The Mesha Stele
a.k.a. The Moabite Stone


image located at the Louvre Museum
Language: Moabite
(a West Semitic Language)
Medium: basalt stone stele
Size: 1.15 meters high
60-68 centimeters wide
Length: 35 lines of writing
Honoree: Mesha, king of Moab
(late 9th century BCE)
Approximate Date: 830 BCE
Place of Discovery: Dhiban [in modern Jordan]
Date of Discovery: 1868
Current Location: Louvre Museum
(Paris, France)
Inventory number: AO 5066
(click for museum image and description)

by K. C. Hanson
(Adapted from Albright 1969:320-21)

I am Mesha, son of Kemosh[-yatti], the king of Moab, the Dhibanite. 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 Omri took possession of the whole land of Medeba, and he lived there in his days and half the days of his 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 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 of the city as a sacrifice for Kemosh and for Moab. And I brought back the fire-hearth of his uncle from there; and I brought it before the face of Kemosh in Qerioit, 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 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 the ban for Ashtar Kemosh. And from there I took Yahweh's vessels, and I presented them before Kemosh's face.

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 Moabite men, its entire division, and I led it up to Yahaz. And I have taken it in order to add it to Dhiban. 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 king's house; 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 Dhiban stood in battle formation, for all Dhiban were in subjection. And I am the king over the hundreds in the towns that 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 Hauranen, there lived . . .

Kemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Hauranen!" I went down . . . and Kemosh restored it in my days . . .

1. What were the implications of Israel's invasion and occupation of Moab?
2. What does the stele tell us about the roles of monarchs in ancient southwest Asia?
3. What sort of rhetorical propaganda does Mesha use to make his points?
4. What does the stele tell us about the construction of political religion in ancient Moab? How does this compare with ancient Israel? What is the relationship of Mesha and Moab to Kemosh? (See 2 Samuel 7:1-29; Lamentation 2:1-9)
5. How does Moab's ideology of military mass destruction compare with that of Israel's? (See Joshua 10–11 and 1 Samuel 15)

Albright, W. F. "Palestinian Inscriptions." In Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by James B. Pritchard, 320-22. 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Dahood, Mitchell J. "The Moabite Stone and Northwest Semitic Philology." In The Archaeology of Jordan and Other Studies: Presented to Siegfried H. Horn, edited by Lawrence T. Geraty and Larry G. Herr, 429-41. Berrien Spring, MI: Andrews Univ. Press, 1986.
Dearman, Andrew, editor. Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab. Archaeology and Biblical Studies 2. Atlanta: Scholars, 1989.
Dearman, J. Andrew, and Gerald L. Mattingly. "Mesha Stela." In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 4:708-9. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Mattingly, Gerald L. "Mesha." In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 4:707. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Miller, J. Maxwell. "The Moabite Stone as a Memorial Stele." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 106 (1974) 9-18.
Miller, Patrick D. "A Note on the Mesha Inscription." Orientalia 38 (1969) 461-64.
Pardee, Dennis. "Literary Sources for the History of Palestine and Syria II. Hebrew, Moabite, Ammonite and Edomite Inscriptions." Andrews University Seminary Studies 17 (1979) 47-70.
Smelik, Klaas A. D. "The Literary Stucture of King Mesha's Inscription." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 46 (1990) 21-30.

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Last Modified: 10 July 2012