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The Moabite Stone

The Moabite Stone, or Mesha Stele, contains an inscription of 34 lines in Hebrew commemorating military and building activities of Mesha, king of Moab in the 9th cent BC.

It was found in 1868 in the village of Dibon, 20 miles east of the Dead Sea by a FA Klein, a German missionary, who offered to buy it for £80. The French archaeologist Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau offered £375, and fortunately took a rubbing to preserve the text. While haggling over the price, the men of the city, realising its value, made a huge fire around it, heated it red hot and poured water on it to break it into pieces, then put the pieces into barns and houses as charms to keep away mice and mildew. Ganneau bought as many individual pieces as possible from the people, and reconstructed the stone.

Omri, king of Israel had oppressed Moab for a long time, his son Ahab did the same, so Mesha mounted a rebellion against Israel. The rest of the inscription contains details of that war. The inscription contains the name of Omri, as well as mentioning the people of Gad.

It contains one of the earliest non-Israelite references to Yahweh, "Mesha, having captured an Israelite town, took from there the vessels of Yahweh and dragged them before Chemosh." (lines 17-18)

The account of Jehoram, son of Ahab, suppressing this rebellion by the Moabites is described in detail in the Book of 2 Kings (2 Kg 3:4-28). "Now King Mesha of Moab was a sheep breeder who used to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs, and the wool of 100,000 rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel" (2 Kg 3:4-5)

The original stone is held in the Louvre in Paris. A copy was previously displayed in the British Museum.

The Moabite Stone

1. I am Mesha, son of Chemosh, king of Moab, the Di-
2. bonite. My father ruled over Moab 30 years, and became
3. king after my father. I made this high place for Chemosh in Qarhoh as a high (place of de)liverance
4. because he delivered me from all assailants? and caused me to triumph over all my enemies. Omri,
5. the king of Israel, had oppressed Moab many days because Chemosh was angry with his land.
6. His son succeeded him, and he too said, "I will oppress Moab." In my time he spoke thus,
7. but I triumphed over him and his house. Israel has utterly perished forever. Now Omri had occupied all the land
8. of Medeba. He had dwelled in it his days and half the days of his son, 40 years. But Chemosh
9. restored it in my days. I built Ba'al-me'on and made it in the reservoir; and I built
10. Qiryaten. Now the people of Gad had dwelled in the land of 'Atarot from of old, and the king of Israel had built for himself
11. 'Atarot. But I fought against the city and took it. I killed all the people of
12. the city as satiation for Chemosh and for Moab. I brought back from her 'Ar'el? its DWD, and I
13. dragged it before Chemosh into Qiryat. I settled in it people of Sharon and people
14. of Maharit. Then Chemosh said to me, Go, seize Nebo from Israel." So I
15. went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon. I
16. seized it. I killed all of them 7000 men and male aliens, women, and female aliens
17. and female slaves; for I had devoted them to destruction to 'Astar-Chemosh. I took from there the
18. vessels of Yahweh and dragged them before Chemosh. The king of Israel had built
19. Yahas and lived in it when he fought against me. But Chemosh drove him out before me, and
20. I took from Moab 100 men, all its chiefs?, and set them against Yahas and seized it.
21. to add on to Dibon. It was I who built Qarhoh, the wall of the forests and the wall of
22. the citadel. I am the one who built its gates. I built its towers. I
23. built the royal palace. And I am the one who made the pair or reservoirs? (for the spr)ing in the midst
24. of the city. But there was not cistern in the midst of the town of Qarhoh. So I said to all the people, "Each of
25. you make for yourselves a cistern in his house." And it was I who cut the beams? for Qarhoh with Israelite
26. prisoners. I am the one who built 'Aro'er and made the highway in the Arnon (valley).
27. It was I who built Bet-bamot, for it was destroyed. I built Beser - for it was in ruins -
28. with 50 men? of Dibon, because all Dibon is subject to me. And I ruled over
29. ( ) hundreds in the towns which I added to the land. It was I who built
30. Medeba and Bet-diblaten and Bet-ba'alme'on; and I brought there
31. ( ) the flock of the land. And as for Hauronen, there dwelled in it ( )
32. (And) Chemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Hauronen." And I went down ( )
33. (and fought against the town and seized it); and Chemosh (dwelled) in it in my days ...
34. ....