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Encyclopedia > Mesha Stele
The stele as photographed circa 1891
The stele as photographed circa 1891

The Mesha Stele (popularized in the 19th century as the "Moabite Stone") is a black basalt stone, bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC Moabite King Mesha, discovered in 1868. The inscription of 34 lines, the most extensive inscription ever recovered from ancient Palestine, was written in Hebrew-Phoenician characters. It was set up by Mesha, about 850 BC, as a record and memorial of his victories in his revolt against Israel, which he undertook after the death of his overlord, Ahab. Download high resolution version (510x808, 99 KB)Circa 1891 photograph of the 9th century BC Mesha Stele, inscribed in the Moabite language by king Mesha of Moab. ... Download high resolution version (510x808, 99 KB)Circa 1891 photograph of the 9th century BC Mesha Stele, inscribed in the Moabite language by king Mesha of Moab. ... Basalt Basalt is a common gray to black volcanic rock. ... (10th century BC - 9th century BC - 8th century BC - other centuries) (900s BC - 890s BC - 880s BC - 870s BC - 860s BC - 850s BC - 840s BC - 830s BC - 820s BC - 810s BC - 800s BC - other decades) (2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC - 1st millennium AD) Events Kingdom of Kush (900 BC... The Moabite language is an extinct Hebrew Canaanite dialect, spoken in Moab (modern-day northwestern Jordan) in the early first millennium BC. Most of our knowledge about Moabite comes from the Mesha Stele, as well as the El-Kerak Stela; this is sufficient to show that it was extremely similar... A 9th Century B.C.E King of Moab, a strip of hilly land in present-day Jordan, which lay north of Edom, across the Dead Sea from Judah up to the Arnon river valley. ... 1868 (MDCCCLXVIII) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Friday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... The Phoenician alphabet dates from around 1400 BC and is related to the Proto-Canaanite alphabet. ... Centuries: 10th century BC - 9th century BC - 8th century BC Decades: 900s BC 890s BC 880s BC 870s BC 860s BC - 850s BC - 840s BC 830s BC 820s BC 810s BC 800s BC Years: 859 BC 858 BC 857 BC 856 BC 855 BC 854 BC 853 BC 852 BC... Ahab or Achav (אַחְאָב Brother of the father, Standard Hebrew Aḥʼav, Tiberian Hebrew ʼAḥăʼāḇ, ʼAḫʼāḇ) was King of the province of Samaria in the greater Kingdom of Israel, and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). ...


The stone is 124 cm high and 71 cm wide and deep, and rounded at the top. It was discovered at the ancient Dibon now Dhiban, Jordan, in August 1868, by Rev. F. A. Klein, a German missionary in Jerusalem. "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 [Charles] Clermont-Ganneau, and most of the fragments were recovered and pieced together by him"[1]. A squeeze is a papier-mâché impression. The squeeze (which has never been published) and the reassembled stele (which has been published in many books and encyclopedias) are now in the Louvre Museum. A town in Jordan, several kilometers south of Amman and east of the Dead Sea. ... A town in Jordan, several kilometers south of Amman and east of the Dead Sea. ... Papier-mâché around a form such as a balloon to create a pig. ... The main courtyard of the Louvre. ...

Contents


Contents

The stele describes:

  1. How Moab was conquered by Omri, King of Israel, as the result of the anger of the god Chemosh. Mesha's victories over Omri's son (not mentioned by name), over the men of Gad at Ataroth, and at Nebo and Jehaz;
  2. His public buildings, restoring the fortifications of his strong places and building a palace and reservoirs for water; and
  3. His wars against the Horonaim.

This inscription can be interpreted as supplementing and corroborating the history of King Mesha recorded in 2 Kings 3:4-27, thereby earning it a prominent place in the corpus of Biblical archaeology. However there are significant differences. In the Bible it is Ahab, Omri's son, who conquers Moab, and the rebellion is against Ahab's son Jehoram. Further, in the Bible, it is not Chemosh who gives victory to Mesha but Jahweh who gives victory to Jehoram. Israel withdraws, according to the Book of Kings, only because they are disconcerted when they see Mesha sacrifice his son. Omri (Hebrew עָמְרִי, Standard Hebrew Ê¿Omri, Tiberian Hebrew Ê¿Omrî; short for Hebrew עָמְרִיָּה The LORD is my life, Standard Hebrew Ê¿Omriyya, Tiberian Hebrew Ê¿Omriyyāh) was king of Israel and father of Ahab. ... Chemosh, was the god of the Moabites (Num. ... The Tribe of Gad (גָּד soldier, Standard Hebrew Gad, Tiberian Hebrew Gāḏ) is one of the Hebrew tribes, founded by Gad son of Jacob, who was born to Zilpah, the handmaiden of Jacobs first wife, Leah. ... Horonaim is a city mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, in chapter 48: Chapter 48, verse 3: Listen to the cries from Horonaim, cries of great havoc and destruction. ... The Books of Kings (Hebrew: Sefer Melachim ספר מלכים) is a part of Judaisms Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. ... Biblical archaeology involves the recovery and scientific investigation of the material remains of past cultures that can illuminate the periods and descriptions in the Bible. ... The Gutenberg Bible owned by the United States Library of Congress The Bible (Hebrew: תנ״ך tanakh, Greek: η Βίβλος hÄ“ biblos) (sometimes The Holy Bible, The Book, Work of God, The Word, The Good Book or Scripture), from Greek (τα) βίβλια, (ta) biblia, (the) books, is the name used by Jews and Christians for their... Ahab or Achav (אַחְאָב Brother of the father, Standard Hebrew Aḥʼav, Tiberian Hebrew ʼAḥăʼāḇ, ʼAḫʼāḇ) was King of the province of Samaria in the greater Kingdom of Israel, and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). ... Jehoram (or Joram) was the king of Israel (2 Kings 8:16, 25, 28f), and he was the son of Ahab. ... The Books of Kings (Hebrew: Sefer Melachim ספר מלכים) is a part of Judaisms Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. ...


With the exception of a very few variations, such as -in for -im in plurals, the Moabite language of the inscription is identical with an early form of Hebrew. The Moabite alphabet is the oldest Phoenician type of the Semitic alphabet. 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, 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 850 BC. 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." The Moabite language is an extinct Hebrew Canaanite dialect, spoken in Moab (modern-day northwestern Jordan) in the early first millennium BC. Most of our knowledge about Moabite comes from the Mesha Stele, as well as the El-Kerak Stela; this is sufficient to show that it was extremely similar... Hebrew (עִבְרִית ‘Ivrit) is a Semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family spoken by more than seven million people in Israel and Jewish communities around the world. ... The Phoenician alphabet dates from around 1400 BC and is related to the Proto-Canaanite alphabet. ... Moab (מוֹאָב, Standard Hebrew Moʾav, Tiberian Hebrew Môʾāḇ Greek Μωάβ; Assyrian Muaba, Maba, Maab; Egyptian Muab) is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in modern-day Jordan running along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. ... Ahab or Achav (אַחְאָב Brother of the father, Standard Hebrew Aḥʼav, Tiberian Hebrew ʼAḥăʼāḇ, ʼAḫʼāḇ) was King of the province of Samaria in the greater Kingdom of Israel, and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). ... Centuries: 10th century BC - 9th century BC - 8th century BC Decades: 900s BC 890s BC 880s BC 870s BC 860s BC - 850s BC - 840s BC 830s BC 820s BC 810s BC 800s BC Years: 859 BC 858 BC 857 BC 856 BC 855 BC 854 BC 853 BC 852 BC...


In 1994, after examining both the Mesha Stele and the paper squeeze of it in the Louvre Museum, the French scholar André Lemaire reported that line 31 of the Mesha Stele bears the phrase "the house of David" (in Biblical Archaeology Review [May/June 1994], pp. 30-37). Lemaire had to supply one destroyed letter, the first "D" in "[D]avid," to decode the wording. The complete sentence in the latter part of line 31 would then read, "As for Horonen, there lived in it the house of [D]avid," וחורננ. ישב. בה. בת[ד]וד. (Note: square brackets [ ] enclose letters or words that have been supplied where letters were destroyed or were on fragments that are still missing.) Most scholars find that no other letter supplied there yields a reading that makes sense. After one full year, only one scholar, Baruch Margalit, attempted to supply a different letter there: "m," along with several other letters in places after that. The reading that resulted was "Now Horoneyn was occupied at the en[d] of [my pre]decessor['s reign] by [Edom]ites." (Baruch Margalit, "Studies in NWSemitic Inscriptions," Ugarit-Forschungen 26, p. 275). It would be misleading to fail to mention that now, more than ten years later, Margalit's reading has not attracted any significant support in scholarly publications. David and Goliath by Caravaggio, c. ...


In 2001, another French scholar, Pierre Bordreuil, reported (in an essay in French) that he and a few other scholars could not confirm Lemaire's reading of "the house of David" in line 31 of the stele (Pierre Bordreuil, "A propos de l'inscription de Mesha': deux notes," in P. M. Michele Daviau, John W. Wevers and Michael Weigl [Eds.], The World of the Aramaeans III, pp. 158-167, especially pp. 162-163 [Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001]).


Whereas the later mention of the "House of David" on a Tel Dan stele fragment was written by an Aramaean enemy king, this inscription comes from a Moabite enemy of Israel, also boasting of a victory. If Lemaire is right, there are now two early references to David's dynasty, one in the Mesha Stele (mid-9th century) and the other in the Tel Dan Stele (mid-9th to mid-8th century), as noted in Time Magazine, December 18, 1995. For a full but technical discussion, see Lawrence J. Mykytiuk, _Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 B.C.E._, Academia Biblica series, no. 12 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), pp. 265-277. The Tel Dan Stele The Tel Dan Stele, found at Tel Dan in Israel in 1993/1994, is a fragment (in three sections) of an Aramaic inscription on basalt, which appears to be from a stele erected for Ben-Hadad of the Aramaean nation, an enemy of the kingdom of...


In 1998, another scholar, Anson Rainey, translated a puzzling two-word phrase in line 12 of the Mesha Stele, אראל. דודה, as "its Davidic altar-hearth" (Anson F. Rainey, "Mesha and Syntax," in _The Land That I Will Show You_, edited by J. Andrew Dearman and M. Patrick Graham, Supplement Series, no. 343 [Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001], pp. 300-306).


The identifications of the biblical Mesha, king of Moab, and of the biblical Omri, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, in the Mesha stele are generally accepted by the scholarly community, especially because what is said about them in the narrative of the Mesha stele agrees well with the narrative in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles.


The identification of David in the Mesha stele, however, remains controversial. This controversy stems partly from the fragmentary state of line 31 of the Mesha stele and partly from a tendency since the 1990s, largely among European scholars, to question or dismiss the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). In Europe, P. R. Davies, Thomas L. Thompson, and Niels P. Lemche show a strong tendency to reject biblical historicity, whereas André Lemaire, K. A. Kitchen, Jens Bruun Kofoed, and other European scholars are exceptions to this tendency. Many scholars lean in one direction or the other but actually occupy the middle ground. In general, North American and Israeli scholars tend to be more willing to accept the identification of the biblical King David in the Mesha stele. The controversy over whether ancient inscriptions confirm that King David existed usually focuses less on the Mesha stele and more on the Tel Dan stele. David and Goliath by Caravaggio, c. ... The Tel Dan Stele The Tel Dan Stele, found at Tel Dan in Israel in 1993/1994, is a fragment (in three sections) of an Aramaic inscription on basalt, which appears to be from a stele erected for Ben-Hadad of the Aramaean nation, an enemy of the kingdom of...


Text

The text, in Moabite, transcribed into modern Hebrew letters: The Moabite language is an extinct Hebrew Canaanite dialect, spoken in Moab (modern-day northwestern Jordan) in the early first millennium BC. Most of our knowledge about Moabite comes from the Mesha Stele, as well as the El-Kerak Stela; this is sufficient to show that it was extremely similar... This article is mainly about Hebrew letters. ...

 1. אנכ. משע. בנ. כמש.. . מלכ. מאב. הד 2. יבני | אבי. מלכ. על. מאב. שלשנ. שת. ואנכ. מלכ 3. תי. אחר. אבי | ואעש. הבמת. זאת. לכמש. בקרחה | ב[נס. י] 4. שע. כי. השעני. מכל. המלכנ. וכי. הראני. בכל. שנאי | עמר 5. י. מלכ. ישראל. ויענו. את. מאב. ימנ. רבן. כי. יאנפ. כמש. באר 6. צה | ויחלפה. בנה. ויאמר. גמ. הא. אענו. את. מאב | בימי. אמר. כ[...] 7. וארא. בה. ובבתה | וישראל. אבד. אבד. עלמ. וירש. עמרי. את א[ר] 8. צ. מהדבא | וישב. בה. ימה. וחצי. ימי. בנה. ארבענ. שת. ויש 9. בה. כמש. בימי | ואבנ. את. בעלמענ. ואעש. בה. האשוח. ואבנ 10. את. קריתנ | ואש. גד. ישב. בארצ. עטרת. מעלמ. ויבנ. לה. מלכ. י 11. שראל. את. עטרת | ואלתחמ. בקר. ואחזה | ואהרג. את. כל. העמ. [מ] 12. הקר. רית. לכמש. ולמאב | ואשב. משמ. את. אראל. דודה. ואס 13. חבה. לפני. כמש. בקרית | ואשב. בה. את. אש. שרנ. ואת. אש 14. מחרת | ויאמר. לי. כמש. לכ. אחז. את. נבה. על. ישראל | וא 15. הלכ. הללה. ואלתחמ. בה. מבקע. השחרת. עד. הצהרמ | ואח 16. זה. ואהרג. כלה. שבעת. אלפנ. גברנ. ו[גר]נ | וגברת. וגר 17. ת. ורחמת | כי. לעשתר. כמש. החרמתה | ואקח. משמ. א[ת. כ] 18. לי. יהוה. ואסחב. המ. לפני. כמש | ומלכ. ישראל. בנה. את 19. יהצ. וישב. בה. בהלתחמה. בי | ויגרשה. כמש. מפני | ו 20. אקח. ממאב. מאתנ. אש. כל. רשה | ואשאה. ביהצ. ואחזה. 21. לספת. על. דיבנ | אנכ. בנתי. קרחה. חמת. היערנ. וחמת 22. העפל | ואנכ. בנתי. שעריה. ואנכ. בנתי. מגדלתה | וא 23. נכ. בנתי. בת. מלכ. ואנכ. עשתי. כלאי. האש[וח למי]נ. בקרב 24. הקר | ובר. אנ. בקרב. הקר. בקרחה. ואמר. לכל. העמ. עשו. ל 25. כמ. אש. בר. בביתה | ואנכ. כרתי. המכרתת. לקרחה. באסר 26. [י]. ישראל | אנכ. בנתי. ערער. ואנכ. עשתי. המסלת. בארננ. 27. אנכ. בנתי. בת. במת. כי. הרס. הא | אנכ. בנתי. בצר. כי. עינ 28. ----- ש. דיבנ. חמשנ. כי. כל. דיבנ. משמעת | ואנכ. מלכ 29. ת[י] ----- מאת. בקרנ. אשר. יספתי. על. הארצ | ואנכ. בנת 30. [י. את. מה]דבא. ובת. דבלתנ | ובת. בעלמענ. ואשא. שמ. את. [...] 31. --------- צאנ. הארצ | וחורננ. ישב. בה. ב 32. --------- אמר. לי. כמש. רד. הלתחמ. בחורננ | וארד 33. ---------[ויש]בה. כמש. בימי. ועל[...]. משמ. עש 34. -------------- שת. שדק | וא 

Translation

I am Mesha, son of Kemosh[-yatti], the king of Moab, the Dibonite. My father was king over Moab


for thirty years, and I became king after my father. And I made this high-place for Kemosh in Qarcho Chemosh, was the god of the Moabites (Num. ...


. . . because he has delivered me from all kings, and because he has made me look down on all my


enemies. Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Kemosh was angry with Omri (Hebrew עָמְרִי, Standard Hebrew ʿOmri, Tiberian Hebrew ʿOmrî; short for Hebrew עָמְרִיָּה The LORD is my life, Standard Hebrew ʿOmriyya, Tiberian Hebrew ʿOmriyyāh) was king of Israel and father of Ahab. ...


his land. And his son reigned in his place; and he also said, "I will oppress Moab!" In my days he


said so. But I looked down on him and on his house, and Israel has been defeated; it has been


defeated forever! And Omri took possession of the whole land of Medaba, and he lived there in his Mecca or Makkah (in full: Makkah al-Mukkaramah; Arabic مكة المكرمة) is revered as the holiest site of Islam, and a pilgrimage to it is required of all Muslims who can afford to go. ...


days and half the days of his son: forty years. But Kemosh restored it in my days. And I built Baal


Meon, and I built a water reservoir in it. And I built Qiryaten. And the men of Gad lived in the Gad can refer to: Gad (see Gad Guard), a metallic cube artifact that figures prominantly in the anime Gad Guard Gad (Bible character), the sixth son of Jacob as related in Genesis 29 - 30 Tribe of Gad, one of the Hebrew tribes founded by Gad GAD as a three-letter...


land of Atarot from ancient times; and the king of Israel built Atarot for himself, and I fought


against the city and captured it. And I killed all the people of the city as a sacrifice for Kemosh


and for Moab. And I brought back the fire-hearth of his uncle from there; and I brought it before


the face of Kemosh in Qerioit, and I made the men of Sharon live there, as well as the men of


Maharit. And Kemosh said to me, "Go, take Nebo from Israel." And I went in the night and fought A sculpture on Mount Nebo based around the biblical story of Moses staff and the snake // Geography Mount Nebo (Arabic: Jebel Nebo) is an elevated ridge that is approximately 817 metres (2680 feet) above sea level, in what is now western Jordan. ...


against it from the daybreak until midday, and I took it and I killed the whole population: seven


thousand male subjects and aliens, and female subjects, aliens, and servant girls. For I had put it


to the ban for Ashtar Kemosh. And from there I took the vessels of Yahweh, and I presented them The Tetragrammaton in Phoenician (1100 BC to 300 CE), Aramaic (10th Century BC to 0) and modern Hebrew scripts. ...


before the face of Kemosh. And the king of Israel had built Yahaz, and he stayed there throughout


his campaign against me; and Kemosh drove him away before my face. And I took two hundred men of


Moab, all its division, and I led it up to Yahaz. And I have taken it in order to add it to Dibon. I


have built Qarcho, the wall of the woods and the wall of the citadel; and I have built its gates;


and I have built its towers; and I have built the house of the king; and I have made the double


reservoir for the spring in the innermost part of the city. Now the innermost part of the city had


no cistern, in Qarcho, and I said to all the people, "Each one of you shall make a cistern in his


house." And I cut the moat for Qarcho by using Israelite prisoners. I have built Aroer, and I The Twelve Tribes redirects here; for other uses, see The Twelve Tribes (disambiguation). ...


constructed the military road in Arnon. I have built Beth-Bamot, for it had been destroyed. I have


built Bezer, for it lay in ruins. And the men of Dibon stood in battle formation, for all Dibon were A town in Jordan, several kilometers south of Amman and east of the Dead Sea. ...


in subjection. And I am the king over the hundreds in the towns which I have added to the land. And


I have built Beth-Medeba and Beth-Diblaten and Beth-Baal-Meon, and I brought there . . . flocks of


the the land. And Horonaim, there lived Horonaim is a city mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, in chapter 48: Chapter 48, verse 3: Listen to the cries from Horonaim, cries of great havoc and destruction. ...


. . . Kemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Hauranen!" I went down


. . . and Kemosh restored it in my days . . .


External links

  • Louvre collection - includes a large modern photo of the stele
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901 - 6: "Moabite Stone," includes a translation of part of the inscription.
  • Translation from Northwest Semitic Inscriptions

For Further Reading

In chronological order:

  • Franz Praetorius (1905-6), "Zur Inschrift des Meša`", in: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 59, pp. 33-35; 60, p. 402.
  • Dearman, J. Andrew (Ed.) (1989). Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab. Archaeology and Biblical Studies series, no. 2. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press. ISBN 1-55540-357-3.
  • Davies, Philip R. (1992, 2nd edition 1995, reprinted 2004). In Search of 'Ancient Israel' Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
  • Lemaire, André (1994). "'House of David' Restored in Moabite Inscription." Biblical Archaeology Review 20 (3) May/June, pp. 30-37.
  • Margalit, Baruch ("1994"). "Studies in NWSemitic Inscriptions," Ugarit-Forschungen 26. Page 317 of this annual publication refers to "the recent publication (April, 1995) of two additional fragments" of another stele, therefore, the 1994 volume was actually published sometime after April 1995. On the Mesha stele inscription, see p. 275.
  • Parker, Simon B. (1997). Stories in Scripture and Inscriptions: Comparative Studies on Narratives in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions and the Hebrew Bible. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511620-8. See pp. 44-46 for a clear, perceptive outline of the contents of the inscription on the Mesha stele.
  • Rainey, Anson F. (2001). "Mesha and Syntax." In J. Andrew Dearman and M. Patrick Graham (Eds.), The Land That I Will Show You, pp. 300-306. Supplement Series, no. 343. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 1-84127-257-4.
  • Mykytiuk, Lawrence J. (2004). Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 B.C.E. Academia Biblica series, no. 12. Atlanta, Ga.: Society of Biblical Literature. See pp. 95-110 and 265-277. ISBN 1-58983-062-8.

See also

This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897. The Tel Dan Stele The Tel Dan Stele, found at Tel Dan in Israel in 1993/1994, is a fragment (in three sections) of an Aramaic inscription on basalt, which appears to be from a stele erected for Ben-Hadad of the Aramaean nation, an enemy of the kingdom of... The Merneptah Stele is the reverse of a stela erected by Amenhotep III written by Merneptah. ... David and Goliath by Caravaggio, c. ... Eastons Bible Dictionary generally refers to the Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, by Matthew George Easton M.A., D.D. (1823-1894), published three years after Eastons death in 1897 by Thomas Nelson. ...


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