One of the most famous statements of American military history is of course the legendary retort of John Paul Jones, when during a naval battle in the Revolution, he responded to the taunt of a British captain suggesting his surrender, “I have only just begun to fight.”
That could be the summary statement of the nation of Israel at this point of their history in the early stages of the conquest of the Promised Land. They had already done a good bit of fighting, though much more was to come.
To review: Moses has begun a series of sermons/teachings to the generation about to cross the Jordan and enter the long-awaited land of promise. They have ended a 40-year period of wanderings due to the unbelief of their parents’ generation. More recently, they had defeated some Amorite enemies under the direction and provision of the Lord. Moses is rehearsing their history at this point, reminding them of God’s faithful and strong hand on their behalf.
The passage today relates the account of a second group of Amorite peoples defeated in battle. King Sihon was the character in the story yesterday – heading a kingdom directly to the east of Jerusalem, in an area often called the Transjordan. Well to the north of this kingdom, but still east of the Jordan and all of the way to where the Sea of Galilee is located, was another king by the name of Og – of the land of Bashan.
Again, God told Moses and the Israelites to not fear – that Og would be delivered into their hands. Indeed, this happened by the defeat of Og’s army. Beyond that, a total of 60 cities were conquered and taken for possession. These are said to have had high walls – one of the fears of the spies about how fortified and invincible were all the cities. It is interesting how an immense amount of fighting and effort is described merely by a couple of sentences. In the summary of these events, as one would look at the map of what has been accomplished, already the Israelites have conquered a tremendous amount of land. Certainly this should – as Moses reminds them – result in great confidence that God was for them and with them in every way.
I believe we often fail to have confidence that God is indeed for us and willing to provide for us as we trust Him in dependence. Yes, there are some Christians who name and claim things as if God has to obey them rather than the other way around. But equally wrong is to not have faith by acting like God is not willing and able to be strong on our behalf. Our need is to align with God’s work, and in so doing, we find that he cares for our every need.
By the way, the “bed” described at the end of this passage – 14 feet long by 6 feet wide – is really describing a sarcophagus. This is a carved funeral box for a corpse, which rather than being buried, was most often kept for display above ground. So the most impressive remembrance of Og was his casket!
Defeat of Og, King of Bashan
3 Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei. 2 The Lord said to me, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”
3 So the Lord our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors. 4 At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them—the whole region of Argob, Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 5 All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages. 6 We completely destroyed them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying every city—men, women and children. 7 But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves.
Summary of the Early Invasion
8 So at that time we took from these two kings of the Amorites the territory east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge as far as Mount Hermon. 9 (Hermon is called Sirion by the Sidonians; the Amorites call it Senir.) 10 We took all the towns on the plateau, and all Gilead, and all Bashan as far as Salekah and Edrei, towns of Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 11 (Og king of Bashan was the last of the Rephaites. His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide. It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites.)