Moabites and Ammonites
“The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day” (Gen. 19:37–38).
Moses concludes the account of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction in today’s passage, telling us that Lot fathered the Moabites and the Ammonites by his daughters (Gen. 19:37–38). Before we consider the history of these two nations, let us look at an important lesson the original readers of Genesis were to learn from Sodom’s end.
While the book of Genesis is God’s written word to us, it was first given to the nation of Israel. This audience was to read Genesis and understand it was the Lord’s will for them to possess the land of Canaan. Abraham’s return to this area from Egypt (12:10–13:1) and the Lord’s promises to give Canaan to the patriarch’s legitimate heirs (12:1–9; 15:18–21; 17:1–8) are some of the proofs this land rightfully belonged to faithful Israelites.
Yet the covenant community would later be tempted to embrace the same violence, idolatry, and immorality practiced by the inhabitants of Canaan (Judg. 2:1–5; 1 Kings 12:25–33). Therefore, Sodom’s destruction also warned that Israel (indeed, any nation) could lose everything if it fell into the same sins. More often than not, regrettably, the ancient Israelites did not heed this warning (Isa. 3:8–9).
God also inspired Moses to explain how the Israelites were related to the other peoples living in the area. The Moabites who lived just east of the Dead Sea and the Ammonites who occupied the countryside north of Moab were both tribes related by blood to Abraham as they descend from his nephew (Gen. 19:37–38). But given the incestuous origins of Moab and Ammon, we are not surprised that contact with these peoples often brought much trouble for Abraham’s children as these peoples sinned like their parents. Moab led Israel into Baal worship on its way into Canaan (Num. 25:1–3). Both the Ammonites and the Moabites hired Balaam to curse Israel as it journeyed toward the Promised Land and were thus forbidden to enter the Lord’s assembly (Deut. 23:3–4).
However, the curse on these peoples is due to lack of faith, not ethnicity. Those Ammonites or Moabites who trusted in Yahweh could be incorporated into the Israel of God (Ruth 1–4).
Children often repeat the sins of their parents, and so the later enmity between Israel and the peoples of Ammon and Moab is not surprising. Just as the sons of Jacob were not to follow the evil customs of these nations but instead be a light to them (Isa. 42:6–7), so too must the church, the Israel of God today (Gal. 6:16), strive to point ungodly people to Christ. Pray for a friend who does not know Jesus and seek opportunities to share your faith with him.
Passages for Further Study
- Deut. 29
- Ezek. 25:8–11
- Zeph. 2:8–9
- Col. 3:1–17