Friday, July 20, 2018

On Og the giant

THIS WEEK'S PARSHA (TORAH READING): They Might Be Giants – Parshat Devarim (Rabbi David Kasher, Boulder Jewish News).

This [Deut 3:11] is the only place in the Torah that makes reference to Og’s size – though only indirectly, through this “bed.” The cubit measurement here would come out to approximately 14 feet by 6 feet; and if it was roughly proportional, then Og must have been at least 10 feet tall. Now that’s a big bed by anyone’s standards, but the Rashbam tells us that the unusual word for bed here – eres (ערש) – actually means crib! So if this was Og’s bed when he was a baby, there’s no telling how massive he became eventually! (Nachmanides adds that the bed had to be made of iron, and not the standard wood, so that it wouldn’t break under Og’s weight.)

These are the technical attempts to prove Og’s gigantic stature. But much more interesting are the many strange stories of Og the Giant recorded in the Talmud and Midrash. Taken together, they constitute one of the most fascinating legends in rabbinic literature. Og is a shadowy figure who seems to always have been around, and – according to the rabbis – keeps popping up at key moments in the Torah’s narrative.
This essay is a nice collection of rabbinic traditions about Og. His story is complicated by the fact that the ancient noncanonical work the Book of Giants features a giant character named Ohyah. Later on, traditions about him were mixed into the Og tradition. Hence the placing of Og at the time of the Flood and his connection with the angelic watcher Shemichazai (Shemihazah). The latter is another character in the Book of Giants.

The many past PaleoJudaica posts on Og the giant are collected here. And if you didn't get the allusion in "They Might Be Giants," this might help.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.