Kir of Moab

(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 Acts 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.

W. Ewing

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