Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | January 30, 2008

4. Blown to Pieces

Dead Sea Moab Mtns

The Mountains of Moab & the Dead Sea

My previous blog post,
One Night of Sin Spawns Centuries of Havoc, surveyed Moab’s tumultuous history from its inception with Lot and his oldest daughter through the reign of King Solomon. This article concludes the survey.

After Moab’s defeat by King David, Moab was again conquered by Omri, king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Omri was Israel’s 6th king and founder of its 3rd dynasty. He reigned about 886-875 BC and was the father of the better-known wicked King Ahab.


Moab’s annual tribute to Israel was 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams (2 Kings 3:4). This high tribute eventually led to Moab’s rebellion following Ahab’s death.

During the reigns of Ahab’s sons Ahaziah and then Jehoram in the mid-9th century BC, Moab under King Mesha rebelled against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 2 Kings 3:1-7). In the subsequent war, Mesha eventually sacrificed his eldest son as a burnt offering atop the city wall in full public view to appease his god Chemosh (2 Kings 3:27; Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 11:7,33).

Moab Map

Moab Map

In 1868 Rev. F. A. Klein, an Anglican medical missionary to Jerusalem, discovered the
Moabite Stone among the ruins of Moab’s capital city of Dibon (today’s Dhiban) directly east of the Dead Sea. The black basalt stone was almost 4 feet high, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot thick with about 300 words in Phoenician and Hebrew characters.

The inscription on this stone is King Mesha’s own account of regaining Moab’s independence from Israel. The stone, also called the Mesha Stele, may record his perspective on the battle described in
2 Kings 3, since the three allies Israel, Judah, and Edom eventually abandoned their siege of Moab when Mesha sacrificed the crown prince.

While the Berlin Museum was negotiating to buy this stone monument, an amateur French archaeologist posted to the French consulate in Jerusalem as a linguist, Charles Clermont-Ganneau (1846-1923), took
squeezes (paper-mâché impressions) of the inscription and offered the Arab owners a lucrative deal. The situation was further complicated when Turkish officials, who governed Palestine at the time, got involved.

Mesha Stele

Mesha Stele (Louvre, Paris)

Thinking there was treasure inside, the Arabs eventually broke the stone in pieces by heating it and pouring cold water over the hot stone. They carried off the pieces for “good luck.”

Clermont-Ganneau spent years tracking down and buying back most of the pieces. Along with the squeezes he had made previously, most of the inscription was recovered.

The French purchased the available fragments for 32,000 francs or about $7200. Today a century and a half later that would be worth at least 100 times as much, and the Mesha Stele would be cheap at that price. The Moabite Stone is now one of the most cherished treasures of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Clermont-Ganneau’s original squeeze is also in the Louvre.

The stone’s inscription is the oldest alphabetic inscription in existence. The inscription is ancient Hebrew and dates from the mid-9th century BC. Much of the inscription confirms information recorded in the Bible. For example, it mentions Mesha king of Moab, Omri King of Israel (Ahab’s father), Chemosh, (Moab’s god), the Israelite tribe of Gad, and Israel’s God Yahweh. It is the largest monument inscription ever discovered in Palestine. The inscription is important both historically and linguistically.

Mesha Stele

The Mesha Stele Inscription

The black portions are pieces of the original stele. The lighter gray is Ganneau’s reconstruction from the 1870s based on his squeezes.

There is a strong likelihood that King David is mentioned in the inscription. One line has “the house of [D]avid” where the “D” is missing (in Hebrew of course). Some scholars disagree, but no other substitute letter makes sense of the inscription.

The Moabite Stone is indisputable testimony supporting the historical integrity of the Bible.

Sanballat, Nehemiah’s nemesis in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem around 445 BC, was a Moabite from the town of Horonaim in Moab (Nehemiah 2:19; 4:1-11; 6:1-14).

Eventually the Moabites ceased to be a people because of their arrogance and pride, as prophesied in Jeremiah 48:42. Jeremiah’s entire chapter 48 is a litany of calamity, judgment, and woe on Moab as punishment for the sins of pride and idolatry.

We often think of the Philistines as being Old Testament Israel’s arch enemy. This is probably because of the emphasis on the battles of Israel’s greatest king, David—especially his stunning victory over Goliath.

However, Moab better fits the characterization of Israel’s arch enemy throughout the Old Testament. Moab even helped Babylon against Judah in the days of Nebuchadnezzar around 600 BC (2 Kings 24:1-4).

Moab is a good example of how sin’s consequences reverberate down through the centuries. Lot’s eldest daughter could have rationalized her sin with statements like:
• “No one will ever know.”
• “It won’t hurt anyone.”
• “It’s my personal business.”
• “I couldn’t see any other way to have a child.”

But her sin has wreaked havoc through her descendants for thousands of years.

This sin of Lot’s daughter and some of its consequences throughout history are recorded in Scripture as an instructive example to remind us of the long-term deleterious effects of sin. Our sins and consequences may not be as public, but they are just as real. Sin always has consequences which ripple throughout history. No sin is ever solely private or personal.

Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the fourth installment of a series on Biblical Archaeology.
Read the prequels:
1. The Mystery of Tsinnur
2. Copper Country
3. One Night of Sin Spawns Centuries of Havoc

Read the sequel:
5. Joseph’s Grain Silos Found in Egypt?

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday January 30, 2008 A.D.

Read my January 2008 Bible-Science newspaper column:
Stem Cells.

“And Moab will be destroyed from being a people because he has become arrogant toward the LORD. Terror, pit, and snare are coming upon you, O inhabitant of Moab,” declares the LORD. “The one who flees from the terror will fall into the pit, and the one who climbs up out of the pit will be caught in the snare. For I shall bring upon her, even upon Moab, the year of their punishment,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 48:42-44)

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