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Moab was the son of Lot. The tension between Abraham and his nephew Lot foreshadowed the tension that would exist between their descendants—the children of Israel and the children of Moab.
After Abraham and Lot parted ways, resolving their disputes by putting some distance between them, Lot settled in Sodom, the city that God destroyed for its infamous wickedness. God spared Lot and his daughters—largely out of kindness to Abraham—and they fled to the mountains.
There, alone and seemingly with no other prospects for marriage, Lot’s daughters decided to take matters into their own hands. Determined that their family line would endure, they each slept with their father after getting him drunk. As a result, Lot’s oldest daughter gave birth to a boy named Moab, who became the ancestor of one of Israel’s enemies.
By the time Israel’s wandering in the wilderness was drawing to a close, Moab had grown into a nation of its own. Lying just to the east of Canaan, the land of Moab was overrun by Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Determined to stop his new neighbors from moving in, the king of Moab summoned Balaam to put a curse on the Israelites. When that failed, Moab pursued another strategy: inviting Israelite men to its pagan festivities and seducing them with Moabite women.
Ultimately, that tactic failed as well. In the time of the judges, Moab tried yet a third way of dealing with Israel: invasion. Eglon, king of Moab, joined with Israel’s other enemies and attacked, putting Israel under his control for nearly two decades. Tension continued between Israel and Moab, but ultimately, Israel triumphed and at times even subjected Moab to its control.
According to the book of Numbers, Hebrew poets derisively referred to the Moabites as the “people of Chemosh” (Numbers 21:29).
Chemosh was the chief god of Moab. The worship of Chemosh was particularly detestable, as it sometimes involved child sacrifice.
Sadly, this did not stop one of Israel’s most famous kings, Solomon, from building a high place for Chemosh near Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 11:7).