Friday, September 21, 2007

Archaeology series 8:The Moabite stone

The Moabite Stone

DATE: c. 850 BCE


*Also known as Mesha stele

*is a black basalt stone, bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC Moabite King Mesha, discovered in 1868. The inscription of 34 lines, the most extensive inscription ever recovered from ancient Israel, was written in Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. It was set up by Mesha, about 850 BC, as a record and memorial of his victories in his revolt against the Kingdom of Israel, which he undertook after the death of his overlord, Ahab.

The stone is 124 cm high and 71 cm wide and deep, and rounded at the top. It was discovered at the ancient Dibon now Dhiban, Jordan, in August 1868, by Rev. F. A. Klein, a German missionary in Jerusalem. "The Arabs of the neighborhood, dreading the loss of such a talisman, broke the stone into pieces; but a squeeze had already been obtained by Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau, and most of the fragments were recovered and pieced together by him".[1] A squeeze is a papier-mâché impression. 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.


*I am Mesha, son of Kemosh[-yatti], the king of Moab, the Dibonite. My father was king over Moab
for thirty years, and I became king after my father. And I made this high-place for Kemosh in Qarcho (or Qeriho, a sanctuary)
. . . because he has delivered me from all kings, and because he has made me look down on all my
enemies. Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Kemosh was angry with
his land. And his son reigned in his place; and he also said, "I will oppress Moab!" In my days he
said so. But I looked down on him and on his house, and Israel has been defeated; it has been
defeated forever! 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. But Kemosh restored it in my days. And I built Baal
Meon, and I built a water reservoir in it. And I built Qiryaten. And the men of Gad lived in the
land of Atarot from ancient times; and the king of Israel built Atarot for himself, and I fought
against the city and captured it. And I killed all the people of the city as a sacrifice for Kemosh
and for Moab. And I brought back the fire-hearth of his uncle from there; and I brought it before
the face of Kemosh in Qerioit, and I made the men of Sharon live there, as well as the men of
Maharit. And Kemosh said to me, "Go, take Nebo from Israel." And I went in the night and fought
against it from the daybreak until midday, and I took it and I killed the whole population: seven
thousand male subjects and aliens, and female subjects, aliens, and servant girls. For I had put it
to the ban for Ashtar Kemosh. And from there I took the vessels of Yahweh, and I presented them
before the face of Kemosh. And the king of Israel had built Yahaz, and he stayed there throughout
his campaign against me; and Kemosh drove him away before my face. And I took two hundred men of
Moab, all its division, and I led it up to Yahaz. And I have taken it in order to add it to Dibon. I
have built Qarcho, the wall of the woods and the wall of the citadel; and I have built its gates;
and I have built its towers; and I have built the house of the king; and I have made the double
reservoir for the spring in the innermost part of the city. Now the innermost part of the city had
no cistern, in Qarcho, and I said to all the people, "Each one of you shall make a cistern in his
house." And I cut the moat for Qarcho by using Israelite prisoners. I have built Aroer, and I
constructed the military road in Arnon. I have built Beth-Bamot, for it had been destroyed. I have
built Bezer, for it lay in ruins. And the men of Dibon stood in battle formation, for all Dibon were
in subjection. And I am the king over the hundreds in the towns which I have added to the land. And
I have built Beth-Medeba and Beth-Diblaten and Beth-Baal-Meon, and I brought there . . . flocks of
the land. And Horonaim, there lived
. . . Kemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Hauranen!" I went down
. . . and Kemosh restored it in my days . . .'

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