1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel


Lesson 13: Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures, The Lands of Edom and Moab


MOAB (Moh' ab, Moh' uh bite)


The narrow strip of cultivable land directly east of the Dead Sea was known in biblical times as “Moab,” and the people who lived there, as “Moabites.”


Moab is rolling plateau (averaging approximately 3,300 feet elevation), bounded on the west by the rugged escarpment which drops down to the Dead Sea (itself almost 1,300 feet below sea level), on the east by the desert, and running through it the steep Wady Mujib canyon (the Arnon River of biblical times).


The Mujib/Arnon, which flows essentially east-west and enters the Dead Sea approximately mid-way along the latter’s western shore, separates northern Moab from Moab proper.


Relatively few springs appear on the Moabite plateau, and the waters of the Mujib/Arnon are virtually inaccessible because of the steepness of the river canyon.


Still, the area is well watered by winter rains brought by winds from the Mediterranean. The porous soil holds enough of the moisture for the villagers to grow cereal crops and to find good pasturage for their sheep and goats.


Moab’s agricultural productivity is illustrated by the biblical passages pertaining to Ruth and King Mesha, surely the two best-known Moabites from the Bible.


The Book of Ruth opens with a time of famine in Judah; thus Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons emigrated to Moab where food was still available


Ruth 1:1-5,   Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah (Bethlehem of Judah) went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there.  And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelled there about ten years.  And Mahlon and Chilion died also both of them; and the woman was left of her two sons and her husband.


King Mesha, we are told, “was a sheep breeder; and he had to deliver annually to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, and the wool of a hundred thousand rams” (2 Kings 3:4 RSV).


2 Kings 3:4,  And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool. But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.


The chief cities of northern Moab were Hesbon, Medeba, and Dibon.


Since this region was somewhat cut off from Moab proper by the Arnon, it was more vulnerable to international pressures and often changed hands during biblical times.


In fact, the Ammonites made claim to all the territory as far south as the Arnon (Judges 11:13), while the Book of Joshua makes the same claim for Israel (13:15-28).


Other biblical passages which pertain to the region immediately north of the Arnon clearly recognize it as Moabite territory (Isa. 15; Jer. 48).


A crux passage for understanding the whole matter is Numbers 21:25-30, which explains that King Sihon of the Amorites took northern Moab from the Moabites and that the Israelites took it from him.


Moab proper was more isolated from the outside world, bounded by the Dead Sea escarpment on the west, the desert on the east, the Mujib/Arnon on the north, and a second river canyon on the south—called today Wady el-Hesa, probably, but not certainly, the River Zered of biblical times (Num. 21:12).


The chief cities of Moab proper were Kir-hareseth (present-day Kerak) and a place called Ar Moab (possibly to be identified with the present-day village of Rabbah approximately nine miles northeast of Kerak).


Second Kings 3 describes a military campaign undertaken by King Jehoram of Israel and supported by King Jehoshaphat of Judah which penetrated Moab proper and culminated in a siege of Kir-hareseth.


The siege was lifted when King Mesha of Moab sacrificed his oldest son on the city wall.


Since they were neighbors, the history of the Moabites was intertwined with that of Israel.


Moreover, the Israelites regarded the Moabites as close relatives, as implied by Genesis 19:30-38.


Genesis 19:30-38,  And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.   And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:   Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.   And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.   And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.   And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.  Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.   And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.   And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.


We hear of peaceful interchange as well as conflicts between the Israelites and Moabites already during the time of the Judges.


The story of Ruth illustrates peaceful relations, while the episode of Ehud and Eglon illustrates conflict (Judg. 3:12-30).


Saul is reported to have fought against the Moabites (1 Sam. 14:47).


David, a descendant of the Moabitess Ruth according to the biblical genealogies (Ruth 4:18-22), placed his parents under the protection of the king of Moab while he was on the run from Saul (1 Sam. 22:3-4).


Yet he is reported to have defeated the Moabites in battle later on and to have executed two-thirds of the Moabite prisoners by arbitrary selection (2 Sam. 8:2).


Moab was represented among Solomon’s wives, and the worship of Chemosh, the Moabite god, was accommodated in Solomon’s Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:1-8).


Eventually, by 700 B.C., Moab fell under the shadow of Assyria as did Israel, Judah, Ammon, and the other petty Syro-Palestinian Kingdoms.


Thus Moab and Moabite kings are mentioned in the records of Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon. Also, prophetic oracles such as Amos 2:1-3; Isaiah 15; and Jeremiah 48 pertain to these last, waning years of the Moabite kingdom.


EDOM (ee' duhm) Edom is the final geopolitical area of Transjordan which we will discuss.  


Edom is sometimes known as Mt. Seir (e.g., Gen. 14:6; Deut. 1:2; 2:5), and is defined by the land and kingdom that was located on top of the long, slender ridge of high mountains that extend from the Zered River to the Gulf of Aqaba. 


Though this region stretches a distance of 113 airline miles, the actual area enclosed by Edom was never great and only rarely had a significant influence.


The Edomite area was largely “wilderness”—semi-desert, not very conducive to agriculture—and many of the inhabitants were semi-nomads.


The actual homeland of Edom extended southward from the Zered River to about 70 miles to a plateau that overlooks the Wadi Hasma. 


The Wadi Hasma was a massive sand-covered dissection in the earth that stretched in a south-easterly direction and is the gateway to southern Arabia. 


Throughout the entire Edomite zone, the mountains rise in excess of 4,000 feet above sea level, and for more than half its distance, the mountain terrain is above 5,000 feet.


The highest peaks soar to an elevation of approximately 5,700 feet above sea level. 


These high mountains are circumscribed on the west by the Arabah, a depression that actually continues the Jordan Rift Valley between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, and on the east by the lowlands of the Eastern desert.


The summit, and thus Edom itself, ranges only about 12-13 miles east-west. 


On top of this narrow ridge lies the King’s Highway where a a series of fortresses and towns are aligned with the Highway.


This combination of natural and manmade fortification rendered Edom an impenetrable barrier to lateral (east west) traffic with the exception of a pass at Punon which is about 25 miles south of Zered. 


This is the site of ancient Punon, an important center for copper mining. 


This is also the spot where the Israelites camped enroute from Kadesh-Barnea to the plains of Moab. 


Moses request to the King of Edom to traverse Edomite territority was refused thereby requiring the Israelites to travel about 100 additional miles over arid terrain and though torrid heat just to skirt Edom and the King’s Highway.


Numbers 20:14-21, And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: 15How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: 16And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: 17Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. 18And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. 19And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. 20And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. 21Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.


The geography of Edom explains why the King’s refusal was not challenged even though the Israelites may have outnumbered the Edomites. 


The gigantic cliffs and steep gorges of Edom, allowed the Edomites to live in isolation. 


We learn from Obadiah 3 that Edomites lived in caved dwellings.


About 21 miles south of Punan is a cavity type canyon containing the remains of Petra, the capital of the Nabatean empire in the third centure before Christ and later occupied by the Romans. 


Much of the Nabetean’s power consisted of their control over the trade route extending at that time from the Saudi Arabian interior to the Mediterranean. 


That route had to go though a one mile corridor flanked on either side by high perpendicular cliffs that almost touch at a few points.


The basin that actually housed Petra was itself surrounded by cliffs of colorful sandstone into which have been carved the structures and tombs of what in antiquity was a city laden with wealth.


The area southeast and southwest of the Dead Sea, on opposite sides of the Arabah, was known as Edom in biblical times and was the home of the Edomites.


The name “Edom” derives from a Semitic root which means “red” or “ruddy” and characterizes the red sandstone terrain of much of the area in question.


Moreover, the Edomite area was largely “wilderness”—semi-desert, not very conducive to agriculture—and many of the inhabitants were semi-nomads.


Thus the boundaries of Edom would have been rather ill-defined.


Yet not all of Edom was wilderness; the vicinity of present-day Tafileh and Buseireh, east of the Arabah, is fairly well watered, cultivable land, and would have boasted numerous villages during Old Testament times.


This would have been the center of Edomite population. Buseireh is situated on the ruins of ancient Bozrah, the capital of Edom.


Note that the modern name, “Buseireh,” preserves memory of the ancient one, “Bozrah.”


Most of the biblical passages pertaining to Edom refer to this Edomite center east of the Arabah.


Isaiah 63:1, for example, speaks of one that “ ... cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, ... glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength.” (See also Jer. 49:22; Amos 1:11-12).


Yet there are other passages which presuppose that the territory west of the Arabah, south of the Judean hill country and separating Judah from the Gulf of Aqaba, was also part of Edom.


See especially the description of Judah’s boundary in Numbers 34:3-4 and Joshua 15:1-3, where Judah’s south side is described as extending “even to the border of Edom the wilderness of Zin.”


Certain of the tribal groups which ranged this wilderness area south of Judah are listed in the Edomite genealogy of Genesis 36.


In New Testament times, even the southern end of the Judean hill country (south of approximately Hebron) was known officially as Idumea (Edom).


The “land of Seir” seems to be synonymous with Edom in some passages (Gen. 32:3; 36:8; Judg. 5:4). Egyptian texts from about 1300 to 1100 B.C. know of Shasu (apparently semi-nomadic tribes) from Seir and Edom. “Teman” also is used in apposition to Edom in at least one biblical passage (Amos 1:12), but normally refers to a specific district of Edom and possibly to a town by that name. One of Job’s visitors was Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 2:11; compare Ezek. 25:13).


The Israelites regarded the Edomites as close relatives, even more closely related to them than the Ammonites or Moabites. Specifically, they identified the Ammonites and Moabites as descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, but the Edomites as descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother (Gen. 19:30-36; 36). Thus Edom occasionally is referred to as a “brother” to Israel (Amos 1:11-12). Edomites seem not to have been barred from worship in the Jerusalem Temple with the same strictness as the Ammonites and Moabites (Deut. 23:3-8). Yet, as is often the case with personal relations, the closest relative can be a bitter enemy. According to the biblical writers, enmity between Israel and Edom began already with Jacob and Esau (when the former stole the latter’s birthright) and was exacerbated at the time of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt (when the Edomites refused the Israelites passage through their land). Be that as it may, much of the conflict also had to do with the fact that Edom was a constant threat to Judah’s frontier, and moreover blocked Judean access to the Gulf of Aqaba.


Both Saul and David conducted warfare with the Edomites—probably frontier wars fought in the “wilderness” area southwest of the Dead Sea (1 Sam. 14:47-48; 2 Sam. 8:13-14). David achieved a decisive victory in the valley of salt, probably just southwest of Beersheba where the ancient name still is preserved in modern Arabic wadi el-Milk. Apparently this secured Davidic control of the Edomite area west of the Arabah as well as access to the Gulf of Aqaba. Thus we read that Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber and sent them to distant places for exotic goods. Later Hadad of the royal Edomite line returned from Egypt and became an active adversary to Solomon. This would have involved Edomite attacks on Solomon’s caravans which passed through traditionally Edomite territory from Ezion-geber to Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:14-22).


Apparently Judah gained the upper hand against Edom again during the reign of Jehoshaphat. Once again we read of a Judean attempt (unsuccessful this time) to undertake a shipping venture from Ezion-geber (1 Kings 22:47-50). Edom regained independence from Judah under Joram, who succeeded Jehoshaphat to the throne (2 Kings 8:20-22). A later Judean king, Amaziah, is reported to have defeated the Edomites again in the valley of salt and then to have pursued ten thousand survivors to “the top of the rock” from which they were thrown down and dashed to pieces (2 Chron. 25:11-12). Possibly the Hebrew term sela translated “rock” in this passage should be understood as a proper name, “Sela.” If so, then it seems reasonable to locate the incident with the craggy terrain just northwest of the Edomite capital Bosrah, where still today an Arab village bears a corresponding name (as-Sil`). An alternate candidate for biblical Sela favored by some scholars, Umm el-Biyara at Petra, seems too far south from either the valley of salt or the center of Edomite population.


Conflict between Judah and Edom and efforts on the part of Judean kings to exploit the commercial possibilities of the Gulf of Aqaba continued (2 Kings 14:22; 16:6; 2 Chron. 26:1-2; 28:17) until eventually the Edomites, like the other peoples and petty kingdoms of Syria-Palestine, fell under the shadow of the major eastern empires —the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, finally the Persians and the Greeks. Some scholars hold that the Edomites aided the Babylonians in their attacks on Jerusalem in 597 and 586 B.C. and then took advantage of the Judeans in their helpless situation. This would explain, for example, the bitter verbal attacks on Edom in passages such as Jeremiah 49:7-22 and the Book of Obadiah. Yet there is no clear evidence to support this view.


By New Testament times a people of Arabic origin known as the Nabateans had established a commercial empire with its center in the formerly Edomite territory east of the Arabah. Their chief city was Petra and the whole region southeast of the Dead Sea had come to be known as Nabatea. Only the formerly Edomite territory west of the Arabah was still known as Idumea (Edom). Herod the Great was of Idumean ancestry. See Transjordan; Esau; Bozrah; Nabateans; Petra,; Sela.