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Emet m'Tsiyon

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The ARABS, Land-Grabbers Long Before Muhammud

During the First Temple period, Israel's neighbors to the east, Ammon, Moab, and Edom, had built defenses facing the desert to keep out the wandering Arab marauders. After the Babylonian conquest, which affected these countries as well as the Kingdom of Judah, the defenses were not well kept up, presumably on account of the social upheaval caused by the conquest. Hence, in the Babylonian or early Persian period, Arab tribes penetrated and overran Edom, Moab, and Ammon. The Edomites fled/migrated to southern Judah and the northern Negev, formerly parts of the Kingdom of Judah, partly depopulated on account of the Babylonian conquest, and settled there. This new area of Edomite settlement was called Idumaea by Greeks and Romans, yet it was distinct from the original Edom, south and southeast of the Dead Sea.
The Ammonites may have been conquered later since one of the influential Jewish leaders during the Persian period, that is, the early Second Temple period, was Tobias (Tuviyah) who came from east of the Jordan and was sometimes called an Ammonite. Hence, the Ammonites may still have predominated in their country. The Book of Nehemiah does mention Geshem the Arab as interfering with Jewish efforts at rebuilding in Jerusalem.
The former Edom, Moab, and Ammon were eventually arabized and in the Roman period [106 CE] were formed into the Provincia Arabia. This province provided recruits for a Roman legion that helped Rome suppress the Jewish Bar Kokhba Revolt [132-135 CE]. Earlier, during the Great Revolt described by Josephus and Tacitus, a contingent of Arab auxiliaries joined the Roman forces besieging Jerusalem [described in an earlier blog entry on this site]. These Arab forces helped destroy the Temple in the year 70 CE. Now, the Arabs claim the site of the Temple, the Temple Mount, as their own. To paraphrase the Biblical saying, רצחתם וגם ירשתם , that is, You murdered and you also inherited (from the victim).

Attesting to the presence of Ammonites and Moabites are several place names used in Jordan to this day. These start with Amman, the present capital. This was the Biblical Rabbath Ammon, later called Rabbat(h)ammana in Greek and Latin [one of the Ptolemies also called it Philadelpheia]. Other names are Diban < Dibon, Hisban < Heshbon, Kerak < Krakh, etc. Krakh [karka or krakha in Aramaic] is a Hebrew/Aramaic word meaning city or even metropolis. Modern Kerak was the ancient Moabite capital which appears in Jonathan's Aramaic translation of the Bible under the names Krakh and Krakha d'Moab. The Hebrew Bible calls the city Qir Moab (Isaiah 15:1), meaning Wall of Moab. Bear in mind that the English word town came from a word meaning wall. The name Karakmoba (sometimes spelled Charachmoba) appears in Greek and Latin sources. Today the Arabs call it Kerak, a minor city in Jordan.

The Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites had a close linguistic affinity to ancient Israel, although there was political rivalry and hostility. Hebrew, Ammonite, Edomite, Moabite, and Phoenician (and other, closely related tongues) are all called Canaanite languages (or sometimes dialects of Canaanite) by modern linguists. The famous Moabite stele found east of the Jordan with an inscription telling of a victory by Mesha`, king of Moab, over ancient Judah, is easily read by readers of Biblical Hebrew, if the inscription is transcribed into the modern Hebrew alphabet, of course, since the Mesha` inscription uses the old Hebrew/Canaanite letters. The Arabs also speak a Semitic language, but one farther away from Hebrew, Moabite, etc. Hence, they distorted the sounds --in the place names mentioned above-- to suit their own speech.

To sum up, the Arabs were conquering and displacing other peoples long before Muhammud. As land-grabbers they can compare with the British and Russians.

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