MOAB, MOABITES. Moab occupied the lofty table-land to the east of the Dead Sea. It was bounded on the E. by the Arabian desert, on the S. by the land of Edom, on the W. by the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley. Its N. boundary fluctuated at different periods between the Arnon and an indistinct line some distance north of Heshbon. This table-land is elevated some 3000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean, and 4300 feet above the Dead Sea. It is traversed by three deep valleys, the middle one of which, the Arnon, is the deepest, and is often mentioned in the Bible. The northern portion consists of broad stretches of rolling country, the reddish soil of which is fertile, while in the southern portion more hills are found, and the deep wrinkles interfere more with agriculture. In the winter months the rainfall is adequate, and renders the country very desirable in comparison with the deserts on its border.
In the earliest times known to us this land was called Lotan (Egyp. Ruten ), or Lot . The narrative of Genesis 19:1-38
, which makes Lot (wh. see) the father of Moab, apparently means that the Moabites settled in this land of Lot. The meaning of Moab is undetermined. The etymology of Genesis 19:37
) is not philological, and modern guesses are uncertain.
The narrative of Genesis 19:1-38
shows that the Israelites recognized the Moabites as their kinsmen. That they really were such, their language, religion, and customs, so far as known to us, also testify. Probably, then, the Moabites came with the wave of AramÃ¦an migration which brought the Israelites, secured a foothold in the land of Lotan while the Israelites were still nomads, and adopted the Canaanitish speech of the people among whom they settled. Sayce believes they were settled in this territory by c
. b.c. 1300, for Rameses ii., he thinks, alludes to the country Moab (cf. Patriarchal Palestine , p. 22), but this lacks confirmation.
At the time of the approach of the Hebrews to Palestine the Moabites were so strongly intrenched in their land that the invaders avoided all conflict with them (Deuteronomy 2:9
, Judges 11:15
, 2 Chronicles 20:16
), although they conquered king Sihon, who had subdued all of Moab north of the Arnon ( Numbers 21:21-31
, Deuteronomy 2:24-35
). The Moabites viewed the coming of Israel with alarm, and desired to attack them, but did not dare ( Numbers 22:1-41
; Numbers 23:1-30
; Numbers 24:1-25
, Deuteronomy 23:4
, Judges 11:25
According to the Priestly narratives, the Israelites secured at this time the territory north of the Arnon; but the narratives differ as to whether its cities were all assigned to Reuben (so Joshua 13:16-21
), or whether some of the most southerly (Dibon, Ataroth, and Aroer) were assigned to Gad ( Numbers 32:34
ff.). Perhaps the latter view represents the fact. The Gadites obtained some of the southern cities, and the Reubenites some of the northern. Probably the conquest was not very complete.
Early in the period of the Judges, the Moabites not only had regained control of all this territory, but had extended their power into western Palestine so as to oppress the Benjamites (Judges 3:12-30
). This led to the assassination of Eglon, king of Moab, by Ehud. In course of time the Moabites absorbed the tribe of Reuben, though the latter maintained their identity for a considerable period.
According to the Book of Ruth, friendly intercourse existed between Moab and Israel at this period. Saul fought with the Moabites’ (1 Samuel 14:47
), but with what result we do not know. Towards the end of his reign they aided David against him ( 1 Samuel 22:3
ff.). David subjugated Moab, and rendered the country tributary to Israel ( 2 Samuel 8:1-2
; 2 Samuel 8:12
). This subjugation apparently continued during the reign of Solomon, for he had Moabitish women in his harem, and built a shrine for Chemosh, the god of Moab ( 1 Kings 11:1
; 1 Kings 11:7
After the reign of Solomon, Moab apparently gained its independence. Our next information comes from the so-called ‘ Moabite Stone ,’ an inscription of Mesha, king of Moab, found at the ancient Dibon, and now preserved in the Louvre. Mesha states that Omri, king of Israel, conquered Moab, and that Moab continued subject to Israel till the middle of the reign of Ahab, when Chemosh enabled him (Mesha) to win victories over Israel, which secured Moabitish independence, and which he describes in detail. A somewhat confused allusion to this is found in 2 Kings 3:1
ff., Jehoram, Ahab’s successor, undertook, with the aid of Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom, to reduce Moab once more, and almost succeeded, The country was overrun, the capital besieged and reduced to great extremity, when the king of Moab sacrificed to Chemosh his firstborn son on the city wall in sight of both armies ( 2 Kings 3:27
). The courage which this aroused in the Moabites, and the superstitious dread which it excited in the besieging army, secured a victory for the former. It appears from 2 Kings 13:20
that after this, Moabites frequently in vaded Israel.
Amos (Amos 2:1-3
) in the next century reproved Moab for barbarities to Edom, and Tiglath-pileser III. of Assyria enumerates the king of Moab among his tribute-payers ( KIB
ii. 20). Sennacherib, about b.c. 700, received tribute from Chemosh-nadab, king of Moab ( KIB
ii. 91), and the country remained vassal to Assyria during the following reigns of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal (cf. KIB
ii. 148, 238).
Moabites aided Nebuchadnezzar against Jehoiakim at the very end of the same century (2 Kings 24:2
). Isaiah 15:1-9
; Isaiah 16:1-14
, Zephaniah 2:8-11
, Jeremiah 48:1-47
, and Ezekiel 25:8
ff. contain prophecies against Moab, but do not add to our knowledge of the history. Jeremiah 48:1-47
indicates that a great calamity was impending over them. In Nehemiah 4:7
Arabians rather than Moabites are allies of the Ammonites (cf. also 1Ma 9:32-42
Ant . XIII. xiii. 5, XIV. i. 4). We know that the NabatÃ¦ans were in possession of this country a little later, and it is probable that by the time of Nehemiah they had for ever brought the Moabite power to an end. Some infer from Jeremiah’s prophecy that Moab rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar as Israel and Ammon did, and that he carried enough of them captive to weaken them and render them an easy prey to the NabatÃ¦ans. Possibly this is true, but we know nothing of It.
The language of the Moabites was, as the Moabite Stone shows, identical with that of Israel. That peculiar construction known as Waw Consecutive is found, outside of Biblical Hebrew, only in the Moabite Stone and one or two PhÅnician inscriptions.
The religion of the Moabites was very similar to that of early Israel. The references to Chemosh in Mesha’s inscription are very similar to references to Jahweh in Israelitish writings of the same period. The Divine name Ashtar-Chemosh indicates that the worship of the feminine divinity known to the Babylonians as Ishtar, and to the PhÅnicians as Astart, was also mingled with the worship of Chemosh. Traces of the repellent nature of this worship appear in the OT (Numbers 25:5
; Numbers 31:16
, Joshua 22:7
, Psalms 106:28
). No great ethical prophets, such as elevated the religion of Israel, rescued the religion of Moab from the level of its barbaric Semitic origin.
George A. Barton.