Catholic Answers

Search Articles


Search Scans
Scans by volume
Random Article
Login - advanced access


1,001 Saints
List of Popes
Art Gallery
Map Room


Church Hierarchy
Church History - to 1517 A.D.
Hagiography - saints
Homiletics - sermons
Mariology - on Mary
Religious Orders
Sacred Scripture

Front Matter — Vol I

Title Page
Copyright & Imprimatur
To the Knights of Columbus
Tables of Abbreviations

Site Status

Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
prev: Mixteca Indians Mixteca Indians Diocese of Mobile next: Diocese of Mobile

Moab and Moabites

Word designates a son of Lot, the people descended from him, and the territory occupied by them

High Resolution Scan ———————————

Login or register to access high resolution scans and other advanced features.

Registration is Free!

Errata* for Moab and Moabites:

Login or register to access the errata and other advanced features.

Registration is Free!

* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.

Moab, Moabites. In the Old Testament, the word Moab (Hebrew: MVAB) designates (1) a son of Lot by his elder daughter (Gen., xix, 37); (2) the people of whom this son of Lot is represented as the ancestor (Ex., xv, 15, etc.), and who are also called "the Moabites" (Gen., xix, 37); and possibly (3) the territory occupied by the Moabites (Num., xxi, 11). Its etymology: "from my father", which is added by the Septuagint to the Hebrew text in Gen., xix, 37, is more probable than any derivation suggested by modern scholars. The origin and race of the Moabites need not be discussed here, since according to Gen., xix they are the same as those of the Ammonites, which have been examined in the article Ammonites.

From the mountainous district above Segor (Zoar), a town which lay in the plain near the southeastern end of the Dead Sea (cf. Gen., xix, 30), Lot's children forcibly extended themselves in the region of eastern Palestine. Ammon settled in the more distant northeast country, Moab in the districts nearer to the Dead Sea. These were inhabited by the Emims, a gigantic people, whom, however, the Moabites succeeded in expelling (Deut., ii, 9, 10). Moab's territory was at first of considerable extent, some fifty miles long by thirty broad. It comprised the highlands east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan as far as the mountains of Galaad, together with the level stretch between the highlands and the river, and the well-watered and fertile land at the south end of the Dead Sea. On three sides, it had natural boundaries: on the west, the Dead Sea and the southern section of the Jordan; on the south, the Wady el-Hasy, separating the uplands of Moab from those of Edom; on the east, the Arabian desert. Only on the north, were there no natural features conspicuous enough to form a fixed boundary, and hence Moab's northern frontier fluctuated at different periods between the Arnon, and a diagonal running southeast from the torrent now called Wady Nimrin to the Arabian desert.

The highlands are the great bulk of this territory. They form a tableland about 3000 feet above the Mediterranean, or 4300 feet above the Dead Sea, rising slowly from north to south, having steep western slopes, and separated eastward from the desert by low, rolling hills. The geology of this almost treeless plateau is the same as that of the range of western Palestine; but its climate is decidedly colder. In spring, its limestone hills are covered with grass and wild flowers, and parts of the plateau are now sown with corn. It is traversed by three deep valleys, the middle of which, the Arnon, is the deepest, and it abounds in streams. It is dotted with dolmens, menhirs, and stone circles, and also with ruins of villages and towns, mostly of the Roman and Byzantine periods. In Old Testament times, Moab was an excellent pasture land (IV Kings, iii, 4), and its population was much more considerable than at the present day, as is proved by the numerous cities, such as Ar Moab, Gallim, Kir Moab, Luith, Nemrim, Segor, Nophe, Oronaim, Qiriat Hussot (A.V. Kirjath-husoth), Aroer, Baalmeon, Beer Elim, Bethgamul, Bethsimoth, Bethphogor, Bosor, Cariath, Dibon, Eleale, Helon, Hesebon, Jasa, Medaba, Mephaath, Sabama etc. which the Bible mentions as at one time or another Moabite.

Shortly before Israel's final advance towards Palestine, the Moabites had been deprived of their territory north of the Arnon by the Amorrhites, coming probably from the west of the Jordan (Num., xxi, 13, 26). Moab's king at the time was Balaac who, in his unfriendliness towards the Hebrew tribes, hired Balaam to curse them, but who failed in this attempt, the expected curses being divinely changed into blessings (see Balaam). Another fiendish attempt in a different direction was only too successful; the daughters of Moab enticed the Israelites into their idolatry and immorality, and thereby brought upon them a heavy retribution (Num., xxv). Moab's subsequent relations with the Hebrew tribes (Ruben, Gad) who had settled in its ancient territory north of the Arnon, were probably those of a hostile neighbor anxious to recover this lost territory. In fact, in the early history of the Judges, the Moabites had not only regained control of at least a part of that land, but also extended their power into western Palestine so as to oppress the Benjamites. The Moabite yoke over Benjamin was finally put an end to by Aod, the son of Gera, who assassinated Eglon, Moab's king, slaughtered the Moabites, and recovered the territory of Jericho to Israel (Judges, iii, 12 30). To this succeeded a period of friendly intercourse, during which Moab was a refuge for the family of Elimelech, and the Moabitess Ruth was introduced into the line from which David was descended (Ruth, i, 1; iv, 10 22). Saul again fought against Moab (I Kings, xiv, 47), and David, who, for a while confided his parents to a Moabite king (xxii, 3, 4), ultimately invaded the country and made it tributary to Israel (II Kings, viii, 2). The subjugation apparently continued under Solomon, who had Moabite women in his harem and "built a temple for Chamos the idol of Moab" (III Kings, xi, 1, 7). After the disruption, the Moabites were vassals of the northern kingdom; but on the death of Achab, they broke into an open revolt the final result of which was their independence, and the full circumstances of which are best understood by combining the data in IV Kings, i, 1 and iii, 4 27, with those of the "Moabite Stone", an inscription of Mesa, King of Moab, found in 1868 at the ancient Dibon, and now preserved in the Louvre.

It seems that after this, they made frequent incursions into Israel's territory (cf. IV Kings, xiii, 20), and that after the captivity of the trans Jordanic tribes, they gradually occupied all the land anciently lost to the Amorrhites. Their great prosperity is frequently referred to in the prophetical writings, while their exceeding pride and corruption are made the object of threatening oracles (Is., xv xvi; xxv, 10; Jer., xlviii; Ezech., xxv, 8-11; Amos, ii, 1 3; Soph., ii, 8 11; etc.). In the cuneiform inscriptions, their rulers are repeatedly mentioned as tribute-payers to Assyria. This was indeed the condition of their continuous prosperity. It can hardly be doubted, however, that they sided at times with other Western countries against the Assyrian monarchs (Fragment of Sargon II; opening chapters of Judith). In the last days of the Kingdom of Juda, they transferred their allegiance to Babylon, and fought for Nabuchodonosor against Joakim (IV Kings, xxiv, 2). Even after the fall of Jerusalem, Moab enjoyed a considerable prosperity under Nabuchodonosor's rule; but its utter ruin as a state was at hand. In fact, when the Jews returned from Babylon, the Nabathean Arabs occupied the territory of Moab, and the Arabians instead of the Moabites were the allies of the Ammonites (cf. II Esd., iv, 7; I Mach., ix, 32-42; Josephus, "Antiq.", xiii, 13, 5, xiv, 1, 4).

As is shown by the Moabite Stone, the language of Moab was "simply a dialect of Hebrew". Its use of the waw consecutive connects most intimately the two languages, and almost all the words, inflections, and idioms of this inscription occur in the original text of the Old Testament. The same monument bears witness to the fact that while the Moabites adored Chamos as their national god, they also worshipped Ash-tar as his consort. Besides these two divinities, the Old Testament mentions another local deity of the Moabites, viz. Baal of Mount Phegor (Peor: Beelphegor) (Num., xxv, 3; Deut., iv, 3; Osee, ix, 10; etc.). The Moabites were therefore polytheists. And although their religion is not fully known, it is certain that human sacrifices and also impure rites formed a part of their worship (IV Kings, iii, 27; Num., xxv; Osee, ix, 10).


discuss this article | send to a friend

Discussion on 'Moab and Moabites'

prev: Mixteca Indians Mixteca Indians Diocese of Mobile next: Diocese of Mobile

Report translation problem

*Description: Copy and paste the phrase with the problem or describe how the trascription can be fixed.
  * denotes required field


Art Gallery
Art Gallery

Catholic Q & A

Popular Subjects
Top 20 Questions

Ask A Faith Question

Quotable Catholics RSS

"Those who belong to God and Jesus Christ ally themselves with the bishop."
-- Ignatius, Saint, Bishop of Antioch, martyr, and disciple of John; writing to the Philadelphians (Philad, iii, 2) circa A.D. 100, insisting on the necessity of unity with the bishop (from the article "Schism").


Latest OCE Discussion

Your usage constitutes agreement with User License :: Permissions :: Copyright © 2015, Catholic Answers.
Site last updated Aug 12, 2013