Og King of Bashan: Giant Warlord or Ruler of the Underworld?

The book of Numbers describes the Israelites’ decisive military victory over Og, king of Bashan, and their subsequent takeover of his kingdom, which appears to have overlapped with the Golan Heights. Throughout scripture there are several references to this victory; one of them, Deuteronomy 3:11, adds two noteworthy details: that Og was “left of the remnant of the Rephaim” and that he had a gigantic iron bed, “nine cubits in length and four cubits in breadth.”

Ancient and medieval Jewish commentaries stuck to a literal interpretation of the verse: the Rephaim, mentioned elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, were an ancient race of giants, and Og, being one of them, needed an enormous bed. By contrast, modern commentators have taken a far less literal approach, citing ancient Canaanite inscriptions, archaeological evidence, and the employment of an unusual Hebrew word to argue that the “bed” (eres) was in fact a sarcophagus and that Og was a mythical ruler of the realm of the dead. Laura Quick musters substantial evidence for the traditional view:

The consensus view of Og as an underworld deity has been based upon the misunderstanding and synthesis of various traditions from the Bible and the ancient Near East, creating a tradition which would have been alien to both the scribe who wrote Deuteronomy 3 and his ancient audience. . . .

Indeed, the [traditional] translation of eres barzel as “iron bed” is inherently unproblematic. Barzel is frequently attested with the meaning “iron” in the Hebrew Bible, while eres is found with the meaning “bed” or “couch” [in several locations]. However, if Og’s connection to the Rephaim is [that they, too, are] otherworldly inhabitants rather than giants, the size of his overlarge bed becomes rather awkward: what is the meaning of these unusual measurements and why have they been recorded in Deuteronomy 3? . . . Moreover, [the] reading of [the phrase] as “iron bed” [i.e., a bed inlaid with iron], . . . is backed up by archaeological data from ancient Israel.

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Read more at Academia.edu

More about: Archaeology, Deuteronomy, Golan Heights, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy