The city was built on top of a triangular shaped acropolis with deep valleys on three sides and the domineering crusader castle on the southernmost tip. We wandered through an expanse of castle corridors and rooms with Aladdin (our guide) and were given a host of interesting facts, most of which I have forgotten again. 😦
There’s a modern dam that cuts the river off from continuing down to the Rift Valley and emptying into the Dead Sea as it would have in ancient times. The Arnon is the traditional northern border for Moab’s kingdom but according to biblical stories we can see that they were reaching across this barrier and farther north to the Medeba Plateau trying to control as much land as they could.
We wound our way down, down, down to the bottom of the canyon then; across the dam and back up the other side and up to Dibon right on the edge of the Medeba Plateau. This is where Moab had their capital during the Iron Age. Numbers 32 puts the town in Gad and Reuben’s territory when they came into the land and asked Moses to be allowed to settle on the east side of the Jordan here in this beautiful plateau. After Israel settled down in the land there were still several nations left to “test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands that he had given their ancestors through Moses” (Judges 3:4). During this time Israel would fall into sin and serve other gods until they were taken into bondage by one of these nations for several years. They cried out to the Lord and sent them a deliverer over and over again. One such man was Ehud, the Benjaminite. He was sent to Eglon the king of Moab, whom they had been subject to for eighteen year already, with the tribute from Israel. After delivering the tribute he stabbed the extremely fat king and he died. Ehud escaped and called Israel together and they took control of the Jordan River crossing that led to Moab and the nation became subject to them. After that they had peace for eighty years.
King Mesha of Moab had to pay a ridiculous tribute to Ahab. His home was in Dibon and probably from here he needed to go out to the people under his rule and gather together the tribute that was being exacted from him. It would have been a huge shame and humiliation to the king that he couldn’t even rule his own land but was like a little puppet under the control of the king of Israel. So when Ahab died, Mesha rebelled against this control over him and war broke out. A large stela was found at Dibon, known as the Mesha Stela. It records the victories of Mesha the king and mentions the oppression of Omri over Moab. Omri and Ahab seem to have a coalition between each other at that time. Mesha then says how Kemosh his god returned the land that Omri had conquered and how he built several different towns in the area of the Medeba Plateau and even farther north and east. He mentions a Davidic altar hearth and vessels of YHWH that took from Israel and dragged before his god. We’re not sure what the hearth is referring to but think it may be in reference to King David’s reign itself.
We headed north across the Medeba Plateau then. Its easy to see why this was a much sought after piece of land. Flat fields spread to the east as far as we could see. It is high enough in altitude that it received 14″-16″ of rain a year, enough to raise grain crops and do some shepherding.
When the church was being built they discovered this beautiful map mosaic of the land of Israel. It was originally part of the floor of a Byzantine church and is the oldest map of Israel that is still extant so this was a pretty incredible find for scholars to be able to compare previous findings to. There are labels to a number of Biblical locales and events, mostly on the western side of the Jordan River. It marks Jericho with palm trees and Jacob’s well at Shechem. The Dead Sea has a different shape, perhaps indicating that the water level was higher and it shows several boats on the sea while the fish in the Jordan are swimming away from the deadly waters. It was pretty neat to be able to pick things out from our study of the land in this class.
Moses blessed the children of Israel and then climbed to the top of Nebo where God figuratively showed him the whole land and then gathered him home. So to us it feels as a sort of closing story but really it is just the beginning of a much larger one continuing all the way down to us today.
So come…let us walk in the light of the Lord.