Biblical Archaeology Review 28:1, January/February 2002

Moab Comes to Life

By P. M. Michèle DaviauPaul-Eugène Dion

We unexpectedly found a Moabite temple, the first of its kind ever discovered, during an excavation in 1999.

The Moabites, a people living east of the Dead Sea, were neighbors of the ancient Israelites. Ruth is the most touching Moabite figure known to us from the Bible. She stood by her widowed Judahite mother-in-law, Naomi: “Anywhere you go, I will go … your people will be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Although King David counted Ruth among his ancestors, most readers of the Bible are likely to have a rather negative view of the Moabites. The Bible often depicts them in very negative terms. Their god Kemosh is “filth” (shiqqutz) (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13).1 They owe their name to the incestuous offspring of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his elder daughter (Genesis 19:36–37). Lot’s two daughters, thinking they were the only people left on earth after the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, each plied their father with wine and seduced him. The sons born to these two unions were named Moab and Ben-ammi (the eponymous ancestor of the Ammonites; Genesis 19:37).

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