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MOABITE STONE. A votive inscr. of Mesha’, king of Moab referring to his victory over Israel and building activities.
In 1868 a Ger. missionary, F. A. Klein, was shown an inscribed basalt slab (3’ 10\" high x 2’ wide and 2 1/2\" thick) with rounded top and thirty-nine lines of writing in an early cursive Heb. type script. When both the German and French consuls aided by local Turkish officials evinced a competitive interest in the object the Arabs broke the monument into several pieces to disperse it. Fortunately Clermont-Ganneau had obtained a squeeze of the major part of the unique text and thus was able to recover some 669 of an estimated 1100 letters, or less than two-thirds, when the larger pieces were bought and rejoined in the Louvre Museum in 1873.
The historical prelude.
The text shows clearly that the Moabites, like Israel, practiced the total destruction of towns and the annihilation of the inhabitants as an offering to their national deity to whom they ascribed victory. At the same time it describes Israelite penetration and building in Moab not expressed in the OT. The citing of the name of the God of Israel is of special interest.
Mesha’ continues with a claim to have built Qarhoh, both the wall around the park and citadel, its gates, towers and royal residence and reservoirs within the town. “Since there was no cistern within the town at Qarhoh I said to all the people, ‘Let each of you make a cistern in your own house.’ With Israelite captives I had irrigation ditches dug for Qarhoh.” Mesha’ also had built Aroer (cf.
This major inscr. in Moabite, a Sem. dialect akin to Biblical Heb., is in a 9th-cent. hand and is prob. to be dated soon after 841 b.c. The style is free narrative reminiscent of the OT. It is of much importance for the historical, linguistic, religious and economic insights it affords.
G. A. Cook, A Text-Book of North Semitic Inscriptions (1903), 1-14; S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the(1913), lxxivff.; W. F. Albright, “ ,” ANET (1955), 320, 321; E. Ullendorf, “The ,” Documents from Times (Ed. D. Winton Thomas) (1958), 195-198.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
A monument erected at Dibon (Dhiban) by Mesha, king of Moab (
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 (
(9) in my days. I built Baal-Meon (
(10) Kirjathaim (
(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 (
(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 (
(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: Make for
(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 (
(27) I built Beth-Bamoth (
(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 (
(31) .... (with) the flock(s) of the land. Now in Choronaim (
(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 ....
(34) ... And I .... "
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
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 (
Clermont-Ganneau, La stele de Mesa, 1870; Ginsburg,, 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.