By Rev. William Woofenden
“For only Og, King of Bashan, remained of the remnant of the giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? Nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the Cubit of a man.” -Deuteronomy 3:11.
Additional readings: Deuteronomy 3:1-13, John 3, Psalms 8; 9.
The forty years of wandering in the wilderness were about over, and the children of Israel had come into the east-Jordan country. They had to conquer this country before they could enter the land of Canaan. Sihon, King of the Amorites, was slain and his country taken. Then they went up to Bashan, where its giant king Og with his forces came out to meet them. Og and his army were slain and his land was given to the half tribe of Manasseh. This story is told us in the Bible to teach a deep lesson.
The land of background extended from the border of Gilead on the south to Mount Hermon on the North. It was noted for its fine pasture lands and for its cattle, and the half tribe of Manasseh which settled there grew rich in flocks and in cattle.
It is well known that the Journey of the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan describes the spiritual journey of the regenerating man from a natural to a spiritual state of life. The land of Canaan, the Promised Land, represents in the happy spiritual life in which the spiritual plane of the mind is opened and one lives in knowledge of the Lord and of the truths concerning His kingdom. But man has a natural mind as well as a spiritual, and the east-Jordan country stands for the life which belongs to this natural plane of the mind.
By means of the natural mind we learn about the world, develop the sciences and arts, and make the forces of nature serve us. The natural plane of the mind and the natural plane of life must of necessity be developed first in us. Without this we could not live in the world. One may, if he chooses, live wholly on the plane of the natural without any thought of the Lord or of His kingdom, but this should not be. The natural mind and the natural plane of Life are an important part of everyone, but in order for them to be fruitful and happy the spiritual must enter into them and gift them with a new quality.
Before regeneration the natural mind looks to itself and not to the Lord and refers everything to the natural reason. Its altars of hewn stone blaze with sacrifices offered to human reason, and its temples are filled with incense burned in the worship of self derived intelligence. The natural mind says, “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent; and I have removed the bounds of my people.” Proud and defiant, it acknowledges no strength, no wisdom but that which belongs to the natural reason. Such is the purely natural man. By his own power he will solve the problems of the world.
Today there is much emphasis placed on natural goodness and we need to know what this natural really is. For the writings of the church state: “It is to be known that they who do good from natural goodness only, and not from religion at the same time, are not accepted after death.” And this is so because, in merely natural goodness, which is not formed through the truths of faith, there is no plane into which Heaven can inflow. We are born into this natural state. At first the whole plane of the natural is ruled by the love of self - Og, the giant king of Bashan. All natural good is thus defiled by thoughts of self and whatever is done, whether it be the acquisition of knowledge, the establishment of just rules for political and social conduct, the endowment of charities or even of churches, these are all done for the sake of self-esteem and self-advantage. And thought the good that the merely natural man does may, to outward appearance, look exactly like the good which spiritual man does, inwardly it is of an entirely different character, for it is divorced from God, the source of all genuine good. So the children of Israel could not immediately cross the Jordan and enter the Holy Land. First Og, the love of self, had to be overcome. The destruction of Og denotes the overthrow of self and the enthronement of the Lord.
For the Lord says to us, as he said to Nicodemus: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” There is a regenerated rationalism, a rationalism which comes from having one's rational mind formed according to the truth of revelation, and this higher rationalism, like regenerated science, is in possession of every rational deduction from scientific premises but it connects those deductions with God and uses them to confirm faith in the Lord and in the things of His kingdom.
The land of Bashan bordered on the land of Canaan. The natural mind and the whole plane of the natural is a rich land abounding in the things of natural good and charity, and when it is infilled by the spiritual, it has a new quality given to it by the spiritual.
In this story in the word, Og’s iron bedstead Is mentioned. Why? It is because a bed stands for Doctrine. as one supports his body on a bed, finding rest and Repose in it, so the mind find support in the doctrine it adopts, and in it finds mental rest and repose. Og’s bedstead stands for the false doctrines and maxims which the selfish man uses to support his selfish views of life, the false and evil theories which his natural reason invents and on which he reposes with confidence.
Og’s Bedstead was of iron, not of gold, silver, or brass. A golden bedstead would be the symbol of doctrines founded on love to the Lord; one of silver, doctrines founded on the love of Truths to his word; and one of brass, doctrines from the word accepted in simple trusting obedience. But the iron bedstead represents the hard, inflexible natural laws. If one is intemperate, he will inevitably suffer. If one is manifestly selfish, he will make enemies rather than friends. So far you may go, and no farther. You must not be openly evil or your business will suffer. These are not the laws of love but the iron laws which by force hold the evil in check.
What are some of the evil and false maxims which form Og’s bedstead? Have you never heard that “enlightened self-interest will lead to a just economic life,” or that “honesty is the best policy,” or that “men are naturally good and it is only adverse external conditions which cause crime,” or that “the commandments and the Golden Rule are beautiful but they cannot be kept in the business world,” or that “self-preservation is the first law of nature?” These maxims built into a Doctrine or whatever a selfish man believes. They are the bedstead of iron which the evil man uses to support his selfishness.
In the Word measurements and numbers signify quality. Og’s bedstead was nine cubits long and four cubits wide. In a good sense the number nine stands for what is full and complete and respect to truth and the number four, full conjunction with what is good. But in the case of this wicked giant they are used in the opposite sense, to denote complete and absolute falsity and evil in the maxims of the selfish man.
It is said of the final disposal of Og’s iron bedstead, “Is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon?” There is no other place to which this bedstead could have been carried. Ammon stands for the falsification of truths. The false doctrine represented by Og’s bedstead belongs in the hells where truth is falsified. The Spiritual man has no use for this bedstead, for when he shuns evil and has become regenerate, he has no use for the falsities which support the body of his selfish spirit. For then these doctrines and maxims are removed even from his natural mind and cast back into the hells where they originated and from which they were injected into his mind.
After Og was slain, half the tribe of Manasseh took over the land. After regeneration, the Lord turns over this whole pasture land of our spiritual Bashan to those heavenly principles which find food and culture there, and by which the world is blessed and the prophecy of the Psalmist is fulfilled: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
We live in a humanistic and materialistic time and it is hard for us to escape the influence of the false maxims which so many about us have accepted as the only practical laws for life in this world. The prophet Micah prays: “Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel; let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.”