The Nation of Moab and the Tribe of Reuben

Throughout the Old Testament, the land immediately east of the Dead Sea was home to the nation of Moab and also to the Israelite tribe of Reuben. The Moabites were distantly related to the Israelites through Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19), and as the Israelites made their way to the Promised Land under Moses’ leadership, they had to pass by Moab’s territory (Numbers 21:10-20; Deuteronomy 2:1-23), but they were not to take anything that belonged to them. After the Israelites defeated Og and Sihon, the tribe of Reuben was granted an inheritance of land east of the Jordan River immediately north of Moab. At times Israel’s relationship with the Moabites was peaceful, such as when Naomi and her family moved to Moab to escape famine in Judah (Ruth 1:1). Likewise, David (Naomi’s great-grandson) placed his parents in the care of the king of Moab while fleeing from Saul (1 Samuel 22:3-4). Other times, however, the Israelites fought against the Moabites (Judges 3:12-30; 2 Samuel 8:1-2; 2 Kings 3; 1 Chronicles 18:1-2; 2 Chronicles 20), and eventually David subjugated them (2 Samuel 8:1-2). But sometime around 853 B.C., King Mesha of Moab reestablished his nation’s independence and expanded its borders northward to include all the territory of Reuben (2 Kings 1:1), which had belonged to Moab before Sihon seized it (Numbers 21:26). This lost territory would remain under the control of various foreign rulers for another 700 years until the time of the Maccabees.

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