Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in modern-day Jordan running along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. In ancient times, it was home to the kingdom of the Moabites, a people often in conflict with their Israelite neighbors to the west. The Moabites were a historical people, whose existence is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over an unnamed son (possibly Ahab) of King Omri of Israel. Their capital was Dibon, located next to the modern Jordanian town of Dhiban.
The Israelites, in entering the "promised land", did not pass through the Moabites, (Judges 11:18) but conquered Sihon's kingdom and his capital at Heshbon. After the conquest of Canaan the relations of Moab with Israel were of a mixed character, sometimes warlike and sometimes peaceable. With the tribe of Benjamin they had at least one severe struggle, in union with their kindred the Ammonites and the Amalekites. The Benjaminite shofet Ehud ben Gera assassinated the Moabite king Eglon and led an Israelite army against the Moabites at a ford of the Jordan river, killing many of them.
The story of Ruth, on the other hand, testifies to the existence of a friendly intercourse between Moab and the Israelite town of Bethlehem in the province of Judah. Through his great-grandmother Ruth the Moabitess, David, King of Israel had Moabite blood in his veins. He committed his parents to the protection of the king of Moab (who may or may not have been his kinsman, as some dubious non-Biblical Jewish texts state that Ruth was a member of Moab's royal family), when hard pressed by King Saul. (1 Samuel 22:3,4) But here all friendly relations stop forever. The next time Moab is mentioned is when David has invaded it and made the Moabites tributary to Israel. Moab may have been under the rule of an Israelite governor during this period; among the Jewish exiles who returned from Babylonia in the 6th century BC were a clan descended from Pahath-Moab, whose name means "ruler of Moab". The Bible states that the Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jewish governors appointed by the Persians during this period, enforced an anti-miscegenation policy and commanded Jewish men to divorce Moabite wives.
Moab in "Occupation Duty"
Just a few centuries after arriving in the Middle East, the Philistines conquered the Semitic peoples, who came to be collectively known as Moabites. A decisive step in this process was when Lord Goliath slew the Evraioi champion Tabitas in single combat. But even 3000 years later, the Moabites were restless subjects who became infamous for guerrilla uprisings and terrorist attacks. The problem required constant military supervision and occupation from the Philistinians, descendants of the original Philistines. Clandestine support for the Moabites, provided by the Turks of Babylonia, made life even more difficult for the Philistinians.
Most Moabites worshiped a god called Chemosh at the head of a polytheist pantheon. However, there seemed to be a form of monotheism developing among more fanatical Chemoshists, who declared that all other gods, including the Philistines' own Dagon, were nothing but demons or that they did not exist. No less determined were another group of zealots among the Moabites, who embraced the warlike philosophy of Sword Buddhism introduced by the Babylonian Turks.
- See e.g.: Atlantis and Other Places, pg. 238-239, HC.
- Ibid., pg. 240.