CONQUEST OF OG, KING OF
The Amorites had wrested from
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
This district also God purposed
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” - (l["N"w", and we
ascended) -“the way
to Bashan: and Og the king of
he and all his
people, to battle at Edrei.” As
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
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
The region of Argob comprised the
for the same country; extending from the Jabbok to Hermon, and embracing both
the northern part of Gilead, and what was afterwards in a
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
derived from the character of the district, either as deep-soiled (from bg,r,,
a clod), or as rugged and uneven (bwOgr], from bg"r; akin to μg;r;, to heap
up), just as the neighboring district to the east and northeast received the
name Traohonitis (from tracw>n – trachon - rough, rugged); in the Targum,
indeed, Trachona (anwkrf) is the name given here for Argob. This district is now
known as the
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
of Bashan’; Burckhardt, ‘Travels in
‘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,
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
Hermon (ˆwOmr]j,), probably from μr"j;, to be high, “the lofty peak,” conspicuous
on all sides. By some the name is supposed to be connected with μr,j,, 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
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
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
Hebrews it was known also as Sion (ˆaoyci, the high, ch. 4:48); by the Sidonians
it was called Sirion (ˆwOyr]ci =ˆwOyr]vi, 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
Salchah and Edrei, cities of the
portions of the conquered territory are here mentioned:
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
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.”
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
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)
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
THE WAYS OF GOD, TO WHICH IT BEHOVES US TO TAKE HEED:
as we are presented with this topic for meditation. THE PASSING AWAY
OF NATIONS and THE INCOMING OF OTHERS!
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!
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
ORIGINATED THEM ALL MOLDED LONG IN THE DUST!
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
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!
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 God’s 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.
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 God’s 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 God’s 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.”
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
tribe of Manasseh.
12 “And this land, which we possessed at that time, from Aroer, which
is by the river Arnon, and half
gave I unto the Reubenites and to the Gadites. 13 And the rest of
and all Bashan,
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
name. Maachah is called
According to the ‘Ono-masticon,’ it was “a city of the Amorites, by the
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, tWOj") 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
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
(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
16 “And unto the Reubenites and unto the Gadites I
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
the region of the children of Ammon (Numbers 21:24). 17 “The plain also,
Chinnereth (Kinnereth), a fenced city by the sea of Galilee, thence called
the ‘Arabah, “even unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea,
under Ash-doth-pisgah” the 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.
CONCLUSION OF HISTORICAL RECAPITULATION (vs. 18-29)
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
which they had received the possessions they had desired beyond
(see Numbers 32:20-32) - “all that are meet for the war.” - literally, all the sons
of might (lyij" yneB]), 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
which I have given you.”
Joshua Appointed as Moses’ Successor in the Leadership (vs. 21-22)
21 “And I commanded Joshua at that time,” - i.e. after the conquest of the land
the east of the
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
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
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
Divine power graciously manifested to
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
whole mountain elevation of Canaan, culminating in the distant
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 –
2012) - “and
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
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.
34:1). Westward; literally, seaward, i.e. towards
(ˆwOpx;, hidden or dark place, where darkness gathers, as opposed to the bright and
sunny south); southward, towards the right-hand quarter (ˆm;yTe from ˆymiy;, the right
hand; compare Exodus 26:18, “to the south towards the right hand “); - eastward,
towards the dawn or sun rising; ch.4:47 (jr;z]mi, from jr"z; 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
near to which this town was; it was opposite to
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!”
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
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
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
IRRESISTIBLE MIGHT OF JEHOVAH and 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
Moses longed to see FURTHER UNFOLDINGS OF GOD’S
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
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
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
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:
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
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
“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.
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
leader. The conquest of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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