THE INSCRIPTION OF KING MESHA (2.23) K. A. D. Smelik The inscription, which was carved on a black basalt stone, measuring 1.15 m. high and 60-68 cm. across, was discovered by the Alsatian missionary Klein at Dhiban in 1868. Due to the great interest in the stone shown by various Europeans in Palestine, the local population decided to demolish it and use the pieces as amulets in their granaries. The Frenchman Clermont-Ganneau, however, who had already had squeezes made of the stela, managed to get possession of two-thirds of the original stone. The fragments were sent to France and put together in the Louvre museum. Some of the gaps were filled on the basis of the squeezes. The end of the inscription is completely lost. The text, written in Moabite (or Israelite Hebrew?), dates around 835 BCE and belongs to the genre of building inscriptions. The Arabic numerals refer to the lines of the original text. Introduction and Identification (i-3a) I am Mesha," the son of Kemoshf-yatti]1, the king of Moab, the Dibonite.2 My father was king over Moab for thirty years, and I was king after my father. Occasion for the Erecting of the Stela (3b-4) And I made this high-place3 for Kemosh4 * in Karchoh,5 because he has delivered me from all kings(?), and because he has made me look down on all my enemies. Introduction to the Part on Military Achievements
o 2 Kgs 1:1; 3:4

6 Num21:29; ludg 11:24; lKgs 11:7,33; 2 Kgs 23:13; Jcr 48:7 (qere), 13, 46

but I looked down on him and on his house, and Israel has gone to ruin, yes, it has gone to ruin for ever!8 The Return of the Land of Medeba (7b-9) And Omri had taken possession of the whole la[n]d of Medeba, * and he lived there (in) his days and half the days of his son, forty years, but Kemosh [restored it9 in my days. And I built Baal Meon, and I made in it a water reservoir, and I built Kiriathaim. The Conquest of Ataroth (10-13) And the men of Gad lived in the land of Ataroth from ancient times,10 and the king of Israel built Ataroth for himself, and I fought against the city, and I captured it, and I killed all the people [from] the city as a sacrifice(?)n for Kemosh and for Moab, and I brought back the fire-hearth of his Uncle(?)12 from there,

c lKgsl6:1628

Omri' was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Kemosh was angry with his land.6 And his son7 succeeded him, and he said — he too — "I will oppress Moab!" In my days did he say [so],

1 The complete name of Mesha's father is not preserved in the Mesha inscription, but supplemented on the base of a reconstruction of another Moabite inscription found at Kerak in 1958 and published by Reed and Winnett 1963:1-9. 2 Dibon (now Diban) was the capital of Moab at that time. 3 bmt: a kind of sanctuary typical for Canaan. It also occurs frequently in the Hebrew Bible. 4 National god of Moab. 5 Possibly the name for a new quarter of the capital Dibon. The vocalization of the name is uncertain. Other possibilities: Kericho, Korcha, Kircho. 6 According to the same principle, in Judg 3:12 the oppression of Israel by a Moabite king is explained as the result of YHWH's wrath with his people. 7 According to the Hebrew Bible, this was Ahab (ruled 868-854 BCE). This is, however, not in accordance with the date given in line 8. For this reason, it is more probable that Omri's grandson Jehoram (ruled 851-840 BCE) is meant. * Possible reference to the decline of Israel during the reign of Jehu (839-822 BCE); cf. 2 Kgs 10:32-33. 9 Lit., "returned it." Other possibility: "lives there." 10 This remark by Mesha shows that he was not acquainted with the tradition that Gad was one of the Israelite tribes who participated in the Exodus. 11 Meaning uncertain. Part of ritual warfare was the massacre of the population of a conquered town in honour of the national god (also in ancient Israel). 12 Some cultic device. Possibly, "Uncle" was a divine name or title.


The Context of Scripture, II Now, there was no cistern in the innermost part of the city, in Karchoh, and I said to all the people: "Make, each one of you, a cistern in his house." And I cut out the moat(?) for Karchoh by means of prisoners from Israel.21 Other Building Activities (26-27) I have built Aroer, and I made the military road in the Arnon. I have built Beth Bamoth, for it was destroyed. I have built Bezer, for [it lay in] ruins. First Conclusion (28-29) [And the me]n22 of Dibon stood in battle-order,23 for all Dibon, they were in subjection. And I am the kin[g over the] hundreds in the towns which I have added to the land. Other Building Activities (30-3ia) And I have built [the House of Medejba24 and the House of Diblathain/ and the House of Baal Meon, and I brought there [...] flocks of the land. Battle at Horonaim (3ib-34) And Horonaim,* there lived [...] And Kemosh said to me: "Go down, fight against Horonaim!" I went down [...] [and] Kemosh [restored it in my days. and [...] from there [...]

and I hauled it before the face of Kemosh13 in Kerioth, and I made the men of Sharon live there, as well as the men of Maharith14'. The Destruction of Nebo (14-I8a) And Kemosh said to me: "Go, take Nebo from Israel!" ' And I went in the night, and I fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, and I took it, and I killed [its] whole population, seven thousand male citizens(?) and aliens(?), and female citizens(?) and aliens(?),15 and servant girls; for I had put it to the ban ' for Ashtar Kemosh.16 And from there, I took th[e ves]sels of YHWH,17 and I hauled them before the face of Kemosh. The Conquest of Jahaz (I8b-2ia) And the king of Israel had built Jahaz, and he stayed there during his campaigns against me,18 and Kemosh drove him away before my face, and I took two hundred men of Moab, all its division(?),19 and I led it up to Jahaz. And I have taken it in order to add it to Dibon. Mesha's Building Activities at Karchoh (2lb-25) I have built Karchoh, 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 reser[voir for the spr]ing(?)M in the innermost part of the city.
13 14

e Num 21:23; Josh 10:2840;Judgl:17; 21:11; 1 Sam 15:3; 1 Kgs 20:42

/Num 32:38; 1 Chr5:8

g Isa 15:5; Jer 48:3, 5, 34

Second Conclusion (34-) And I...

The Kemosh sanctuary at Kerioth is meant. Mesha only combined the massacre of the original inhabitants with the resettlement of the conquered territory by his own population when he wanted to add the city to Moab (Ataroth and Jahaz; not Nebo). 15 Meaning uncertain; for this translation, see Gibson, SSI 1:80-81. 16 Ashtar is the male counterpart of Ashtarte/Ishtar; here combined with the national Moabite god Kemosh. For the significance of the ban (hrm), see Stern 1991. 17 The earliest occurrence of the name of Israel's god in an inscription. Cf. also below, 2.47. " In 2 Kgs 3, Jehoram attacks Moab from the South; in the Mesha inscription from the North (Jahaz). For a historical reconstruction see Smelik 1992:90-92. " For the translation here, see Gibson, 55/ 1:81.
20 21

F o r the translation here, see Yadin 1969:18 n . 18. F o r the translation of this sentence, see Gibson, SSI 1:82.

22 23 24

For the restoration of the text here, see Smelik 1992:71. For the translation here, see Lipinski 1971:339. For the restoration of the text here, see Miller 1974:14. REFERENCES

Text: £4/2:168-179; 55/ 1:71-83; Translations: ANET 320-321; DOTT 195-199; RTAT 253-257 (E.T. 237-240); TUAT 247-248; Studies: Dearman 1989; Miller 1974; Smelik 1990; 1991:29-50; 1992; Stern 1991:19-56.

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