The Moabite Stone
“AS REGARDS Mesha the king of Moab, he became a sheep raiser and he paid to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand unshorn male sheep. And it came about that as soon as Ahab died the king of Moab began to revolt against the king of Israel.” (2 Ki. 3:4, 5) The revolt of King Mesha of Moab is corroborated by ancient writing outside the Bible—an inscribed stone called the Moabite Stone. Written in a dialect differing little from Biblical Hebrew, it was erected by King Mesha partly to commemorate this revolt. In 1868 this stone was found within the territory of Moab. Concerning it, James B. Pritchard writes in Archaeology and the Old Testament:
“A most spectacular enlargement of biblical history has come from a Canaanite inscription, called the Moabite stone, which turned up ninety years ago in the Arab village of Dhiban in Transjordan, about halfway along the east side of the Dead Sea. . . . The famous slab of black basalt [is] inscribed with an account of the wars and building program of Mesha, king of Moab. . . . The text, a long one of thirty-four lines, is written in the first person singular and begins with a somewhat boastful recital by Mesha, king of Moab, of his triumphs over the house of Omri, king of Israel. . . .
“Mesha interpreted the success of his enemy, Israel, as a token of his own god’s anger with his land: ‘As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years, for Chemosh was angry at 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 for ever!’
“Mesha [said he] received his instructions for battle from his god Chemosh. When his god gave him a victory, he ‘devoted’—the same word is used in the inscription as appears in the Hebrew account of Joshua devoting the spoils of Jericho to Yahweh—all the inhabitants of the town of Nebo to his god Ashtar-Chemosh. The incident of the taking of Nebo is described by Mesha: ‘And Chemosh said to me, “Go, take Nebo from Israel!” So I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, taking it and slaying all, seven thousand men, boys, women, girls and maidservants, for I had devoted them to destruction for the god Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took from there the . . . of Yahweh [Jehovah], dragging them before Chemosh.’ In this brief passage we have the only mention of the name of Israel’s god, Yahweh [Jehovah], ever found outside Palestine proper.”
Moab’s king was indeed boastful. His boastings might seem to indicate that Moab’s false god Chemosh was victorious over the true God Jehovah. But the Moabite stone does not tell the full story. After Mesha’s revolt, King Jehoram of Israel enlisted the aid of King Jehoshaphat of Judah in an expedition against Moab. The allied forces were almost destroyed, however, in the dry wilderness because of lack of water. At this critical time Jehoshaphat called for Elisha the prophet. Elisha explained that Jehovah would help in the war against Moab only for the sake of Jehoshaphat. Said Elisha to the king of Israel: “As Jehovah of armies before whom I do stand is living, if it were not that it is the face of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah for which I am having consideration, I would not look at you or see you.” Jehovah would give the victory over Moab, said Elisha, “and this will indeed be a trivial thing in the eyes of Jehovah and he will certainly give Moab into your hand.” True to Jehovah’s promise, the Moabites were greatly humiliated and defeated.—2 Ki. 3:14, 18.
The false god Chemosh could not save Moab, and King Mesha’s writing on the Moabite Stone cannot cover up Jehovah’s victory over Moab, because the Bible records many prophecies and history attests to their fulfillment. Said Jeremiah: “Moab will certainly be annihilated from being a people, for it is against Jehovah that he has put on great airs [as did Mesha on his Moabite Stone]. Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh have perished.” And Zephaniah prophesied: “‘Therefore, as I am alive,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, ‘Moab herself will become just like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah, a place possessed by nettles, and a salt pit, and a desolate waste, even to time indefinite. . . . This is what they will have instead of their pride, because they reproached and kept putting on great airs against the people of Jehovah of armies.’”—Jer. 48:42, 46; Zeph. 2:9, 10.