Moab (Deuteronomy 29)

Surprisingly little is known of Moab, a neighbour and frequent enemy of Israel. The information we have can be summarized succintly:

  • Moabite territory: Moab proper (see Genesis 19:30-38 for origins of Moab) lay between the deep gorges of the Arnon River in the north (Numbers 21:13) and the Zered River in the south. Moabite territory also included the “plains of Moab“, situated in the Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea (cf. Numbers 22:1, Deuteronomy 34:1). Numerous Biblical events related to Moab are connected to yet another area, the table-land north of the Arnon. This fertile argicultural zone was highly contested and regularly changed hands (Numbers 21:21-32, Judges 11:14-27). Thus, with few exceptions (cf. Ruth), Moabites and Israelites remained in almost steady conflict over the land (Numbers 22-24, Jeremiah 48).
  • Moabite history and culture: Moabites were closely related to the Israelites, as attested by the Biblical account linking Moab to Lot (Genesis 19:37). The Moabite language was similar to Biblical Hebrew. Moabite territory was known and recognized from the time of Moses (Numbers 21:10-20, Deuteronomy 2:9-19). The Moabite king at the time of the conquest was Balak (Numbers 22-24). A Moabite ruler, Eglon, oppressed Israel during the time of the Judges period (Judges 3:12-30). Moabite territory was at times under Israelite control (2 Samuel 8:2), but the inhabitants were known to rebel and break free of Israelite influence (2 Kings 1:1, 3:4-27). Archaeological evidence suggests that Moab was dominated by Assyria during the eighth century B.C. Moab was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar arounf 582 B.C., after which it ceased to exist as an identifiable entity. The land was subsequently occupied by other peoples, such as Nabatean Arabs. The Moabite national god was Chemosh, but the people were thoroughly polytheistic.
  • Archaeology and Moab: There is evidence of an increase in Moabite settlement during the Iron period (1200-1000 B.C.), particularly in the form of small fortified farmsteads. However, it is difficult to make precise historical connections to the Moabites or to Israelite settlements in Transjordan (Numbers 21:21-35, Deuteronomy 2-3, Joshua 13). In contrast, the Mesha Inscription from the ninth century B.C. provides clear information about the wars between Israel and Moab (cf. 2 Kings 3). This inscription attests to the regional importance of Moab during Israel’s monarchy and is the most significant archaeological artifact discovered to date from Moab. Assyrian, and possibly Egyptian, texts also mention Moab.


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