Deuteronomy 3:3 (HCSB)
3 So the Lord our God also handed over Og king of Bashan and his whole army to us. We struck him until there was no survivor left.
Similar to the previous passage, we read here the defeat, capture, and extermination of Bashan. Again the command is from God to do battle with Og, the king of Bashan, and, presumably, the slaughter stemming from it as well.
This pericope, along with the previous, do provide a bit of a challenge to the Christian, as discussed previously. But rather than rehash the same suggestions and possibilities to “ease”, or “justify”, the act, noting that God does not require our justification for anything, this is simply a reference to our ability to understand and square these acts with His nature, it is better served to observe a couple of things.
It is interesting that in this passage there is mention of un-walled villages that are taken. Certainly the cities were sites of battles, and much bloodshed, as Deut 3:5 describes all the cities as being “fortified with high walls, gates, and bars.” Then there is the additional comment about the “rural villages”. And following that we see the same fate previously administered in Heshbon is administered here… but only the cities are mentioned: “destroying the men, women, and children of every city.” (Deut 3:6)
Had the pericope extended a few more verses, as it does in other translations, we would also see that Og is also an Amorite, same as Sihon was. So even though there are two separate accounts, this appears to be God using the Israelites in a two-fold manner: to bring His people to the land He planned for them, and to use the Israelites to defeat, whether there was a spiritual reason behind it or not is not revealed, the Amorites. Moses has already recalled the use of different people groups to displace other ones by God, all in a grand orchestration of man to achieve His purposes, so there is no reason to think the same was done here with the Amorites as a whole people group.
Although the slaughtering of women and children can be a difficult challenge to our preconceived notions of God, and anything we can concoct to somehow “soften the blow” makes us feel more comfortable, we should avoid placing too much stock in those concoctions. The easiest, and seemingly implied, reading of the last two pericopes is that there was wholesale destruction of these kingdoms, including women and children. But rather than focus on it from the point of view of man, specifically those men, women, and children at the receiving end, we should step back and remember that it is God in control and orchestrating. It is God dealing with His creation. It is God, our Creator and, in the form of Jesus, our Savior, that is commanding. So instead we should see the steadfast reliability of God in His care for His people. We should see the reassurance He gives His people, the protection and power He brings forth for His people, and His provision for them. That is our God: not a God to be trifled with, to be mocked and rejected, but the God to worship, obey, and know.
Lord, thank You for being our God. You are a great, powerful, and wondrous God, and sometimes that is frightening. But we can be assured that You are working everything for our good! Help us to not be afraid, but to respect; not be hateful, but love, not be rejecting, but accepting, and cling to You. Amen.