(Heb. Kir-Moeib', קַיואּמוֹאָב,fortress of Moab SEE KIR; Isa 15:1; Sept. τὸ τεῖχος τῆς Μωαβίτιδος, Vulg. murus Moab, Auth. Vers. " Kir of Moab"), usually KIR-HERES (Heb. Kir-che'res, חֶרֶשׂ קַיראּ, brick fortress, Jer 48:31,36; Sept. κειράδες, Vulg. murus fictilis; in pause קַיר חָרֶשׂ, Isa 16:11; Sept. τεῖχος ὃ ἐνεκαίνισας, Vulgate muruis cocti lateris, Auth. Vers. "Kir-haresh"), or KIR-HARESETH (Heb.
Kir-Chare'seth, קַיראּחֲרֶשֶׂת, id., Isa 16:7; Sept. κατοικοῦντες Σέθ,Vulgate muri cocti lateris; in pause קַיר חֲרָשֶׂת, 2Ki 3:25; Sept. τὸ τεῖχος, Vulgate murifictiles, Auth. Vers. "Kir-haraseth"), one of the two strongly fortified cities in the territory of Moab, the other being Ar of Moab. Joram, king of Israel, took the city, and destroyed it, except the walls (2Ki 3:25); but it appears from the passages here cited that it must have been rebuilt before the time of Isaiah, and again ravaged by the Babylonians. In his prophecy (Isa 15:1), the Chaldee paraphrast has put כּרִכָּא דּמוֹאָב, kerakka de-Moab, " the castle of Moab;" and the former of these words, pronounced in Arabic karak, kerak, or k'rak, is the name it bears in 2 Mace. 12:17 (Χάρακα, Characa), in Steph. Byzant. (Χαρακμῶβα, Characmoba), in Ptolemy (v, 17, 5, Χαράκωμα, Characoma), in Abulfeda (Tab. Syr. p. 89), and in the historians of the Crusades. Abulfeda (who places it twelve Arabic miles from Ar-Moab) describes Kerak as a small town, with a castle on a high hill, and remarks that it is so strong that one must deny himself even the wish to take it by force (comp. 2Ki 3:25). In the time of the Crusades, and when in possession of the Franks, it was invested by Saladin; but, after lying before it a month, he was compelled to raise the siege (Bohaeddin, Vita Saladin. p. 55). The Crusaders had erected here a fortress still known as Kerak, which formed one of the centres of operations for the Latins east of the Jordan. On the capture of these at length by Saladin after a long siege, in A.D. 1188, the dominion of the Franks over this territory ceased (Wilken, Kreuzz. 4:244-247). " It was then the chief city of Arabia Secunda or Petracensis; it is specified as in the Belka, and is distinguished from ' Moab' or 'Rabbat,' the ancient Ar-Moab, and from the Mons regalis (Schultens, Index Geogr. s.v. Caracha; see also the remarks of Gesenius, Jesaia, i, 517, and his notes to the German translation of Burckhardt). The Crusaders, in error, believed it to be Petra, and that name is frequently attached to it in the writings of William of Tyre and Jacob de Vitry (see quotations in Robinson, Bib. Res. ii, 167). This error is perpetuated in the Greek Church to the present day; and the bishop of Petra, whose office, as representative of the patriarch, it is to produce the holy fire at Easter in the Church of the Sepulchre at Jerusalem (Stanley, S. and P. p. 467), is in reality bishop of Kerak (Seetzen, Reisen, ii, 358; Burckhardt, p. 387)" (Smith). The first person who visited the place in modern times was Seetzen, who says, " Near to Kerak the wide plain terminates which extends from Rabbah, and is broken only by low and detached hills, and the country now becomes mountain)us. Kerak, formerly a city and bishop's see, lies on the top of the hill near the end of a deep valley, and is surrounded on all sides with lofty mountains. The hill is very steep, and in many places the sides are quite perpendicular. The walls round the town are for the most part destroyed, and Kerak can at present boast of little more than being a small country town. The castle, which is uninhabited, and in a state of great decay, was formerly one of the strongest in these countries. The inhabitants of the town consist of Mohammedans and Greek Christians. The present bishop of Kerak resides at Jerusalem. From this place one enjoys, by looking down the wady Kerak, a fine view of part of the Dead Sea, and even Jerusalem may be distinctly seen in clear weather. The hill on which Kerak lies is composed of limestone and brittle marl, with many beds of blue, black, and gray flints. In the neighboring rocks there are a number of curious grottoes; in those which are under ground wheat is sometimes preserved for a period often years" (Zach's Monatliche Correspond. 18:434). A fuller account of the place is given by Burckhardt (Travels in Syria, p. 379-387). by whom it was next visited; and another description is furnished by Irby and Mangles (Travels, p.361-370). From their account it would seem that the caverns noticed by Seetzen were probably the sepulchres of the ancient town. We also learn that the Christians of Kerak (which they and Burckhardt call Kerek) are nearly as numerous as the Mohammedans, and boast of being stronger and braver (see Robinson's Researches, ii, 566-571). On account of the notoriously savage character of its Mohammedan inhabitants, Kerak has not often been visited by travellers. Lieut. Lynch, of the United States expedition to the Dead Sea, penetrated this fastness of banditti, having boldly seized the sheik and detained him as a hostage for their safety. He describes the town as situated upon the brow of a hill 3000 feet above the Dead Sea. The houses are a collection of stone huts, built without mortar. They are from seven to eight feet high; the ground floors about six feet below, and the flat terrace mud-roofs mostly about two feet above the streets; but in many places there were short cuts from street to street across the roofs of the houses. The houses, or rather huts, without windows and without chimneys, were blackened inside by smoke, and the women and children were squalid and filthy. Kerak contains a population of about 300 families; these include about 1000 Christians, who are kept in subjection by the Moslem Arabs. The Moslem inhabitants are wild-looking savages, but the Christians have a mild and hospitable character. The males mostly wear sheep-skin coats, the women dark-colored gowns; the Christian females did not conceal their faces, which were tattooed like the South Sea islanders. The entrance to Kerak is by a steep and crooked ravine, which is completely commanded at the summit by the castle. This latter, partly cut out of and partly built upon the mountain top, presents the remains of a magnificent structure, its citadel cut off from the town by a deep ditch. It seems to be Saracenic, although in various parts it has both the pointed Gothic and the rounded Roman arch, the work doubtless of the various masters into whose hands it has fallen during its eventful history. Its walls are composed of heavy, well-cut stones, with a steep glacis-wall surrounding the whole. It is of immense extent, having five gates, seven wells and cisterns, with subterranean passages, and seven arched store- houses, one above another, for purposes of defence (see Lynch's Narrative, p. 355-359). Mr. De Saulcy also entered this 'den of robbers," as he terms it, and he has added some particulars to the above description (Narrative, i, 302-330, 390). His account illustrates the character of the inhabitants, who have for many years been the terror of the vicinity (Porter, Handbook, p. 60; Schwarz, Palestine, p. 216). See also Ritter's Erdkunzde, 15:916, 1215. A map of the site and a view of part of the keep will be found in the Atlas to De Saulcy (La Mer Morte, etc., feuilles 8, 20). SEE MOAB.