the moabites in the bible

Who are the Moabites in the Bible?

Moab was a neighboring country of Israel. It lay on the high plateau east of the Dead Sea. In the south, it reached as far as the river Sered (“willow stream.”), in the east, as far as the Syrian desert; in the north, initially as far as the river Arnon, in the 9th century B.C. to the northern tip of the Dead Sea. In the Bible, the Moabites are traced back to a progenitor named Moab, a descendant of Lot (Genesis 19:36-37). Lot was a nephew of Abraham. So the Israelites saw the Moabites in the Bible as a kindred people.

Some stories in the Old Testament show friendly the first contact with the Moabites in the Bible. The Israelite Naomi and her husband found refuge in Moab during a famine (Ruth 1:1-7). Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth was a Moabite woman. She became King David’s great-grandmother (Ruth 4:13-22). David took refuge in Moab while fleeing King Saul (1 Samuel 22:3-4).

On the other hand, there were conflicts and armed conflicts with the Moabites in the Bible ( Numbers 22-24; Judges 3:12-30). King David defeated the Moabites in the Bible and made them pay him tribute (2 Samuel 8:2). In the middle of the 9th century B.C. In 2000 BC, the Moabite king Mesha regained independence and expanded his territory north even beyond the Arnon.

Who was the god of Moabites?

From the 8th century BC, Moab came under Assyrian, then Babylonian rule. At the end of the 5th century, Moab was incorporated into the kingdom of the Nabataeans.

The main god of the Moabites was Chemosh, a weather god. But they also worshiped the Canaanite god Baal. The Israelites, therefore, considered the Moabites to be idolaters, whom one must beware of in order not to stray from the true God of Israel (Numbers 25:1-4). The prophets’ sayings attribute Moab’s downfall to its godlessness and arrogance (Isaiah 15-16; 25.10-12; Jeremiah 48; Ezekiel 25.8-11; Amos 2.1-3; Amos 2.1-3; Zephaniah 2:8-11).

Moab in the Bible is the ancient name of the territory that extends east of the Dead Sea and of the people who lived there; whose progenitor, according to the biblical account, was born from incest of a daughter of Lot with her father, as happened for the progenitor of the Ammonites (v.).

While for the latter name in the biblical account, an etymology is given which aims to explain the name of Ammon, a similar etymology is not provided for Moab in the Hebrew text. Still, it is found in the Greek text of the Seventy (probably genuine), which adds that her mother called her son “Moab, saying: From my father [I had him]” ( Genesis, XIX, 37). 

The territory above Moab was limited to the north by the Wādi Hesbān. Which flows into the Jordan just north of the Dead Sea. And to the south by the Wādi el-Ḥesa, which flows into the Dead Sea at its lower end. It is a plateau divided almost half by the Arnon river ( Seil el – Mōǵib ). Which also ends in the Dead Sea; the southern half is somewhat higher than the northern half. And both slope steeply westward into the Dead Sea valley. In the southern part, the Jews settled very poorly; in the north, they were more numerous. But the Ammonites were also notably represented there. 

the moabites in the bible

Representation of the Moabites in the Bible

The ancient Moabites in the Bible

The ancient Moabites in the Bible were ethnographically very similar to the Hebrews. As well as by the various Moabite proper names preserved in the Old Testament, especially by the text of the Mesa inscription. Whose language is very close to Hebrew. The chief god of the Moabites was Chemosh, also known from the Bible; in honor of him, sacred massacres ( ḥerem ) of captured enemies were made. And the firstborns of Moabite families were sacrificed even in critical moments ( II [ IV ] Re, III, 27).

From Deuteronomy II, 10, it appears that in ancient times the people of the Emim (the “terrible” ones?) Lived in the territory of Moab, presented as gigantic in stature, in which the remnant of some more pre-Semitic race is probably to be seen. 

At the time when the Jews, coming up from the Sinai peninsula, skirted the Dead Sea to the east, the Moabites in the Bible had long since settled in their territory, and not long before, they had lost the northern part of it in the war, from the Arnon upwards, conquered. From Sihon, king of the Amorites ( Numbers, XXI, 26 ff.). The Jews, due to the kinship that bound them with the Moabites, avoided in their passage to enter into conflict with them (Judges, XI, 15-18; Deuter ., II, 9); however, the Moabites in the Bible were alarmed at the arrival of the Israelite nomadic bands, and to be correct they resorted to both magic and the seductions of the licentious cults of Beelfegor.

The Moabites during the Jewish monarchy

At the time of the Judges, Eglon, king of Moab, occupied the territory of the tribe of Benjamin in the West, imposing a grave tax on the inhabitants. Still, he was treacherously killed by the Benjamite Ehud, who led his tribe to a victorious redemption. The book of Ruth, whose historical background is also the Judges’ time, presents its protagonist, the ancestor of David, as a Moabite woman.

During the Jewish monarchy, relations between Moab and Israel were usually hostile in the official and diplomatic fields. However, friendly relations exist in private and individual areas. From the book of Ruth, it appears that isolated Jews took refuge in Moab in times of famine. David’s relatives did the same when Saul persecuted him. As well as in I Chron  XI, 46, an Itma Moabite is mentioned among the most chosen warriors of David.

On the other hand, both Saul and David were at war with the Moabites in the Bible ( I Sam . [ Re ], XIV, 47; II Sam.D VIII, 2), and from this last war onwards, they were tributaries of the Jewish relatives. They rebelled against this tribute immediately after the death of Ahab, king of Israel, which provoked the expedition of the two kings of Israel and Judah against Mesha.


The Moabites in the Bible were an ancient Semitic population who lived along the eastern shores of the Dead Sea, more precisely in the Kerak plateau, in the mountainous region called Moab. Numerous archaeological finds confirm their historical existence.

After the Jews returned from Babylonian exile, we hardly have any news of Moab. It was probably destroyed, and Nebuchadnezzar deported the Moabites in the Bible not long after the destruction of Jerusalem. However, at that time, the gradual penetration of Arab Nabataeans had begun in the now half-emptied region. Which subsequently created a dominant and almost exclusive settlement.