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Og was the Amorite king. Og controlled sixty cities—each of them boasting high walls and other defenses—in the territory of Bashan, which abutted the northeast corner of the Promised Land.
As one of the obstacles the Israelites had to overcome before entering Canaan, Og’s kingdom represented an imposing barrier to their inheritance of the land—and not just because of Bashan’s well-fortified cities. In his farewell speech to the Israelites, Moses remembered Og as the last of the Rephaites, an ancient race first mentioned in Genesis 14 when Abraham had to rescue his nephew Lot.
The Rephaites were considered giants—as tall as the Anakites, according to Moses. (Years earlier, when Moses had commissioned several spies to report on the Promised Land, they had quailed at the site of Anakites dwelling there.) As if to bring the point home, Moses reminded his audience of the size of Og’s legendary iron bed: nine cubits—that is, thirteen feet long.
Og would have made a fierce enemy for Israel, except for one thing: God had promised to deliver him into Moses’ hands—and not just Og, but his entire army and all sixty fortified cities. When Og and his army marched out to confront the Israelites—who had once lost their courage at the mere thought of combating giants—the battle was swift and decisive. The book of Numbers simply says,
“So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors” (Numbers 21:35).
Og’s defeat helped clear the Israelites’ way into the Promised Land. Giants—unusually tall warriors—appear during a number of pivotal moments in Israel’s story.
In addition to the Anakites (who were crucial to Israel’s unwillingness to enter the Promised Land at the first opportunity) and the Rephaites (among whom was Og), David famously felled the Philistine giant Goliath, winning the young warrior the favor of his fellow Israelites.