The Mesha (Moabite) Stone (2 Kings 3)

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Mesha, king of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, revolted against Israel (2 Kings 3:4-5), but Israel’s king Jehoram set out to reassert Israelite authority (3:6-9). He succeeded in defeating the Moabite army and destroying some cities but was unable to capture Moab’s capital, Kir Hareseth (3:21-27, modern name is Kerak). It appears that Mesha retained his independence.

A unique discovery made inDhiban, Jordan , in 1868 describes Mesha’s revolt from the Moabite perspective. This document, called both the Mesha Inscription and the Moabite Stone (pictured above), uses language very similar to what we see in the Old Testament. Yahweh, the God of Israel, shows up in the inscription, as does Chemosh, the national god of Moab. Mesha describes how Omri of Israel oppressed Moab and attributes Moab’s suffering to the displeasure of Chemosh. He claims to have been inspired by Chemosh to rise up and deliver Moab, indicating also that he slaughtered the entire town of Nebo, which he proceeded to put under the “ban”.

The Old Testament assertion that Meha raised sheep (3:4) is corroborated by a statement by Mesha to the effect that he brought flocks to the house of Baal Meon. The stele notes that the tribe of Gad was living in Ataroth, as mentioned in Numbers 32:34. In addition to Ataroth, 12 other Moabite towns are mentioned in the inscription. These same towns are described in the Bible as being located in Moab. Several of them are mentioned by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 15), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25) as part of their predictions of the downfall of this ancient kingdom. Some scholars believe that the stele also has a reference to the house of David, but this interpretation has not won universal acceptance.


 

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