Israel's Ancient Neighbors

David Thomas Jr.

My subject this evening is Israel's ancient neighbors. I will describe some of Israel's neighbors such as the Philistines, the Edomites, and the Moabites. I am also going to discuss some of the nations the Israelites dispossessed when they entered Canaan. This includes nations such as the Jebusites.

The Philistines

The Philistines are a well known enemy of Israel in the Old Testament times. In the second millennium before Christ, the Philistines were said to have come from Caphtor which is believed to be Crete. Amos 9:7 reads, "Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and

the Syrians from Kir?"

     Jeremiah 47:4 says, "Because of the day that cometh to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyrus and Zidon every helper that remaineth: for the LORD will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor."

     Archeology has shown that the Philistines and other people invaded Palestine at the time of Rameses III (1195-1164 B.C.) of Egypt. The Egyptians defeated them in several battles, but some of the Philistines survived in Syria and eventually they reached Southeast Palestine in the general area where Gaza is today. This area was known as Philistia which was derived from the Egyptian language.

     The Philistines were a warlike people. Iron played a big part in their military machine. Iron came into use in Palestine around 1200 B.C. The Philistines knew the secret of smelting it, which they evidently got from the Hittites. The Philistines held a monopoly in the production of iron that gave them a big advantage over Israel at that time. We read of this monopoly in 1 Samuel 13:19-22, "Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his ax, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of the battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found."

     The Philistines political organization consisted of a league of five great cities. If you look at a map of Philistia, you would see these cities. These cities included Gaza, Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelom, and Gath. This political organization of five cities were lead by five Philistine lords which were called princes by the Hebrews. At the time of Joshua, these five lords seem to have been joined in a confederacy.

     The Philistines were among those nations who were left to prove Israel in Judges 3:1-3, "Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan. Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath."

     In Judges 3:31 we read that Shamgar slew six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. "And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel."  We read later that the Philistines advanced.

     The tribe of Dan had to move to the Northeast because of the Philistine advance. Just previous to the time of Samson, Israel was overrun by the Philistines for forty years. In Judges 13:1 we read, "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years." Samson produced great victories against the Philistines, but eventually he met death in the Philistine temple of Dagon.

     About 1050 B.C. at the battle of Ebenezer, the Philistines again overran the whole country destroying Shiloh and carrying away the Ark of the covenant. We read in 1 Samuel 4:4, "So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cheribims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God."

     The ark of the covenant, however, caused a great deal of suffering to the Philistines, who returned it after seven months. We read in 1 Samuel 5:7-8, "And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither."

     The Philistines were very religious. They celebrated their victories in the "house of their idols". In II Samuel 5:20-21 we read that they had carried their idols into battle. "And David came to Baalperazim, and David smote them there, and said, The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baalperazim. And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them."

     Dagon was one of their well known gods. He was a grain deity who was represented with the hands and face of a man but the tail of a fish.  1 Samuel 5:4 says, "And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him."

     It was to Dagon the Philistines took the ark when they captured it. 1 Samuel 5:2 says, "When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon."

     The Philistines offered thanksgiving to Dagon after they had taken Samson. We read the following in Judges 16:23-24, "And the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us."

     They also worshiped a god named Astaroth. We read the following in 1 Samuel 31:9-10 concerning Saul, "And they cut off his hand, and stripped off his armor, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they put his armor in the house of Ashtoroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan."

     At Ekron there was a sanctuary built to Baalzebub, the "lord of habitation". His name in Greek became Beelzebub the "prince of the demons". We read the following in 2 Kings 1:2-3, "And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that, was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.
     But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?

The Edomites

The next neighbor I would like to discuss are the Edomites. The Edomites were descendants of Esau. We read that the descendants of Esau expelled the original inhabitants of the area the Edomites settled. We read in Deut. 2:12, "The Horims also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the LORD gave unto them."
The chiefs or dukes of the Edomites are named in Gen. 36:40-43. They were probably petty chiefs or sheikhs of their several clans. "And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, by their places; by their names; duke Timnah, duke Alvah, duke Jetheth, duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinom, duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar, duke Magdiel, duke Iram: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites."

Esau's bitter hated toward his brother Jacob appears to have continued with the Israelites. We read in Numbers that the Edomites refused to permit the Israelites to pass through their land. We read Numbers 20:18-21.

"And Edom said unto him, thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then 1 will pay for it.: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border wherefore Israel turned away from him."

For a period of 400 years we hear no more of the Edomites. They were then attacked and defeated by Saul. We then read in 1 Samuel
"So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them."

We know that Esau was called Edom, when he sold his birthright to Jacob. We read in Gen. 25:30, "And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage: for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom."

The descendants of Esau settled in the south of Palestine and later they came into conflict with the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 23:7, the Israelites were told not to abhor the Edomites.
"Thou shalt not, abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou
shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land."

Edom was often called "the land on the mountain of Seir". We read in Genesis 36:8, "Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom." Genesis 32:3 says, "And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom."

David defeated the Edomite army in the "Valley of Salt". His general, Joab, following up the victory nearly destroyed the whole male population. We read the following in 1 Kings 11:15-16,"For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom. (For six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom)."

Hadad a member of the royal family of Edom, made his escape with a few of his followers to Eygpt. There he was kindly received by Pharoah. After the death of David he returned and tried to excite his countrymen to rebell against Israel. He failed in his attempt and he went to Syria where he became one of Soloman's greatest enemies. We read the following in 1 Kings 11:17-21, "That Hadad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father's servants with him, to go into Egypt; Hadad being yet a little child. And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran: and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, unto Pharaoh king of Eygpt; which gave him an house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land. And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharoah, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen.

And the sister of Tahpenes bare him Genulath his son, whom Tahpanes weaned in Pharoah's house: and Genulath was in Pharoah's household among the sons of Pharoah. And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharoah, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country."

When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, the Edomites joined him and took an active part in the plunder of the city and the slaughter of the Jews. It was because of their cruelty that the Edomites were denounced by the prophets. We read the following in Isa. 63:1-4 for example, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Boznah? this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.
Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth the vat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment."

On the conquest of Judah, the Edomites, probably in reward for their services during the war, were permitted to settle in southern Palestine. During the rule of the Maccabees they were again completely subdued and were even forced to comform to Jewish laws and rites. The Edomites were then incorporated into the Jewish nation. The Greeks and Romans often termed the province where the Edomites dwelled as Idumaea. Immediately before the siege of Jerusalem by Titas the Roman, twenty thousand Idumaenans admitted to Jerusalem killed and robbed its inhabitants. From this time the Edomites disappeared from the pages of history. We do not know what became of them.

We know from scripture that the Edomites were idolaters. We read in 2 Chron. 25:14-15 that Amaziah brought back the gods of the Edomites after defeating them. He worshipped these gods.

"Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them. Wherefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah, and he sent unto him a prophet, which said unto him, Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand?".

The Jebusites

The Jebusites were an interesting people. They were of the Canaanite peoples who were dispossesed by Israel. The Jebusites were mountaineers, living in the "hill country". We read in Numbers 13:29, "The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan."

The Jebusites were the inhabitants of Jerusalem. We read in Joshua 15:63, "As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day."
Their city Jerusalem was called Jebus. 1 Chron. 11:4 says, "And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is Jebus; where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land." Jerusalem was also known as the Jebusite. We read in Joshua 15:8, "And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward."

The Jebusites were a warlike people. In Joshua 10:1-4 we read how Adonizec king of Jerusalem organized a confederacy to fight against Gibeon because they had made peace with Israel. In Joshua 12:7-10 it appears that Joshua destroyed the Jebusites. "And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon even unto the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir; which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions; In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: The king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one: The king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one;"

However, they were not destroyed. They at least retained their royal city of Jerusalem until the time of David. We read the following in Judges 1:21, "And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day."


The next group I would like to discuss are the Hivites. They are interesting in that they are mentioned several times in the Bible, but we do not know a great deal about them. They were one of the seven nations of Canaan who were destroyed by the Israelites. We read the following in Deut. 7:1, "When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou."

Most references seem to indicate that the Hivites dwelt in the North. We read that they dwelt in the land of Mizpah in Joshua 11:3, "And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh."

We read in Judges 3:3, "Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath."

They are described as being near Tyre in II Samuel 24:7, "And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba." These all appear to be official areas of the Hivite race, not just chance settlements. But there is no indication of a center of power. However, according to Unger's Bible dictionary the term Hivite could a descriptive name of some kind instead of a name of a particular race.

There are several indications that the Hivites were not a warlike people. They used diplomacy instead of war.

The form of the Hivite government is not described, but there is a mention of "our elders and all the inhabitants of our country." In Joshua 9:11 we read, "Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us." We see here an indication of an average person having a say in decision making. For all this we have discussed we still do not have an indication of a central location or center of government of the Hivites.


The Hittites are often mentioned in the Old Testament. However, again we do not have a clear picture from the scriptures as to were the center of Hittite power is located, but we do with archaelogy. The Hittites are mentioned forty-seven times as Hittites and fourteen times as descendants of Heth.

In the days of Abraham, a group of Hittites were located in the neighborhood of Hebron from which Abraham bought a burial place. Esau married Hittite wives. We read in Genesis 26:34, "And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:"

The spies sent out by Moses found Hittites located in the hill country. We read in Num. 13:29, "The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains;and the Caananites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of the Jordan."
Hittites were among the dwellers of Canaan at the time of the conquest and offered opposition to Israel. We read in Joshua 9:1-2, "And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jeusite, heard thereof. That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel,with one accord."

As the land was gradually conquered, the Hitties were not driven out by Israel but remained and in some cases intermarried. They appear in various ways at later times. Hittites were among David's followers in 1 Samuel 26:6, "Then answered David and said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, brother to Joab, saying, Who will go down with me to Saul to the camp? And Abishai said, I will go down with thee." Also, we know that the husband of Baathsheba is Uriah the Hittite.

We read that Solomon had Hittite women in his harem in 1 Kings
"But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharoah, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;"

Hittites, among others, were used as forced labor. We read in 1 Kings 9:20-21, "And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel. Their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day."

At one time critics were skeptable about the existence of the Hittites until the existence of their kingdom was discovered by archeologists. It is now known that the center of Hittite power was in Asia Minor or what we now know as Turkey. This was once a powerful empire, but was forgotten. There are two chief periods of Hittite power.
The first was from 1800-1600 B.C. About 1750 B.C. they destroyed the Babylonian capital and the great Hammurabi.
The second powerful kingdom existed from 1380-1200 B.C. Around 1200 B.C. the Hittite empire came to an end. Several Hittite city-states continued to exist and many from these city states apparently filtered south into Palestine and even entered the Hebrew armed forces. One such person was Uriah the Hittite.
The Hittite also kept secret their iron-smelting formula when iron was regarded to be almost as valuable as silver and gold. Not until two centuries later did the Philistines come into this knowledge and not until the Saul-Davidic era did Israel learn it. Many scholars consider the Hittites to be the third most influencial of the ancient peoples of the Middle East, rivaling the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians. Hebrews as well as others dreaded them. Hittite religion includes a medley of Egyptian and Babylonian dieties.

Hittites dwelt in what later became prominent centers of early Christianity such as Tarsus, Iconium, Lystra, etc. The famous Ephesian goddess of Dianna may have been a Hittite Artemis.

We read in Acts 19:27, "So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshipeth."


The next of Israel's neighbours I would like to discuss are the Moabites. The Moabites were descendents of the elder of Lot's two surviving daughters as the Ammonites were descendents of the younger. They both started near the vicinity of Zoar. The Ammonites then went to the Northeast. The Moabites displaced a people called the Emims as we read in Deut. 2:9-11, "And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given unto the children of Lot for a possession; The Emims dwelt herein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims; Which also were accounted giants, as the Anakims; but the Moabites call the Emims."

We read in these verses that the Israelites were not to hurt or distress the Moabites. When they were coming up from Egypt, the Israelites approached Moab through the desert facing Moab. They applied for permission to pass through the territory of Moab. Moab refused so Israel went around its borders. Because of Moab's refusal, they were not permitted to enter the congregation of the LORD. We read in Deut. 23:3-4, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD, even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever. Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Eygpt; and because they hired against Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee."

The Moabites were a peaceful people. In Judges 11:25-26 we read that Moab did not fight with Israel for 300 years while they were nieghbors. "And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he not ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them, While Israel dwelt in Hesbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?"

Concerning Saul we simply read that he fought against Moab. We read in 1 Samuel 14:47, "So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turneth himself, he vexed them."

However, the early relations of Moab and Israel seem on the whole to have been friendly, as shown by the book of Ruth. Ruth brought a Moabite element into the line of David and Jesus. David when pressed by Saul, entrusted his father and mother to the keeping of the king of Moab. We read in 1 Samuel 22:3-4, "And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold."

Twenty years or more later from an unknown cause, David treated the Moabites poorly. 2 Samuel 8:2 reads, "And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David's servants and brought gifts."

In the days of Ahab they still paid tribute. This shows the severity of Israel's rule and the resources of Moab. We read in 2 Kings 3:4-5, "And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and a hundred thousand rams, with the wool. And it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king Moab rebelled against the king of Israel."


The Ammonites were descendents of Lot. The Ammonites were a nomadic race that descended from Lot's youngest daughter just like the Moabites descended from the oldest daughter. We read the following in Gen. 19:36-38, "Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benami: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day."

On the death of Ahab, the Moabites revolted. According to 2 Chron. 20:1-25 their first step was to collect an army of Moabites, Ammonites, and others and attack Judah. We read in 2 Chron. 20:1,"It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle."

Judah met them with prayer and praise. By divine intervention, dissension broke out in the camp of the invaders. The Moabites and the Ammonites first slaughtered the Edomites and then each other so that nothing was left for Israel to gather but the spoil. We read in II Chron. 20:22-24 "And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped."

Moab was weakened for a period of time because of this defeat. But later, the days of Isaiah, about the time of the death of Ahaz, Moab regained its former prosperity and extended itself beyond the district it originally occupied.

Isaiah uses two chapters to prophecy the destruction of Moab. These prophecies are found in Isaiah 15 and 16. Isaiah predicts the fall of Moab from its high estate and its reduction to a small and feeble remnant.

We read the following in Isaiah 16:14, "And now the LORD hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be condemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble." Jermiah continues to prophecy against Moab 40 years later. We read in Jeremiah 48:46, "Woe be unto thee, 0 Moab! the people of Chemosh perisheth: for thy sons are taken captives, and the daughters captives." These prophesies point towards the suffering inflicted by the Assyrians and Babylonians. After this suffereing they existed for quite a long time well into the times of the Romans. They were still a great nation during the time of Josephus.

The national diety of the Moabites was Chemosh which is only mentioned a few times. We read in Numbers 21:29 for example, "Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites."

The Israelites were told not to interfer with the Ammonites. The Ammonites settled east and north of Moab having displaced a race of giants called the Zamzummims. We read the following in Deut. 2:19-21. "And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession. (That also was accounted a land of giants: giants dwelt in old time; and the Ammonites call them Zamzummim; A people great, and many, and tall, like the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead."

Although the Israelites were forbidden to interfer with the Ammonites, Ammon was often in league with other nations against Israel, such as Moab, with Moab and Amalek, with the Syrians, and with Gebal and Amalek. They were almost always hostile towards the Israelites.

The Ammonites were swallowed up by Rome. In the time of Justin Martyr (about 180 A.D.) the Ammonites were quite numerous. By the time of Origen (about 186-254 A.D.) they merged with the Arabs.

The national diety of the Ammonites was Molech. We read the following in 1 Kings 11:7, "Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon."

Ezekiel and Zephaniah prophesied the desolation of Ammon. We read in Ezekial 25:5, "I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the Ammonites a couching place for flocks; and ye shall know that I am the LORD, the God Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them."

These prophesies have been fulfilled. The following is a quote from "Land and Book" by Thomson, "Nothing but ruins are found here by the amazed explorer. Not an inhabited village remains, and not an Ammonite exists on the face of the earth."


The Perizzites were one of the nations whose land was given to Israel. They first appear in Genisis 13:7, "And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled in the land." We find that they dwelled in Canaan in Abraham's day. We read in Genesis 34:30, "And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house."

In Judges 1:4-5 we find that the Perizites dwelt in Judah. "And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites."

In Joshua 17:15 we find the Perizites dwelling in the hill country near Mt. Ephraim."And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee."

They appear as late as the time of Solomon who made them tributary to Israel. We read in 2 Chron. 8:7, "As for all the people that were left of the Hittites and the Amorites, and the I Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which were not in Israel." The origin of the Perizzites is not known. The NIV suggests that it is possible the Perizzite is a general name for a people and not a specific nation.


The Midianites dwelt south and east of Palestine. There are no turstworthy accounts of Midian outside of the Bible. In Genesis
we read that Midian is the fourth son of Abraham. "And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak,and Shuah."

In the time of Joseph we see Midianites selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites. We read in Genesis 37:25-28, "And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianite merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt."

In the early life of Moses after killing the Egyptian he fled for refuge the land of Midian. We read in Exodus 2:15, "Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well." Moses married the daughter of Jethro the priest of Midian. We read in Exodus 3:1, "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb."

In Judges 6:1-8 in the time of Gideon, Midian appears again. They were not a orgainized army of warriors or a nation powerful enough to destroy Israel. Israel by idolatry lost the divine protection and the national cohesion that would have protected it. The Midianites united with the Amalekites forming a large horde of camel-riding nomads. We read in Judges 6:5, "For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it." They oppressed the Israelites not by a strong military backed by chariots of iron but by coming up when the harvest was ripe destroying the produce of the earth. After this, Midian is never mentioned again except as a historical reminiscence in the prophets. It is probable that they intermarried with the Ishmaelites and became part of the roving Arab nomads.

We have covered some of the most well known of Israel's ancient nieghbours. Some of them came from outside such as the Philistines and Hittites. Others can trace their origins to Bible names in Genesis such as Esau, Lot, and Midian. The Moabites were descendents of the older of Lot's two surviving daughters and the Ammonites were descendents of the younger of Lot's two daughters. The Edomites were descendents of Esau. All of Israel's neighbours have disappeared from history while Israel survived fulfilling Bible prophecy. Some of these nations can be traced to the times of the Romans, but that is as far as we can go. In some cases there is not alot we know about the ancient nations. According to the NIV the studies of the Philistines are still in there infancy. To date only one Philistine temple has been excavated in Palestine, at Tell Qasile at the northern city limits of Tel Aviv in 1972.

David Thomas Jr.