Madaba Plains—Numbers 21:30

The term “Madaba (or ‘Medeba’) Plains” does not appear in the Bible. However, the town for which this sizeable agricultural region in central Jordan received its name occurs five times in the Old Testament: Numbers 21:30 (Amorite town burned by Israel); Joshua 13:9, 16 (Amorite town allocated to the Reubenites); 1 Chronicles 19:7 (Ammonite staging point for chariot warfare); and Isaiah 15:2 (Moabite town being mourned). Thus the town, as well as the fertile plains to its east and south, changed hands from Amorites to Israelites to Ammonites to Moabites in a span of 500 years.

The Madaba Plains have become popular in scholarly circles in part because of the work of the Madaba Plains Project, an international affiliation of educational institutions conducting archaeological research in the region. Covering an area of some 500 to 600 square kilometers of prime agricultural land, the Madaba Plains are bordered on the west by the city of Madaba, on the north by the hills in which Tall al-`Umayri is found, on the south by the Wadi Wala, and on the east by the desert. Because of its inherent value for the production and distribution of grains, grapes, and olives, various people groups frequently fought to control it.

Current research in the area includes work by the Madaba Plains Project at such sites as Tall Hisban (hilly northwest border of the plains), Tall al-`Umayri (hilly northwest border), and Tall Jalul (in the heart of the plains). Several teams have studied Madaba itself, and recent excavations at Khirbat Mudayna ath-Thamad to the east and Khirbat Iskandar in the southwest corner have produced significant discoveries from the Early Bronze Age through modern times.


Madaba Plains Project publications.