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Moab; Moabites

A land and its people, one of Israel's neighbors in biblical times, east of the Jordan River and toward the southern end of the Dead Sea. The Bible describes their origin from an incestuous union of Lot and his elder daughter who called their son Moab, i.e., “from the father” (Gen. 19:30–38). According to some scholars, the earliest Moabites came from the nomadic desert tribes who occupied the territory which was to become their land in about 1400 BCE.

The Israelite tribes of Reuben and Gad conquered part of the lands of the Amorites which had formerly belonged to the Moabites, and there was a long-standing war between Israel and Moab in the period of the Judges and the Kings (Judg. 3:12; I Sam. 14:47; II Sam. 8:2). David conquered the Moabites but they subsequently regained their independence, most significantly after King Ahab's death (II Kg. 1:1, 3:4ff.). This is recorded on the Mesha stele, erected by King Mesha of Moab to commemorate his successful revolt against Israel. The monument, discovered at Dhiban (Jordan) in 1868, sheds light on Moabite history, religion and language.

After the downfall of Judah in 586 BCE Moab became part of the Babylonian and Persian empires and later was assimilated into Roman and Byzantine domination.

According to tradition, David was a descendant of Ruth the Moabitess, after her conversion to Judaism and the Jewish people (Ruth 4:13–22). Both Isaiah (chs. 15–16) and Jeremiah (ch. 48) preach against Moab and predict its final downfall.

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