Digging Into The Past

Ferrell Jenkins
Temple Terrace, Florida

The Moabite Stone

The Moabites were the descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham (Gen. 19:37). They settled east of the Southern portion of the Jordan River and the northern half of the Dead Sea. There were battles between Israel and Moab during the reigns of Saul and David, but David smote Moab "and the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute" (2 Sam. 8: 2). This payment of tribute evidently continued until after the death of Ahab; the Bible records that at that time "the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel" (2 Kings 8:4ff).

In about 850 B.C., Mesha, king of Moab, set up a stone to the Moabite god Chemosh to commemorate his deliverance from the Israelite bondage. This stone, the only Moabite inscription of any significance, was found about 13 miles east of the Dead Sea at Dibon. It was first discovered by a missionary, named F. A. Klein, in 1868. Mr. Klein copied a few words and sought to buy the stone for the Berlin museum for about $400. When the French scholar Clermont-Ganneau learned of the stone h~ sent an Arab to take a squeeze (a facsimile impression) and offered the natives more than $1,800 for it. The Arabs became suspicious and heated the stone and then poured cold water over it. The natives then distributed the fragments' among themselves as amulets and charms. At a later time Clermont-Ganneau was able to recover most of the broken pieces. The original stone of bluish-black basalt, two feet wide and nearly four feet high, is now in the Louvre in Paris. {Price, Sellers and Carlson, The Monuments and the Old Testament, p. 241)

The inscription itself mentions David, Omri, and his son (Ahab). Finegan lists 14 places mentioned in the Moabite Stone which are also named in the Bible. (Finegan, op.cit. p. 189. The portion of the inscription which tells about the rebellion mentioned in 2

Kings 3: 4ff reads as follows:

As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years, for Chemosh was angry at his land. And his son followed him and he also said, "I will humble Moab." In my time he spoke thus, but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished for ever! (Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Tests. pp. 320 ff.)

There are some differences between the Biblical account and the Moabite inscription, but they are not serious. Price evaluates the Moabite Stone in these words:

"This important monument, erected soon after the death of Ahab, is the finest old inscription akin to Hebrew yet found. It has not been copied by scribes through a series of centuries, as has the Hebrew of the books of the Old Testament. But we have today the original that was prepared by some artisan in the middle of the ninth century B.C. It shows us that the Moabites employed nearly the same language and the same idioms that we find in the Old Testament. We are made aware of the fact that Moab in the ninth century B.C. was not a barbarous, but a comparatively civilized country. These facts have been confirmed by excavations at Dibon by the American Schools of Oriental Research. Jerusalem, in 1951-53." (Price, Sellers, Carlson, op. cit, p. 244)


March 19, 1970