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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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("from father"), i.e. the incestuous offspring of Lot's older daughter, near Zoar, S.E. of the Dead Sea (Genesis 19:37). Originally the Moabites dwelt due E. of the Dead Sea, from whence they expelled the Emims. Their territory was 40 miles long, 12 wide, the modern Belka or Kerak (Deuteronomy 2:10-11). Afterward, Sihon king of the Amorites drove them S. of the river Amon, now wady el Mojib (Numbers 21:13; Numbers 21:26-30; Judges 11:13; Judges 11:18), which thenceforward was their northern boundary. Israel was forbidden to meddle with them (Judges 11:9; Judges 11:19) on account of the tie of blood through Lot, Abraham's nephew, for Jehovah gave Ar unto the children of Lot, having dispossessed the giant Emims. It was only when Moab seduced Israel to idolatry and impurity (Numbers 25), and hired Balaam to curse them, that they were excluded from Jehovah's congregation to the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). Ammon was more roving than Moab and occupied the pastures to the N.E. outside the mountains.

Moab was more settled in habits, and remained nearer the original seat Zoar. Its territory after the Amorite conquest was circumscribed, but well fortified by nature (Numbers 21:20, margin); called "the field of Moab" (Ruth 1:1-63, and "the corner of Moab" (Numbers 24:17; Jeremiah 48:45). The country N. of Arnon, opposite Jericho reaching to Gilead, was more open; vast prairie-like plains broken by rocky prominences; "the land of Moab" (Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 32:49). Besides there was the Arboth Moab, "plains (rather deep valley) of Moab," the dry sunken valley of Jordan (Numbers 22:1). Outside of the hills enclosing Moab proper on the S.E. are the uncultivated pastures called midbar, "wilderness," facing Moab (Numbers 21:11). Through it Israel advanced. The song (Exodus 15:15) at the Red Sea first mentions the nation, "trembling shall take hold upon ... the mighty men of Moab."

Israel's request for a passage through Edom and Moab, and liberty to purchase bread and water, was refused (Judges 11:17; Numbers 20:14-21). In Israel's circuitous march round the two kingdoms they at last, when it suited their own selfish ends and when they could not prevent Israel's march, sold them bread and water (Deuteronomy 2:28-29; Deuteronomy 23:3-4). The exclusion of a Moabite from the congregation only forbade his naturalization, not his dwelling in Israel nor an Israelite marrying a Moabitess. Ruth married Naomi's son, but became a proselyte. The law of exclusion it is clear could never have been written after David's time, whose great grandmother was a Moabitess. Israel was occupying the country N. of Arnon which Moab had just lost to Sihon, and which Israel in turn had wrested from him, and with its main force had descended from the upper level to the Shittim plains, the Arboth Moab, in the Jordan valley, when Balak, alarmed for his already diminished territory, induced the Midianite "elders" to join him and hired Balak; virtually, though never actually, "warring against Israel" (Joshua 24:9; Judges 11:25).

The daughters of Moab, mentioned in Numbers 25:1, were those with whom Israel "began whoredom," but the main guilt was Midian's, and on Midian fell the vengeance (Numbers 25:16-18; Numbers 31:1-18). Moab's licentious rites furnished the occasion, but Midian was the active agent in corrupting the people. Balak (contrast, "the former king of Moab," Numbers 21:26) was probably not hereditary king but a Midianite; the Midianites taking advantage of Moab's weakness after Sihon's victories to impose a Midianite king. Zippor ("bird"), his father, reminds us of other Midianite names, Oreb "crow," Zeeb "wolf"; Sihon may have imposed him on Moab. The five "princes" or "kings" of Midian were vassal "dukes of Sihon dwelling in the country" (Joshua 13:21; Numbers 31:8). The licentiousness of the neighboring cities of the plain and Moab's origin accord with the more than common licentiousness attributed to Moab and Midian in Numbers 25. Eglon king of Moab, with Ammon and Amalek, smote Israel and occupied Jericho, but was slain by the Benjamite Ehud (Judges 3:12-30). (See EGLON.)

Saul fought Moab successfully, himself also a Benjamite (1 Samuel 14:47). David moved away to Moab the land of his ancestry, fleeing from Saul, his and Moab's enemy, and committed to the king his father and mother (1 Samuel 22:3-4). Probably some act of perfidy of Moab, as the murder or treacherous delivering of his parents to Saul, caused David 20 years afterward to slay two thirds of the people, and make bondmen and tributaries of the rest (2 Samuel 8:2; in this war Benaiah slew two lion-like men, 2 Samuel 23:20; compare also Psalms 60:8, "Moab is my washpot"; yet among David's heroes was "Ithmah the Moabite," 1 Chronicles 11:22; 1 Chronicles 11:46), fulfilling Balaam's prophecy, Numbers 24:17; Numbers 24:19; "out of Jacob shall come he that shall destroy him that remaineth of Ar" (Hebrew, namely, of Moab). Among Solomon's foreign concubines were Moabitish women, to whose god Chemosh he built "a high place on the hill before (facing) Jerusalem" (1 Kings 11:1; 1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 11:33), where it remained until Josiah defiled it four centuries afterward (2 Kings 23:13).

At the severance of Israel from Judah Moab was under Israel, because the Jordan fords lay within Benjamin which in part adhered to the northern kingdom. At Ahab's death Mesh and Dibon, who had paid for the time the enormous tribute, 100,000; lambs and 100,000 rams with the wool, revolted (2 Kings 1:1; 2 Kings 3:4-5). (See MESH; DIBON.) His first, step was, he secured the cooperation of Ammon and others enumerated in Psalms 83:8-7, in an invasion of Judah, which was before Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 20:1-35), therefore still earlier than the invasion of Moab by the confederate kings of Edom, Israel (Jehoram, Ahaziah's son), and Judah (2 Kings 3). (See JEHOSHAPHAT; JEHORAM; ELISHA; EDOM.) Mutual dissension, under God, destroyed this heterogeneous mass. Then followed the joint invasion of Moab by Jehoshaphat of Judah, Jehoram of Israel, and the king of Edom (2 Kings 3).

The Septuagint states that the Moabite king assembled all old enough to bear a sword girdle. His mistaking the water glowing red with the morning sun for the mutually shed blood of the invaders (which observe he remembered had happened to his own and the allied forces attacking Jehoshaphat) caused Moab to rush forward for spoil, only to be slaughtered by the allies. At Kirhareseth or Kerak his immolation of his own son struck superstitious fear into the besiegers so that they retired (2 Kings 3:27; compare Micah 6:5-8); and then followed all the conquests which Mesha records on the Moabite stone. Then too Moah, indignant at his former ally Edom having joined Israel against him, when Israel and Judah retired, burned the king of Edom alive, reducing his bones to lime; or, as Hebrew tradition represents, tore his body after death from the grave and burned it (Amos 2:1). Moabite marauding "bands" thenceforward at intervals invaded Israel, as under Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:20).

A century and a half later, in Isaiah's "burden of Moab" (Isaiah 15-16) Moab appears possessing places which it had held in the beginning N. of Arnon, and which had been vacated by Reuben's removal to Assyria (1 Chronicles 5:25-26). Compare also Jeremiah 48, a century later, about 600 B.C. Isaiah (Isaiah 16:14) foretells, "within three years, as the years of an hireling (who has a fixed term of engagement, so Moab's time of doom is fixed) ... the glory of Moab shall be contemned." Fulfilled by Shalmaneser or Sargon, who destroyed Samaria and ravaged the whole E. of Jordan (725-723 B.C.). As Ammon, so Moab probably, put itself under Judah's king, Uzziah's protection, to which Isaiah (Isaiah 16:1, "send ye the lamb (the customary tribute) to the ruler ... unto ... Zion") refers (2 Chronicles 26:8; 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Kings 3:4). Moab contrasts with Ammon, Edom, Philistia, Amalek, Midian, as wealthy, abounding in vineyards, fruitful fields, and gardens, and civilized to a degree next Israel.

Hence flowed "pride (he is exceeding proud), loftiness, arrogance, and haughtiness of heart" (Jeremiah 48:26; Jeremiah 48:29; Isaiah 16:6-7). This sin is what brought on Moab destruction, "for he magnified himself against the Lord," boasting against God's people that whereas Israel was fallen Moab remained flourishing (James 5:6). In Isaiah 25:10-12 Moab is the representative of Israel's and the church's foes, especially antichrist, the last enemy. Jehovah, as a "swimmer," strikes out right and left, so shall smite the foe with rapidity, cleaving a way through them on every side. Zephaniah 2:8, "Moab ... Ammon ... reproached My people and magnified themselves against their border," i.e., haughtily seizing on the territory vacated by Gad and Reuben, E. of Jordan, after these had been carried captive, as if Ammon, instead of Judah, Israel's own brother, were Israel's heir (Jeremiah 49:1).

"Moab therefore shall be as Sodom (from whose doom her ancestor had been rescued) ... nettles ... salt pits (S. of the Dead Sea) ... perpetual desolation." Moab was doomed to feel Nebuchadnezzar's heavy hand (Jeremiah 25:9-21), though for a time acting in concert with Chaldaean bands against Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:2); but should recover after 70 years, at Babylon's fall, for righteous Lot's sake (Exodus 20:6). Spiritual blessings under Messiah are finally meant. Moab sent messengers to Jerusalem to Zedekiah (so read for "Jehoiakim") to consult as to shaking off Nebuchadnezzar's yoke (Jeremiah 27:1-8; Jeremiah 27:10-11). By submission to Nebuchadnezzar's yoke, according to Jeremiah's counsel, Moab though chastised was not carried captive as Judah. But for her usurpation of Israel's land, and for saying "Judah is like unto all the pagan," i.e. fares no better for having Jehovah for her God than the pagan who have idols, God "would open her side from the cities on her frontiers, the glory of the country (a glorious country in richness of soil), Bethjeshimoth, Baalmeon, and Kiriathaim, unto the men of the East," i.e. to the marauding Bedouin (Ezekiel 25:8-11).

Sanballat of Horonaim, the molester of Nehemiah's work, was a Moabite (Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 4:1; Nehemiah 6:1). Ruins in profusion abound in the country, betokening its former populousness and wealth. Their language was but a dialect of the Hebrew (which the Dibon stone proves, as also Ruth's intercourse with Naomi and David's with the Moabite king), as was to be expected from Lot's affinity to Abraham. Some of Judah's descendants in Shelah's line had dominion in Moab, and some Benjamite chiefs were born and settled in Moab (1 Chronicles 4:21-23; 1 Chronicles 8:8-10). The name of the family Pahath Moab, "governor of Moab," among those returned from Babylon (Ezra 2:6), implies a former connection with Moab as ruler.

Daniel (Daniel 11:41) foretells "Moab shall escape out of his (Antiochus Epiphanes') hand." So Porphyry says, in marching against Ptolemy, Antiochus turned out of his course to assail the Jews, but did not meddle with Moab, Edom, and Ammon. Nay, he used their help in crushing the Jews, Moab's old enemy; therefore Judas Maccabeus punished them with "a great overthrow" (1 Maccabees 4:61; 1 Maccabees 5:3, etc.). Isaiah (Isaiah 11:14) foretells the Jews "shall lay their hand upon Moab," i.e. shall occupy their land at Israel's final restoration.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Moab'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​m/moab.html. 1949.
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