The Mystery of the Moabite Stone?

Close up Moabite Stone TextThis stone was discovered in 1868 among the ruins of Diban, the ancient capital of Moab, the country that was located across the sea from Israel.  It was a very unique find and European powers quickly acted to acquire it.  The Bedouin tribe that had possession of the stone felt threatened, so they destroyed it, using air, fire, and water.  Most of the thirty line inscription was reconstructed with fragments using a “squeeze.”   A squeeze is plaster soaked paper that is used to leave an impression.  The impression was also fragmented, but both the fragments and the reconstruction reside in the Louvre Museum. The basic content of the inscription has been documented, it consisted of 31 lines, but a comprehensive translation of the entire inscription has not been possible, at least not to make a definitive statement of the true meaning.  A French historian, Lemaire, has translated the partially preserved lines.   This is an excerpt of the translation, which references the House of David.

“And the house [of Da]vid dwelt in Horonen [……….] and Kamosh said to me, “Go down! Fight against Horonen.” And I went down, and II fought against the town, and I took it; and] Kamosh [resto]red it in my days.”

The meaning of the partial inscription is essentially explaining that having broken free from Israel, King Mesha is being ordered to war by his god to take back the territory around Horonen, which Judah had annexed.  The rest of the inscription has been lost.  “The house of David” on the Mesha stele or Moabite Stone would refer to the nation of Judah or its royal family.   However, neither can be used to confirm any direct conclusion that it was about King David, rather the larger reference to Judah.

David’s name also appears in a text taken from a carving on the temple of Amun in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes.  It lists the conquest of places that Pharaoh Soshenq captured, including Palestine and Judah.

In the Bible the idea of Eponymous stories have been discovered where oral traditions were translated into stories about people, which actually represented other things.   For instance, in Genesis 25:19-26 the nations of Edom and Israel are treated as individuals, Esau and Jacob.  The twelve tribes of Israel are described as the twelve sons of Jacob.  In Biblical terms, David was thought to be an individual and not the representation of Judah.

None of the archaeological discoveries to date can securely provide evidence that David existed.  Although, it does not mean that he did not exist and excavation in Jerusalem has been difficult due to political tensions for most of recent history.   In terms of archaeological evidence, the reigns of David and Solomon are treated together.  In essence, they have discovered the existence of government structures and projects, which they have attributed to David and Solomon based on the Biblical dates and names.    It is thought that David conquered the territory and made it possible for Solomon to execute the construction of projects.   Essentially, the stories that pertain to David are detailed in the Bible and it remains the only source.   It seems like we should take that into context when examining new finds, since the stories in the Bible might represent something larger or different than what we understand today.

We did one of the episodes of our web series on the Bat Creek Stone that was found in Tennessee in the United States.  We wanted you to take a look at the similarity of the inscription.  Although a standard font was not used during that time, it bears a striking similarity to this time period and the Moabite Stone.


Bat Creek Stone

Bat Creek Stone


Filed Under: History & Mystery


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