Mesha Stele

Mesha Stele

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The Mesha Stele (popularized in the 19th century as the "Moabite Stone") is a black basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

 stone bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC
9th century BC
The 9th century BC started the first day of 900 BC and ended the last day of 801 BC.- Overview :The 9th century BC was a period of great changes in civilizations. In Africa, Carthage is founded by the Phoenicians...

 ruler Mesha
Mesha
King Mesha of Moab was a king of Moabites around the 9th century BC, known most famous for writing the Mesha stela.The books of Samuel record that Moab was conquered by David and retained in the territories of his son Solomon . Later, King Omri of Israel reconquered Moab after Moab was lost...

 of Moab
Moab
Moab is the historical name for a mountainous strip of land in Jordan. The land lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over...

 in Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

.

The inscription was set up about 840 BC as a memorial of Mesha's victories over "Omri
Omri
Omri was a king of Israel, successful military campaigner and first in the line of Omride kings that included Ahab, Ahaziah and Joram.He was "commander of the army" of king Elah when Zimri murdered Elah and made himself king. Instead, the troops at Gibbethon chose Omri as king, and he led them to...

 king of Israel" and his son, who had been oppressing Moab. It is the most extensive inscription ever recovered that refers to ancient Israel (the "House of Omri").
It bears what is generally thought to be the earliest extra-biblical Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 reference to the name Yahweh (YHWH), whose temple goods were plundered by Mesha and brought before his own god Kemosh.
French scholar André Lemaire has reconstructed a portion of line 31 of the stele
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

 as mentioning the "House of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

".

The stone is 124 cm high and 71 cm wide and deep, and rounded at the top. It was discovered at the site of ancient Dibon (now Dhiban, Jordan), in August 1868, by Rev. Frederick Augustus Klein (1827–1903), a German CMS
Church Mission Society
The Church Mission Society, also known as the Church Missionary Society, is a group of evangelistic societies working with the Anglican Communion and Protestant Christians around the world...

 missionary. Local villagers
Bani Hamida
The Bani Hamida were a pastoral-nomadic clan that controlled a land East of the Dead Sea before the establishment of the emirate of Jordan. They were clients of the Beni Sakhr....

 smashed the stone during a dispute over its ownership, but a squeeze (a papier-mâché
Papier-mâché
Papier-mâché , alternatively, paper-mache, is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste....

 impression) had been obtained by Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau
Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau
Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau was a noted French Orientalist and archaeologist.-Biography:Clermont-Ganneau was born in Paris, son of a sculptor of some repute...

, and most of the fragments were later recovered and pieced together by him. 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.

Description


The stele measures 44"x27". Its 34 lines describe:
  1. How Moab was oppressed by "Omri
    Omri
    Omri was a king of Israel, successful military campaigner and first in the line of Omride kings that included Ahab, Ahaziah and Joram.He was "commander of the army" of king Elah when Zimri murdered Elah and made himself king. Instead, the troops at Gibbethon chose Omri as king, and he led them to...

     King of Israel," as the result of the anger of the god Chemosh
  2. Mesha's victories over Omri's son (not named) and the men of Gad
    Tribe of Gad
    According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Gad was one of the Tribes of Israel.From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BC, the Tribe of Gad was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed,...

     at Ataroth, and at Nebo and Jehaz;
  3. His building projects, restoring the fortifications of his strong places and building a palace and reservoirs for water; and
  4. His wars against the Horonaim
    Horonaim
    Horonaim is a city mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, in chapter 48 :Chapter 48, verse 3:48:5:Horonaim is a city mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, in chapter 48 :...

    .

Language


It is written in Moabite language in the old Phoenician alphabet, and is "very close" to Standard Biblical Hebrew.

Importance


The inscription has strong consistency with the historical events recorded in the Bible. The events, names, and places mentioned in the Mesha Stele correspond to those mentioned in the Bible. For example, Mesha is recorded as the King of Moab in : “Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams.” Kemosh is mentioned in numerous places in the Bible as the national god of Moab . The reign of Omri, King of Israel, is chronicled in , and the inscription records many places and territories (Nebo, Gad, etc.) that also appear in the Bible. Finally, recounts a revolt by Mesha against Israel, to which Israel responded by allying with Judah and Edom to suppress the revolt:
“[4] Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. [5] But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. [6] So King Jehoram marched out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. [7] And he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, "The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to battle against Moab?" And he said, "I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses." [8] Then he said, "By which way shall we march?" Jehoram answered, "By the way of the wilderness of Edom." [9] So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. … [26] When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700 swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom, but they could not. [27] Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.”


Some scholars have argued that an inconsistency exists between the Mesha Stele and the Bible regarding the timing of the revolt. The argument rests upon the assumption that the following section of the inscription necessarily refers to Omri’s son Ahab: “Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Kemosh was angry with his land. And his son replaced him; and he said, "I will also oppress Moab."… And Omri took possession of the whole land of Madaba; and he lived there in his days and half the days of his son: forty years: And Kemosh restored it in my days”. In other words, these scholars argue that the inscription indicates that Mesha’s revolt occurred during the reign of Omri’s son Ahab. Since the Bible speaks of the revolt taking place during Jehoram’s reign (Omri’s grandson), these scholars have argued that these two accounts are inconsistent.

However, as other scholars have pointed out, the inscription need not necessarily refer to Omri’s son Ahab. In modern English, the word “son” typically refers to a male child in relation to his parents. In the ancient Near East, however, the word was commonly used to mean male descendant. Consequently, “son of Omri” was a common designation for any male descendant of Omri and would have been used to refer to Jehoram. Assuming that “son” means “descendant,” an interpretation consistent with the common use of language in the ancient Near East, the Mesha Stele and the Bible are consistent. Generally though the designation of "descendant of Omri" at that time was "bît Humri", as confirmed by Assyrian records.

Reconstruction of [D]VD in line 31 and interpretation of )R)L DVDH in line 12


In 1994, after examining both the Mesha Stele and the paper squeeze in the Louvre Museum, the French scholar André Lemaire reported that line 31 of the Mesha Stele bears the phrase "the house of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

" (in Biblical Archaeology Review [May/June 1994], pp. 30–37). Lemaire had to supply one destroyed letter, the first "D" in [D]VD, "of [D]avid," to construct 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. (Brackets [ ] enclose letters or words 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. Baruch Margalit has attempted to supply a different letter: "m," along with several other letters in places after that, giving the reading: "Now Horoneyn was occupied at the en[d] of [my pre]decessor['s reign] by [Edom]ites." Margalit's reading has not attracted any significant support in scholarly publications. 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. 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
Tel Dan Stele
The Tel Dan Stele is a stele discovered in 1993/94 during excavations at Tel Dan in northern Israel. Its author was a king of Damascus, Hazael or one of his sons, and it contains an Aramaic inscription commemorating victories over local ancient peoples including "Israel" and the "House of...

 (mid-9th to mid-8th century).

In 1998, another scholar, Anson Rainey
Anson Rainey
Anson Frank Rainey was Professor Emeritus of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and Semitic Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. He is known in particular for contributions to the study of the Amarna tablets, the legendary administrative letters from the period of Pharaoh Akhenaten's rule during the...

, translated a puzzling two-word phrase in line 12 of the Mesha Stele, אראל. דודה, as a further reference to David. The line in question reads: "I (i.e. Mesha) carried from there (the city of Ataroth) the ariel of its DVD (or: its ariel of DVD) and I dragged it before Kemosh in Qeriot". The meanings of both "ariel" and "DWDH" are unclear. "Ariel" might be etymologically derived from either "lion of god" or "altar-hearth"; "DWDH" means literally "its beloved", but could also signify "its (X) of David". The object seized by Mesha from the Israelite city might therefore be "the lion-figure of its/their beloved (god)", understanding "ariel" as the cultic lion associated with the "beloved" god of Ataroth; or, following Rainey's reading, "its Davidic altar-hearth."

The identification of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 in the Mesha stele remains controversial, at least partly from the fragmentary state of line 31.

Translation


In the original text some words run on from one line to the next. Where possible, this translation reflects this writing. Brackets indicate reconstructed text, and dots represent missing and unreconstructed or disputed portions.
  1. I am Mesha, son of KMSYT (Kemosh[-yat]), the king of Moab, the Di-
  2. -bonite. My father was king of Moab thirty years, and I reign-
  3. -ed after my father. And I built this high-place for Kemosh in QRH ("the citadel"), a high place of [sal-]
  4. -vation because he saved me from all the kings (or "all the attackers"), and because let me be victorious over all my adversaries. Omr-
  5. -i was king of Israel and he oppressed Moab for many days because Kemosh was angry with his
  6. land. And his son replaced him; and he also said, "I will oppress Moab". In my days he spoke thus.
  7. But I was victorious over him and his house. And Israel suffered everlasting destruction, And Omri had conquered the lan-
  8. -d of Madaba, and he dwelt there during his reign and half the reign of his son, forty years. But Kemosh
  9. returned it in my days. So I [re]built Baal Meon, and I the water reservoir in it. And I bu[ilt]
  10. Qiryaten. The man of Gad had dwelt in Ataroth from of old; and the king of Israel
  11. built Ataroth for him. But I fought against the city and took it. And I slew all the people [and]
  12. the city became the property of Kemosh and Moab. And I carried from there the altar of/for its DVD ("its Davidic altar"?) and I
  13. dragged it before Kemosh in Qerioit, and I settled in it men of Sharon m[en]
  14. of Maharit. And Kemosh said to me, "Go! Seize Nebo against Israel." so I
  15. proceeded by night and fought with it from the crack of dawn to midday, and I to-
  16. -ok it and I slew all of them: seven thousand men and boys, and women and gi-
  17. and maidens because I had dedicated it to Ashtar Kemosh I took [the ves-]
  18. -sels of Yahweh, and I dragged them before Kemosh. And the king of Israel had built
  19. Yahaz, and he dwelt in it while he was fighting with me, but Kemosh drove him out before me. so
  20. I took from Moab two hundred men, all his captains. And I brought them to Yahaz, And I seized it
  21. in order to add (it) to Dibon. I (myself) have built the 'citadel', 'the wall(s) of the forest' and the wall
  22. of the 'acropolis'. And I built its gates; And I built its towers. And
  23. I built a royal palace; and I made the ramparts for the reservo[ir for] water in the mid-
  24. -st of the city. But there was no cistern in the midst of the city, in the 'citadel,' so I said to all the people, "Make [for]
  25. yourselves each man a cistern in his house". And I hewed the shaft for the 'citadel' with prisoner-
  26. -s of Israel. I built Aroer, and I made the highway in the Arnon.
  27. I built Beth-Bamot, because it was in ruins. I built Bezer, because it was
  28. a ruin [with] the armed men of Dibon because all of Dibon was under orders and I ru-
  29. -led [ove]r [the] hundreds in the towns which I have annexed to the land. And I bui-
  30. -lt Medeba and Beth-Diblaten and Beth-Baal-Meon, and I carried there [my herdsmen]
  31. [to herd] the small cattle of the land, and Horonain, in it dwelt the house of [D]VD...
  32. [and] Kemosh [s]aid to me, "Go down, fight against Horonain". And I went down [and I fou-
  33. -ght with the city and I took it and] Kemosh [re]turned it in my days. Then I went up from there te[n...]
  34. [...a high] place of justice and I [...]

The finding of the stele


Charles M. Doughty, in his account published in 1888, describes being told that the Sheikh of Kerak
Al Karak
Karak is a city in Jordan that is known for the famous crusader castle Kerak. The castle is one of the three largest castles in the region, the other two being in Syria...

, Mohammed Mejelly had sold the stone to "Franks
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

" in Jerusalem and that the Beni Haneydy
Bani Hamida
The Bani Hamida were a pastoral-nomadic clan that controlled a land East of the Dead Sea before the establishment of the emirate of Jordan. They were clients of the Beni Sakhr....

, the clan
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 on whose land Dibon was, approached Mejeely for a share of the sale. When they were refused, the Beni Haneydy attacked the party transporting the stone to Jerusalem, killing five of the escort and losing three of their own men. They took the stone back to their own territory. Doughty was also told that the Franks sent forty pounds compensation for the five men killed.

Six years later Rev. A H Sayce
Archibald Sayce
The Rev. Archibald Henry Sayce , was a pioneer British Assyriologist and linguist, who held a chair as Professor of Assyriology at the University of Oxford from 1891 to 1919.- Life :...

 describes the French Consulate in Jerusalem hearing of Rev. F. Klein's discovery and, a year later, their dragoman
Dragoman
A dragoman was an interpreter, translator and official guide between Turkish, Arabic, and Persian-speaking countries and polities of the Middle East and European embassies, consulates, vice-consulates and trading posts...

 Clemont-Ganneau
Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau
Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau was a noted French Orientalist and archaeologist.-Biography:Clermont-Ganneau was born in Paris, son of a sculptor of some repute...

 sending Selim el-Qari to make a squeeze and to offer 375 pounds for the stone. Unfortunately an agreement had already been made with the Prussians to sell the stone for eighty pounds. Hearing of the stone's increase in value the Governor of Nablus
Nablus
Nablus is a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, approximately north of Jerusalem, with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center.Founded by the...

 threatened to take possession of it. Rather than get nothing at all the stone was heated and then shattered by pouring cold water over it. The pieces went to different families who put them in their granaries to "act as charms in protecting the corn from blight".

In 1958 the remains of an inscription
El-Kerak Inscription
The El-Kerak Inscription was discovered in 1958 in Jordan, near the El-Kerak wadi. It is a basalt inscription fragment measuring high by wide. The inscription has been dated to the late ninth century BC and contains 3 incomplete lines written in the Moabite language. The form of letters is very...

 in a simillar script was found near Al Karak
Al Karak
Karak is a city in Jordan that is known for the famous crusader castle Kerak. The castle is one of the three largest castles in the region, the other two being in Syria...

.

External links


Further reading

  • Davies, Philip R. (1992, 2nd edition 1995, reprinted 2004). In Search of 'Ancient Israel' Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mykytiuk, Lawrence J. (2004). "Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E." Atlanta, Ga.: Society of Biblical Literature. See pp. 95–110 and 265-277. ISBN 1-58983-062-8.
  • Mykytiuk, Lawrence J. (2009),"Corrections and Updates to 'Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E.,' " Maarav 16/1, pp. 49–132.
  • 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.
  • Salibi, Kamal (1985) The Bible Came from Arabia, London, Jonathan Cape,ISBN 0-224-02830-8