Words to Live By & The Kingdoms of Sihon and Og

ThinkingSo are the Israelites going to get to the Promise Land now and start living like normal people?

  “These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.

(There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea.)” (Deut 1:1-2).

1. The Heshbon Ostraca
The Heshbon Ostraca
When people first began to invent writing systems, they did not have a plentiful and cheap supply of paper to write on, like we do today.

They used a variety of materials on which to keep records, preserve religious and literary texts, and transmit laws.

Many people in the ancient Near East and Egypt used treated skins (or parchment) or papyrus (a kind of paper made from reeds) to write on.

Both, however, were expensive, and papyrus was made only in Egypt and had to be imported.

Therefore, only really important documents were written on those materials: literary and religious texts, contracts, important letters.

For everyday use it became much more common to use writing material that was cheap and plentiful: broken pieces, or sherds, of clay jars.

Today we call those pieces of clay with writing on them ostraca, singular ostracon.

The word comes from the Greek ostrakon, meaning “shell, sherd.” Most ostraca were written with ink, but some were incised with a sharp instrument.

School lessons, short letters, receipts, and other administrative documents were written on these clay sherds.

Archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan have uncovered numerous ostraca from biblical times.

The one here had been found at Arad, and deals with the administration of the kingdom of Judah in the 8th to the 6th centuries B.C.

If the Israelites wouldn’t have been stiff necked they would have gotten to the Promise Land in 11 days, rather than wandering in the wilderness for 40 years until they died.

After Moses killed King Sihon of the Amorites, King Og of Bahan he repeated God’s words:

“…Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:

Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates. 

Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD swear unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them. 

And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:

The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude (Deut 1:6-10).

Moses then reminded the people of how they feared going to fight the Amorites, even though God was with them. 

And they lied to the people about the land so they wouldn’t have to fight.  He then reminded of all the battles God had won for them.

Moses then said,

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. 

2. Mesopotamia
The Amorites dominated Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine from 2000 to about 1600.

They originated in Arabia then traveled to Mesopotamia and then moved into Syria.

Then they traveled East, into Canaan.

The Amorites destructed Ur and Sumer but did not win the battle, just weakened their city-states.

The Amorites developed kingdoms instead of city-states. Amorite refers to a Semitic people who occupied the country west of the Euphrates from the second half of the third millennium B.C., and also the god they worshiped, Amurru.

Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baal-peor: for all the men that followed Baal-peor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.

But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.

Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.

Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? 

And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? 

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deut 4:2-9).

“And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the 1 host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. 

But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.

Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swear that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance:

3. Ancient Biblical Moabites
Ancient Biblical Moabites
Ancient nation located in the uplands east of the Dead Sea and now a part of Jordan.

The area is unprotected from the east hence its history is a chain of raids by the Bedouins.

The Moabites were close kin to the Hebrews and the language of the Moabite Stone is practically the same as biblical Hebrew.

The relations of Moab with Judah and Israel are continually mentioned in the Bible.

As a political entity Moab came to an end after the invasion (circa 733 B.C.) of Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria.

Its people were later absorbed by the Nabataeans.

The Moabite religion was much like that of Canaan.

Archaeological exploration in Moab has shown that settlements first occurred in the 13th century B.C.

But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land. 

Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of anything, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.

For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Deut 4:19-24).

Moses then threatened them.

“When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of anything, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. 

4. Mesha Stele Moabite Stone c. 850 B.C.
Mesha Stele/Moabite Stone
c. 850 B.C.
Reduced-size Reproduction
What is now referred to as the “Mesha Stele” after the Moabite King, Mesha, who commissioned it as a memorial of his victories over “Omri king of Israel,” was previously popularly called the “Moabite Stone” because of its origin in the land of Moab, some 20 miles east of the Dead Sea.

The original blue-black basalt stone is approximately 44” tall and 27” wide, and was discovered at the ancient site of Dibon (now Dhiban) in Jordan, in August of 1868 by F.A. Klein, a German missionary, who was shown the artifact by an Arab sheik.

A dispute over ownership caused local villagers to smash the stone into many pieces, but not before an impression was made by the French, and the reconstruction is now housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in Number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.  And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 

But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.

When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;

(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he swear unto them” (Deut 4:25-31).

“Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.   Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire” (Deut 4:35-36).

5. The Jordan River
The Jordan River
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him” (Matt 3:13) .

The Jordan river flows from four streams that appear along the slopes of Mount Hermon.

It flows down into the Sea of Galilee and out again to the Dead Sea.

The river flows a distance of 65 miles as the crow flies.

But its winding and curving stretch is actually 160 miles altogether.

In the Old Testaments times lions were known to hide in the thick vegetation bordering the river (Jer 49:19).

John the Batist carried on his ministry around the Jordan.

Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River near Jerico.

“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. 

Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, forever” (Deut 4:39-40).

Moses then, on this side of Jordan, made Bezer in the wilderness, Ramot in Gilead, and Golan in Bashan to be refuge cities.

1 Host means army, but what type of army depends on the context it is used in.

The Kingdoms of Sihon and Og

Moses gave the Gadites, Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh the ter­ritories of Sihon and Og, two kings whom the Israelites had defeated prior to crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land.

Because there is no extra biblical reference to either of these two names, all that is known of them comes from the Old Testament.

Og is usually referenced in the Bible as “Og [king] of Bashan,” the geographical region east of the Sea of Galilee.

Og was also a member of the Rephaites, an unexplained designation that appears as well in Ugaritic texts and has often been associated with giants.

Ac­cording to this same verse, Og had an iron bed or couch of legendary proportions (more than 13 feet [4 m] long and 6 feet [1.8 m] wide).

6. The Tribe of Gad

When discussing the allotment of land granted the tribe of Gad, it is important to note this was the only allotment which was handed out by Moses; before he died, and before the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River.

J. McKee Adams published a wonderful book in 1965 entitled Biblical Backgrounds.

He appoints the tribe of Gad’s allotment as falling within the first “period” of “three general divisions and periods” of the Conquest.

This first period was the allotment of land east of the Jordan River to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, or East Manasseh.

The portion obtained by this tribe rested north of the tribe of Reuben.

The Jordan River bordered their land to the west.

The kingdom of the Ammonites lie to the immediate east.

A thin section of land fell within the tribal borders which stretched northward, through Gilead, all the way up to the southeastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, or Sea of Chinneroth.

The southern boundary, it seems, reached to Heshbon.

Joshua 12:4 also links Og with the Rephaites and further connects him to two specific cities, Edrei and Ashtaroth.

Sihon is said to have been one of the Amorites, a western Semitic group that was well documented throughout the Near East during the Bronze Age.

He is often associ­ated with Heshbon, a kingdom whose bor­ders extended north to the Jabbok River, west to the Jordan River and south to the Arnon River.

7. Jabbok River
Jabbok River
This area was very significant in later Israelite history as well.

After the death of Saul, his son Ish-Bosheth took refuge and ruled from Mahanaim (2 Sam 2:8).

During Absalom’s revolt, David fled to Mahanaim (2 Sam 17:24-29).

Mahanaim seems to be a Transjordan administrative center.

Jeroboam I built his Transjordan capital at Penuel (1 Kgs 12:25), possibly in connection with the invasion of Pharaoh Shishak.

These kingdoms of the Transjordan stood between the Israelites and the Jordan River, which constituted Israel’s gateway into the land of Canaan.

The defeat of Transjor­dan’s inhabitants at the hands of Israel pre­cipitated the resettlement of the area by the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh.

So foundational were these formidable victo­ries that their memory was attested in Israel as late as the days of Nehemiah.

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