We are told in 2 Samuel 8:2 that:

David... defeated Moab and measured them with a line. Making them lie down on the ground, he measured two lengths of line for death, and a full length for life. Thus the Moabites became subject to David, paying tribute.

But in 1 Kings 11, it says:

When David had conquered Edom, Joab, the commander of the army, while going to bury the slain, killed every male in Edom. 16 Joab and all Israel remained there six months until they had killed off every male in Edom.

Do these passages refer to the same military campaign? If yes, which is accurate? But either way, can we believe that Israel (or Joab acting as commander of David army) killed every Moabite male? This would mean the end of the Moabites as a people and would make it impossible for Israel to receive tribute from them. Moreover, the Moabites were still a nation during the time of the Isaiah and Jeremiah, who spoke of them often. Historically, the Moabites only disappear from the historical records sometime after the Babylonian Exile. Should 1 Kgs. 11 be understood as a hyperbole? If not, how did Moab recover from the death of every Moabite male?

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    The reference to 1 Kings 11:15, 16 does not mention Moab only Edom.
    – agarza
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 16:33
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    I have to read more carefully, thanks! Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 18:55
  • let me add... that the NABRE has a footnote explaining that 2 Samuel 8:2 "usually taken to mean that two-thirds of them were executed; but it could mean that two-thirds were spared, if the line was used full length in their case but doubled on itself to make “two lines” for those to be put to death. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


The two passages are not contradictory because Edom is not Moab. On the usual maps, Moab is east of the Dead Sea and Edom is south.

Having said that, your observation that "they were still a nation in Jeremiah's time" applies as much to Edom as to Moab, so the second statement has to be hyperbole, or some simply escaped capture. Even 1 Kings ch11 admits that Hadad the Edomite prince "together with certain Edomites of his father's servants" managed to escape to Egypt, and returned to his homeland later.

  • I have made a mess of this question... but your answer is good! Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 18:56
  • Possible different answer came to me since asking: "every male" may mean every male old enough to be a soldier, leaving alive the boys, who could continue Edomite line. The Edomites actually lasted much longer than the Moabites. Known as Idumeans in later times, they were conquered by the Hasmonean Jews and forced to convert to Judaism. Their most famous member was Herod the Great. Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 19:01

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