irretrievable loss! God could

not allow the sin of one who stood in so close and personal relation

to Him to pass without putting on it the stamp of His severe

 displeasure.  (It is my impression that the real sin was the attempt

to crucify Christ a second time, something which no man can do!

CY – 2012)


Ø      The irreversibility of it. He who had succeeded so often in saving

Israel by his powerful intercession, fails in his intercession for himself.

“Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter”

(v. 26). Moses, the mediator and representative of the Law, must,

when he sins, undergo its severity. In a case so typical, a reversal of the

sentence would have shaken faith in all God’s threatenings. He

interceded for others, but there was no second Moses to intercede for

him. Those who live nearest to God, and are most honored by Him,

must expect to be treated with exceptional strictness for their faults;

as a father is more particular about the morals of his own

son than about those of servants and aliens.


  • A PARTIAL COMPENSATION. It was given him:


Ø      To see the goodly land (v. 27). Even this he must have felt to be a

great boon, and how his eyes, supernaturally strengthened, must have

drunk in the precious vision! How many toilers have to leave the

world in this frame of mind — getting glimpses of a future they

do not live to inherit!


Ø      To know that his successor was ready (v. 28). There are few sights

more suggestive of magnanimity than Moses meekly surrendering his

own dearest wishes, and helping to prepare Joshua for the work which

he coveted so much to do himself. It may be felt by us that there was

kindness as well as severity in the arrangement which gave Israel a new

leader. The conquest of Canaan — a most colossal work — demanded

fresh, youthful powers. The work of Moses was indeed done on earth,

and he had to pass away to make room for instruments better fitted to

do the work of the new age.


For in addition to the point just mentioned, we can see how, from his temporal loss,

Moses reaped a great spiritual gain — the perfecting of his will in its choice of God as

its exclusive portion, and in entire acquiescence in Divine arrangements.

This great renunciation was the last sacrifice asked of him, and he arose to the

heroic height of making it. 



Moses’ Longing to Enter the Promised Land Refused (vs. 21-29)


The two conquests over Sihon and over Og had filled Moses with a sense of God’s

matchless power. With a warrior’s instinct — for he had had a warrior’s training, it is

believed, in Egypt, in his youth — he saw in this first portion of the fight the assurance

of a glorious invasion. He longed to be at its head, and to see the land which God

had promised actually won.  Will he not get complete the work he has been instrumental

in beginning? He pleaded with God for it, but all he gets is a Pisgah-view; he is

denied an entrance into the land.  (We hear of no murmuring like the children of

Israel always seemed to do – CY  - 2012)



COMPLETION OF HIS WORK. The Exodus was his special work.

All else in his life was preparatory to this. But the Exodus was to be finished

in the invasion of Canaan and the settlement of the people there. Moses is

now so interested in the work which he has had on hand for forty years

that he is loath to leave it.


So with God’s servants often. They form plans, plans manifestly Divine,

and they long to complete them. But God does not respond always to these

very natural desires. Public work is attempted — literary work — but the

sowing and the reaping are often separated. One soweth, another

reapeth.  (John 4:37)



THOSE COMING AFTER US.  Moses is directed to encourage Joshua.

This is something done towards successful invasion. An encouraged Joshua

may do better than an ever-present Moses. And the privilege of

encouragement is greatly prized. Joshua receives all from Moses that son

could receive from father, that a leader could receive from his superior and

guide (vs. 21-22). And our successors should be encouraged by us all we

can, as one of life’s last and best privileges.



AS IT WAS BY SPECIAL CARE. Moses saw the land at last, and died

with God, reserved by the All-wise for an entrance into Canaan at the

transfiguration of Christ (Luke 9:28-36).  The view from Pisgah was grand,

but the view on Hermon was grander. His entrance of the land with Elijah in

glory was grander than an entrance at the head of the hosts of Israel. And these

views from Pisgah may still be ours if we seek the appointed mountain top of

God. He calls us to mountain-tops of prayer and meditation, and shows us

wondrous glimpses of His glory and His promises. To be with Him there

is compensation for much disappointment.



DESERVED WRATH. Moses admits that God was wroth with him, and

states the reason. It is well to recognize that deserved wrath and

chastisement may coexist with profound and tender love. Moses was

well beloved, even though excluded from the land of promise. God gave

him paradise instead of Canaan.



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