Devarim: The Last hurdle

The Book of Deuteronomy is the last of the five books of the Torah. The parasha Devarim begins with the speech of Moses taking place on the 1st Day of the 11th month of the 40th year since departure from Egypt and one month prior to the entry to the Promised Land. Moses’ speech recollects the key milestones that the Children of Israel have gone through since their departure from Egypt, notably:

  • The conquest of Sihon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of Bashan;
  • The system and allocation of governance of judges over the Children of Israel;
  • A very detailed outline of the incident of the spies and the refusal of the Children of Israel to enter the Land under God’s command and which resulted in them to wander in the desert for 40 years.

In consequence of the incident of the spies the last of the generation of the Children of Israel who had taken part in the exodus died in the desert two years previously, in the 38th year, due to their lack of faith in God’s promises (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua).

Sihon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of Bashan

An interesting aspect of this parasha is the persistent mentioning of the term Sihon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of Bashan.

In this parasha ‘Og’ is mentioned 7 times, Sihon 9 times and a total of 22 and 29 times in the whole Bible, respectively. Moreover, the importance of Og, King of Bashan and Sihon, King of the Amorites is re-emphasised in Psalms 135 and 136.

He it was who struck the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast: Who sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, O Egypt, against Pharaoh, and against all his servants: Who struck great nations, and slew mighty kings: Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan: And gave their land for a heritage, a heritage to Israel his people: (Psalms 135:8-12)


And overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea; for his loving kindness endures for ever: To him who led his people through the wilderness; for his loving kindness endures for ever: To him who struck great kings; for his loving kindness endures for ever: And slew great kings; for his loving kindness endures for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites; for his loving kindness endures for ever: And Og the king of Bashan; for his loving kindness endures for ever: And gave their land for a heritage; for his loving kindness endures for ever: (Psalms: 136:15-21).

The Psalms suggest the slaying of Sihon and Og is paralleled to overthrowing of Pharaoh. Even more so there is a Midrash which indicates that the event was of greater significance than the overthrowing of Pharaoh.

Moreover from the text in the Bible we see that the Children of Israel accomplished this hurdle without any difficulty whatsoever even though Sihon and Og were ‘giants’ and Og with his bed of iron, yet the battle itself is barely mentioned. There was no holding up of Moses arms as in the defeat of the Amalek (Exodus 17:12); no stopping of the setting of the sun as in Joshua’s battle against the Amorites (Joshua 10:13): Simply Sihon and Og’s armies were slain.

After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived at Ashtaroth in Edrei: (Deuteronomy: 1:4).

This is in vivid contrast to the incident of the spies which had taken place 40 years earlier and when the Children of Israel at refused to do battle against ‘giants’ due to lack of faith.

And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had spied to the people of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to spy, is a land that eats up its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature: (Numbers 13:32)

And when God punished them there was a change in heart and they did battle against the Amalek and Canaanites. As a result the Israelites were slaughtered because God was not with them. (Numbers 14:45)

What is the particular significance of the battle against “Sihon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of Bashan?

This was in fact the last hurdle to the entry into the Promised Land; the last of the battles the Children of Israel fought before they crossed over the River Jordan and took Jericho. The two kings and their defeat features so many times in the Bible and in particular in reference to being ‘this’ side of the Jordan River, that one wonders why!

If we look at the gematria for the two phrases:

Sihon King of the Amorites and Og King of Bashan,

In Hebrew:

Sihon melech ha Amori סיחן מלך האמורי =samech-yod-chet-nun, mem-lamed-chaf, heh-aleph-mem-resh-yod = 60-10-8-50; 40-30-20; 5-1-40-200-10 =474


Og melech ha Bashan עוג מלך הבשן ayin-vav-gimmel, mem-lamed-caph, heh-beth-shin-nun =70-6-3, 40-30-20, 5-2-300-50 =526

The total of the two phrases is 474+526= exactly1000

What does this mean? The number 1000 is the fourth level of the Gematrical series representing the supra-spiritual form. (See Aleph, Head of a bull, the name of God, Yin and Yang and Theory of Gematria. The Hebrew word for 1000 is eleph which is in fact is the same word as aleph. So here 1000 is the numerical distance between aleph , representing G-d in the primordial form, with its value of 1 and eleph, representing God in a supra-spiritual form with its value of 1000. It is the completion of God’s cycle starting from the exodus from the Garden of Eden to the bringing of the Children of Israel into the Land {1}.

Return to the Garden of Eden

The idea of return is further articulated Deuteronomy 1:39 with reference to the incident of the spies:

Moreover your little ones, which you said should be a prey, and your children, who in that day had no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there (The Land), and to them will I give it, and they shall possess it:

The phrase ‘no knowledge of good or evil’ reminds us of the Tree of Knowledge of Good of Evil which stood in the Garden Of Eden and from which Adam ate resulting in God throwing Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, because they had lost their innocence (See hyperlink The Second story of creation Mist, Adam and Truth and Tree of Life). Hence the new generation of the Children of Israel who have arisen out of the desert had ‘regained’ their innocence lost at the time of Adam and Eve. The entry into the Promised Land was effectively ‘return’ to the Garden of Eden and also ‘repentance’ for the act of Adam and Eve. In Hebrew the word for ‘return’ shuva and ‘repentance’ tshuva stem from the same root. The Promised Land is the Garden of Eden (See hyperlink Beth El and H’ai).

The Two Rivers

The beginning and end of the journeys of the Children of Israel is symbolised by the crossing of two stretches of water: the Red Sea and the River Jordan - the end of life in the old world and entry into the new world. The interim period in the Sinai desert is the period of re-birth. Moreover the Children of Israel crossed both the Red sea and the River Jordan on dry land.

And lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it; and the people of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea: (Exodus 14:16)

And it came to pass, when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up out of the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up to the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and flowed over all its banks, as they did before: (Joshua 4:18)

For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan from before you, until you had passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: (Joshua 4:23)

The crossing of the Red Sea by the Children of Israel was akin to being born, where Egypt had been an incubator or womb where they had been fruitful and multiplied from 70 seventy souls to some 600,000 (See be Fruitful and Multiply in Egypt and Crossing the Red Sea). Egypt had provided clothing, nourishment and shelter to the Children of Israel. The passage through the Red Sea was like being born through the uterus and when the walls of the sea turned back on itself it was as if the umbilical cord had been cut and the Israelites had been born into a new world on the other side.

And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left: (Exodus 14:22)

Ouspensky and the Music of the Spheres

The final battle against Sihon and Og may be taken one step further in considering the philosophy of P. D. Ouspensky in his book In Search of the Miraculous {2). Ouspensky was a Russian philosopher who developed a theory called ‘Music of the Spheres’ whereby he attributed the process for the completion of an endeavour from its beginning to its end to be represented in the musical octave: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. As such ‘A’ would represent the beginning of an endeavour and ‘G’ would represent its completion before going on to ‘A’ again in a higher scale and representing the beginning of a new cycle.

Gematrically the theory holds water inasmuch that the musical scale has 7 notes A to G and the new cycle, the rebirth or renewal, is the 8th note the ‘A’ in the next octave. He attributed the process of moving from ‘A’ to ‘G’ as the process of development and completion of a cycle – hence the gematrical link between 8 and 50. (See hyperlink 8, 800; and 5, 50, 500)

He extended this philosophy further in considering notes in the musical scale in which there is no semi-tone: these being the B-C interval and the E-F interval. He suggested that in the process of an undertaking, a superlative amount of energy is required to jump from B to C or from E to F more than the other tonal sequences which have a semi-tone in between.

In terms of the ‘undertaking’ of the Exodus from Egypt and the entry into the Promised Land, the B-C interval was to overcome Pharaoh and his armies, and the E-F interval was to overcome the armies Sihon and Og. The Israelites succeeded in crossing both these intervals without difficulty (i) because they had faith in God and (ii) they received help from God.

When the E-F interval presented itself in the incident of the spies, in the beginning the God’s help was guaranteed but the Israelites lacked the faith in God to carry out the mission. After receiving admonishment from God the Israelites had faith in carrying out the mission but God was not with them and they were slaughtered.

Lessons learnt

Oftentimes we believe that our achievements and current standing in life are a result of our own endeavours and we rarely give thanks or credit to God for where we stand today. However in fact our very existence and the fragility of that existence is only ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

The success of our endeavour depends upon two things: faith in God and God’s assistance in our endeavours ‘the hidden hand’. If we have no faith in God then the presence of God’s help will make no difference. If we have faith in God, but God is not with us, then too our endeavour will fail. If we have faith in God and God’s help is with us then we can achieve anything. This was the case of Sihon King of the Amorites and Og King of Bashan.

{1} Another instance when a phrase adds up to the gematrical value of 1000 is in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where fire and brimstone gafrit ve esh in Hebrew also adds up to 1000 (See hyperlink Sodom Gomorrah and 1000).

{2} E-copy of In Search of the Miraculous available at:



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