Moabite Stone, c. 840 BCE
The First Mention of the God of Israel YHWH -- "Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab...
And...I took the vessels of YHWH
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 . . . 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 I took from there the altar-hearths of Yahweh, and I dragged them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel built Jabaz and dwelt in it while he fought with me and Chemosh drove him out from before me. And I took from Moab two hundred men, all its chiefs, and I led them against Jahaz and took it to add unto Dibon.
Date: c. 840 BCE
Current Location: The Louvre, Paris, France
Language and Script: Moabite; alphabetic
The Mesha Stele, made of black basalt and standing nearly 4 feet tall, contains an inscription dictated by King Mesha of Moab, a contemporary of Kings Omri and Ahab of Israel. Located in Transjordan, roughly opposite the territory of Judah, the Moabites were somewhat closely related to the Israelites, one of their many territorial adversaries. The Moabite language, as demonstrated in the inscription, is very similar to Biblical Hebrew, possibly even a dialect of it. Known as the Moabite Stone or the Mesha Stele, this monument contains the longest royal inscription from Iron Age Palestine that has yet been discovered. The inscription begins in the common fashion of Ancient Near Eastern royal monumental inscriptions by speaking in the name of the king, proclaiming, “I am Mesha, King of Moab,” and continues to describe the triumph of Moab’s rebellion against the dominion of the kingdom of Israel. The stele is dedicated to the Moabite god Kemosh for delivering Moab from Israel and probably once stood in a temple of Kemosh at Dibon, Mesha’s capital.
• The Mesha Stele provides direct textual evidence that corroborates a story in the Bible (2 Kings 3:4–27). Even though the Bible and the Mesha Stele provide different accounts of the ongoing troubles between Israel and Moab, the fact that both sides describe a struggle indicates that it did in fact occur. According to the Bible, during the war with Israel the king of Moab sacrificed his firstborn son; the Mesha Stele does not. The Stele reports the capture of Israelite territory and the slaughter of thousands of Israelites, which the Bible omits. They agree that after the mid-ninth century BCE, Israel’s power over Moab declined.
• The Mesha Stele allows us to investigate, from an extra-Biblical perspective, what similarities or differences there may have been between Israel and Moab.
• Other important features of the stele include an early reference to Yahweh as God of the Israelites and, according to Bible scholar André Lemaire who recently reexamined the Mesha Stele, it appears to mention the “House of David,” the same designation given to the kingdom of Israel in the Tel Dan Stele.