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    Sichon – Va’et’channan

    A fascinating character, mentioned in this week’s reading, is “Sichon, king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Cheshbon, whom Moses and the Children of Israel smote when they came forth out of Egypt” (Deut. 4:46).

    His realm was vast (Num. 21:24; Judges 11:22), and his possessions included Midian (Num. 31:8; Joshua 13:21). He was not willing to allow the Israelites to pass through his territory (Num. 21:21-15).

    Like Og, he is considered by the Psalmist to be a great and mighty king (Psalm 136:19-20). Rabbinical literature goes further and considers Sichon and Og to have been brothers, similar in size and courage; their father, Chiyya or Achiyyah, was said to be the son of Shemchazzai, a fallen angel (Niddah 61a).

    There is a Midrash, preserved in several medieval sources, that Shemchazzai and Azza’el (or Uzza’el) argued with God at the time of the Flood when humanity was punished for idolatry, “Master of the World, did we not say to You at the time of the foundation of the world, ‘Man is not worthy that You should be mindful of him’?”

    God answered, “If you lived on earth, evil passion would rule you too and you would descend even lower than man”. The two angels insisted on proving God wrong, but when they reached earth they were unable to avoid human passions and they too sinned (see Bernard J. Bamberger, “Fallen Angels”, 1952, pp. 129-131). Finally Shemchazzai repented and hanged himself.

    Sichon was normally a competent strategist but because he concentrated all his troops in his capital, the Israelites were able to defeat him.

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