Also Known as
The Moabite Stone
Edited by F. P Miller
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 bm[...]s' 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 Mehdeba, and he lived there in his days and half the days of his bnh (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 Qiriath-en.
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 ryt (satiation-offering?) for Kemosh and for Moab. And I brought back 'r'l dwdh from there; and I brought it before the face of Kemosh in the Qiriath, 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 hrm (the ban) for Ashtar Kemosh. And from there I took 'r'ly (or 't kly, "vessels") of YHWH 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 [the house of Mehde]ba and the house of Diblat-en and the house of Baal-Meon, and I brought there [...]s'n ("flocks") of the land.
And in Horon-en, there lived bt[d]wd[h?] (the House of David/Daudoh?)
. . . Kemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Horon-en!" I went down
. . . and Kemosh [dwelt] there in my days . . .
The importance of the Moabite Stone to most Bible believing Christians is its verification of the historical data in the Bible. The Text names Omri King of Israel and other historical data that confirms the accuracy of the text. What follows is an edited description of the stone and its inscription by scholar David Ross.
The Literary Genre of the Mesha Inscription
As Joel Drinkard showed in his paper, The Literary Genre of the Mesha Inscription (Dearman), "the MI is the one inscription from Palestine of the period of the Israelite monarchy that can qualify with certainty as a royal inscription" (p. 152). Drinkard pointed out that, like other royal inscriptions from the time, it is written in the first person (e.g. the Azitawatas text - tranl. Matt. & Ben. p. 115). The elements of the inscription:
adapted from Dearman p.153
- Name of individual, Mesha
- Patronym, Chemosh[yat(?)] lacking in M&B translation, probably because incomplete in original)
- Position, king of Moab
- Occasion, I built...
- Name of deity, ...for Chemosh...
- Object dedicated, ...this high place in Qarhoh
- Blessing and curse, lacking
- Summary of achievements
The Moabite Stone is therefore a royal dedicatory inscription - a historical document. The events which it records are "not exhaustive".
"the Moabite Stone ... carries the longest and most important Iron Age inscription found on either side of the Jordan River" (Mazar p. 542). It is "most important" for a variety of reasons, not least because of the light it sheds upon Israelite history and culture.
the Moabite Stone is typical of the writings of the time in its imprecision with dates and its non-chronological groupings of events.
The Bible and the Moabite Stone agree that pre-Mesha Moab was a tributary of Israel.
The length of Omri's reign of terror is even more problematic. The Moabite Stone says it is "forty years". The Biblical record, if taken as an absolute chronology based on the dates of known historical events, implies that Omri ruled from 885-874 BC. "After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel" (2 Kings 1:1, also 2 Chronicles 20:1), that is, during Ahaziah's reign, 853 BC.
The ABR chose to translate bnh, "son" in the singular. They further interpreted "son" to mean "successor", on the example of the Black Obelisk of Shalmanezer (it labeled Jehu the "son of Omri", which would have offended Omri's descendants no end - had Jehu left any alive). According to the Bible, the Israelite response was at first minimal; Ahaziah died after a year without any recorded action against Moab. In marked contrast, his brother Jehoram mustered "all Israel" (2 Kings 3:6) against Moab, and arranged a triple alliance not only with Judah, but with Edom as well. "Half the days of [Omri's] son", Jehoram, implies a date of 846 BCE for Jehoram's campaign. 846 BCE is exactly 40 years after Omri seized the throne.
But this assessment will not do. Jehoram finished his preparations and launched the invasion while in alliance with Jehoshaphat king of Judah. This could only have come about before Jehoshaphat died, before "the fifth year of Jehoram" according to the Masoretic text of 2 Kings 8:16. That date was 848 ... two years before 846.
So, if one assumes:
- bnh means "son" in the singular
- "son" in turn means "descendant" here
- Mesha considered the time between 853-846 part of the time of subjection, even though he had declared independence seven years before the (proposed) year of Israel's counter-strike
- Omri conquered Moab as soon as he finished putting down Zimri and Tibni (1 Kings 15-22), all in his first year
as the ABR do, then, yes, it was a 40-year span.