When the Israelites wish to pass through a desert kingdom, the king attacks them against his better judgment because God has hardened his heart.
“What fracture in my soul moves me to unfounded judgment? What strange new god works its magic here to override my mind?”

I knew nothing at all of Sihon beginning this, other than a vague memory of running across his name. But there turn out to be plenty of legends about him. And seeing that the name of his city, Heshbon חֶשְׁבּוֹן means “intelligence” in Hebrew led me to the image of his surveilance systems.

Rereading this several years after writing it, I realize that it was influenced by the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “The Belldog ” by Cluster and Brian Eno.

I ran across an odd legend connected to this story in Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews, It claims that Og, the king of Bashan, was the same person as Eliezer, Abraham‘s faithful servant, and was a giant who was so large that he ate a thousand oxen a day. Ginzburg doesn’t explain how the good Eliezer became the apparently evil Og, but digging further into the sources referenced in his notes might do so. It might be good fodder for future stories.

In this story, like that of Pharaoh, God is said to have hardened the person’s heart so that, even though he might have normally acceded to the Israelites’ request, he refused. In each case, the person and many others were killed. One hopes that God would have had a good reason for causing this, since it seems to contradict the idea that God doesn’t mess with people’s free will.


Have you ever done something, without knowingly being forced by unavoidable circumstances or being knowingly coerced by someone else, that contradicted what your heart and mind told you that should do? What was the outcome? Do you believe that it turned out, in the short or long term, better than if you had gone with your gut instinct?

Some people say to always “follow your heart.” Do you agree? Have you found conflcts within yourself between what you deeply desire and what you know to be the right action? How do you resolve these conflicts when they occur?

Posted in Uncategorized