Ancient Moab: Still Largely Unknown
By Max Miller
The region immediately east of the dead sea was known as Moab in ancient times, and the villagers who planted their crops and grazed their flocks between the Dead Sea and the desert fringe were the Moabites. Egyptian records from near the end of the Late Bronze Age provide the earliest inscriptional references to the region and its inhabitants. Unfortunately, these Egyptian references are scarce and tell us very little about the people who occupied Moab at that time or earlier. Most of our written information about Moab and the Moabites comes from the Hebrew Bible, in fact, and from the so-called Mesha Inscription which reports the deeds of the ninth century King Mesha of Moab who finds mention also in the Hebrew Bible (2 Kgs 3). Assyrian inscriptions from the eighth and seventh centuries BCE provide passing references to later Moab rulers. When the southern Transjordan fell first under Nabataean control during the Hellenistic period and then, in 106 CE, was incorporated into the Roman province of Arabia Petraea, most of the indigenous “Moabite” population east of the Dead Sea would have remained in place while the name Moab gradually dropped out of use. Historically, therefore, the names “Moab” and “Moabite” pertain to the Iron Age.

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For citations of references to Moab in ancient non-biblical sources, see Miller 1989a.


Hopkins, D. 2001, c1997. Vol. 60 numbers 1-4: Biblical Archaeologist : Volume 60 1-4. Biblical Archaeologist volume 60 numbers 1-4. (electronic ed.). Logos Library System. American Schools of Oriental Research: Philadelphia

Mesha Stele
Mesha Stele