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KIR-HARESETH (Heb., קִיר־חֲרֶשֶׁת ,קִיר־חֶרֶשׂ ,קִיר־מוֹאָב, Kir Heres; Kir of Moab), ancient capital of *Moab situated on the high plateau east of the Dead Sea and south of the Arnon River. In the days of *Mesha, king of Moab in the mid-ninth century b.c.e., Kir-Hareseth was besieged by Jehoram of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah; their failure to capture the city ended in a disastrous retreat for their armies (ii Kings 3). It is mentioned as a Moabite city in the "burdens of Moab" which foretell its destruction (Isa. 15:1; 16:7,11; Jer. 48:31,36). In post-biblical times it was known as Charachmoba, a city striking coins under Heliogabalus (Ptolemaeus, 5:16, 4). Impressions of seals of municipal authorities with zodiac signs and the names of Nabatean months (in Greek) were discovered at Maurpsis. It was the seat of a bishop in Byzantine times (Hierocles, Synecdemus, 721:5). The Greek Charach, "palisade," corresponds to Kir in Hebrew. On the Madaba Map it is represented as a walled fortress with a gate flanked by towers on the south. Within the walls are colonnaded streets and two churches. Kir-Hareseth is now known as Karak, a name which is mentioned by Arab geographers in about 1225. In Crusader times Payen le Bouteiller transferred his residence to Karak in 1140 and built a famous fortress there. Held from 1177 to 1187 by Renauld de Chatillon, it was the principal stronghold of this baron; from there he attacked Muslim caravans. Saladin failed to take Karak in 1183; it fell only in 1188 after a year-long siege. The fortress is c. 800 m. (2,600 ft.) long and 100 m. (330 ft.) wide, with a fosse 30 m. (100 ft.) deep. It was later held by al-Malik al-Ayubi. It was the scene of revolts against Turkish rule in 1893 and 1910. Karak in 1970 was a district town in Jordan, with about 15,000 inhabitants.


A. Musil, Arabia Petraea, 1 (1907), 45ff., 359ff.; Glueck, in: aasor, 15 (1935), 4; M. Avi-Yonah, Madaba Mosaic Map (1954), 41–42; Aharoni, Land, index; A. Negev, in: iej, 19 (1969), 89.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]