What is Moab?
(of the father), a name used for the Moabites, and also for their territory. Num 22:3-14; Jud 3:30; 2 Sam 8:2; 2 Kgs 1:1; Jer 48:4. The territory of the Moabites, originally inhabited by the Emims, Deut 2:10, lay on the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan, strictly on the south of the torrent Arnon, Num 21:13; Ruth 1:1-2; Am 2:6; but in a wider sense it included also the region anciently occupied by the Amorites. Num 21:32-33, Rev 22:1; Num 26:3; Num 33:48; Deut 34:1. The territory was 50 miles long and 20 wide. It was divided into three portions, each bearing a distinct name: (1) Land of Moab, Deut 1:5, lying between the Arnon and the Jabbok; (2) The field of Moab, a tract south of the Arnon, Ruth 1:2; (3) The plains of Moab, the tract in the Jordan valley opposite Jericho, Num 22:1. Physical Features. - Except the narrow strip in the valley of the Jordan, Moab is nearly all table-land, consisting of an uneven or rolling plateau, elevated above Mountains of Moab. the Mediterranean about 3200 feet. At the north this plateau slopes gently into a plain, and on the east into the Syrian desert. The principal streams are the Arnon and the Jabbok and the Jordan. It is admirably suited for pasture, as shown by Mesha. who paid a tribute of 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams. 2 Kgs 3:4. History. - The race of Moab, having its origin about the time of the destruction of the cities of the plain, and cradled in the mountains above Zoar, gradually extended over the region east of the Dead Sea, expelling the ancient original inhabitants, the Emim. Deut 2:11. Five hundred years later, when the Israelites were approaching the Promised Land, the Moabites had become a great nation. But they had been driven south of the Arnon by the warlike Amorites. Num 21:13; Jud 11:18. Balak and Midian called Balaam to curse the chosen people. Num 22:4-5. The Israelites mastered the region from north of the Arnon, but Moab was allowed to hold the cities of the tract taken by the Israelites from the Amorite king, while the tribe of Reuben, to whom the district was assigned, dwelt in tents and tended their flocks on the fine pasture-ground. The district south of the Arnon remained in the possession of Moab. The idolatries of Moab, and especially the worship of its god Chemosh, exercised an irresistible charm for the Israelites, and the Reubenites were greatly corrupted. The relations between the Moabites and Israelites were at times amicable, but more frequently hostile. During the period of the Judges the Moabites compelled the Israelites to pay tribute until King Eglon was killed by Ehud. Judg 3. Ruth, the great-grandmother of David, was a Moabitess, and David entrusted the care of his father and mother to the king of Moab. 1 Sam 22:4. Saul conducted a successful campaign against Moab, and David inflicted a terrible punishment upon them. 2 Sam 8:2. After Solomon's death Moab fell to the northern kingdom, and after Ahab's death the Moabites refused to pay tribute. The Moabites invaded Judaea in the reign of Jehoshaphat, and were discomfited. Later, their own country was overrun by Jehoram and Jehoshaphat, the towns destroyed, the wells stopped, etc., and Mesha, shut up in his capital, sacrificed his own son. 2 Kgs 3:6-27. At a later period Moab was sometimes dependent and sometimes independent. It was allied with the Chaldaeans against Judah in the reign of Jehoiakim, 2 Kgs 24:2, and the destruction of God's chosen people was received with a delight for which God threatened punishment. Eze 25:8-11; Zeph 2:8-10. The fulfilment of these prophecies is noted at the end of this article. Modern Discoveries and Present Condition. - Among the travellers who have visited Moab are Burckhardt, Seetzen, Buckingham, Irby and Mangles, De Saulcy, Porter, Tristram, Palmer, Drake, Paine, and Merrill. A large number of ruins have been discovered. Palmer counted eight fortified towns in view from a single eminence. The principal ruins are those of Rabbath-moab, Kerak, Dibon, Medeba, Main, and Umm Rasas. At Kerak (Kir-hareseth) are very interesting and remarkable ruins. Dibon is noted as the place at which the famous Moabite Stone was discovered. This stone corroborates the Bible history of King Mesha. Hopes were entertained that other tablets of that character might be found, but Palmer, who investigated every written stone reported by the Arabs, came to the conclusion that there does not remain above ground a single inscribed stone of any importance. Everything in Moab speaks of its former wealth and cultivation. The soil is badly tended by the few Arab tribes who inhabit it, but there are extensive fields of grain. The Arabs are an essentially pastoral people, having great herds of cattle. Sour or fresh milk often takes the place of water, and the modern traveller finds the customs the same as in the time of Sisera. Jud 4:18-19. Prophecies Fulfilled. - Jeremiah describes Moab as very prosperous, but the prophetic threats of its doom are most terrific, as set off against the restoration of Israel. Jer 48. Porter indicates how completely those various prophecies have been fulfilled, but some of his statements require confirmation. From Salcah he saw upward of thirty deserted towns. Jer 48:15-24. The neglected and wild vineyards and fig trees are rifled by the Bedouin every year in their periodical raids, vs. Jer 48:32-33. The inhabitants hide themselves in the mountain-fastnesses, oppressed by the robbers of the desert on the one hand and the robbers of the government on the other, vs. Acts 20:28, Jer 48:44. Cyril Graham, who explored this region, found cities with buildings in a good state of preservation, yet everywhere uninhabited. "In the whole of these vast plains, north and south, east and west, Desolation reigns supreme." The long-predicted doom of Moab is now fulfilled, and the forty eighth chapter of Jeremiah is verified on the spot by the traveller. There are twenty-seven references to Moab in this chapter, and one hundred and twenty one in the Scriptures. See Ar, Dibon, Kir-hareseth, Moabite Stone. See p. 232.