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Moabite Stone

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 text

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.

Building inscription.

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. Jer 48:19, modern ’Ara’ir S of Dibon) and a highway in the Arnon valley. He rebuilt ruined Beth-bamoth (cf. Num 21:19) and Bezer using men from Dibon. Other reconstruction work was carried out at Medeba, Beth-diblathaim (Jer 48:22) and Beth-baal-meon as centers for sheepbreeders. Altogether he added more than a hundred towns and villages to his territory. The broken inscr. ends with the call of the god Chemosh to Mesha’ to go and fight the Hauranites.

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 Books of Samuel (1913), lxxivff.; W. F. Albright, “The Moabite Stone,” ANET (1955), 320, 321; E. Ullendorf, “The Moabite Stone,” Documents from Old Testament Times (Ed. D. Winton Thomas) (1958), 195-198.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A monument erected at Dibon (Dhiban) by Mesha, king of Moab (2Ki 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 (Nu 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 (Jos 13:17) and made therein the ditches (or wells); I built

(10) Kirjathaim (Nu 32:37). The men of Gad dwelt in the land of Ataroth (Nu 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 (Jer 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 (Isa 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: 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 (De 2:36), and I made the road in Arnon. And

(27) I built Beth-Bamoth (Nu 26:19) for it was destroyed. I built Bezer (De 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 (Nu 21:30) and Beth-diblathaim (Jer 48:22), and Beth-Baal-Meon (Jer 48:23), and transported the shepherds (?)

(31) .... (with) the flock(s) of the land. Now in Choronaim (Isa 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 ....

(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 King James Version (2Sa 23:20; compare Isa 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 (2Ki 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 (2Ki 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.