In this chapter we read about additional triumphs of Israel over her adversaries, as well as blessings which accompanied those victories.
More action east of the Jordan River – Just as the Israelites had conquered the forces of King Sihon, so they crushed the army of King Og (3:1-11). These two men were “the big names” of the day in that area. This is an encouraging reminder that the names, numbers, enthusiasm, and popularity of those who stand against the people of God mean nothing in our Lord’s sight. As Moses spoke to Joshua about the battles which Joshua would face in the future, Moses’ comforting charge was: “You must not fear them, for the LORD your God Himself fights for you” (3:22).
Land given to two and one-half tribes – At the request of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh, Moses granted them a land inheritance east of the Jordan (3:12-17). Those tribes had seen that the land in that area was suitable for their livestock, so they requested to live there. The condition which Moses laid down: the soldiers of those tribes must go over the Jordan and help their brethren conquer Canaan before they actually could settle on Jordan’s east side (Numbers 32:1,16-33).
Jehovah denied Moses’ request (3:23-27) – After Moses sinned by not sanctifying God in the sight of the Israelites (in the case when he did not speak to the rock as the Lord had instructed him to do), God told him and Aaron that neither of them would be able to enter the promised land (Numbers 20:1-12). Here in Deuteronomy 3 is the unique record of Moses appealing to God to change His mind in the matter of Moses’ punishment: “I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan” (3:25). God’s response? As Moses put it, “But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me” (3:26). In fact, the Lord basically told Moses to hush about it and never mention it again, saying, “Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan” (3:26,27). Instead of feeling sorry for himself, God called on Moses to look to the welfare of the next generation, as He called on him to encourage and strengthen Joshua (3:28), who would next lead Israel.
This scene reminds us that the leaders of God’s people do not always get their way. While a part of us sympathizes with Moses because he was not able to have his heart’s desire fulfilled, we are reminded that sin has consequences, regardless of who is involved.
— Roger D. Campbell