Parashat Chukat: No act of kindness goes unrewarded
(Page 2 of 4)
Our parasha contains the fascinating example of Og, the King of Bashan, whose intentions regarding a particular act were steeped in evil - even though the act itself resulted in a positive outcome. We first encounter Og in Sefer Bereishit 14:13, where, according to Midrashic tradition, it was he who informed Avram (Avraham) of his nephew Lot’s capture:
And the fugitive came and he told Abram the Hebrew, and he was living in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshkol and the brother of Aner, who were Abram’s confederates. (This and all Tanach and Rashi translations, The Judaica Press Complete Tanach)
Rashi (1040-1105) summarized the relevant Midrashim on this verse, and simultaneously revealed Og’s true intentions:
“And the fugitive came”: According to its simple meaning, this was Og, who escaped from the battle, and that is what is referred to in (Sefer Devarim 3:11): “Only Og survived from the rest of the Rephaim.” And that is the meaning of “survived,” that Amraphel and his allies did not kill him when they smote the Rephaim in Ashteroth-Karnaim [Midrash Tanchuma, Chukat 25]. The Midrash Bereishit Rabbah [explains]: “This is Og, who escaped from the Generation of the Flood, and this is the meaning of “from the rest of the Rephaim,” as it is said: (above 6: 4):“The Nephilim were on the earth, etc.” And he [Og] intended that Abram should be killed and he would marry Sarah (Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 42:8).
Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah 19:32, re-emphasized Og’s intention to have Avram killed so that he could marry Sarah, and added a crucial detail for understanding Og’s story and our overall topic: “The Holy One Blessed be He gave him [i.e. Og] reward for his journey [to Avram] and he, therefore, lived an inordinate amount of time…”
Given the Midrash’s portrayal of the “story behind the story,” we are now ready to examine the underlying meaning of two quizzical pasukim (verses) in our parasha: