Sunday, July 22, 2007

Og Melech HaBashan's Bed

Og Melech haBashan is certainly one of the most colourful Midrashic figures. According to the Midrash, he survived the flood, lived hundreds of years, stood many hundreds of feet tall, and could lift mountains.

But in the peshat, we have less information. The only information that might indicate Og's exceptional size is derived from the proportions of his bed! It is described in Devarim 3:11. There we are told about an iron bed-frame 9 cubits (amot) by 4 cubits i.e. 2 metres by 4.5 metres. Not small! In fact, a very large (9-10 ft.?) man, but not a giant of the proportions ascribed by the Midrash! (Part of the midrash could be from the fact the the bed is called an "eress" sometimes indicating a baby's cradle. Of course if this was Og's bed as a baby, we would be able to extrapolate a far larger adult size. However, eress can simply mean bed. See , fro example, Tehillim ch.6 - Tachanun.)

In my daughter's school (Orot Etzion) they did a lovely activity to illustrate Og's large size according to Peshat. They went to the playground. They drew a rectangle shape 2x4.5 on the floor. Then the teacher asked the class to lie down in "Og's bed". The entire class fit in the rectangle ... with room to spare! This gave them a great peshat understanding of the large physical dimensions of the mythical figure. A wonderful, simple pedagogic tool. And lots of fun too!

1 comment:

Jeff said...

It says in the Amah of the Ish - I just checked this out in the Ramban and he explains that it is in proportion to the Amah - literally forearm of the Ish who the verse is referring to (i.e. Og). If this is the case, the verse does not really tell us anything about his dimensions - only about the dimensions of his bed in relation to the size of his forearm. The one thing that it does say is that his bed is made of iron, as opposed to wood, which could imply that no wooden bed frame could support him. Either way, with such an explanation, we are left to wonder the reason why the Posuk even mentions his that his bed was 9x4. I am not sure of that... but am curious to find an answer.