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922-ca. 880 BCEMiddle 9th century-582 BCE

Ancient World /
Assyrian: ma'ab
Hebrew: mo'av
Arabic: muw'āb

1. People
2. Language
3. Religion
4. Relation to the Old Testament
5. History

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Views from the hills of Dana, Jordan.

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Moabite Stone (Louvre, Paris, France).

Ancient country located to the hills to the east of the Dead Sea, corresponding to the little populated areas of modern western Jordan.
We have two main sources for information on the Moabites, the Moabite Stone (left, now in Louvre, Paris, France, but found in Dhiban, Jordan in 1868) and numerous references in the Old Testament.

The Moabites were a Semitic people closely related to the Hebrews, who lived in the west. According to the Bible, Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, was of the Moabites. Other neighbours of Moab were Ammon to the north and Edom to the south, both with whom we believe that Moab also was closely related to.

Moabite was a Semitic language, classified as a Cannanite, related to early Hebrew and Ammonite.

The religion of the Moabites belonged to the Canaanite group of religions. But there were local characteristics, like that their main god was Chemosh, who is not found in neighbour religions. A shrine dedicated to him was even erected by King Solomon near Jerusalem.

Relation to the Old Testament
The 34 lines of inscriptions on the Moabite Stone can be interpreted on the basis of Old Testament grammar and vocabulary. From the Moabite Stone we hear about Mesha's liberation of Moab territory from Israeli control.
For the Hebrews and the early theologians of Judaism, the relationship with Moab was important in the sense that there was a kinship, but still Moab kept their polytheistic religion. Over time, Moab came to be equated with negative forces in the world, and Isaiah 25:10-11 a great revenge is promised for Moab. This happened even if Moab apparently never threatened Israel — it is likely that Israel was disgruntled with its lack of success in introducing monotheistic ideas into their lands.

14th century BCE: First traces of the Moabite culture.
11th century: Falls under the reign of King David of Israel. Moab continues as an entity, but has to pay heavy tributes to Israel.
922: Moab gets its independence with the death of King Solomon.
Around 880: King Omri recaptures parts of Moab, the Madaba district in the north.
Middle 9th century: The Moabite king Mesha drives the Israelis out of Moab, giving the country back its independence.
582: Moab is conquered by the Babylonians, and their culture is assimilated with the culture of other peoples, and Moab disappears from history.
4th century: The old Moab is repopulated by the Nabateans, and it is believed the descendants of Moab were incorporated into this federation.

By Tore Kjeilen