med'-e-ba (medhebha'; Maidaba, Medaba): The name may mean "gently flowing water," but the sense is doubtful. This city is first mentioned along with Heshbon and Dibon in an account of Israel's conquests (Nu 21:30). It lay in the Mishor, the high pastoral land of Moab. The district in which the city stood is called the Mishor or plain of Medeba in the description of the territory assigned to Reuben (Jos 13:9), or the plain by Medeba (Jos 13:16). Here the Ammonites and their Syrian allies put the battle in array against Joab, and were signally defeated (1Ch 19:7). This must have left the place definitely in the possession of Israel. But it must have changed hands several times. It was taken by Omri, evidently from Moab; and Mesha claims to have recovered possession of it (M S, ll. 7,8,29,30). It would naturally fall to Israel under Jeroboam II; but in Isa 15:2 it is referred to as a city of Moab. It also figures in later Jewish history. John, son of Mattathias, was captured and put to death by the Jambri, a robber tribe from Medeba. This outrage was amply avenged by Jonathan and Simon, who ambushed a marriage party of the Jambri as they were bringing a noble bride from Gabbatha, slew them all and took their ornaments (1 Macc 9:36 ff; Ant, XII, i, 2, 4). Medeba was captured by Hyrcanus "not without the greatest distress of his army" (Ant., XIII, ix, 1). It was taken by Janneus from the Nabateans. Hyrcanus promised to restore it with other cities so taken to Aretas in return for help to secure him on the Judean throne (ibid., xv, 4; XIV, i, 4). Ptolemy speaks of it as a town in Arabia Petrea, between Bostra and Petra. Eusebius and Jerome knew it under its ancient name (Onomasticon, under the word). It became the seat of a bishropric, and is mentioned in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), and in other ecclesiastical lists.
The ancient city is represented by the modern Madeba, a ruined site with an Arab village, crowning a low hill, some 6 miles South of Heshbon, with which it was connected by a Roman road. The ruins, which are considerable, date mainly from Christian times. The surrounding walls can be traced in practically their whole circuit. There is a large tank, now dry, measuring 108 yds. X 103 yds., and about 12 ft. in depth. In 1880 it was colonized by some Christian families from Kerak, among whom the Latins carry on mission work. In December, 1896, a most interesting mosaic was found. It proved to be a map of part of Palestine and Lower Egypt of the time of Justinian. Unfortunately it is much damaged. An account of it will be found in Palestine Exploration Fund Statement, 1897, 213 ff, 239; 1898, 85, 177 ff, 251.