Deuteronomy 3:1-2 The area where these events take place was known as Bashan (Hb. fertile) on the East bank of the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee. The area was assigned to half the tribe of Manasseh and well suited for raising livestock (Ps. 22:12; Deut. 32:14). Today the area is known as the Golan Heights. In this chapter God demonstrates that what he promises, he is able to perform, giving even more than what was promised. His generosity validates his grace, power, and love, and is designed to encourage His people that He is faithful to His Word. Following the defeat of Sihon, king of Heshbon, Israel moved toward Bashan to eliminate Og and his army who would be at their rear if they began their battle in Jericho. God assures Moses that as He was with Israel against Sihon so he would be with them against Og.
Deuteronomy 3:3-5 The victory over Bashan provided Israel with both wealth and real estate by taking over all 60 of their cities. Archaeologists have discovered that the typical city at that time consisted of between 5-15 acres and housed no more than a few thousand people. These were similar to the fortified cities on the other side of the Jordan with high walls and barred gates. In addition to these 60 cities there were many unwalled villages conquered.
Deuteronomy 3:6-7 Israelites completely destroyed everyone living in these cities. The Hebrew verb חָרַם “charam” means “to devote to destruction” in obedience to the command of the Lord Deut. 20:10ff. If they left people and moved alongside them, Israel would have assimilated more quickly than they did. Three generations later Israel’s spiritual life and obedience to the covenant had slipped so badly that the Lord began to discipline them over a period of 300 years until the transition from the ministries of Eli, and Samuel who were High Priest/Prophets to a monarchy beginning with Saul. The destruction of the people left all their property as the spoils of war.
Deuteronomy 3:8-11 These verses summarize the land won on the East bank of the Jordan. The lands included everything north of the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, a distance of about 140 miles. Hermon was known as Sirion by the Sidonians (Phoenicians) and had been called Senir by the Amorites. These lands included Gilead and Bashan. King Og was the last remaining Rephaite king east of the Jordan. The Rephaites were just one of many Canaanites that intimidated the parents of this new generation listening to Moses’ words now. Og’s bed was more than 13 feet long and 6 wide. Rabbah the capitol of the Ammonites is today Amman, Jordan.
Deuteronomy 3:12-17 God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan, which was the land west of the Jordan. However, when the Amorites stood against Israel as they headed to Jericho, God added their territory to the original land promised. Moses gave to the tribes of Reuben and Gad the land from the Arnon on the northern boundary of Moab to half the hill country of Gilead (Num. 32:1-5). The northern half of Transjordan Moses gave to the half tribe of Manasseh which included the northern portion of Gilead and Bashan, which was the kingdom of Og. Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, led the battle against Og’s army. Jair renamed the region in his own honor, calling it Havvoth Jair, “the villages of Jair.” Makir, another leader of Manasseh was given a portion of the region of Gilead.
Deuteronomy 3:18-20 Rather than allow those tribes to settle into their land and leave the Israeli army shorthanded, Moses commanded the Transjordanian tribes to leave their wives, children, and livestock in the towns they conquered. The largest part of the battles was not yet complete and all men of war would need to cross with the rest of the Tribes until the land was free of their enemies. Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh honored their commitment and were commended by Joshua for their faithfulness (Josh. 22:1-6).
Deuteronomy 3:21-22 The victories east of the Jordan River were cited by Moses in his charge to Joshua that he should not to be afraid of the Canaanites. God displayed his power and strength by defeating the two powerful Amorite kingdoms, and he would do the same to all the kingdoms that Joshua and Israel would face.
Deuteronomy 3:23-26 Moses had been told by the Lord that he would not cross the Jordan and enter the land of promise. This was the result of his disobedience to God’s word when he was dealing with grumblers among God’s people. Moses was told to speak to a rock in the wilderness so that God would bring forth water for the people, Moses instead vented his frustration when he said to dissenters, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10).
After years of dealing with a consistently obtuse people, Moses lost his patience. He was the leader of God’s people and he had great responsibility. To whom much is given, much is required. God’s judgment was severe: “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Num. 20:12). This punishment grieved Moses and he pleaded with the Lord to have his discipline set aside but the Lord refused and told him not to speak to Him anymore about the matter. This was one of the rare occasions in Scripture where God instructs a believer to stop praying. Moses and Joshua were involved in two other similar occasions (Exod. 14:15; Josh. 7:10). Moses blamed God’s judgment on the actions of the people, but it serves as a reminder that the Lord’s leaders are held to higher standard of accountability (James 3:1).
Deuteronomy 3:27-29 Having set aside Moses’ request, the Lord told Moses to go up to the top of the Pisgah Mountain range on Mt. Nebo so he could see what he would be missing. He was to commission Joshua, encouraging him and strengthening him for taking the mantle of leadership. Beth-peor was also the location of another act of rebellion in Israel’s wilderness years, when Israel worshiped the gods of the Moabites, Baal of Peor (Num. 25:1–5; Deut. 23:3-6).