MOAB, the name of an ancient people of Palestine who in habited a district east of the Jordan and the Dead sea, lying north of Edom and south of Ammon (q.v.). The national traditions of the Israelites (see JEWS) recognize a close relationship between Moab and Ammon, "sons" of Lot, and the "brothers" Esau (Edom) and Jacob (Israel), and Moab is represented as already a powerful people when Israel fled from Egypt (Exod. xv. 15). It was supposed that Moab, having expelled the aboriginal giants, was in turn displaced by the Amorite king Sihon, who forced Moab south of the Arnon (Wadi Mojib, a natural boun dary) and drove Ammon beyond the Jabbok. The Israelites at Kadesh, almost at the gate of the promised land, incurred the wrath of Yahweh, and, deterred by a defeat at Hormah from pur suing their journey northwards, chose another route (Num. xiv. contrast xxi. 1-3). A great detour was made round by the south of Edom (Num. xiv. 25, xxi. 4 ; Judges xi. 18), and the people reached Pisgah in Moab (Num. xxi. 16-20; cf. Deut. 27, xxxiv. 1), or, according to another view, passed outside Moab until they reached the border of Sihon's kingdom (Num. xxi. 13, 26; Judges xi. 17 seq.). The late list in Num. xxxiii. even seems to assume that the journey was made from Kadesh across the northern end of Edom. Apparently no fixed or distinct tradition existed regarding the journeys; and it is extremely probable that some of the most characteristic features of the narratives belong to much later periods than the latter half of the second millen nium B.C., the age to which they are ascribed (e.g., the poem on the fall of Heshbon, Num. xxi. 27-30).
The history of the "brothers" Moab and Ammon was bound up with that of Judah and Israel respectively and depended, to a con siderable extent, upon these two and their mutual relations. Jeph thah (q.v.), one of the Israelite "judges," delivered Gilead from Ammon, who resumed the attack under its king Nahash, only to be repulsed by Saul (q.v.). Ehud (q.v.) of Benjamin or Ephraim freed Israel from the Moabite oppression. To the first great kings, Saul and David, are ascribed conquests over Moab, Ammon, and Edom. The Judaean David, for his part, sought to cultivate
friendly relations with Ammon, and tradition connects him closely with Moab. His son Solomon contracted marriages with women of both states (I Kings xi. 5, 7), thus introducing into Jerusalem cults which were not put down until almost at the close of the monarchy (2 Kings xxiii. 13). In the 9th century B.C. the two states appear in a more historical light, thanks to the Assyrian records and a lengthy Moabite inscription.
This latter inscription, now in the Louvre, was found at Dhiban, the biblical Dibon, in 1868. It contains a record of the successes gained by the Moabite king Mesha against Israel. Omri (q.v.) had previously seized a number of Moabite cities north of the Arnon, and for 4o years the Moabite national god Chemosh was angry with his land. At length he roused Mesha ; and Moab, which had evidently retreated southwards towards Edom, now began to take reprisals. "The men of Gad had dwelt in the land of Ataroth from of old ; and the king of Israel built Ataroth for himself." Mesha took the city, slew its people in honour of Chem osh, and dragged before the god the altar-hearth (or the priests?) of D-v-d-h (apparently a divine name, but curiously similar to David). Chemosh next roused Mesha against the city of Nebo. It fell with its thousands, for the king had "devoted" it to the deity `Ashtar-Chemosh. Yahweh had been worshipped there, and his . . ( ?vessels, or perhaps the same doubtful word as above) were dragged before the victorious Chemosh. With the help of these and other victories (at Jahaz, Aroer, etc.), Moab recovered its territory, fortified its cities, supplied them with cisterns, and Mesha built a great sanctuary to his god. The inscription enu merates many places known elsewhere. (Isa. xv. ; Jer. xlviii.), but, although it mentions the "men of Gad," makes no allusion to the Israelite tribe Reuben, whose seat lay in the district (Num. xxxii.; Josh. xiii. 15-23 ; see REUBEN). The revolt will have followed Ahab's death (see 2 Kings i. I) and apparently led to the unsuc cessful attempt by Jehoram to recover the lost ground (ibid. iii.).