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Notebook: The Enemies of Israel (3)

J Grant

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As with the Ammonites, this nation was descended from Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Moab was the son of Lot following the immoral, incestuous relationship between a drunken Lot and his daughter. The warning is clear for all to see. No believer should fall under the influence of alcohol and lose control of the body and of the mind. Damage caused in a moment may have consequences that are life-long and that cannot be changed. Some would argue that alcohol taken in moderation is all right. There are strong reasons, however, why this is unacceptable. First, any intake of alcohol affects the senses. Second, alcohol is addictive, and even believers can fall under its power. Third, other believers seeing a Christian taking it may feel that they can do likewise, but may be unable to control it and lose their testimony as a result. Noah was another example of a good man who fell under the control of wine (Gen 9.18-29) and, as with Lot, but in another way, the result was disastrous. Let all who read heed the word of the wise man: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Prov 20.1).

The Moabites represent the flesh in its strong resistance to all that is spiritual, and in the depth to which the flesh will stoop to defeat the spiritual.


The land associated with the Moabites comprised two areas. The first was territory from the river Arnon on the east bank of the Jordan to the river Jabbok further north. Before Israel crossed the Jordan the territory had been taken from the Moabites by the Amorites (Num 21.13,26; Deut 2.9-13). Thus the land was also claimed by the Ammonites (Judg 11.1-33) and as they were also descended from Lot by his younger daughter it would appear that Moab and Ammon had divided this territory between them. The second was the area south of the river Arnon, the western border being the east bank of the Dead Sea, the eastern being the desert of Arabia and the south being the land of the Edomites. It was this territory that Israel passed through when they were told, "Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle" (Deut 2.9).

Rule and religion

A king of Moab is mentioned as ruler of the territory that was taken by the Amorites (Num 21.26). Balak was king over Moab when there was the unsuccessful attempt commissioned by the king, and carried out by Balaam, to have Israel cursed.

In common with the surrounding nations, they were idolaters and their chief god, who was also the god of the Ammonites, was Chemosh, whose name means "Destroyer" (Num 21.29; Judg 11.24). It is one of the sad features of the reign of Solomon that he introduced the worship of this "god" into Jerusalem (1 Kings 11.7), but one of the commendable features of Josiah's reign that he removed it (2 Kings 23.13).

Of all the obstacles that faced Israel on the journey to Canaan, Moab's attempt, by the use of Balaam, to defeat them was unique. Together with the elders of Midian, they hired Balaam to curse Israel. While this evil work was being carried out Israel was not aware of what was taking place. This was revealed to Moses, as he wrote the account of it (Num 22-24) but there is no evidence that it was generally known. It, therefore, is a picture of the spiritual forces that are seeking to overcome the Christian, who battles against "spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph 6.12).


Despite their blood links with Israel, Moab was her enemy, very determined to seek her defeat. For eighteen years they oppressed Israel until Ehud slew Eglon, king of Moab, who was "a very fat man" (Judg 3.17) and delivered Israel after which the land had rest for eighty years (Judg 3.30).

They also attempted to corrupt the birth line of Israel, seducing Israel to immorality amongst "the daughters of Moab" (Num 25.1-9). They continued their attempts throughout the history of Israel and Judah.

Ruth the Moabitess

No history of the Moabites would be complete without reference to Ruth. The Ammonites and the Moabites were not to enter the congregation of the Lord until the tenth generation due to their refusal to help Israel in the wilderness (Deut 23.3). The great grace of God and His sovereignty are seen in the marriage of the Moabitess Ruth to Boaz (Ruth 4.13). She became the great-grandmother of David, and her name is to be found in the genealogy of the Lord (Mt 1.5).

Their end and future

It was prophesied that they would cease to exist as a people, and this took place, although the circumstances surrounding this are not clear. Jeremiah 48.47 reveals that they will be a nation in the Millennium, as will their blood relations the Ammonites (Jer 49.6).


The origin of the Philistines is not well recorded. It is supposed that the name may mean "Immigrant", a people who came by sea. Neither is it certain when they came to inhabit the coast area in the south-west of Canaan, but it is known that they were there in the time of Isaac (Gen 26.1).


They held territory in the area now known as the Gaza Strip, although it penetrated further inland than the area presently identified by that name. This gave them a base for their invasions of Israel, which they used, at times with effectiveness.

As they sought to enter the land, not by the way of redemption over the Red Sea and the Jordan, but without the shedding of blood, they picture those who claim redemption ground without ever knowing redemption.

Rule and religion

In Genesis, Abimelech is noted as their monarch (Gen 26.1), although this would probably be a title rather than a proper name. In the days of the judges their territory was divided into five districts, the capital cities of which were Ashdod, Gaza, Askelon, Gath, and Ekron. It would appear that Ashdod was the chief city as it was to Ashdod the Ark was taken after its capture by the Philistines (1 Sam 6.17; 5.1). The nation was ruled by the five Lords of the Philistines (1 Sam 6.16).

Two "gods" were associated with them. The first was Dagon (1 Sam 5.2; Judg 16.21-23). There is a tradition that Dagon was an idol half man and half fish, but this has been challenged. What is known is that the idol was regarded as the god of grain and agriculture. Their other god, claimed to be female, was Ashtaroth who was worshipped throughout Canaan and beyond. She was the goddess of fertility, love, and of war. Her devotees engaged in sexual licentiousness.


As has been noted, the Philistines were in the south of Canaan in the days of Isaac. Their strong enmity against Israel is not clearly seen until the Israelites possess Canaan. Although the form of oppression suffered by Israel in the first mention of the Philistines in Judges is not known, it is clear that Shamgar was acting to protect them when he slew 600 Philistines (Judg 3.31). This was the first of three victories gained over them in which individuals were greatly used. First, there was Shamgar. Later, Samson gained a great victory when he caused the death of the rulers by pulling down the pillars of the house, and in so doing the house itself, where the lords of the Philistines were worshiping Dagon, rejoicing in the capture of Samson (Judg 16.30). This victory set the scene for the great revival when Samuel led the people to triumph after which he raised the pillar named Ebenezer (1 Sam 7.1-12). The third was the victory of David over Goliath in the valley of Elah (1 Sam 17.38-54).

But before the victory of Samuel, Israel had been disastrously defeated by the Philistines. This led to the first of two occasions when the Ark was taken from Israel, the other being after the fall of Jerusalem (2 Chr 36.17-21). On this first occasion the Ark was taken into the house of Dagon where Dagon fell down before it. Many were smitten and died as long as the Philistines possessed it. So great was the disaster that the Philistines returned the Ark after it had been in their land seven months (1 Sam 6.1-21).

Saul and David subdued the Philistines, but they continued to be troublesome to Israel. During the reign of Jehoshaphat "the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat" (2 Chr 17.10). The Philistines brought tribute money to the king in acknowledgment of his hegemony over them. Even in the days of Hezekiah they were active again against Judah, but were defeated by him (2 Kings 18.8).

Their end

The Philistines were destroyed as a nation under the government of God. Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria conquered the Philistines about the year 732 BC. Nebuchadrezzer II of Babylon later conquered the territory that had been the Philistines and made it part of the Babylonish Empire.

Their future

There is no future for the Philistines recorded in Scripture.


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