History Of Nations: Moab/Edom/Ammon

You may think I’m not focusing in enough with my history so far, perhaps I’m not focusing enough on small nations at all. And my remit is that I’m going to cover everything. Maybe that’s true, so here’s a post on some of the smaller lands in Jordan during this time. They were rivals and forerunners of the historic Kingdoms Of Israel and Judah, and as the Egyptian influence receded from the area, they became more powerful, but not so powerful enough that I think it’s worth doing a separate entry for them. I haven’t put a date, but they lasted from about the 13th century BC to all the way down to 332 BC, at least, by that point, when Alexander conquered the nearby areas and someone actually took notice of this part of the world again, it wasn’t really Moab or Edom that they’d find here.

Let’s do this one at a time.



Supposedly named after the biblical Esau, who the Hebrews believed the Edomites to be descended from, Edom does mean ‘red’ in the Hebrew language. It’s not really known what they called themselves. They left their name, a form of it, Idumea, on the region they were in and had a land stretching from the Dead Sea down to their port on the Red Sea, where modern Israel stretches down to do the same. They were possibly nomadic raiders who raided richer kingdoms nearby, like Egypt and Judah, for money and wealth. They were originally pagan and worshipped their own gods but were later, much later, long after Edom ceased to exist as a state converted to Judaism so most of their religion hasn’t survived. They thrived on trade through the region and it was necessary because of the harshness of their land meant that farming was not good to them. I remain being surprised that people like this ever survived their conditions, as I am today, but we’re quite tenacious sometimes.

Edom was rather powerful in the region early on, a group of Semitic people who were campaigned against by Ramesses III, later declining as other peoples moved into the kingdom. The last reference to Edom as a kingdom comes from the 600s BC from Assyria, not long after, it’s likely that the kingdom was destroyed by invading Babylonians. And after that you have the Nabateans moving into the region and while there were probably still Edomites still living there there isn’t much basis for a kingdom surviving We don’t have much evidence for their monarchy, in fact, the Hebrew Bible indicates, through giving different surnames for different Edom rulers, that it was an elective monarchy or ruled through a number of different people, perhaps chiefs coming together to form tribes. It may be a stretch to call Edom a kingdom, it was on the fringe of civilisation and kingship so it’s perhaps even probable that tribal leaders were all they had. If the Bible account is to be taken at face value and there are no problems with the United Kingdom of Israel (a story for another day), then Saul fought against the Edomites, won, David pulled them into vassalage and they remained that way even after the kingdom split. Not a willing vassal from the accounts we have, but dependent upon the Hebrews. Again, that’s if the monarchy existed but there was almost certainly conflict between these two peoples and it’s not inconceivable that they were brought into the Hebrew fold at some point.

Interestingly, an earlier version of the city Petra (yes, that Petra) was probably the main stronghold of the Edomites, though it wasn’t called that then and it would be later improved upon by the Nabateans.


Similar to Edom, Moab was, according to all the sources we have, a constant enemy of Israel and that’s mostly what they are characterised as, we just have to assume that they followed a generic Semitic religion (though we know their chief god was Chemosh), had generic Semitic society and had a language that is long extinct and was a Canaanite language. Like Edom, they could have also been nomads as referred to by the Egyptians. They had a far more hospitable land than the Edomites, cooler and more farmland, a plateau above the Jordan river. However like with the Edomites, they’d have still relied on trade and being on the main trade routes to support their economy.

Moab (and Ammon) are, according to the Hebrews, descended from the sons of Lot, and that tale paints them as children of incest, so you can tell how the Israelites might have felt about them. The biblical stories are more favourable to Moab than some others, Ruth is from there, and intermarriages are common, but only with female converts, because of the patriarchy (Jewish men able to get their rocks off with foreign women). And it’s generally negative overall, indicating that the people would be judged and they use the term Moab for a nation that incurred the wrath of God. They eventually get pulled into vassalage by the North Kingdom of Israel after wars with David and Saul before the kingdoms split. Again, let’s just assume that that happened while I talk about Moab. They rebel against King Ahab and then seem to be cut loose and drift off into the annals of history, the land they occupied to reappear in history later when Arabian tribes have taken their place.


Ammon, the brother nation of Moab, was pretty much exactly the same, derided and treated differently by the Hebrews, got into conflict with them. They seemed more effective than the Moabites, they organised an invasion of Israel at one point that got a little dicey and was apparently one of the main reasons that the Israelites united and chose a king, named Saul (again, this is mostly just using the Bible for sources and I wish we had more of a picture beyond the archaeological record for these guys). The Ammonites kept invading all the time, until David put a stop to it, beat them back and burned their cities. They even led a coalition agianst the kings of the Hebrews at this point, for they had been beaten so soundly (and this was the complete truth).

I haven’t shown it on the map but not too far north of Ammon was the southern reaches of the Assyrian Empire at this point. Out of the three, Ammon is the one that is almost certain to have paid tribute to the Assyrians to keep them sweet, and given the Assyrians had been pretty belligerent to other Semitic kingdoms further north, this was a very bright idea. Nevertheless, once the Assyrian period ends and the Persian period of dominance starts, like the other three, Ammon is not mentioned anymore and it is presumed it also got replaced by other tribes.

Basically a quick (coincidental April 1st, there’s no real joke post here, what would I do if there were? The United States? The Vatican City?) post today,


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