Battles with Sichon and Og in Bemidbar and Devarim


The description of the conquest and inheritance of the lands of Sichon and Og is found in both Bemidbar 21 and 32 and Devarim 2-3. Moshe's retelling in Devarim overlaps significantly with the original account in Bemidbar. However, in contrast to most of the other stories in Sefer Devarim which are shorter than the original, here there are numerous additions.1 By examining these, the reader may gain insight into the unique message Moshe intended to impart in his recounting of the story. For a full comparison of the two accounts, open the comparison table and expand to full screen. For a summary of the differences, see the chart below.

Points of Contrast

  • Conquest and inheritance – In Sefer Bemidbar there is a break of several chapters between the account of the conquest of the lands of Sichon and Og and the description of its inheritance by the 2½ tribes. In Sefer Devarim, in contrast, Moshe merges the two narratives.
  • Hashem's role – Sefer Devarim places much greater emphasis on the role played by Hashem in the victory against Sichon and Og.2 In addition, the text mentions multiple times that Hashem will similarly help the nation conquer the land of Israel.3 These points are not highlighted in Sefer Bemidbar.
  • Description of battle – Sefer Devarim presents many more details regarding the individual cities conquered and the spoils of war than the original account in Bemidbar.
  • Background of Og – Only Sefer Devarim mentions that Og was one of the remaining giants of Refaim, and it also includes a description of his huge bed.
  • Strength of Ammon – Only in Sefer Bemidbar is Ammon's strength given as a reason for why their land was not conquered.4
  • Request and inheritance of the 2½ tribes – Sefer Bemidbar discusses at length the request of the tribes of Reuven and Gad, the ensuing deal reached with Moshe, and the inheritance of the land east of the Jordan. In Devarim, only the agreement to fight in the front line and the inheritance are mentioned.
  • Encouragement of Yehoshua – Only Sefer Devarim records that Moshe encouraged Yehoshua after the wars, promising him that the future battles will produce the same results as the victories over Sichon and Og.


One of Moshe's central goals in Sefer Devarim is to instill confidence in the nation that they will be successful in conquering the Land of Israel. Similar to the anointed priest's pep talk to the nation before going to war (Devarim 20:1-9), Moshe's speech is meant to boost the morale of the nation.5 As such, the historical events he reviews are selected and molded so as to further this objective, rather than to simply recount history in a straight chronological fashion. Many of the variations noted above can thus be readily understood:

  • Moshe combines disparate narratives,6 omitting less relevant material7so that the newly crafted story can more clearly relay his message –– just as the nation conquered and inherited the lands of Sichon and Og, so too they will conquer and inherit the rest of the Land of Israel.
  • Hashem's aid is highlighted to teach the nation that with Hashem behind them, future victory is also ensured.
  • Moshe elaborates on Og's great size to quell the nation's fears that they would be unable to conquer the giants of Canaan.8 He similarly emphasizes the enormity of the victory,9 so the nation will realize what they are capable of achieving.10 He makes sure to omit, on the other hand, the fact that they did not conquer Ammon whose "border was strong" as this might have frightened them.11
  • Finally, Moshe ends with an explicit statement of encouragement to Yehoshua, mirroring the message he is implicitly relaying to the nation throughout.

Summary Chart

Conquest and inheritance Split into distinct narratives Merged into one narrative
Hashem's role Less emphasized Highlighted
Conquest of cities and spoils of war Minimal details Extensive description
Background of Og ___ Noted
Strength of Ammon Noted ___
Request and inheritance of the 2½ tribes Request, consent, and inheritance all are mentioned Only the consent and inheritance are mentioned
Encouragement of Yehoshua ___ Elaborated