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Mesha Stele

MESHA STELE, an inscribed basalt stele, measuring about 40 inches (one meter) high and about 28 inches (70 centimeters) wide, erected by *Mesha , king of Moab, at Dibon (today, Dhībân), probably in the third quarter of the ninth century, B.C.E. The shape of the stele, with a flat base and rounded top, is characteristic of those erected by kings of that period. Unlike many other memorial inscriptions, the Mesha stele has no relief on the upper part. It was found at Dibon in 1868 by F.A. Klein, a Prussian missionary. Prior to its acquisition by the Louvre, it was smashed by Bedouins, who, observing the great interest it aroused among Europeans, assumed that it contained a treasure or ghost. The inscription was deciphered with the aid of a squeeze made by Clermont-Ganneau of all but the last few lines. The language of the inscription is Moabite, which is closely related to Hebrew, though it diverges from it in several grammatical features. The alphabetic Canaanite-Hebrew script is well shaped and clear; the words are separated from each other by dots, and the sentences by vertical lines. Mesha dedicated the stele to his deity Chemosh out of gratitude for the latter's deliverance of the Moabites from Israelite rule, and for his help in the conquest of the plain. The stele (lines 4–9) relates, "As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years [lit. days], for Chemosh was angry with his land. And his son followed him and he also said 'I will humble Moab.' In my time he spoke [thus], but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished forever" (cf. II Kings 1:1; 3:4–5). However, by describing the events in the first person, Mesha's real intention was probably to perpetuate his own victories over Israel.


A.H. Van Zyl, The Moabites (1960), 247ff., incl. bibl.; W.F. Albright, in: JQR, 35 (1944/45), 247–70; EM, 4 (1962), 925–9, incl. bibl.; Pritchard, Texts, 320–1; H. Donner and W. Roellig, Kanaanaeische und aramaeische Inschriften, 1 (1962), 33; 2 (1964), 168–79.

[Bustanay Oded]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.