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.

Read more at Academia.edu

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

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7