Discovering that the Greek myths we studied in high school are a twisted retelling of key biblical theology is at the same time exciting and disappointing. On the one hand, finding that the stories of the Olympians, Titans, giants, and monsters are based on history is a thrill. On the other, I wish somebody had taught me this stuff when I was in junior high! Church would have been so much cooler.
Let’s be honest: The Bible has been drained of the really exciting stuff because we’ve been taught that most of the important characters in it are make-believe. The gods of the pagan world are dismissed as though the greatest civilizations of the ancient world—Sumer, Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome—were built by grown-ups who talked to imaginary friends.
Really? Our ancestors were that primitive? They built towers out of mud brick before they developed writing, but they were too simple to realize that their gods were lifeless blocks of wood and stone?
I don’t think so. God called them “gods,” so I’m pretty sure these things are real.
Now, here’s a question for you: Why Og? Have you ever wondered about that? Why did God direct Moses to lead the Israelites against Og of Bashan first, before crossing the Jordan River? After all, the Promised Land, Canaan, was westof the river. Og’s kingdom was on the east side. What was so special about Og and Bashan that Yahweh was compelled to make Og’s small kingdom the first military objective of the campaign?
Okay, yes; Og was the last of “the remnant of the Rephaim.” Hopefully, that phrase has more meaning now than it did before you read the last couple of chapters of this book. The Rephaim weren’t just a warlike tribe who made traveling the King’s Highway dangerous; they were heirs of a tradition that took pride in its alleged origin as the union of gods and men.
So, was Og literally a hybrid, part angel and part human? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but it doesn’t matter. Why? Because it’s not what’s in one’s blood that condemns a man. It’s what’s in the thing that pumps the blood—the heart.
Whether or not Og was a giant is irrelevant. Moses, under God’s direction, made it clear that Og represented the wickedness God had mentioned to Abraham more than four hundred years earlier—the iniquity of the Amorites. Let’s review the clues.
First of all, it’s a pretty safe bet that Og was the intended first target of the Israelites all along. His fellow Amorite king, Sihon of Heshbon, was given an opportunity to let Israel pass through his territory but opted for the sword instead. Sihon’s capital city, Heshbon, was due east of Jericho, so if the Jordan River crossing had been Israel’s immediate objective, Moses wouldn’t have offered to pass through Sihon’s territory on the King’s Highway, which carried the people north. Moses would have simply ordered the people to make a hard left through Sihon’s front yard on their way to knocking over Jericho’s walls. But God had other plans.
Og, as we’ve mentioned, was king of a land with a bad reputation. Deuteronomy 1:4 notes that “Og the king of Bashan…lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei.” Remember that the Rephaim defeated by the Chedorlaomer coalition four hundred years earlier also lived at Ashtaroth. But Bashan was also the home of something else.
May Rapiu, King of Eternity, drink wine,
yea, may he drink, the powerful and noble [god],
the god enthroned in Athtarat [Ashtaroth],
the god who rules in Edrei.[i]
We mentioned this entity earlier. At the time of the conquest, the Canaanites believed a god named Rapi’u, the singular form of Rephaim, ruled the underworld from exactly the same two cities in Bashan that were the center of Og’s kingdom. The text cited above appears to be a ritual inviting a number of deities, including the war-goddess Anat and plague-god Resheph, to a feast at which Rapi’u asks Baal to “transmit the powers of the Rapaʾūma [Rephaim] to the living king.”[ii]
There’s more. The home city of Rapi’u, Ashtaroth, identifies the King of Eternity with a mysterious god whose career we traced in a previous chapter:
Mother Šapšu, take a message
To Milku in ʿAṯtartu [Ashtaroth]:
“My incantation for serpent bite,
For the scaly serpent’s poison.”[iii]
Mother Šapšu was the sun-goddess in Ugarit. In this ritual, she was asked to carry a message to a god of the underworld ruling in Ashtaroth—Milku, which was another form of the name Molech.
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In short, Bashan was the entrance to the Amorite underworld. Og was its king, the last of the remnant of the living Rephaim. But Og had the power of the dead Rephaim on his side, or so he thought, and that’s why he had to go. To be sure his readers knew just how evil Og was, Moses gave us the dimensions of Og’s bed: Nine cubits by four cubits, or about thirteen and one-half feet by six. So, Og was a giant, right?
Not necessarily. Yes, the Rephaim had a reputation, and there are definite connections between the Rephaim and the pre-Flood Nephilim giants. But that connection may be mostly spiritual—as in occultic and demonic. That’s the point Moses was making in Deuteronomy.
As I wrote in The Great Inception:
Every year at the first new moon after the spring equinox, Babylon held a new year festival called the akitu. It was a twelve-day celebration of the cycle of regeneration, the beginning of a new planting season, and it included a commemoration of Marduk’s victory over Tiamat. The entire celebration, from Yahweh’s perspective, was a long ritual for “new gods that had come recently”[iv] involving all manner of licentious behavior.
The highlight of the festival was the Divine Union or Sacred Marriage, where Marduk and his consort, Sarpanit, retired to the cult bed inside the Etemenanki, the House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth, the great ziggurat of Babylon. Although scholars still debate whether the Sacred Marriage was actually performed by the king and a priestess, it didn’t matter to Yahweh. The idea that a bountiful harvest in the coming year depended on celebrating Marduk’s sacred roll in the sack was abhorrent.
Now, here’s the key point: Guess how big Marduk’s bed was?
“…nine cubits [its long] side, four cubits [its] front, the bed; the throne in front of the bed.”[v]
Nine cubits by four cubits. Precisely the same dimensions as the bed of Og. That is why Moses included that curious detail! It wasn’t a reference to Og’s height; Moses was making sure his readers understood that the Amorite king Og, like the Amorite kings of Babylon, was carrying on pre-flood occult traditions brought to earth by the Watchers.[vi]
If all that mumbo-jumbo about an underworld god ruling Bashan had been invented by the priests of the Amorites, then God might have ignored Og. From a military or economic perspective, Bashan, which roughly covered the modern Golan Heights, wasn’t exactly Babylon, Egypt, or Assyria. There was no strategic benefit to picking that fight. The goal was Canaan, west of the Jordan. Fighting Og meant marching a couple million people with flocks and herds to the north end of the Jordan valley, fighting a battle, and then turning around and marching back south to cross the river near Jericho. Why do it, if Og was nothing more than a local warlord? Why give the Amorites west of the Jordan more time to prepare their defenses?
The Bible doesn’t say so specifically, but in the context of what the Amorite neighbors of Israel believed about Bashan, the gods who lived there, and the spiritual power of the Rephaim, it seems clear that this was more than just a fight for control of some real estate. This was war in the spirit realm. Just as Yahweh humiliated Baal at the Red Sea forty years earlier, the Battle of Edrei against Og of Bashan was a clear message to the “warriors of Baal,” the Rephaim.
And their allies in Canaan were next.
[i] KTU 1.108:1–3. Translation by Wyatt, N. (2002). Religious Texts from Ugarit (2nd ed.) (London; New York: Sheffield Academic Press), p. 395.
[ii] Pardee, D., & Lewis, T. J. (2002). Ritual and Cult at Ugarit (Vol. 10). (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature), p. 193.
[iii] RS 24:244:40–41. Translation by Pardee and Lewis, op. cit., p. 177. Ugaritic text RS 24:251:42′ likewise places the god Milku in Ashtaroth.
[iv] Deuteronomy 32:17.
[v] Veijola, T. (2003).. “King Og’s Iron Bed (Deut 3:11): Once Again,” Studies in the Hebrew Bible, Qumran, and the Septuagint (ed. Peter W. Flint et al.; VTSup 101; Leiden/Boston: Brill), p. 63.
[vi] Gilbert, D. (2017). “The Great Inception Part 7: Iniquity of the Amorites—Babylon, Og, and the Angels Who Sinned.” The Great Inception. http://www.thegreatinception.com/long-war/the-great-inception-part-7-iniquity-of-the-amorites-babylon-og-and-the-angels-who-sinned/, retrieved 2/26/18.