By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
Also known as the Mesha Stela, the Moabite Stone is famous.
The Moabite Stone (aka Mesha Stele) is a circa 850 BC stone, written by Moabite king Mesha, that tells of Mesha's liberation of Moab after 40 years of Israelite control by the House of Omri. It correlates to 2 Kings 1 and 1 Kings 3:4, "After death of Ahab, Moab rebelled..." Mesha mentions attacking Israelite towns in Gad and rebuilding Moabite towns, as well as possible references to House of David.
Now Mesha, king of Moab, was a sheep breeder who used to pay the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 2 Kings 3:4-5
Mesha ruled Moab, east of the Dead Sea, during the 9th century BC. He is known from the Bible and from his own monumental inscription, the Moabite Stone. It was set up in Dibon, the capital of Moab, in a sanctuary of the national god Chemosh.
The inscription is written in Moabite, closed related to ancient Hebrew. It had a biblical form, echoing language and motifs found in 1 and 2 Kings. Mesha recounts his principal achievements as king. The most important of these was his recovery from Israel of Moabite lands north of the Arnon River (Wadi Mujib). The language is bombastic: Israel perished utterly forever, claims Mesha, though this was untrue; and he claims to have slaughtered 7,000 Israelite men, boys, women, girls, and concubines in one town alone in devotion to Ashtar-Chemosh.
There is an ancient road climbing the eastern slope of Wadi Nukheila, a major tributary of Wadi Mujib. It varies from five to eight meters in width and in difficult stretches has a constucted roadbed. It is lined with basalt boulders. The road almost certainly dates to the Iron Age and could be the highway mentioned by Mesha in his inscription.
The inscription was discovered in 1868 in Dhiban, ancient Dibon, but soon thereafter was broken into pieces. Fortunately, a paper impression had already been made and virtually all of the inscription found in 1868 was recoreded. However, what was found may only be the upper half of the original monument.
Mesha records his public works: temples and sanctuaries; a royal palace; walls, gates and towers; public reservoirs; and a highway across the Arnon, the deep valley that divided Moab in two.
Omri, king of Israel, ruled a generation before Mesha and is mentioned several times. The earliest known reference to Yahweh in a Semitic inscription is also found in the Moabite Stone. At the extant bottom of the stela, Mesha describes an encounter with the House of David (the Kingdom of Judah). Although the passage is badly broken, it is clear that Mesha takes credit for a victory over the House of David in the territory south of the Armon.
However, Mesha emphasizes his subservience as servant to Chemosh, the god of Moab, in battle. Like Yahweh of Israel, Chemosh, the divine warrior, directed his national military campaigns and received sacrifices of enemy victims. His faithful servant, the king, was rewarded with victory in the face of his enemies.
Dedication1 I am Mesha ben Chemoshiath, King of Moab, the Dibonite.
2 My father ruled over Moab for 30 years, and then I
3 came to rule after my father. I made this hilltop shrine for Chemosh is Qeriho to be
4 a shrine of deliverance, because he saved me from all the kings and caused me to triumph over all of my enemies.
Israel has perished utterly forever5 Omri was king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, because Chemosh was angry
6 with his alnd. His son succeeded him, and he also said "I will oppress Moab" -- he said so during my lifetime.
7 I triumphed over him and his house, and so Israel has perished utterly forever.
Mahdaba retaken7 Omri had taken possession of
8 the land of Mahdaba, and settled in it during his lifetime and half the lifetime of his son (40 years).
9 Then Chemosh restored it to me during my lifetime, and I built Ba'al-me'on and dug the reservoir in it. I also built
Altar of Atarot dragged before Chemosh10 The people of Gad had dwelled in the land of Atarot for an eternity, and the king of
11 Israel had built up Atarot for himself. Then I waged war against the town and seized it, and slaughtered all the people from the city
12 to satisfy Chemosh and Moab. I brought the altar of its beloved from there and
13 dragged it before Chemosh in Qiryat. Then I brought the people of Saron and
14 Maharat to it.
Nebo taken from Israel14 Chemosh said to me, "Go take Nebo from Israel!"
15 so I went in the night and waged war against it from the break of dawn until noon.
16 I took it and I slaughtered all 7000 -- men, boys, women, girls,
17 and concubines -- because I had dedicated it to Ashtar-Chemosh. I took
18 the vessels of Yahweh from there and dragged them before Chemosh.
Israel driven from Yahas18 The king of Israel had built
19 Yahas, and resided there while he was waging war against me. Chemosh drove him away from me.
20 I took 200 men from Moab -- every chieftain in it -- and settled them in Yahas. I took it
21 to join to Dibon.
Walls and gates of Qeriho built21 I built Qeriho -- the wall of the park and the wall of
22 the citadel, and I built its gates. I built its towers,
23 and I built the royal palace. I made the retaining channels of the water reservoir inside
24 the town, but there was no cistern inside the town. So I said to all the people,
25 "Each man must make a cistern in his house!" I quarried the channels for Qeriho
26 with Israelite captives.
Mesha's highway across the Arnon26 I built Aro'er, and I made the highway across the Arnon.
27 I built Bet-bamot, because it was destroyed; and I built Beser, because it was in ruins. I did this
28 with 50 men of Dibon, because all Dibon was subject to me. I ruled
29 over a hundred towns that I added to the country. I built
30 the temple of Mahdaba, the temple of Diblaten, and the temple of Ba'al-me'on, and estabblished there [...]
31 the sheep of the land.
Horonen restored31 As for the house of David, it resided in Horonen,
32 and Chemosh said to me, "Go down, wage war against Horonen." So I went down and
33 besieged the town, and took it. Chemosh had restored it to me during my lifetime
[Remainer of the inscription is lost.]