At the end of the parshah of Chukat the Torah tells of the battle with Og, the giant king of Bashan:

And they turned and ascended by way of Bashan; and Og, king of Bashan, came out to meet them—he and all his people—to wage war at Edrei.

Then G‑d said to Moses, "Do not fear him, for I will deliver him—and all his people and his land—into your hand; and you shall do to him as you did to Sichon, king of the Amorites who lives in Cheshbon. (Numbers 21:33-35.)

Then the battle began. Og uprooted a rock measuring three parsangs (a parsang is approximately a mile), the dimensions of the entire Jewish encampment.1 He wanted to throw this rock on top of the Israelites, but before he had a chance to do so, Moses killed him. As the Torah expresses it, "Then they smote him and his sons and all his people."

We notice something strange and unusual in this narrative, namely, that G‑d had to reassure Moses, "Do not fear him." Why did the great leader of Israel, who had so resolutely confronted Pharaoh and all their other enemies, suddenly need to be reassured more than the other Jews? Why is Moses' personal fear of Og stressed? If Moses feared Og, surely the people must have been terrified of him!

The answer is that Moses' fear of the giant was not shared by Israel, for the people viewed Og physically, while Moses perceived him in a spiritual light. All the people saw in Og was a huge, hulking heathen — whom they did not fear at all, being confident in the power of Moses' prayers. (This mood is evident from the actions of those Israelites who were sent, at about that time, to spy out Ya'zair. Although their mission was merely to spy it out, they were so confident in the effectiveness of Moses' prayers that, on their own initiative, they conquered the place!2)

But Moses, with his deeper, more spiritual insight, saw in Og "the merit of Abraham." Many, many years earlier, when Abraham's nephew, Lot, had been captured in war, the giant Og, then also a captive, had escaped and told Abraham of the disaster. Abraham, who considered Lot almost as a brother, armed his servants, pursued his nephew's captors, defeated them, and saved Lot.3 Og had to his credit this meritorious deed of saving Abraham's family, and Moses feared that the merit might stand Og in good stead. G‑d then assured Moses, "do not fear him, for into your hand have I given him." Moses' own greatness, his own merit, would be sufficient to overcome Og.

Ultimately, the special merit of Moses was not needed to overcome the giant, for Og himself, by his own actions, erased any trace of merit he might have had. By attempting to throw a rock on top of the entire Jewish encampment, he made clear his intentions of wiping out, G‑d forbid, every last single descendant of Abraham, and he instantly destroyed his own merits for saving Abraham's family. Og was now stripped of merit; he was no longer surrounded by any "special defenses," and Moses single-handedly slew him.4