Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Memoirs of Og, the Not-So-Gentle Giant

Memoirs of Og, the Not-So-Gentle Giant

 Email

I, Og King of Bashan, have undertaken to commit my life experiences to writing, in an attempt to ensure that my legacy does not get lost and that my place in history is not forgotten.

I have lived a long life, and it is difficult to remember all that I have experienced. I am forever indebted to the Jewish people for being so diligent in their note-taking and for making sure that history is not forgotten. My story can be pieced together from accounts recorded in their texts, both in the written Torah, as well as in the collection of teachings known as the Midrash.

I affirm that the information contained herein is correct and true to the best of my memory.

Written Torah Account

The Torah is quite brief in its depiction of me. There’s a section in the book of Numbers that describes the war that I waged with the Jews (and my ultimate demise):

Og, the king of Bashan, came out toward them with all his people, to wage war at Edrei. The L‑rd said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him, his people and his land into your hand. You shall do to him as you did to Sichon the king of the Emorites who dwelt in Cheshbon.” They smote him, his sons and all his people, until there was no survivor, and they took possession of his land.1

Not too flattering a biography, is it? I’m pretty grateful for the book of Deuteronomy, which adds a little more insight into my character and personal life.

For only Og, king of Bashan, was left from the remnant of the Rephaim. His bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbah of the children of Ammon? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the cubit of a man.2

Yes, it is true, I’m originally from the tribe of Rephaim. We were known to be giants in our time, and people were pretty afraid of us.3 But, alas, the Ammonites got the better of us. I was the only survivor from my entire family.4 The Ammonites took my custom-made bed and put it on display in their capital city, Rabbah, as an everlasting testament to their victory over my people.5

I was quite large, even from a very young age. People tell me that my crib had to be made from iron, because a wooden crib would break every time I lay down in it.6 In those days we used to make beds about a third longer than the person sleeping in them, so with a bed of 9 cubits long (approx. 4.5 meters), I must have measured in at about 6 cubits tall (a respectable 3 meters).7 Others are a fair bit more generous in estimating my height, as they assume that the carpenter used my own arm lengths in measuring my bed, and not the standard cubit measure.8 And as you might have guessed, my arm is a little longer than the average reader’s.

Well, that’s it as far as the written Torah records go. I really feature only as one of the Jewish conquests on their way to Canaan, and my story ends upon my defeat. The Midrash, however, is far more generous in its recording of history, and it documents my interactions with the Jews from the very beginning.

Pre-Flood Days

Like I mentioned earlier, I come from the family of Rephaim, who were known to be giants. We giants have existed since way back, from the pre-Flood days. We were known back then as the Nephilim, and have been described as “mighty men” and “men of renown.”9

Although my entire family, along with the rest of humanity, was wiped out by the Flood, I managed to save myself and have my life spared.10 Noah and I cut a little deal: I promised Noah that I’d be his slave for life, and he agreed to let me hitch a ride on the ark. We added a little plank of wood onto the back of his boat, and I held on throughout the Flood.11 G‑d was extra kind and arranged that the water immediately surrounding the ark was cool, despite the rest of the floodwaters being boiling hot.12 Noah was pretty kind, too, and he used to feed me through a trapdoor that he made in the side of the ark.

Although this part of my life doesn’t feature explicitly in the Torah, some people have pointed out some neat hints to it.

When summing up the damage caused by the Flood, the Torah says, “Only Noah and those with him in the ark survived.”13 If you take the Hebrew words אך נח, “only Noah,” and add up their numerical value, you get 79. I’ll bet you can guess what other word has the numerical value of 79. You got it. It’s my name, Og (עוג).14 As well, I’m referred to in the Torah as being the “remnant of the Rephaim,” which alludes to me being the only one of my family who survived the Flood.15

Fugitive from War

Things calmed down for a while after all the Flood drama, and I pretty much fell off the scene. That was, of course, until the Great War, which the Rephaim managed to get stuck in the middle of.16

In short, Chedorlaomer and his cronies were fed up with their subordinates not paying their dues and taxes, and they wanted to show them once and for all who was boss.17 On their way down south they decided to practice their battle tactics on my people and a couple of neighboring nations,18 and once again I was lucky to escape with my life.19

Who do you think I ran to for help? To Abraham, of course. You see, Abraham’s nephew Lot was living in Sodom at the time, one of the cities under siege by Chedorlaomer.20 Abraham was not the kind of guy who would let his family be captured and sit by idly, and I knew he would fight until the end.

Here’s something I never thought I’d admit: My intentions were not entirely pure, and I did have other motives in mind as well. Let’s just say that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was one of a kind, and if Abraham were to die in battle, I just might have been lucky . . .21

Looking for hints to this part of my story in the Torah? “The fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew.”22 The fugitive is me. After all, I’ve been pretty lucky so far. I’m the only one outside of Noah’s family who survived the Flood, and I did manage to escape Chedorlaomer and his army.23

For those of you wondering where I received my name Og, well, it wasn’t by chance. When I arrived at Abraham’s place to deliver the news, he was the in middle of baking matzah for Passover. In Hebrew, matzah is called עוגות מצות (ugot matzot). Out of gratitude to Abraham, I adopted this as my name, so now everyone just calls me Og.24

Well, my plans failed, and Abraham came home unscathed. G‑d was most unimpressed with my devilish plans, and cursed me for trying to lay hands on his precious Abraham. “You tried arranging the death of Abraham,” He said. “I promise you, your demise will come in the hands of his descendants.”25 Naturally, my relationship with Abraham has been pretty sketchy since then, and I’ve grown wary of the Hebrews.

Isaac’s Party

The next time I crossed paths with Abraham was at a party he threw, celebrating his son Isaac’s growing up. The Torah calls that party a “great feast.”26 You know why? Because all of the great people of the time showed up, myself included.27

The word on the street in those times was that Abraham would never have children. They used to call him the “barren mule,” and we assumed that his family line would have no continuation.28 When news came around that Isaac was born, I was pretty skeptical, so I decided to go see for myself.

Let me tell you something. Isaac was the puniest little thing that I have ever seen. I mean, seriously, I could have crushed him with my little pinky. Apparently G‑d wasn’t too fond of my thinking, and He took the opportunity to remind me again of what was ultimately in store for me. “Remember My promise,” He said. “This little kid’s descendants are going to get the better of you one day.”29

War Against Moses

Well, G‑d’s promise came to fruition in the end. The next documented episode in my life is the war I had with the Jews on their way to Canaan, where I was humiliatingly crushed.

There’s one point, though, that I think I ought to make, and that is that Moses was not terribly confident going into this battle. He was scared, really scared. And rightfully so, I might say. I was quite a war veteran by then, and had plenty of experience behind me. Add to that my abnormal height and strength, and I made for quite a formidable opponent.30 As well, Moses was worried that G‑d was on my side, as I was the one who ultimately saved Lot’s life.31

But G‑d dispelled Moses’ fears pretty quickly, and made it clear what the outcome of this battle would be: “The L‑rd said to Moses, ‘Do not fear him, for I have delivered him, his people and his land into your hand.’”32

And so Moses took me on. It was a humiliating defeat for me, and the Torah does not spare any of the embarrassing details: “They smote him, his sons and all his people, until there was no survivor, and they took possession of his land.”33

Deuteronomy’s account is even worse:

There was not a town that we did not take from them, sixty cities, all the territory of Argov, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these cities were fortified with high walls, double doors and bolts, in addition to a great many unwalled cities. We utterly destroyed them as we did to Sichon, king of Cheshbon, utterly destroying every city, the men, the women and the young children.34

I guess I should never have messed with Abraham in the first place. Although, I must admit, I did not see this coming at all. G‑d really outdid Himself this time.

The worst part of this whole story was the way I died. I had thought up a brilliant plan:

The camp of the Jews was around 3 parsah by 3 parsah (13 km by 13 km). I knew of a mountain that was around the same size. I would pick up the mountain and drop it on the Jews. Simple, right?

Well, it would have been, if not for G‑d and His miracles.

While the mountain was perched on my head ready to be dropped on the Jews, trillions of tiny little ants came and ate away at the bottom of it, making a huge hole all the way through. The rest of the mountain slipped down over my shoulders, leaving my head sticking out of the top. I was literally stuck with a mountain around my neck. Not a terribly comfortable position to be in.

It gets worse.

As I was trying to pull the mountain off of my head, my teeth miraculously grew, and locked the mountain in place. Stuck between a rock and a hard place?

At that point it was pretty much game over. Moses himself came along with a battle axe and started hacking away at my ankles, which was the highest he could reach even while jumping. It didn’t take long till he got the better of me, and, with the mountain tight around my neck, I toppled to my death.35

The lesson that I wish to leave you all with is this: The Jews may seem like a small nation, especially in contrast to their opponents, but there is something special about them. They’re not intimidated by their surroundings, and they go about their business proudly.36

G‑d was right when He warned me about Isaac: “This little kid’s descendants are going to get the better of you one day.” Get the better of me they did.

Footnotes
5.
Ramban, ibid.
6.
See Rashbam, Deuteronomy 3:11.
7.
See Moreh Nevuchim 2:47, and Ibn Ezra, Deuteronomy 3:11.
8.
Targum Yonatan ben Uziel; Onkelos (as interpreted by Ramban); Rashi.
10.
Talmud, Niddah 61a. See Ramban, Genesis 6:4, regarding the possibility that other giants survived the Flood as well.
11.
Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 23. See Rashi to Talmud, Zevachim 113b, who implies that Og stood throughout the Flood and survived because of his great height.
12.
Talmud, Zevachim 113b.
14.
Daat Zekeinim and Baal HaTurim, Genesis 7:23.
15.
See Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 23.
16.
It remains difficult to reconcile the Midrash (footnote 15) that associates the Rephaim with the pre-Flood giants, with the Torah account of the Rephaim existing as a tribe in post-Flood times.
19.
Talmud, Niddah 61a.
21.
Genesis Rabbah 42:8.
23.
Talmud, Niddah 61a; Genesis Rabbah 42:8.
24.
There are those who are of the opinion that Og was in fact Eliezer, the servant of Abraham. See Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer.
25.
Genesis Rabbah 42:8.
27.
Genesis Rabbah 52:10.
28.
See Genesis Rabbah ibid.
29.
Ibid.
30.
Akeidah, Numbers 21.
31.
Talmud, Niddah 61a.
35.
Talmud, Berachot 54b.
36.
See Igrot Kodesh, vol. 4, p. 342.
Shaul Wolf was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. He studied in Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon in Los Angeles and received his rabbinical ordination from the Central Chabad Yeshivah in Brooklyn, N.Y. He currently lives in Brooklyn where he studies and responds to questions for Ask the Rabbi @ Chabad.org.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
10 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Yosef Houston area October 26, 2017

Awesome they way you tell it, kept my attention the whole way, kids, especially Jewish kids should have this recited to them at school! Reply

Yehoram Sylvester SA September 1, 2017

can you please explain to me why does the Talmud Bavli Niddah 61a says that king Og Survived the flood and Gen7:23 says every one else died but Noah and his family were the only ones that survied the flood?

Your Comments will help me greatly in my pursuit to find truth. Reply

Kate Gladstone Albany, NY, USA April 22, 2017

Questions for the memoirist Dear Og —

Thank you for telling these very interesting stories of your life. I do have sone questions:

/1/ First you say that all the Rephaim (except you) were wiped out by Noah's flood. Then, you say that they were wiped out by the Ammonites (which had to be much later, because the Ammonites began only after the Flood). Which is it? (If the answer is that you started the Rephaim again after the flood, well, how did you do that? I mean, are non-giant human women ... compatible with giants? (Of course, I also have a similar question about your possible interest in Sarah. At any time, did you consider the physical consequences — for a human woman — of giving birth to a half-giant baby?)

/2/ Since you acquired the name "Og" only after your visit to Abraham, what was your previous name? (Also, why was he baking matzahs "for Passover": since Passover would not exist until the time of Moses, much later on?) Reply

Daveian M Jamaica November 1, 2017
in response to Kate Gladstone:

Thank you! As I was asking the very same questions as it just doesn't add up, also how old was he as would be generations by time Abraham rose from the line of Noah and for the world to be so largely populated again, wasn't the says of man limited to 120 years when Isaac was alive? Reply

Amin Wahyudi Rembang, Indonesia November 11, 2015

Never before I read the story. The story teaches me that G-d alone is the strength. Thank you for posting it. Reply

Fro November 6, 2015

I'll memorize this incredible story written in contemporary literature genre, to pass on to my grandchildren yet to be born 😊. Thank you. Am Yisrael Chai! Reply

Anonymous November 5, 2015

Brilliant Wonderful piece of literature. Reply

Michael Freedman Westchester County November 4, 2015

Nice Job, Shaul! I thought Moses was pretty tall too? Reply

Anonymous HAMDEN November 4, 2015

great! i love this tale. i don't know why it isn't told more often and better known! Reply

sunil subba India November 2, 2015

Wonderful autobiographical account of Og the giant.This story and the story of David and Goliath show that When G-d is with you in war,victory is assured. Reply

Related Topics