Kir of Moab

One of a long line of forts built by the Crusaders, from Aqaba north to Turkey. This is the fort at Kerak (or Kir Hareseth or Kir Moab), built by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in A.D. 1132.
A view of the battlements of the fort at Kerak.

KIR OF MOAB kûr (קִיר־מוֹאָ֖ב, Wall of Moab). The term is used only in Isaiah 15:1 in a passage parallel to Ar of Moab. The exact identity of the term “Kir” is not known. Several suggested possibilities are given below.

The LXX does not take the term to be a place, but the simple noun “wall” and trs. it simply τὸ τει̂χος τη̂ς Μωαβίτιδος, “the wall of Moab.”

Some identify Kir of Moab with Ar of Moab, mentioned in the same passage. Ar is known elsewhere in Scripture, being mentioned in ancient proverbs (Num 21:15, 28). In Deuteronomy 2:9, 18, the term “Ar of Moab” is mentioned in connection with the promise that Moab shall never be given over to Israel, but shall be an inheritance for the sons of Lot. The Isaiah (15:1) passage reads that Ar will fall in a night. It seems most likely that Ar of Moab is not a city, but a region of Moab.

Probably the supposition is correct that Kir of Moab refers to the same place at Kir-hareseth or Hareseth, a place mentioned twice in Scripture. After the defeat of Mesha of Moab by the Israelites, only in Kir-hareseth were any stones left standing and even there slingers captured the city and smote it (2 Kings 3:25). Isaiah prophesied that in the devastation of Moab, Kir-hareseth would be stricken (Isa 16:7).

Kir-hareseth is to be identified with Kerak, the ancient capital of the district. From ancient times it was a place of great importance in that area. It was a strategic site, easily defendable, being on a high place, with the sides of the mountain sloping steeply all around it.

It dominated the ancient caravan routes being on the ancient and famous King’s Highway from Syria to Egypt, and was recognized by the Crusaders as a strategic site. It towers about 3690 ft. above sea level and was walled on all sides. The only problem of the city’s location was water. The springs were all outside of the city.

Even today the city is inhabited and lies ten m. E of the Dead Sea. It is just below the Lisan at the S end of the sea. The Wady Hesa is about fourteen m. to the S.


D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 31, 87, 92, 118, 238; E. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (1958), 229; J. Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Text of the Old Testament (1959), 64, 65, 265, 361, 435.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(qir moa’-abh; Septuagint has to teichos, "the wall," "fortress"):

1. Identification:

The name, at least in this form, appears only once (Isa 15:1) as that of a city in Moab. It is named with Ar of Moab, with which possibly it may be identical, since `ar or `ir is the Hebrew equivalent of the Moabite Qir. The Targum hence reads "Kerak in Moab." There can be no doubt that the Kerak here intended is represented by the modern town of that name, with which, consequently, Kir Moab is almost universally identified. It must always have been a place of importance. It is mentioned as Charakmoba (Karakmoba) in the Ac of the Council of Jerusalem (536 AD) and by the early geographers. It dominated the great caravan road connecting Syria with Egypt and Arabia. The Crusaders therefore directed attention to it, and held possession from 1167 till it fell again into the hands of the Moslems under Saladin, 1188. The Chroniclers speak of it as in el Belqa, and the chief city of Arabia Secunda. Under the title of Petra Deserti the Crusaders founded here a bishop’s see. The Greek bishop of Petra still has his seat in Kerak.

2. Discription:

Kerak stands upon a lofty spur projecting westward from the Moab plateau, with Wady `Ain Franjy on the South, and Wady el-Kerak on the North, about 10 miles from the Dead Sea. The sides of the mountain sink sharply into these deep ravines, which unite immediately to the West, and, as Wady el-Kerak, the great hollow runs northwestward to the sea. It is a position of great natural strength, being connected with the uplands to the East only by a narrow neck. It is 3,370 ft. above the level of the sea. The mountains beyond the adjacent valleys are much higher. The place was surrounded by a strong wall, with five towers, which can still be traced in its whole length. The most northerly tower is well preserved. The most interesting building at Kerak is the huge castle on the southern side. It is separated from the adjoining hill on the right by a large artificial moat; and it is provided with a reservoir. A moat also skirts the northern side of the fortress, and on the East the wall has a sloped or battered base. The castle is then separated from the town. The walls are very thick, and are well preserved. Beneath the castle is a chapel in which traces of frescoes are still visible. In days of ancient warfare the place must have been practically impregnable. It could be entered only by two roads passing through rock-cut tunnels. The main danger must always have been failure of water supply. There are springs immediately outside the city; but those alone would not be sufficient. Great cisterns were therefore constructed in the town and also in the castle. The half-nomadic inhabitants of Kerak today number some 1,140 families (Musil, Arabia Petrea, III, 97). The Greek church claims about 2,000 souls; the rest are Moslems. They are wild and fearless people, not greatly inclined to treat strangers with courtesy and kindness. In the spring of 1911 the town was the center of a rising against the government, which was not quelled until much blood had been shed.