Nations Across the Jordan River

The small nations of Ammon, Moab, and Edom lay east of the Jordan River, and the people of these nations were distantly related to the Israelites. The Ammonites and Moabites were descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19), and the Edomites were descended from Jacob’s twin brother Esau (Genesis 36). The Israelites had passed by these nations on the way to the Promised Land (Numbers 21:10-20; Deuteronomy 2:1-23; see “The Journey to Abel-Shittim” map) and battled against them at various times throughout history (Judges 3:12-30; 10:6-12:7; 1 Samuel 11:1-11; 2 Samuel 8:1-14; 10; 2 Kings 3; 8:20-22; 14:7; 1 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20; 21:8-10). David eventually subjugated the Moabites and the Edomites (2 Samuel 8:2-14; 1 Chronicles 18:2-13), but many years later they regained their independence (2 Kings 1:1; 3; 8:20-22; 2 Chronicles 21:8-10). While much animosity often existed between Israel and these nations, the Bible also recounts how Naomi and her husband moved to Moab to seek relief from a famine (Ruth 1:1), and Naomi’s descendant David placed his parents in the care of the king of Moab while he was on the run from King Saul (1 Samuel 22:3-4). The people of Edom originally inhabited the region to the south and southeast of Israel, as shown here, but after the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and exiled many Jews to Babylon, the Edomites migrated to the Negev, just south of Israel. Herod the Great, who was king of Judea hundreds of years later at the time of Jesus’ birth, was actually an Edomite (Idumean). The Maccabean rulers had forcibly converted the Edomites to Judaism over a hundred years earlier.

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