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Mesha of Moab stele

3 February 2023
Ancient history, Archaeology

At two links, and there are many others on the Net, we have news of a re-evaluation of the surviving text on the Mesha stele, in light of modern scanning techniques. One is the Biblicist link at https://www.bibicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/inscriptions/the-mesha-stele-and-king-david-of-the-bible/ … and

https://www.timesofisrael.com/high-tech-study-of-ancient-stone-king-davids-dynasty-is-disputed-inscription/ … Velikovsky brought the stele up in his Ages in Chaos book as it records a defeat of the Israelites, as viewed from a Moabite perspective. The reality may have been somewhat different but it did actually end in the collapse of Israelite control, and an Israelite presence in the Transjordan region. The region east of the Jordan seems subsquently to have been lost. We learn, from the accepted translation, that the Omride dynasty of the northern kingdom controlled the kingdom of Moab, and Israelite towns still existed there, a leftover of the migration period. Now, if one were to associate the expansion of Omri and Ahab, and that of Jehoshaphat of Judah, with the campaign of Shoshenk I, it would explain the stele text quite well. Jehoshaphat was a descendant of David. Shoshenk of dynasty 22 campaigned and reduced the transjordan zone from Edom to Ammon, including the small kingdom of Moab. After the campaign Shoshenk returned to Egypt and left Ahab and Jehoshaphat as nominally in charge of the southern Levant region. This explains why Ahab was the leading figure in the coalition that opposed the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III at the battle of Karkar in 953BC. The subject is discussed in an article in SIS Review. This hoves in to the stele in question.

Andre Lemaire and Jean-Phillipe Deloran, ‘Mesha-s stele and the House of David] was published in the winter edition of BAR [Biblical Archaeology Review}. The reference consists of 5 letters in dispute ,- btdwd – as in bit [house of] dwd [David], which basically means dynasty of David. However, readers should not the first link often makes only provides details to suit their point of view and have a tendency to ignore the rounded issue. It is a Christian web site and run by enthusiasts keen to show Biblical accuracy. BAR, on the other hand, is an archaeology based web site and publishes articles for and against Biblical chronology. It also provides a lot more information, which includes the fact that 3 professors from Tel Aviv have disputed the reading.

The Times of Israel link tells us there have been two recent articles published on the stele, one of which is sceptical and the other favourable. Now we have the use of high tech imaging methodology to look at the broken stele and they came to the conclusion the reading is confirmed. It was written up at the College of France’s Semitica journal. The French involvement comes about as the stele is in the Louvre – in 3 pieces. This goes back to the discovery of the stele by a group of bedouin in the late 19th century. They obviously thought it would fetch a good price from European historians and offered it for sale. However, in a story of intrigue and corruption the bedouin, using their logic on what was a monetary issue for them, decided to break the stone stele into pieces, and spread it among the group as a whole. Good thinking as it may have fetched a bigger overall price. The problem was the negotiators changing the rules. They decided to do the same thing. Most of the pieces were recovered, eventually, but some are still missing. Only 700 out of 1000 letters of the Moabite script are preserved. As can be seen, the first link is rather optimistic.

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