A stele 1.1 m (3 ½ ft) high, .6–.68 m (2–2 ¼ ft) wide, containing thirty‐four lines of text celebrating the deeds of Mesha, the Moabite king of the mid‐ninth century BCE (2 Kings 3.4–5). Controversy followed its discovery in 1868 at Dhiban (biblical Dibon) in Jordan by F. A. Klein, one result of which was its reduction to fragments by Bedouin involved in its sale. While it was still intact, Charles Clermont‐Ganneau had a rough impression made, with the aid of which the thirty‐nine recovered fragments were pieced together and placed in the Louvre. About seven hundred of some thousand original letters are preserved.

The inscription, dating about 830 BCE, represents most of what is known of the Moabite language. The writing tradition closely resembles that of the earliest Hebrew inscriptions, while grammar and vocabulary are also close congeners of Hebrew. In the text, Mesha portrays himself recovering northern Moab from the successors of the Israelite king Omri. Mesha celebrates his public works in Dibon, his capital, and in its subdivision Qarhoh. He boasts of construction in Aroer, Medeba, and other Moabite towns. The final broken lines hint that he regained territory in the south, toward Edom.

Striking is the account of Mesha's relationship to Moab's national deity Chemosh, to whom the stele dedicates a high place in Qarhoh. Chemosh's anger with Mesha's predecessor(s) had brought on Omri's oppression of Moab; with Mesha, Chemosh's favor returns, triumph comes over all opposition, and campaigns to regain territory are commanded by the deity. Cultic equipment of Yahweh, seized in war, is presented to Chemosh. All Israelite inhabitants of Ataroth and Nebo are “devoted”—slain for divine satisfaction (see Ban). In other instances, however, Mesha uses Israelite captives as builders (alternative reading: makes treaty relations with Israelite survivors). Clearly, the Moabite stone throws remarkable light on biblical language, history, and practices.

Edward F. Campbell