CHEMOSH ke’ mŏsh (כְּמֹ֑ושׁ, LXX Χαμώς, meaning uncertain; subduer?). The name of the national god of Moab, Chemosh is mentioned eight times in the OT. In
Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, as he did for the gods of several other of his wives, but the text describes Chemosh as the abomination of Moab (cf.
The name, Chemosh, appears twelve times on the b.c., two apparently in a compound form. On this stone, Mesha is described as “son of Chemosh...”; the last part of the phrase is obliterated but can be compared with the “Kammusunadbi of Moab” on the Taylor Prism which details Sennacherib’s invasion of Pal. in 701
The other compound is “Ashtar-Chemosh” which suggests that Chemosh may have been an astral god paired with the goddess Ishtar, who was Venus. Mesha constructed a temple for them at Qrchh, the vocalization of which is unknown, but was prob. located close to Dibon.
Almost nothing is known of the character of Chemosh, but the inscr. on the Moabite Stone indicates that he was a savage war god. While Israel dominated Moab, Chemosh is said to have been angry with his people. With victory, he evidently became quite happy again.
J. B. Pritchard, ed. The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (1956); D. W. Thomas, Documents fromTimes, New York (1958); “ ,” 195-199.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. Moabites, the People of Chemosh
2. Solomon and Chemosh Worship
3. Josiah Putting Down Chemosh Worship
4. Chemosh and Ammonites
6. Mesha’s Inscription and the
7. Chemosh in the Inscription
8. Parallels between Inscription and Old Testament Record
9. Ethical Contrast
1. Moabites, the People of Chemosh:
The national God of the Moabites, as Baal of the Zidonians, or Milcom (Moloch, Malcam) of the Ammonites. The Moabites are apostrophized in an old Hebrew song as the "people of Chemosh" (
2. Solomon and Chemosh Worship:
For Chemosh, "the abomination of Moab," as for Moloch, "the abomination of the children of Ammon," Solomon, under the influence of his idolatrous wives, built a high place in the mount before Jerusalem (
3. Josiah Putting Down Chemosh Worship:
Josiah found these abominations of alien worship, which had been introduced by Solomon and added to by Ahaz and Manasseh, flourishing when he came to the throne. Moved by the prohibitions of the Book of the Law (
4. Chemosh and Ammonites:
There is one passage where Chemosh is designated the god of the Ammonites (
5. Moabite Stone:
The discovery of the Moabite Stone in 1868 at Dibon has thrown light upon Chemosh and the relations of Moab to its national god. The monument, which is now one of the most precious treasures of the Louvre in Paris, bears an inscription which is the oldest specimen of Semitic alphabetic writing extant, commemorating the successful effort made about 860 or 850 BC by Mesha, king of Moab, to throw off the yoke of Israel. We know from the Old Testament record that Moab had been reduced to subjection by David (
6. Mesha’s Inscription and the Old Testament:
The historical situation described in the Old Testament narrative is fully confirmed by Mesha’s inscription. There are, however, divergences in detail. In the Book of Kings the revolt of Mesha is said to have taken place after the death of Ahab. The inscription implies that it must have taken place by the middle of Ahab’s reign. The inscription implies that the subjection of Moab to Israel had not been continuous from the time of David, and says that `Omri, the father of Ahab, had reasserted the power of Israel and had occupied at least a part of the land.
7. Chemosh in the Inscription:
It is with what the inscription says of Chemosh that we are chiefly concerned. On the monument the name appears twelve times. Mesha is himself the son of Chemosh, and it was for Chemosh that he built the high place upon which the monument was found. He built it because among other reasons Chemosh had made him to see his desire upon them that hated him. It was because Chemosh was angry with his land that `Omri afflicted Moab many days. `Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba and Israel dwelt in it his days and half his son’s days, but Chemosh restored it in Mesha’s days. Mesha took `Ataroth which the king of Israel had built for himself, slew all the people of the city, and made them a gazing-stock to Chemosh and to Moab. Mesha brought thence the altar-hearth of Dodo, and dragged it before Chemosh in Kerioth. By command of Chemosh, Mesha attacked Nebo and fought against Israel, and after a fierce struggle he took the place, slaying the inhabitants en masse, 7,000 men and women and maidservants, devoting the city to `Ashtor-Chemosh and dragging the altar vessels of Yahweh before Chemosh. Out of Jahaz, too, which the king of Israel had built, Chemosh drove him before Mesha. At the instigation of Chemosh, Mesha fought against Horonaim, and, although the text is defective in the closing paragraph, we may surmise that Chemosh did not fail him but restored it to his dominions.
8. Parallels between Inscription and Old Testament Record:
Naturally enough there is considerable obscurity in local and personal allusions. Dodo may have been a local god worshipped by the Israelites East of the Jordan. Ashtor- Chemosh may be a compound divinity of a kind not unknown to Semitic mythology, Ashtor representing possibly the Phoenician Ashtoreth. What is of importance is the recurrence of so many phrases and expressions applied to Chemosh which are used of Yahweh in the Old Testament narratives. The religious conceptions of the Moabites reflected in the inscription are so strikingly like those of the Israelites that if only the name of Yahweh were substituted for that of Chemosh we might think we were reading a chapter of the
9. Ethical Contrast:
If we find in these representations of Chemosh in the Old Testament narrative and in Mesha’s inscription a striking similarity to the Hebrew conception of Yahweh, we cannot fail to notice the lack of the higher moral and spiritual elements supplied to the religion of Israel by the prophets and indeed from Moses and Abraham downward. "Chemosh," says W. Baudissin, "is indeed the ruler of his people whom he protects as Yahweh the Israelites, whom he chastises in his indignation, and from whom he accepts horrible propitiatory gifts. But of a God of grace whose long-suffering leads back even the erring to Himself, of a Holy God to whom the offering of a pure and obedient heart is more acceptable than bloody sacrifices, of such a God as is depicted in Israel’s prophets and sweet singers there is no trace in the Moabite picture of Chemosh. While Mesha is represented as offering up his own son in accordance with the stern requirements of his religion, Old Testament law-givers and prophets from the beginning condemned human sacrifice" (RE3, article "Kemosh").
RE3, article "Kemosh"; Cooke, Text-Book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, "Moabite Stone," 1-14; W. Robertson Smith, Prophets of Israel, 49 ff; Sayce, Sayce,and the Monuments, 364 ff.