The Moabite Stone
The Moabite Stone was
discovered in 1868 about 20 miles east of the Dead Sea. What is most
amazing is that it mentions "Israel," "Yahweh" and the "House of
David." It is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Photo of the
Mesha Stele (Moabite Stone)
Mesha Stele (Moabite
In the Bible it says that Mesha the king of Moab was paying tribute to
Israel and that they suddenly stopped: "Mesha, king of Moab
rebelled against the king of Israel..." (2 Kings 3:5). Well, Mesha
made his own record of this rebellion, and the record has been found. It
is known today as "The Mesha Stele" or the more popular
designation "The Moabite Stone." It was found in 1868 at Dibon,
in Moab. Dibon is located 20 miles east of the Dead Sea. Amazingly
enough it was discovered by chance by F.A. Klein, a German missionary
who had heard rumors of this stone while visiting the area. It was a
bluish basalt stone, about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, and 14 inches
thick, with an inscription from king Mesha. When it was found the Berlin
Museum negotiated for it while the French Consulate at Jerusalem offered
The next year some local Arabs, realizing all that was
at stake, laboriously hoisted it out of the earth and lit a fire around
it, and after pouring cold water on it they chipped away several large
pieces which they distributed among a few of them. Later the French
re-assembled 669 of the estimated 1100 consonants from the pieces and
preserved the inscription. It now remains in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The Moabite Stone
"The skeptics' claim that
King David never existed is now hard to defend. Last year the French
scholar Andre Lemaire reported a related "House of David"
discovery in Biblical Archaeology Review. His subject was the Mesha
Stele (also known as the Moabite Stone), the most extensive inscription
ever recovered from ancient Palestine. Found in 1868 at the ruins of
biblical Dibon and later fractured, the basalt stone wound up in the
Louvre, where Lemaire spent seven years studying it. His conclusion:
the phrase "House of David" appears there as well. As with
the Tel Dan fragment, this inscription comes from an enemy of Israel
boasting of a victory--King Mesha of Moab, who figured in the Bible.
Lemaire had to reconstruct a missing letter to decode the wording, but
if he's right, there are now two 9th century references to David's
- TIME Magazine
December 18, 1995 Volume 146, No. 25
Size and Description
||Moabite (a West Semitic Language)
||basalt (black-bluish) stone stele
||1.15 meters high 60-68 centimeters
||39 lines of writing
||Mesha, king of Moab (late 9th
|Place of Discovery:
||Dhiban [in modern Jordan]
|Date of Discovery:
||Louvre Museum (Paris, France)
"The most extensive
inscription ever recovered from ancient Palestine..."
What is Written on the Stone?
- "I am Mesha, son of
Chemosh[-yatti], the king of Moab, the Dibonite.
- My father (had) reigned over
Moab for thirty years, and I reigned
- after my father. And I made this
high-place for Chemosh in Qarcho . . .
- because he has delivered me from
all kings, and because he has made me triumph over all my enemies. As
- the king of Israel, and he
humbled Moab for many years (days), for Chemosh was angry with his
- And his son reigned in his
place; and he also said, "I will oppress Moab!" In my days
he said so.
- But I ltriumphed over him and
over his house, and Israel has perished; it has perished
forever! And Omri took possession of the whole land of Medeba,
- and he lived there in his days
and half the days of his son (Ahab): forty years.
- But Chemosh restored it in my
days. And I built Baal Meon, and I built a water reservoir in it. And
- 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
- the city as a sacrifice for
Chemosh and for Moab. And I brought back the fire-hearth of his uncle
from there; and I brought it
- before the face of Chemosh in
Qerioit, and I made the men of Sharon live there, as well as the men
- And Chemosh 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 devoted them to
destruction for (the god) Ashtar Chemosh. And from there I took the
- vessels of Yahweh, and I
presented them before the face of Chemosh. And the king of Israel had
- Yahaz, and he stayed there
throughout his campaign against me; and Chemosh drove him away before
my face. And
- I took two hundred men of Moab,
all first class (warriors), and I led it up to Yahaz. And I have taken
- 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 captives.
- I have built Aroer, and I
constructed the military road in Arnon (valley).
- 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
- 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 the land. And the
House of [Da]vid dwelt in Hauranen, . . .
- Chemosh said to me, "Go
down, fight against Hauranen!" I went down . . . and Chemosh
restored it in my days . . ."
What The Bible Says
II Ki 3:4-5 "Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheepbreeder, and he
regularly paid the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the
wool of one hundred thousand rams. But it happened, when Ahab died, that
the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel."
Who Were the Moabites?
The existence of the Biblical "Moabites" were in question by
most historians until the recent discovery of the Moabite Stone. The
Moabites were a West-Semitic people who lived in the mountains east of
the Dead Sea, Trans-Jordan (now considered west- central Jordan) and
they flourished in the 9th century BC. They are known mainly through the
Old Testament and from the inscription on the Moabite Stone. Scholars
have dated their culture from about the late 14th century BC to 582 BC,
when they were conquered by the Babylonians, according to the Jewish
historian Josephus (1st century AD).
According to the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis
19:30-38), the Moabites belonged to the same ethnic stock as the
Israelites, having descended from Moab, a son of Lot, who was a nephew
of the first Hebrew, Abraham. There are many mentions in the Bible about
the Moabites. King Saul in the 11th Cent. B.C. fought against them,
David's great grandmother Ruth was from Moab (Ruth 4:17-22), and it was
in Moab that David sought refuge from King Saul (1 Samuel 22:3-4).
Sanballat, who in Nehemiah's time was associated with Tobiah the
Ammonite and Geshem the Arab against the Jews (<Neh. 2:10,19>;
etc.), was a Horonite. If this name is derived from Horonaim, Sanballat
was a Moabite, as he is quite often regarded.
One important note that is often overlooked is the
mention of Yahweh in verse 18 of the Mesha inscription. It appears that
king Mesha knew about the Israleite God Yahweh and says he took
"the vessels of Yahweh and presented them before the face of
Chemosh" his god.
Chemosh, the national deity of Moab, is mentioned
throughout the Mesha Stele inscription. In the Bible Chemosh is
mentioned in (Num. 21:29; Judg. 11:24; 1 Kin. 11:7,33; 2 Kin. 23:13; Jer.
48:7,13,46). The great King Solomon was led astray by taking Moabite
princesses for his harem (1 Kings 11:1-8) and erecting near Jerusalem a
shrine dedicated to Chemosh.
The god whom the Moabites believed protected their
nation was Chemosh:
"Chemosh was an ancient West
Semitic deity, revered by the Moabites as their supreme god. Little is
known about Chemosh; although King Solomon of Israel built a sanctuary
to him east of Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7), the shrine was later abolished
by King Josiah (2 Kings 23:13). The goddess Astarte was probably the
cult partner of Chemosh."
"King Omri and His
The Inscription also makes reference to King Omri of
Israel (reigned c. 884-c. 872 BC), and his son, who we know as king
Ahab. king Omri is mentioned in 1 Kings 16:23-28, and is knwon for
reconquering the Moabite lands that had been lost since Solomon's death
in 922 BC, when Israel split into two kingdoms.
"The House of David"
Line 31 is very significant. In 1993 a
stela was discovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel mentioning the
"House of David" (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1993: 119-121).
This inscription provided the first mention of David in a
contemporary text outside the Bible. The existence of kind David has
been in question by scholars for centuries. At about the same time the
Dan stela was found, French scholar Andre Lemaire was working on the
Mesha Inscription and determined that the same phrase appeared there in
line 31 (Bible and Spade, Summer 1995: 91-92). Lemaire was able to
identify a previously indistinguishable letter as a "d" in the
phrase "House of David." This phrase was used commonly in the
Old Testament for the Davidic dynasty.
Something Interesting To
Many a critic of the Bible have scoffed at the alleged contradiction in
the Scriptures where (Deut. 2:29) it would appear at first sight that
both Moab and Edom granted the request of Israel to be allowed to pass
through their territory, but when you compare (Num. 20:18-21) and (Deut.
23:3-4) it seems to show that both Moab and Edom utterly refused. But
careful investigation in context removes the difficulty and gives us a
clear idea of the whole situation. Israel's request in (Num. 20:17) was
permitted IF they would cross the territory of Edom by the royal
The Moabite Language
The language of Moab was merely a dialect of Hebrew, differing from
biblical Hebrew only in some minor details. The Moabite language
differed only dialectally from Hebrew, and Moabite religion and culture
were very closely related to those of the Israelites.
Unger makes mention that:
"The inscription on this
stone in a remarkable degree supplements and corroborates the history of
King Mesha recorded in (2 Kin. 3:4-27). It affords evidence of the
knowledge of alphabetic writing in the lands of the Jordan."
and Sayce comments:
"The art of writing and
reading can have been no new thing. As soon as Mesha has shaken off the
yoke of the foreigner, he erects an inscribed monument in commemoration
of his victories. . . . It is the first and most natural thing for him
to do, and it is taken for granted that the record will have numerous
readers. . . . Moreover, the forms of the letters as they appear on the
Moabite Stone show that alphabetic writing must have been long practiced
in the kingdom of Mesha. They are forms which presuppose a long
acquaintance with the art of engraving inscriptions upon stones, and are
far removed from the forms out of which they must have developed. Then,
again, the language of the inscription is noteworthy. Between it and
Hebrew the differences are few and slight. It is a proof that the
Moabites were akin to the Israelites in language as well as in race, and
that like their kinsfolk they had adopted the ancient 'language of
Canaan.' The likeness between the languages of Moab and Israel extends
beyond the mere idioms of grammar and syntax. It is a likeness which
exists also in thought" (Sayce, Higher Crit. and the Mon., p. 364).
What Happened to the
Exactly as the Bible had predicted the Moabites were
conquered. Moab had become a tributary of Assyria by the late 8th
century BC and was conquered by the Babylonians in 582 BC, upon which
the Moabites disappeared from history. Their territory was resettled by
the Nabataeans in the 4th-3rd century BC.
Isaiah, in his "burden against Moab" (Isa.
15-16; 25:10), predicts, in poetic lamentation, the fall of Moab
reducing it to a small and feeble remnant (16:14).
Isa 15:1-3 "The burden against Moab. Because
in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste and destroyed, because in the
night Kir of Moab is laid waste and destroyed, He has gone up to the
temple and Dibon, to the high places to weep. Moab will wail over Nebo
and over Medeba; on all their heads will be baldness, and every beard
cut off. In their streets they will clothe themselves with sackcloth; on
the tops of their houses and in their streets everyone will wail,
weeping bitterly." (NKJ)
Isa 25:10-12 "For on this mountain the hand
of the LORD will rest, and Moab shall be trampled down under Him, as
straw is trampled down for the refuse heap. And He will spread out His
hands in their midst as a swimmer reaches out to swim, and He will bring
down their pride together with the trickery of their hands. The fortress
of the high fort of your walls he will bring down, lay low, and bring to
the ground, down to the dust. (NKJ)
The name Moab became a typical byword
for the enemies of God.
The Moabite Stone in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Moabite Stone, The
In the year 1868 Rev. F. Klein, of the Church Missionary
Society at Jerusalem, found at Dhiban (the biblical Dibon), in Moab,
a remarkable stone, since called the Moabite Stone. It was lying on
the ground, with the inscription uppermost, and measures about 3
feet 9 inches long, 2 feet 4 inches wide and 1 foot 2 inches thick.
It is a very heavy, compact black basalt. An impression was made of
the main block, and of certain recovered parts broken off by the
Arabs. It was broken by the Arabs, but the fragments were purchased
by the French government for 32,000 francs, and are in the Louvre in
Paris. The engraved face is about the shape of an ordinary
gravestone, rounded at the top. On this stone is the record in the
Phoenician characters of the wars of Mesha, king of Moab, with
Israel. 2Ki 3:4 It speaks of King Omri and other names of places and
persons mentioned in the Bible, and belongs to this exact period of
jewish and Moabite history. The names given on the Moabite Stone,
engraved by one who knew them in daily life, are, in nearly every
case, identical with those found in the Bible itself, and testify to
the wonderful integrity with which the Scriptures have been
preserved. "The inscription reads like a leaf taken out of a lost
book of Chronicles. The expressions are the same; the names of gods,
kings and of towns are the same." --(See Rawlinson's "Historical
Illustrations;" American Cyclopedia; and Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 20,
The Moabite Stone in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
A monument erected at Dibon (Dhiban) by Mesha, king of Moab (2 Ki
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 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 (2 Sam 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 (2 Ki 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 (2 Ki 3:4).
The Bible Mentions
"Moabites" and "Moab"
Deuteronomy 23:3 - An
Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the
congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they
not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever:
13:1 - On that day they read in the book of Moses in the
audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the
Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the
congregation of God for ever;
Chronicles 11:46 - Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai, and
Joshaviah, the sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the
Judges 3:12 - And the
children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the
LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against
Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
- And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the
LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and
the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods
of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and
forsook the LORD, and served not him.
48:36 - Therefore mine heart shall sound for Moab
like pipes, and mine heart shall sound like pipes for the men of
Kirheres: because the riches [that] he hath gotten are perished.
3:13 - And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I
to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the
prophets of thy mother. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay:
for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them
into the hand of Moab.
11:17 - Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom,
saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of
Edom would not hearken [thereto]. And in like manner they sent unto
the king of Moab: but he would not [consent]: and
Israel abode in Kadesh.
2 Kings 3:4
- And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and
rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an
hundred thousand rams, with the wool.
Chronicles 20:23 - For the children of Ammon and Moab
stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and
destroy [them]: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of
Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
- But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD
raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man
lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto
Eglon the king of Moab.
48:11 - Moab hath been at ease from his youth,
and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from
vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his
taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.
27:3 - And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of
Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the
king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the
messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah;
- For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab;
the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto
2:9 - Therefore [as] I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the
God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the
children of Ammon as Gomorrah, [even] the breeding of nettles, and
saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall
spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.
8:2 - And he smote Moab, and measured them
with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines
measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive.
And [so] the Moabites became David's servants, [and]
Deuteronomy 34:8 - And the children of Israel wept for Moses
in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of
weeping [and] mourning for Moses were ended.
12:9 - And when they forgat the LORD their God, he sold them
into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the
hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab,
and they fought against them.
48:33 - And joy and gladness is taken from the plentiful
field, and from the land of Moab; and I have caused
wine to fail from the winepresses: none shall tread with shouting;
[their] shouting [shall be] no shouting.
9:26 - Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon,
and Moab, and all [that are] in the utmost corners,
that dwell in the wilderness: for all [these] nations [are]
uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel [are] uncircumcised in
48:45 - They that fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon
because of the force: but a fire shall come forth out of Heshbon,
and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the corner of
Moab, and the crown of the head of the tumultuous
Deuteronomy 32:49 - Get thee up into this mountain Abarim,
[unto] mount Nebo, which [is] in the land of Moab,
that [is] over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which
I give unto the children of Israel for a possession:
- Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a
covert to them from the face of the spoiler: for the extortioner is
at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of
16:14 - But now the LORD hath spoken, saying, Within three
years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab
shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant
[shall be] very small [and] feeble.
- And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab:
and Eglon [was] a very fat man.
Deuteronomy 2:8 - And when we passed by from our brethren
the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the
plain from Elath, and from Eziongaber, we turned and passed by the
way of the wilderness of Moab.
Deuteronomy 29:1 - These [are] the words of the covenant,
which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel
in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made
with them in Horeb.
23:20 - And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a
valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two
lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a
lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow:
11:7 - Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the
abomination of Moab, in the hill that [is] before
Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
22:7 - And the elders of Moab and the elders
of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and
they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.
- So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her
daughter in law, with her, which returned out of the country of
Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of
48:1 - Against Moab thus saith the LORD of
hosts, the God of Israel; Woe unto Nebo! for it is spoiled:
Kiriathaim is confounded [and] taken: Misgab is confounded and
48:28 - O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the
cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove [that] maketh
her nest in the sides of the hole's mouth.