Then the Israelite people marched forward to Bashan and fought the King Og. They overpowered him and destroyed his cities and took their livestock and possessions. These verses from 2:24 to 3:11 describes the practice of putting others to the ban. Ban is dedicating them to the Lord through extermination. This was a holy war, as it was degreed by the Lord God. The cities of King Sihon and King Og were utterly destroyed. The idea of this dedication to the Lord is to take that which belonged to another god and dedicating it to the Lord by putting an end to the people, animals, and property. In that concept the extermination of these nations was a religious act. Today this runs counter to contemporary Christian sensibilities. This act was part of the culture of the day and not necessarily the ultimate expression of God’s will. Holy war was one way the Israelite people understood the character of God. It was heavily influenced by the cultural practices of the era and the Israelite people saw it as an expression of God’s purpose.
Consolidation and Extension of Territory 12-22
Israel now divided up the territories that they had conquered east of the Jordan River. They also planned the extension of their land beyond the Jordan. The conquered territory was given to the tribes of Gad and Reuben. But the tribes of Gad and Reuben were to continue on with the other Israelites to conquer the land on the west side of the Jordan. Joshua was chosen to lead the western campaign and it is also implied that he would be the successor to Moses. (Numbers 27:12-23)
Condemnation of Moses 23-29
Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land but was allowed to view it from Mount Pisgah. Moses had prayed that the Lord would allow him to cross over but he was denied. Moses would die in Moab and like the others of his generation forfeited the future by presuming on the grace and power of God. (Numbers 27:12-14; Deuteronomy 32:48-52)
Remembering What God Has Done
Having proclaimed the mighty acts of God, Moses challenged Israel to remember and to act in the context of God’s gracious actions. The chapter is an urgent and moving appeal directed to the memory of Israel. As all succeeding covenant persons, she was to keep the law because of the greatness of God’s revelation. Because of what God had done, Israel was urged to remember the deeds of God, (4:1-8) the revelation of God, 4:9-24) the alternatives of God, ($:25-31) and the uniqueness of God. (4:32-40)
Biblical law is more than a list of dos and don’ts. It is a system of divine expectations regarding belief and behavior which, if faithfully carried out, will bring God’s richest blessing. Life itself depends on keeping the law.
The Exodus from Egypt freed the nation of Israel to become God’s servant. When God delivered Israel from bondage by “a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts,” it was not because Israel had earned this right through its own righteousness but because God is gracious and faithful to His promises to Abraham. The purpose of the rescue from Egypt was not to just to relieve the Israelites of their onerous burdens, but to make a covenant with them. The covenant relationship did not make the Israelites God’s people; they were already His people. Obedience was not a precondition to the relationship but a proper response to it. It placed upon them the responsibility of serving God as a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.
The covenant guaranteed the people of Israel abundant and meaningful life if they kept the law. The covenant document consists of broad principles, patterns, and standards. God’s instructions are embodied most famously in the Ten Commandments and most succinctly in the Shema. All other laws of God are interpretations and applications of these primary principles. The law was given to regulate Israel’s affairs as a nation so that God’s people would be a beacon of His grace to the whole world.
The life that resulted from obedience to the law was not eternal life in the New Testament sense. It was God’s promise that if the Israelites were faithful to the covenant, the nation could expect long and prosperous days in the land. Jesus also exhorted His disciples to keep the Ten Commandments and the demands of the Shema, not to have eternal life but as an expression of commitment to Him.