What does Moab, Moabites mean in the Bible?


Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Moab, Moabites
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 (LXX [1] ) 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 Aramæan 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 [2] . 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 [3] ii. 20). Sennacherib, about b.c. 700, received tribute from Chemosh-nadab, king of Moab ( KIB [3] ii. 91), and the country remained vassal to Assyria during the following reigns of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal (cf. KIB [3] 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 and Jos. [6] Ant . XIII. xiii. 5, XIV. i. 4). We know that the Nabatæans 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 Nabatæans. 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 Phœnician 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 Phœnicians 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.
Morrish Bible Dictionary - Moab, Moabites
Son of Lot and his eldest daughter; his descendants; and the land which they inhabited. Genesis 19:37 . No account is given of Moab personally. The territory of his descendants was on the east of the Salt Sea. When the tribe of Reuben obtained their possession, their boundary on the south was the river Arnon, which river was the northern boundary of the Moabites, for they had been driven south by the Amorites before the arrival of Israel. Numbers 21:11-30 . When the Israelites approached the promised land they were directed not to distress nor contend with Moab, Deuteronomy 2:9 , so they passed to the east of them. The Moabites were however filled with terror when they heard that the Amorites had been smitten, and Balak their king hired Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam was compelled by God to bless them instead of cursing them, buthe gave to Balak the fatal advice to try to weaken them by seductive alliances (which would cause them to fall under the Lord's discipline), and this, alas, was only too successful: cf. Revelation 2:14 . It was in a valley in the land of Moab that Moses was secretly buried. Deuteronomy 34:6 .
In the time of the judges God used Eglon king of Moab to punish Israel, and they served the Moabites eighteen years; but when they cried unto the Lord, He delivered them, and ten thousand of the Moabites were slain. Judges 3:12-30 . The relations of Israel with the Moabites were varied. In the prophecy of Isaiah 16 Moab is characteristic of the world in which outcast Israel is hidden: Elimelech and Naomi fled thither from the famine, and David, when Saul was persecuting him, entrusted to their king his father and mother. During his subsequent reign David defeated them and made them tributary. 1 Samuel 22:3,4 ; 2 Samuel 8:2 ; 1 Chronicles 18:2 .
In the time of Jehoshaphat the children of Moab, Ammon and mount Seir attacked Judah, but God made the battle His own and caused them to attack one another. 2 Chronicles 20:1-23 . During Ahab's reign they were again tributary, but at his death they threw off their allegiance, but were completely subdued by the united forces of Israel, Judah and Edom. In desperation the king of Moab offered up his eldest son as a sacrifice. 2 Kings 3:4-27 . They revived to some extent, but were again subdued by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah 27:1-11 .
Ruth was a MOABITESS, and so also were some of Solomon's wives, for whom he introduced into Jerusalem the worship of Chemosh the idol of Moab. 2 Kings 23:13 . The Moabites were not allowed to be received into the congregation of the Lord for ever. Deuteronomy 23:3 . The numerous ruins extant in the country of the Moabites show that it was once populously occupied, and it must have been wealthy to have annually paid Israel 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams with the wool.
Moab is denounced in the prophets: it had reproached God's people, and He declared that it should be as Sodom, as the breeding of nettles and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation. Zephaniah 2:8,9 . This is its state at present. In the future the king of the north shall enter "into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon," Daniel 11:40,41 ; these will be left for Israel to punish: cf. Isaiah 11:14 .
THE MOABITE STONE. In connection with Moab an interesting monument was discovered in 1868 at Dibon (Dhiban) in the land of Moab. It was a stone 3ft. 10in. by 2ft., and contained 34 lines of inscription in the Phoenician character. When the Arabs discovered that two or three nations were desirous of possessing the stone they thought they should gain more by breaking it into pieces: a fire was kindled beneath it, and, when heated, cold water was poured on the top, which broke it. Eventually about two thirds of these pieces were obtained, and are now in the Museum of the Louvre in Paris: a paper cast is in the British Museum. A paper impression had been taken of the stone before it was broken, which, with the pieces recovered, renders it possible to give a nearly complete translation of the inscription.
It is dedicated to Chemosh, the god of Moab, by Mesha. He admits that Chemosh was angry with his land, and that Omri king of Israel took it, and he and his son oppressed them forty years. Then Chemosh had mercy on it, and the king was able to rescue some of the cities, kill the people, and take the spoil, and he built others, of which he gives the names. There can be no doubt that the Mesha of the stone is the same as the Mesha, of scripture. The son of Omri would be Ahab; and in 2 Kings 3:5 it says that on the death of Ahab the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. Ahaziah succeeded Ahab, but it was not he that attacked Moab: his reign (called two years) and the beginning of the reign of Jehoram, would give Mesha time to strengthen himself against Israel and attack some of the outlying cities. Scripture is thus confirmed by this interesting monument.

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