Deuteronomy 3:8
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 to mount Hermon;
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Deuteronomy 3:8. On this side Jordan — So it was when Moses wrote this book: but afterward, when Israel passed over Jordan, it was called the land beyond Jordan.3:1-11 Og was very powerful, but he did not take warning by the ruin of Sihon, and desire conditions of peace. He trusted his own strength, and so was hardened to his destruction. Those not awakened by the judgments of God on others, ripen for the like judgments on>Gates, and bars - literally, "Double gates and a bar." The stone doors of Bashan, their height pointing to a race of great stature, and the numerous cities (deserted) exist to illustrate the statements of these verses. 3-8. Argob was the capital of a district in Bashan of the same name, which, together with other fifty-nine cities in the same province, were conspicuous for their lofty and fortified walls. It was a war of extermination. Houses and cities were razed to the ground; all classes of people were put to the sword; and nothing was saved but the cattle, of which an immense amount fell as spoil into the hands of the conquerors. Thus, the two Amorite kings and the entire population of their dominions were extirpated. The whole country east of the Jordan—first upland downs from the torrent of the Arnon on the south to that of the Jabbok on the north; next the high mountain tract of Gilead and Bashan from the deep ravine of Jabbok—became the possession of the Israelites. On this side Jordan; so it was when Moses wrote this book, but afterward, when Israel passed over Jordan, it was called the land beyond Jordan. And we took at that time out of the hands of the two kings of the Amorites,.... Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan:

the land that was on this side Jordan; where Moses then was, being in the plains of Moab, and was the country beyond Jordan, with respect to the land of Canaan, and when in that:

from the river of Arnon unto Mount Hermon; Arnon was a river which divided Moab and the Amorites, Numbers 22:13 and Hermon was a mountain of Gilead, which ended where Lebanon began, and was the northerly border of this country. It was remarkable for the dew that fell on it; See Gill on Psalm 133:3.

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;
8. the two kings of the Amorites] Deuteronomy 2:26 to Deuteronomy 3:7. ‘Ôg‘s people have not previously been called Amorites: cp. Deuteronomy 4:47, Deuteronomy 31:4, and the editorial Joshua 2:10; Joshua 9:10; Joshua 24:8; Joshua 12 b. Amorite apparently in the same general sense as in E, e.g. Joshua 5:1; Joshua 10:5. ‘Ôg himself was of the pre-Amorite Repha‘im, Deuteronomy 3:11.

beyond Jordan] As in Deuteronomy 1:5 the writer betrays his standpoint in W. Palestine. On the other hand the standpoint of Moses E. of Jordan is properly observed in Deuteronomy 3:20; Deuteronomy 3:25. Dillm. therefore takes Deuteronomy 3:8 as a later insertion. But must we assume a rigorous consistency in the writer of the discourse?

valley of Arnon] Deuteronomy 2:24.

unto mount Ḥermon] This carries Israel’s conquest further N. than previously described; another sign of a later hand? Ḥermôn, from the root ḥrm, sacred (see on Deuteronomy 2:34); either from a sanctuary on the mount or because the whole mount was held sacred: cp. Jdg 3:3, Mt Ba‘al Ḥermôn. The name covered the long S. end of Anti-Lebanon, above the sources of Jordan, and occurs also in the plur. Ḥermônîm, Psalm 42:6, probably because of its triple summit. From its height of 9200 ft H. dominates all Ḥauran or Bashan, is visible as far S. as the heights above Jericho, and forms the natural N. boundary of all E. Palestine. One of its modern names, Jebel esh-Sheikh, means, not ‘old-man mountain,’ from its snowy hoary appearance, but ‘Mount of the Elder’ or ‘Holy Man,’ some famous saint; according to Conder (Hastings’ D. B. ii. 352) the Sheikh ed-Derâzi, the founder of the Druzes. Another name is Jebel, or Towîl, eth-Thalj, ‘Mount,’ or ‘Height of Snow.’

8–17. Allotment of the Conquered Lands

Thus Israel had taken the two Amorite kingdoms, from the ’Arnon to Ḥermon (Deuteronomy 3:8)—on which a note is given (Deuteronomy 3:9)—that is, from S. to N., the towns of the Mo‘ab Plateau, all Gile‘ad and Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:10); then a note on ‘Ôg (Deuteronomy 3:11). N. from ‘Arô‘er to half Mt Gile‘ad Moses gave to Re’uben and Gad, the rest of Gile‘ad and Bashan to the half-tribe of Manasseh (Deuteronomy 3:12-13 a). Follows a third note Deuteronomy 3:13-14 with additions from a later hand Deuteronomy 3:15-17 unless Deuteronomy 3:16 be regarded as original to the discourse.—The parallels are cited in the notes.Verse 8. - 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; and it is certainly remarkable that, at the extreme north-east and the extreme southwest of the laud conquered by the Israelites, names derived from Hereto, viz. Hermon and Hormah (Deuteronomy 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, Deuteronomy 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 (cf. Psalm 99:6; Ezekiel 27:4; Song of Solomon 4:8; 1 Chronicles 5:23). The Help of God in the Conquest of the Kingdom of Og of Bashan. - Deuteronomy 3:1. After the defeat of king Sihon and the conquest of his land, the Israelites were able to advance to the Jordan. But as the powerful Amoritish king Og still held the northern half of Gilead and all Bashan, they proceeded northwards at once and took the road to Bashan, that they might also defeat this king, whom the Lord had likewise given into their hand, and conquer his country (cf. Numbers 21:33-34). They smote him at Edrei, the modern Dra, without leaving him even a remnant; and took all his towns, i.e., as is here more fully stated in Deuteronomy 3:4., "sixty towns, the whole region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan." These three definitions refer to one and the same country. The whole region of Argob included the sixty towns which formed the kingdom of Og in Bashan, i.e., all the towns of the land of Bashan, viz., (according to Deuteronomy 3:5) all the fortified towns, besides the unfortified and open country towns of Bashan. חבל, the chain for measuring, then the land or country measured with the chain. The name "region of Argob," which is given to the country of Bashan here, and in Deuteronomy 3:4, Deuteronomy 3:13, Deuteronomy 3:14, and also in 1 Kings 4:13, is probably derived from רגוב, stone-heaps, related to רגב, a clump or clod of earth (Job 21:33; Job 38:38). The Targumists have rendered it correctly טרכונא (Trachona), from τραθών, a rough, uneven, stony district, so called from the basaltic hills of Hauran; just as the plain to the east of Jebel Hauran, which resembles Hauran itself, is sometimes called Tellul, from its tells or hills (Burckhardt, Syr. p. 173).

(Note: The derivation is a much more improbable one, "from the town of Argob, πρὸς Γέρασαν πόλιν Ἀραβίας, according to the Onomast., fifteen Roman miles to the west of Gerasa, which is called Ῥαγαβᾶ by Josephus (Ant. xiii. 15, 5).")

This district has also received the name of Bashan, from the character of its soil; for בּשׁן signifies a soft and level soil. From the name given to it by the Arabic translators, the Greek name Βαταναία, Batanaea, and possibly also the modern name of the country on the north-eastern slope of Hauran at the back of Mount Hauran, viz., Bethenije, are derived.

The name Argob probably originated in the north-eastern part of the country of Bashan, viz., the modern Leja, with its stony soil covered with heaps of large blocks of stone (Burckhardt, p. 196), or rather in the extensive volcanic region to the east of Hauran, which was first of all brought to distinct notice in Wetzstein's travels, and of which he says that the "southern portion, bearing the name Harra, is thickly covered with loose volcanic stones, with a few conical hills among them, that have been evidently caused by eruptions" (Wetzstein, p. 6). The central point of the whole is Safa, "a mountain nearly seven hours' journey in length and about the same in breadth," in which "the black mass streaming from the craters piled itself up wave upon wave, so that the centre attained to the height of a mountain, without acquiring the smoothness of form observable in mountains generally," - "the black flood of lava being full of innumerable streams of stony waves, often of a bright red colour, bridged over with thin arches, which rolled down the slopes out of the craters and across the high plateau" (Wetzstein, pp. 6 and 7). At a later period this name was transferred to the whole of the district of Hauran ( equals Bashan), because not only is the Jebel Hauran entirely of volcanic formation, but the plain consists throughout of a reddish brown soil produced by the action of the weather upon volcanic stones, and even "the Leja plain has been poured out from the craters of the Hauran mountains" (Wetzstein, p. 23). Through this volcanic character of the soil, Hauran differs essentially from Balka, Jebel Ajlun, and the plain of Jaulan, which is situated between the Sea of Galilee and the upper Jordan on the one side, and the plain of Hauran on the other, and reaches up to the southern slope of the Hermon. In these districts the limestone and chalk formations prevail, which present the same contrast to the basaltic formation of the Hauran as white does to black (cf. v. Raumer, Pal. pp. 75ff.). - The land of the limestone and chalk formation abounds in caves, which are not altogether wanting indeed in Hauran (as v. Raumer supposes), though they are only found in eastern and south-eastern Hauran, where most of the volcanic elevations have been perforated by troglodytes (see Wetzstein, pp. 92 and 44ff.). But the true land of caves on the east of the Jordan is northern Gilead, viz., Erbed and Sut (Wetzst. p. 92). Here the troglodyte dwellings predominate, whereas in Hauran you find for the most part towns and villages with houses of one or more stories built above the surface of the ground, although even on the eastern slope of the Hauran mountains there are hamlets to be seen, in which the style of building forms a transition from actual caves to dwellings built upon the ground. An excavation is first of all made in the rocky plateau, of the breadth and depth of a room, and this is afterwards arched over with a solid stone roof. The dwellings made in this manner have all the appearance of cellars or tunnels. This style of building, such as Wetzstein found in Hibbike for example, belongs to the most remote antiquity. In some cases, hamlets of this kind were even surrounded by a wall. Those villages of Hauran which are built above the surface of the ground, attract the eye and stimulate the imagination, when seen from a distance, in various ways. "In the first place, the black colour of the building materials present the greatest contrast to the green around them, and to the transparent atmosphere also. In the second place, the height of the walls and the compactness of the houses, which always form a connected whole, are very imposing. In the third place, they are surmounted by strong towers. And in the fourth place, they are in such a good state of preservation, that you involuntarily yield to the delusion that they must of necessity be inhabited, and expect to see people going out and in" (Wetzstein, p. 49). The larger towns are surrounded by walls; but the smaller ones as a rule have none: "the backs of the houses might serve as walls." The material of which the houses are built is a grey dolerite, impregnated with glittering particles of olivine. "The stones are rarely cemented, but the fine and for the most part large squares lie one upon another as if they were fused together." "Most of the doors of the houses which lead into the streets or open fields are so low, that it is impossible to enter them without stooping; but the large buildings and the ends of the streets have lofty gateways, which are always tastefully constructed, and often decorated with sculptures and Greek inscriptions." The "larger gates have either simple or (what are most common) double doors. They consist of a slab of dolerite. There are certainly no doors of any other kind." These stone doors turn upon pegs, deeply inserted into the threshold and lintel. "Even a man can only shut and open doors of this kind, by pressing with the back or feet against the wall, and pushing the door with both hands" (Wetzstein, pp. 50ff.; compare with this the testimony of Buckingham, Burckhardt, Seetzen, and others, in v. Raumer's Palestine, pp. 78ff.).

Now, even if the existing ruins of Hauran date for the most part from a later period, and are probably of a Nabataean origin belonging to the times of Trajan and the Antonines, yet considering the stability of the East, and the peculiar nature of the soil of Hauran, they give a tolerably correct idea of the sixty towns of the kingdom of Og of Bashan, all of which were fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, or, as it is stated in 1 Kings 4:13, "with walls and brazen bars."

(Note: It is also by no means impossible, that many of the oldest dwellings in the ruined towers of Hauran date from a time anterior to the conquest of the land by the Israelites. "Simple, built of heavy blocks of basalt roughly hewn, and as hard as iron, with very thick walls, very strong stone gates and doors, many of which were about eighteen inches thick, and were formerly fastened with immense bolts, and of which traces still remain; such houses as these may have been the work of the old giant tribe of Rephaim, whose king, Og, was defeated by the Israelites 3000 years ago" (C. v. Raumer, Pal. p. 80, after Porter's Five Years in Damascus).)

The brazen bars were no doubt, like the gates themselves, of basalt or dolerite, which might easily be mistaken for brass. Besides the sixty fortified towns, the Israelites took a very large number of הפּרזי ערי, "towns of the inhabitants of the flat country," i.e., unfortified open hamlets and villages in Bashan, and put them under the ban, like the towns of king Sihon (Deuteronomy 3:6, Deuteronomy 3:7; cf. Deuteronomy 2:34-35). The infinitive, החרם, is to be construed as a gerund (cf. Ges. 131, 2; Ewald, 280, a.). The expression, "kingdom of Og in Bashan," implies that the kingdom of Og was not limited to the land of Bashan, but included the northern half of Gilead as well. In Deuteronomy 3:8-11, Moses takes a retrospective view of the whole of the land that had been taken on the other side of the Jordan; first of all (Deuteronomy 3:9) in its whole extent from the Arnon to Hermon, then (Deuteronomy 3:10) in its separate parts, to bring out in all its grandeur what the Lord had done for Israel. The notices of the different names of Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:9), and of the bed of king Og (Deuteronomy 3:11), are also subservient to this end. Hermon is the southernmost spur of Antilibanus, the present Jebel es Sheikh, or Jebel et Telj. The Hebrew name is not connected with חרם, anathema, as Hengstenberg supposes (Diss. pp. 197-8); nor was it first given by the Israelites to this mountain, which formed part of the northern boundary of the land which they had taken; but it is to be traced to an Arabic word signifying prominens montis vertex, and was a name which had long been current at that time, for which the Israelites used the Hebrew name שׂיאן (Sion equals נשׂיאן, the high, eminent: Deuteronomy 4:48), though this name did not supplant the traditional name of Hermon. The Sidonians called it Siron, a modified form of שׁריון (1 Samuel 17:5), or נשׂיון (Jeremiah 46:4), a "coat of mail;" the Amorites called it Senir, probably a word with the same meaning. In Psalm 29:6, Sirion is used poetically for Hermon; and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:4) uses Senir, in a mournful dirge over Tyre, as synonymous with Lebanon; whilst Senir is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:23, and Shenir in Sol 4:8, in connection with Hermon, as a part of Antilibanus, as it might very naturally happen that the Amoritish name continued attached to one or other of the peaks of the mountain, just as we find that even Arabian geographers, such as Abulfeda and Maraszid, call that portion of Antilibanus which stretches from Baalbek to Emesa (Homs, Heliopolis) by the name of Sanir.

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