Moabite Stone

Moabite Stone

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What do we know about the Moabites?

The Moabites were a tribe of people who descended from Moab, one of the sons of Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 19:37). Moab was one of two sons born to Lot's daughters after they helped him to become drunk and then had children through him, seeing him as their only option to bear children. Moab was born first, with his name sounding like the Hebrew for "from father." Despite the strange nature of Moab's birth and the development of his people, history records many important insights regarding his legacy.

Originally from the area on the southeastern edge of the Dead Sea, the Moabites eventually spread to the area east of the Jordan River. After a war with the Amorites, the Moabites lost territory and lived in the land south of the Arnon Valley according to Numbers 21:26-30.

It was during this time period when the Israelites journeyed for 40 years in the wilderness. The size of the Israelites worried the Moabite king Balak. He sought help from the Midians (the people the wife of Moses had descended from) and together sought the assistance of a man named Balaam to curse the Jewish people (Numbers 22:2-6).

The Israelites passed through an area called the Plains of Moab just before crossing into the Promised Land. It was in this area that Moses ascended to the top of Mount Pisgah and viewed the Promised Land before his death (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).

Following this period, the most well-known account related to the Moabites is found in the book of Ruth. The account tells of Naomi moving to Moab from Israel with her husband and two sons. Both of her sons married Moabite women. Later her husband and both sons died. Naomi set out to return to Israel along with her daughters-in-law. However, a ways into the journey, Naomi told her daughters-in-law to return to their families. One daughter-in-law did, but Ruth stayed with Naomi and returned with her to Israel. By the end of the book, Ruth married Boaz and had a son named Obed. Obed would become the grandfather of David, the king of Israel (Ruth 4).

In more recent times, one archaeological discovery related to the Moabites has been of important significance. In 1868, an inscription was discovered in Dibon from approximately 900 BC that mentioned Mesha's war with Omri from 2 Kings 3. It is considered one of the oldest written inscriptions ever discovered and provides a powerful confirmation of the accuracy of this aspect of the Old Testament.

The Moabites offer a powerful example of how God can work through a group of people for His purposes. Through the Moabite woman Ruth, we find King David, a leader in Israel from whom Jesus was descended. Ruth is even favored with being one of only three women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew's Gospel.


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Moabite, member of a West-Semitic people who lived in the highlands east of the Dead Sea (now in west-central Jordan) and flourished in the 9th century bc . They are known principally through information given in the Old Testament and from the inscription on the Moabite Stone. The Moabites’ culture is dated by scholars from about the late 14th century bc to 582 bc , when, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (1st century ad ), they were conquered by the Babylonians.

In Old Testament accounts (e.g., Genesis 19:30–38), the Moabites belonged to the same ethnic stock as the Israelites. Their ancestral founder was Moab, a son of Lot, who was a nephew of the Israelite patriarch Abraham. The god-protector of their nation was Chemosh, just as Yahweh was the national God of the Israelites. The Moabites were in conflict with the Israelites from the 13th century. They are noted several times in the Old Testament. King Saul of Israel in the 11th century fought against the Moabites (1 Samuel 14:47), who later granted asylum to the family of the young rebel and future king David (1 Samuel 22:3–4). David in turn fought against the Moabites and forced them to pay heavy tribute (2 Samuel 8:2). David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, was a Moabite (Ruth 4:17–22), and his son Solomon, as a sign of his authority, obtained Moabite princesses for his harem (1 Kings 11:1–8) and erected near Jerusalem a shrine dedicated to Chemosh.

King Omri of Israel (reigned c. 884–c. 872 bc ), who is mentioned in 1 Kings 16:23–28, reconquered Moabite lands that had been lost since Solomon’s death in 922 bc , when Israel split into two kingdoms. Omri’s reconquest is known from the Moabite Stone, a stela that the Moabite king Mesha erected about 40 years later in the city of Dibon (modern Dhiban, Jordan). This black basalt stone, 1.1 m (44 inches) high, was discovered at Dhiban in 1868 and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The stone’s text of 34 lines, written in a Canaanite alphabet similar to contemporary Hebrew, is the only written document of any length that survives from Moab and the only royal stela known from Israel’s neighbours. In its inscription, Mesha (fl. c. 870 bc ) tells of King Omri’s reconquest of Moab and ascribes the renewed Israelite domination over Moab to the anger of Chemosh. Mesha then describes his own successful rebellion against Israel, which probably occurred during the reign of Omri’s successor, Ahab.

Moab had become a tributary of Assyria by the late 8th century bc and was conquered by the Babylonians in 582 bc , upon which the Moabites disappeared from history. Their territory was resettled by the Nabataeans in the 4th–3rd century bc .

The Moabite language differed only dialectally from Hebrew, and Moabite religion and culture were very closely related to those of the Israelites. Nevertheless, Moabites were excluded from the Jewish community (Deuteronomy 23:3–6), where the name Moab became a typical denomination for the enemies of God (Isaiah 25:10).

Bible Dictionaries

Relatively few springs appear on the Moabite plateau, and the waters of the Mujib/Arnon are virtually inaccessible because of the steepness of the river canyon. Still, the area is well watered by winter rains brought by winds from the Mediterranean. The porous soil holds enough of the moisture for the villagers to grow cereal crops and to find good pasturage for their sheep and goats. Moab's agricultural productivity is illustrated by the biblical passages pertaining to Ruth and King Mesha, surely the two best-known Moabites from the Bible. The Book of Ruth opens with a time of famine in Judah thus Elimelech, Naomi, and their two sons emigrated to Moab where food was still available ( Ruth 1:1-5 ). King Mesha, we are told, &ldquowas a sheep breeder and he had to deliver annually to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, and the wool of a hundred thousand rams&rdquo ( 2 Kings 3:4 RSV).

The chief cities of northern Moab were Hesbon, Medeba, and Dibon. Since this region was somewhat cut off from Moab proper by the Arnon, it was more vulnerable to international pressures and often changed hands during biblical times. In fact, the Ammonites made claim to all the territory as far south as the Arnon ( Judges 11:13 ), while the Book of Joshua makes the same claim for Israel ( Joshua 13:15-28 ). Other biblical passages which pertain to the region immediately north of the Arnon clearly recognize it as Moabite territory ( Isaiah 15:1 Jeremiah 48:1 ), as does the inscription of the Moabite Stone (see below). A crux passage for understanding the whole matter is Numbers 21:25-30 , which explains that King Sihon of the Amorites took northern Moab from the Moabites and that the Israelites took it from him. Unfortunately, this passage is open to various interpretations (especially when the essentially parallel version in Jeremiah 48:45-47 is taken into account).

Moab proper was more isolated from the outside world, bounded by the Dead Sea escarpment on the west, the desert on the east, the Mujib/Arnon on the north, and a second river canyon on the south&mdashcalled today Wady el-Hesa, probably, but not certainly, the River Zered of biblical times ( Numbers 21:12 ). The chief cities of Moab proper were Kir-hareseth (present-day Kerak) and a place called Ar Moab (possibly to be identified with the present-day village of Rabbah approximately nine miles northeast of Kerak). 2 Kings 3:1 describes a military campaign undertaken by King Jehoram of Israel and supported by King Jehoshaphat of Judah which penetrated Moab proper and culminated in a siege of Kir-hareseth. The siege was lifted when King Mesha of Moab sacrificed his oldest son on the city wall.

In addition to biblical passages such as those indicated above and occasional references in Assyrian texts, our major source of information about ancient Moab is the so-called Moabite Stone. This stone, which bears an inscription from the reign of the same King Mesha mentioned in 2 Kings 3:1 , was discovered in 1868, near the ruins of ancient Dibon, by a German missionary. Known also as The Mesha Inscription, the monument reports the major accomplishments of King Mesha's reign. He boasts especially of having recovered Moabite independence from Israel and of having restored Moabite control over northern Moab.

Since they were neighbors, the history of the Moabites was intertwined with that of Israel. Moreover, the Israelites regarded the Moabites as close relatives, as implied by Genesis 19:30-38 . We hear of peaceful interchange as well as conflicts between the Israelites and Moabites already during the time of the Judges. The story of Ruth illustrates peaceful relations, while the episode of Ehud and Eglon illustrates conflict ( Judges 3:12-30 ). Saul is reported to have fought against the Moabites ( 1 Samuel 14:47 ). David, a descendant of the Moabitess Ruth according to the biblical genealogies ( Ruth 4:18-22 ), placed his parents under the protection of the king of Moab while he was on the run from Saul ( 1 Samuel 22:3-4 ). Yet he is reported to have defeated the Moabites in battle later on and to have executed two-thirds of the Moabite prisoners by arbitrary selection ( 2 Samuel 8:2 ). Moab was represented among Solomon's wives, and the worship of Chemosh, the Moabite god, accommodated in Solomon's Jerusalem ( 1 Kings 11:1-8 ).

Our most detailed information about Moabite-Israelite relations comes from the mid-ninth century B.C., the time of the Omri dynasty of Israel and King Mesha of Moab (1Kings 16:15&ndash 2 Kings 10:18 ). At this point the inscription of the Moabite Stone supplements the biblical record. We learn that Omri conquered northern Moab and gained some degree of domination over Moab proper. Ahab continued Omri's policies. King Mesha ascended the throne of Moab approximately midway during Ahab's reign, however, and eventually succeeded in throwing off the Israelite yoke. Mesha apparently began the struggle for Moabite independence during the turbulent years following Ahab's death ( 2 Kings 1:1 ). Ahaziah, who succeeded Ahab to the throne of Israel, was unable to respond to Mesha's challenge because of an accident which led to his premature death ( 2 Kings 1:1 ). Later, when Jehoram followed Ahaziah to the throne of Israel and attempted to restore Israelite control over Mesha, he was unsuccessful ( 2 Kings 3:1 ).

Eventually, by 700 B.C., Moab fell under the shadow of Assyria as did Israel, Judah, Ammon, and the other petty Syro-Palestinian Kingdoms. Thus Moab and Moabite kings are mentioned in the records of Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon. Also, prophetic oracles such as Amos 2:1-3 Isaiah 15:1 and Jeremiah 48:1 pertain to these last, waning years of the Moabite kingdom. See Kir-hareseth Arnon River Transjordan King Mesha Ruth Jehoram (of Israel) Jehoshaphat .

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Who were the Moabites?

The Moabites were a tribe descended from Moab, the son of Lot, born of an incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37). From Zoar, the cradle of this tribe, on the southeastern border of the Dead Sea, they gradually spread over the region on the east of Jordan. Shortly before the Exodus, the warlike Amorites crossed the Jordan under Sihon their king and drove the Moabites out of the region between the Arnon River Valley and the Jabbok River, and occupied it, making Heshbon their capital. The Moabites were then confined to the territory to the south of the Arnon Valley (Numbers 21:26&ndash30).

During the Exodus the Israelites did not pass through Moab, but through the “wilderness” to the east, eventually reaching the country to the north of Arnon. The Moabites were alarmed, and their king, Balak, sought aid from the Midianites (Numbers 22:2&ndash4). This was the occasion when the visit of Balaam to Balak took place (Numbers 22:2&ndash6).

In the Plains of Moab, which was in the possession of the Amorites, the children of Israel had their last encampment before they entered the land of Canaan (Numbers 22:1 Joshua 13:32). If we had nothing else to interest us in the land of Moab, it was from the top of Pisgah that Moses, the mightiest of prophets, looked upon the Promised Land it was here on Nebo that he died his solitary death it was here in the valley over against Beth-peor where he was buried (Deuteronomy 34:5&ndash6).

A basalt stone, bearing an inscription by King Mesha, was discovered at Dibon by Klein, a German missionary at Jerusalem, in 1868, consisting of thirty-four lines written in Hebrew-Phoenician characters. The stone was set up by Mesha about 900 BC as a record and memorial of his victories. It records Mesha’s wars with Omri, his public buildings, and his wars against Horonaim. This inscription supplements and corroborates the history of King Mesha recorded in 2 Kings 3:4&ndash27. It is the oldest inscription written in alphabetic characters and, in addition to its value in the domain of Hebrew antiquities, is of great linguistic importance.

Perhaps the most significant Bible character to come from Moab was Ruth, who was “of the women of Moab” but was genetically linked to Israel through Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11:31). Ruth is an example of how God can change a life and take it in a direction He has foreordained, and we see God working out His perfect plan in Ruth’s life, just as He does with all His children (Romans 8:28). Although she came from a pagan background in Moab, once she met the God of Israel, Ruth became a living testimony to Him by faith. Ruth, the Moabitess, is one of the few women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).

Moabite Stone - History

A. Moabite Territory from Abraham to Conquest: 2000-1406BC

  1. "From there they journeyed and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that comes out of the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites ." Numbers 21:13
  2. Plains of Moab: "These are the commandments and the ordinances which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel through Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho." Num 36:13
  3. Mt. Nebo was part of Moab in 1406 BC: "Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession." Deut 32:49
  4. Madaba (Madaba Map) and Dibon (Moabite Stone) was part of Moab in 1406 BC: "But we have cast them down, Heshbon is ruined as far as Dibon, Then we have laid waste even to Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba." Num 21:30 "The sons of Gad built Dibon and Ataroth and Aroer" Num 32:34 "They have gone up to the temple and to Dibon, even to the high places to weep. Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba Everyone's head is bald and every beard is cut off." Isa 15:2

B. Transjordan Moabite Territory at the Exodus is 1446BC

  1. This is how the three nations looked at the time of the exodus when Israel spent 38 years at Kadesh near Petra.
  2. Israel asked permission of Moab to cross their territory to go north and cross the Jordan river into the promised land and was refused.
  3. "and they said to him, "Thus says Jephthah, 'Israel did not take away the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon. 'For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh, then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom , saying, "Please let us pass through your land," but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent . So Israel remained at Kadesh. ' Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab ." Judges 11:15-18
  4. Judges 11:15-18 teaches us that the border between Moab and Edom, was and east west line that ran through Kadesh at Petra.
  5. Israel was forced to go from Petra south to the Red sea, then far east beyond Edom's and Moab's territory, then north. Once they were due east of the Arnon River, they traveled towards the Dead sea in the Arnon wadi valley until they came to the Kings Highway at Dibon. Then they started travelling north on the Kings Highway.
  6. Moab's territory was both north and south of the Zered River because Israel adjacent to Moabite land before they headed north and camped in the Zered. "They journeyed from Oboth and camped at Iyeabarim, in the wilderness which is opposite Moab, to the east . From there they set out and camped in Wadi Zered." Numbers 21:11-12
  7. Edom's land were south of Moab's down to Mt. Seir east of the Red Sea.

C. Amorite Territory after the conquest: 1380 - 950 BC

  1. In 1406 BC, when the Israelites first came to the promised land, the Moabites controlled the transjordan from the Arnon River south to the Petra area which was the border of Edom.
  2. At Kadesh, Moses had asked both Edom and Moab to cross their land and were refused.
  3. Amortes living north of the Arnon River to pass through while at Kadesh (Petra), but was refused. They also asked asked the Amorites so they could pass travelling west to cross their land and get to the Jordan River. Unlike Edom, this time Israel fought: "Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, " Let me pass through your land . We will not turn off into field or vineyard we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the king's highway until we have passed through your border." But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border. So Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer. Israel took all these cities and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all her villages." Numbers 21:21-25

"So Moses gave an inheritance to the tribe of the sons of Reuben according to their families. Their territory was from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, with the city which is in the middle of the valley and all the plain by Medeba Heshbon, and all its cities which are on the plain: Dibon and Bamoth-baal and Beth-baal-meon, and Jahaz and Kedemoth and Mephaath, and Kiriathaim and Sibmah and Zereth-shahar on the hill of the valley, and Beth-peor and the slopes of Pisgah and Beth-jeshimoth, even all the cities of the plain and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses struck with the chiefs of Midian, Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the princes of Sihon, who lived in the land." Joshua 13:15-21

Moabite Stone

a basalt stone, bearing an inscription by King Mesha, which was discovered at Dibon by Klein, a German missionary at Jerusalem, in 1868. It was 3 1/2 feet high and 2 in breadth and in thickness, rounded at the top. It consisted of thirty-four lines, written in Hebrew-Phoenician characters. It was set up by Mesha as a record and memorial of his victories. It records (1) Mesha's wars with Omri, (2) his public buildings, and (3) his wars against Horonaim. This inscription in a remarkable degree supplements and corroborates the history of King Mesha recorded in 2 Kings 3:4-27 .

With the exception of a very few variations, the Moabite language in which the inscription is written is identical with the Hebrew. The form of the letters here used supplies very important and interesting information regarding the history of the formation of the alphabet, as well as, incidentally, regarding the arts of civilized life of those times in the land of Moab.

This ancient monument, recording the heroic struggles of King Mesha with Omri and Ahab, was erected about B.C. 900. Here "we have the identical slab on which the workmen of the old world carved the history of their own times, and from which the eye of their contemporaries read thousands of years ago the record of events of which they themselves had been the witnesses." It is the oldest inscription written in alphabetic characters, and hence is, apart from its value in the domain of Hebrew antiquities, of great linguistic importance.

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely. Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Moabite Stone". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .

A monument erected at Dibon (Dhiban) by Mesha, king of Moab (2 Kings 3:4,5), to commemorate his successful revolt from Israel and his conquest of Israelite territory. It was discovered, August 19, 1868, by a German missionary, V. Klein, who unfortunately took neither copy nor squeeze of it. It was 3 ft. 10 inches high and 2 ft. broad, with a semicircular top. The Berlin Museum entered into negotiations for the purchase of it, but while these were proceeding slowly, M. Clermont-Ganneau, then dragoman of the French consulate at Jerusalem, sent agents to take squeezes and tempt the Arabs to sell it for a large sum of money. This led to interference on the part of the Turkish officials, with the result that in 1869 the Arabs lighted a fire under the Stone, and by pouring cold water on it broke it into pieces which they carried away as charms. M. Clermont-Ganneau, however, succeeded in recovering a large proportion of these, and with the help of the squeezes was able to rewrite the greater part of the inscription. The last and most definitive edition of the text was published by Professors Smend and Socin in 1886 from a comparison of the fragments of the original (now in the Louvre) with the squeezes (in Paris and Bale) and photographs.

The following is (with some unimportant corrections) Dr. Neubauer's translation of the inscription, based upon Smend and Socin's text:

(1) I (am) Mesha, son of Chemosh-melech, king of Moab, the Dibonite.

(2) My father reigned over Moab 30 years and I reigned

(3) after my father. I have made this monument (or high place) for Chemosh at Qorchah, a monument of salvation,

(4) for he saved me from all invaders (or kings), and let me see my desire upon all my enemies. Omri

(5) was king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab many days, for Chemosh was angry with his

(6) land. His son (Ahab) followed him and he also said:

I will oppress Moab. In my days (Chemosh) said:

(7) I will see (my desire) on him and his house, and Israel surely shall perish for ever. Omri took the land of

(8) Medeba (Numbers 21:30), and (Israel) dwelt in it during his days and half the days of his son, altogether 40 years. But Chemosh (gave) it back

(9) in my days. I built Baal-Meon (Joshua 13:17) and made therein the ditches (or wells) I built

(10) Kirjathaim (Numbers 32:37). The men of Gad dwelt in the land of Ataroth (Numbers 32:3) from of old, and the king of Israel built there

(11) (the city of) Ataroth but I made war against the city and took it. And I slew all the (people of)

(12) the city, for the pleasure of Chemosh and of Moab, and I brought back from them the Arel ('-r-'-l of Dodah (d-w-d-h) and bore

(13) him before Chemosh in Qerioth (Jeremiah 48:24). And I placed therein the men of Sharon and the men

(14) of Mehereth. And Chemosh said unto me:

Go, seize Nebo of Israel and

(15) I went in the night and fought against it from the break of dawn till noon and I took

(16) it, slew all of them, 7,000 men and (boys?), women and (girls?),

(17) and female slaves, for to Ashtar-Chemosh I devoted them. And I took from thence the Arels ('-r-'-l-y)

(18) of Yahweh and bore them before Chemosh. Now the king of Israel had built

(19) Jahaz (Isaiah 15:4), and he dwelt in it while he waged war against me, but Chemosh drove him out from before me. And

(20) I took from Moab 200 men, all chiefs, and transported them to Jahaz which I took

(21) to add to Dibon. I built Qorchah, the Wall of the Forests and the Wall

(22) of the Ophel, and I built its gates and I built its towers. And

(23) I built the House of Moloch, and I made sluices for the water-ditches in the midst

(24) of the city. And there was no cistern within the city of Qorchah, and I said to all the people:

(25) yourselves every man a cistern in his house. And I dug the canals (or conduits) for Qorchah by means of the prisoners

(26) from Israel. I built Aroer (Deuteronomy 2:36), and I made the road in Arnon. And

(27) I built Beth-Bamoth (Numbers 26:19) for it was destroyed. I built Bezer (Deuteronomy 4:43), for in ruins

(28) (it was. And all the chiefs?) of Dibon were 50, for all Dibon is loyal, and I

(29) placed 100 (chiefs?) in the cities which I added to the land I built

(30) (Beth)-Mede(b)a (Numbers 21:30) and Beth-diblathaim (Jeremiah 48:22), and Beth-Baal-Meon (Jeremiah 48:23), and transported the shepherds (?)

(31) . (with) the flock(s) of the land. Now in Choronaim (Isaiah 15:5) there dwelt (the children?) .

(32) . (and) Chemosh said unto me:

Go down, make war upon Choronaim. So I went down (and made war

(33) upon the city, and took it, and) Chemosh dwelt in it during my days. And I went up (?) from thence I made .

The Biblical character of the language of the inscription will be noticed as well as the use of "forty" to signify an indefinite period of time. As in Israel, no goddess seems to have been worshipped in Moab, since the goddess Ashtoreth is deprived of the feminine suffix, and is identified with the male Chemosh (Ashtar-Chemosh). Dodah appears to have been a female divinity worshipped by the side of Yahweh the root of the name is the same as that of David and the Carthaginian Dido. The Arels were "the champions" of the deity (Assyrian qurart), translated "lion-like men" in the King James Version (2 Samuel 23:20 compare Isaiah 33:7). There was an Ophel in the Moabite capital as well as at Jerusalem.

The alphabet of the inscription is an early form of the Phoenician, and resembles that of the earliest Greek inscriptions. The words are divided from one another by dots, and the curved forms of some of the letters (b, k, l, margin, n) presuppose writing with ink upon papyrus, parchment or potsherds.

The revolt of Mesha took place after Ahab's death (2 Kings 3:5). At the battle of Qarqar in 854 BC, when the Syrian kings were defeated by Shalmaneser II, no mention is made of Moab, as it was included in Israel. It would seem from the inscription, however, that Medeba had already been restored to Mesha, perhaps in return for the regular payment of his tribute of 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams with their wool (2 Kings 3:4).

Clermont-Ganneau, La stele de Mesa, 1870 Ginsburg, Moabite Stone, 1871 R. Sinend and A. Socin, Die Inschrift des Konigs Mesa von Moab, 1886 A. Neubauer in Records of the Past, 2nd series, II, 1889 Lidzbarski, Handbuch der nordsemitischen Epigraphik, 1898, 4-83, 415.

Mesha Stele

Der Text der Mešaʿ-Stele (KAI 181) verfügt über ein zweifaches Trennzeichen-System. Ausgehend von der Annahme, dass die Paragraphos-Marker absichtsvoll gesetzte Gliederungsmerkmale darstellen, wurde eine syntaktische und strukturelle Analyse des Textes der Stele anhand dieser Gliederungsmerkmale vorgenommen. Das Ergebnis ist eine bemerkenswert symmetrische und kunstvolle Struktur, bestehend aus Einleitung, Überleitung und Kontrastierung, deren Ende (Zeile 4) mit dem Beginn von Zeile 33 zugleich eine Klammer um den inhaltlichen Hauptteil der Stele bildet. In diesem Hauptteil ist ein alternierendes Schema zwischen der militärischen Aktivität Mešaʿ und seiner Bautätigkeit festzustellen, wobei die einzelnen Blöcke, was ihre Länge betrifft, ausgewogen sind: die beiden mittleren sind etwa gleich lang, die beiden äußeren wesentlich kürzer. Über den Schluss kann aufgrund des fragmentarischen Zustands der Stele nur mehr gemutmaßt werden. Ein wie für den Hauptteil herausgearbeitetes alternierendes Schema findet sich zudem in der Kontrastierung zu Beginn der Stele, sowie in den Aussagen über die militärischen Aktionen Mešaʿs.

The text of the Mešaʿ-stela (KAI 181) has a twofold system of graphic division-marks. Based on the supposition that the paragraph-signs are intentionally used structural indicators, a syntactical and structural analysis of the text of the stela was made following these indicators. The result is a remarkably symmetrical elaborate structure, consisting of introduction, transition, and a contrasting part. The end of this part (line 4) and the beginning of line 33 build a frame around the main part of the stela. In this main part an alternating pattern is identifiable consisting of Mešaʿ's military actions and his building activities the length of the individual parts is well-balanced. The two middle-parts are more or less of equal length, the two outer parts much shorter. Concerning the end of the stela one can only conjecture, due to its fragmentary condition. An alternating pattern as developed for the main part is furthermore identifiable for the contrasting part in the beginning of the stela and for the statements about Mešaʿ's military actions.

The Mesha Stele, or Moabite Stone, a Non-Biblical Text, Confirms Some Events in the Biblical Book of Kings

In 1868 Anglican missionary Frederick Augustus Klein discovered the Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone in Dibon (now Dhiban), Jordan. It was the first "Canaanite inscription found in the region of Palestine, and the longest Iron Age inscription ever found in the region, constitutes the major evidence for the Moabite language, and is a "corner-stone of Semitic epigraphy", [6] and history. [7] The stele, whose story parallels, with some differences, an episode in the Bible's Books of Kings (2 Kings 3:4&ndash8), provides invaluable information on the Moabite language and the political relationship between Moab and Israel at one moment in the 9th century BCE. [8] It is the most extensive inscription ever recovered that refers to the kingdom of Israel (the "House of Omri") it bears the earliest certain extrabiblical reference to the Israelite god Yahweh. André Lemaire reconstructed a portion of line 31 to read "House of David" which would mean it might contain the earliest extra-Biblical witness to David. [3] Lemaire's reading is contested, with others now reading 'Balak', a Moabite king mentioned at Numbers 22&ndash24, in its place. [9] [10] It is also one of four known contemporary inscriptions containing the name of Israel, the others being the Merneptah Stele, the Tel Dan Stele, and the Kurkh Monolith. [11] [12] [13] Its authenticity has been disputed over the years, and some biblical minimalists suggest the text was not historical, but a biblical allegory, but the stele is regarded as genuine and historical by the vast majority of biblical archaeologists today. (Wikipedia article on Meshah Stele, accessed 9-2020).

The inscribed stone was set in place around 840 BCE by King Mesha of Moab (a kingdom located in what is now Jordan). In the inscription Mesha told how Chemosh, the god of Moab, had been angry with his people and had allowed them to be subjugated to Israel, but at length, Chemosh returned and assisted Mesha to throw off the yoke of Israel and restore the lands of Moab. Mesha describes his many building projects. Some say the stele was written in the Phoenician alphabet, but others say it is written in the Old Hebrew script, which is closely related. The stele is preserved in the Louvre.

When Klein discovered the Mesha Stele amateur explorers and archaeologists were scouring the Levant for evidence proving the Bible's historicity. News of the finding set off a race between France, Britain, and Germany to acquire the stone. A "squeeze" (a papier-mâché impression) had been obtained by a local Arab on behalf of Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau, an archaeologist based in the French consulate in Jerusalem. The next year, the stele was smashed into several fragments by the Bani Hamida tribe in an act of defiance against the Ottoman authorities who had pressured the Bedouins to hand over the stele so that it could be given to Germany. Clermont-Ganneau later managed to acquire most of the fragments and piece together 613 of the original letters of about a thousand letters original cut into the stone, thanks to the impression made before the stele's destruction.

Various translations of the Stele were made within a year or two of the discovery. Christian Ginsburg's book, The Moabite Stone (1871) reproduced the text of the Stele from the "squeeze" and various differing translations by different scholars.

Bible Encyclopedias

Name usually given to the only known surviving inscribed monument of ancient Moab. It was discovered in 1868 at Dhiban, the ancient DIBON, four miles north of the River Arnon. When first seen by Europeans (including a German missionary named Klein) it was an inscribed slab of black basalt 3½ feet long by 2 feet wide. The Arabs of the neighborhood, dreading the loss of such a talisman, broke the stone into pieces but a squeeze had already been obtained by Clermont-Ganneau, and most of the fragments were recovered and pieced together by him. The reconstructed monument is now, together with the squeeze, in the museum of the Louvre in Paris.

The inscription consists of thirty-four lines containing about 260 words and is well engraved in old Hebrew (Phenician) characters. It was written about 860 B.C. in the name of MESHA, the King of Moab. The translation of the first two-thirds of the inscription is as follows:

"I am Mesha, son of Chemosh . . . (?), King of Moab, the Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I became king after my father, and I made this high place for Chemosh in , the high place of deliverance, because he had delivered me from all that attacked me, and because he had made me see my desire upon all my enemies. Omri, King of Israel, oppressed Israel many days because Chemosh was angry with his land and his son succeeded him, and he also said, 'I will oppress Moab.' In my days he said this, and I saw my desire upon him, and Israel was humbled with everlasting humiliation. Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba and [his people] occupied it during his days and half the days of his son, forty years but Chemosh restored it in my days. . . . And the men of Gad had occupied the land of Ataroth for a long time, and the King of Israel had built up Ataroth for himself. And I fought against the city and took it, and I slew all the people from the city, a sight for the eyes of Chemosh and of Moab. . . . And Chemosh said to me, 'Go, take Nebo against Israel.' And I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, and I took it and slew all [that were in] it, seven thousand men and boys and women and girls and maid servants for to Ashtor-Chemosh I had devoted it. And I took from there the vessels of Yhwh and brought them before Chemosh. And the King of Israel had fortified Jahaz and occupied it while he was at war with me, and Chemosh drove him out from before me. And I took of Moab two hundred, all its chiefs, and I attacked Jahaz and took it, in order to add it to Dibon."

In the rest of the inscription Mesha tells of restoring and fortifying cities that rightfully belonged to Moab, of building a palace for himself, and of constructing reservoirs for water.

The inscription is by far the most important yet found in Palestine. It has added essentially to the scanty knowledge of the history and religion of Moab itself, and has thrown light on the fortunes of Israel east of the Jordan, as well as upon the foreign relations of the dynasty of Omri. The character of the language of Moab is also pretty fairly indicated.

In regard to the last point it may be noticed that the inflections depart but very seldom from those of classical Hebrew. The masculine plural ends in "-in" instead of "-im," and there is an ifte'al verbstem. "Waw" consecutive with the first person imperfect is regularly followed by the cohortative or subjunctive. The vowel-letter ה is used for the pronominal suffix of both genders.

Religious and Historical Importance.

In matters of religion Moab is seen to furnish a close parallel to Israel. Chemosh here bears exactly the same political relation to his people as Jehovah does to His (comp. Numbers 21:29 Judges 11:24 ). In both nations religion is the basis of a fiercely intense patriotism (comp. 2 Kings 3:27 ), and the king is the nearest representative of the Deity in executing all His will. The vivid picture given of the border warfare between Moab and Israel helps one to understand the bitter hostility of each people toward the other, and the race hatred to which Judah became heir after the fall of the Northern Kingdom. Of Israel's history it is learned that the warlike Gadites had absorbed the tribe of Reuben, and that they upheld the banner of Israel east of the Jordan. A clearer idea is obtained of the epoch-making deeds of Omri, under whom, in spite of the wars with Damascus, a large portion of Moab was annexed and the whole kingdom forced to pay an enormous tribute (comp. 2 Kings 3:4 ) but after his day Israel gradually lost its hold upon Moab, which was thus left to its habitual repose, and, like wine, "settled on his lees" ( Jeremiah 48:11 ).

The literature in connection with the Moabite stone is quite large. Inasmuch as the elucidation of the language of the inscription is continually progressing, the later treatises are the most valuable for practical purposes. Translations with notes were given in 1870 by Clermont-Ganneau, Nöldeke, Ginsburg, Schlottmann, and Derenbourg, and in 1871 by Wright. Recent discussions give results based on reexamination and closer criticism of the text. It may be noted that an attempt to disprove the authenticity of the stone was recently made by A. Löwy (Berlin, 1903). The most important of the later studies are cited in the bibliography.

Watch the video: Moabite Stone Evidence of the Bible (July 2022).


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