By Emma Danzey, Crosswalk.com
The Moabite people are mentioned in the Bible 38 times. They were not known as godly people. Many instances in which they are mentioned are in a negative way and a warning to the people of God. To be a Moabite was not necessarily a good thing. However, we see the gracious sovereignty of the Lord using Moabites to accomplish His purposes. Today, we are going to answer the question, were the Moabites really all that bad?
Who Were the Moabites in the Bible?
Stephen Baker from Bible Study Tools shares, "The dark origin of these people is found in Genesis 19. After Lot and his two daughters escaped the divine destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah… Both daughters conceived sons by their father by getting him drunk. The son of the youngest daughter was named Ammon, father of the Ammonites. The son of the oldest daughter was named Moab, the father of the Moabites. These two half-brothers would become two powerful nations.”
Moabites lived in the land called Moab which was located between the Dead Sea and the Arabian desert. One of the most well-known stories from the Bible that included Moab is when Balaam told King Balak to cause God’s people to sin with sexual immorality and food given to idol worship. Unfortunately, the Israelites took the bait and sinned. They were punished with a deadly plague because of their choices (Numbers 31). Because of this, Moabites were not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord.
Even with their ungodly culture and evil decisions, God still honored His promise to Lot in having the land of Moab as his possession (Deuteronomy 2:9). This shows us how the Lord is always faithful to us, even when we fail Him, His Word is always true. Deuteronomy 23:5 says, “However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.” The Israelites were then warned not to be in alliance with Moab.
Even after all of the sinful decisions from the Moabites, God still had great mercy. Jesus Himself came from a family connected with a Moabite. Ruth was in the genealogy of Christ.
Reverend Kyle Norman from Crosswalk shares, “Moab worshiped a different God than the Israelites. Whereas Israel worshiped Yahweh, Moab’s deity was known as Chemosh. This means that Ruth was a foreign woman and not part of the covenant people of God. Despite this, it is through Ruth that God’s covenant promise is furthered. We see this theme constantly in the Scriptures. God chooses “the foolish and the weak” to bless God’s people and establish God’s promises (1 Corinthians 1:27). Ruth is a prime example of this.”
Ruth was a Moabite woman who chose to dedicate her life to the God of Israel and follow her mother-in-law after the death of her husband. They moved to Bethlehem and God orchestrated for Ruth to meet and marry Boaz, a descendent of Salmon and Rahab. Boaz probably witnessed great mercy coming from a household with a mom who was a former prostitute. He then extended such great mercy by becoming the kinsman-redeemer of Ruth’s former husband’s legacy.
This whole story points to Jesus, our kinsman-redeemer. He took us from being outsiders in sin to being brought into His family. We are no better than the Moabites. We all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Yet, He chose to come and die for our sins and when we accept that gift, we enter into a relationship with Him.
Moab was known for their pride and idolatry. The final time we read about Moab is in Isaiah 16:14 says, “But now the Lord says: ‘Within three years, as a servant bound by contract would count them, Moab’s splendor and all her many people will be despised, and her survivors will be very few and feeble.’”
Who Did the Moabites Worship?
1 Kings 11:33 shares that the Moabites worshiped the god called, Chemosh. Bible Study Tools Dictionary shares, “Chemosh was the primary national god of the Moabites and Ammonites. The Moabites are called the "people of Chemosh" in the passage of Scripture that details the travels of the Israelites through Edom, Moab, and Ammon, ( Num 21:21-32 ). During the reign of Solomon worship of Chemosh, along with that of other pagan gods, was established and promoted in the city of Jerusalem.”
What Were Some Prominent People from Moab in the Bible?
The most prominent person from Moab was Ruth. Solomon married a Moabite princess (1 Kings 11:1-8) Also, Balak was the king of Moab in Numbers 22. There are not many other individuals listed in Scripture, but more of the discussion of Moabites as a whole people group.
Interesting Facts about Moab and the Moabites
Moses died in Moab and saw the promised land from Mount Nebo and the top of Pisgah.
Bible Study Tools Dictionary says, “In the Plains of Moab, opposite Jericho [ Numbers 22:1; 26:63; Joshua 13:32 ), the children of Israel had their last encampment before they entered the land of Canaan. It was at that time in the possession of the Amorites ( Numbers 21:22 ). "Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo to the top of Pisgah," and "died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord" ( Deuteronomy 34:5 Deuteronomy 34:6 ).”
King David defeated the Moabites: In 2 Samuel 8, The Moabites lose in battle, and two-thirds were killed and one-third became subject to King David.
Solomon was married to Moabite women: Many times the Israelites were warned to not intermarry with the Moabites. Although the wisest man on earth, Solomon could not overcome his sin of polygamy. He married women who worshipped foreign gods and disobeyed the Lord in it (1 Kings 11:1).
The Israelites defeated Moab multiple times: King David defeated Moab, the Israelites invaded their land and took victory in 1 Kings 3. It is said that Moabite raiders came every spring (2 Kings 13:20). Their battle with the people of God was ongoing. A well-known godly king named Jehoshaphat had victory over the people of Moab and Ammon when they came to wage war on him (2 Chronicles 20).
People of God were not supposed to marry Moabites: Just as Jesus shared in the New Testament not to be unequally yoked in marriage with unbelievers, the Israelites were given the same command (1 Corinthians 6:14). Ezra prayed on behalf of the people, including the Levitical priests who had intermarried with Moabites and other ungodly people.
I believe that the Moabites were sinners who made horrible decisions. They disobeyed God and followed idol worship. They came after and fought against the people of the Lord out of hate. They chose to be sexually immoral. However, we see the great picture of mercy and of grace through the character of Ruth. We see one woman who stepped away from the culture she grew up in to follow the one true God. She was abundantly blessed by her faithfulness to follow the Lord. She was among those in the family line of Jesus listed in Matthew 1. We can learn from Moab that no one is stuck in their sin. Even if we live in a culture that is idolatrous and anti-God, we like Ruth can step out and trust Jesus. We like the Moabites are also sinners deserving punishment, however, through Jesus, we have the hope of redemption.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Kyle Cottrell
Emma Danzey’s mission in life is to inspire young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. Emma is a North Carolina resident and green tea enthusiast! She is married to her husband Drew and they serve international college students. She enjoys singing, dancing, trying new recipes, and watching home makeover shows. During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first two writing projects: a Bible study on womanhood and a non-fiction book on singleness. You can visit her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com