The Moabite Stone And The Bible

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It is written:

1 Thessalonians 5:21-Test all things; hold fast what is good.

One of the great evidences that the Bible is the Word of God is found in the ways that archaeology continually corroborates its’ testimony and history. Archaeologists through the years have, of course, noted this.

“Archaeology often provides some extremely powerful external evidence. It contributes to biblical criticism, not in the area of inspiration and revelation, but by providing evidence of accuracy about events that are recorded. Archaeologist Joseph Free writes: “Archaeology has confirmed countless passages which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical or contradictory to known facts.” (FrJP.A 1) We already have seen how archaeology caused Sir William Ramsay to change his initial negative convictions about the historicity of Luke and come to the conclusion that the Book of Acts was accurate in its description of the geography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor. F. F. Bruce notes: “Where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy, and accuracy has been vindicated by some inscriptional [external] evidence, it may be legitimate to say that archaeology has confirmed the New Testament record.” (BrF.AC 331) A. N. Sherwin-White, a classical historian, writes that “for Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming.” He continues by saying that “any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.” (ShA.RS 189) After personally trying, as a skeptic myself, to shatter the historicity and validity of the Scriptures, I had to conclude that they actually are historically trustworthy. If a person discards the Bible as unreliable in this sense, then he or she must discard almost all the literature of antiquity. One problem I constantly face is the desire on the part of many to apply one standard or test to secular literature and another to the Bible. We need to apply the same test, whether the literature under investigation is secular or religious. Having done this, I believe we can say, “The Bible is trustworthy and historically reliable in its witness about Jesus.” Dr. Clark H. Pinnock states: There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest [person] cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational [i.e., anti-supernatural] bias. (PiC.SF 58)”. (Josh McDowell & Bill Wilson, Evidence for the Historical Jesus (The McDowell Apologetics Library), 2625-2644 (Kindle Edition): Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers)

One interesting example of Bible corroboration from an archaeological discovery known as the Moabite Stone provides powerful examples of the trustworthiness of Holy Scripture being confirmed.

The Bible recounts a conflict between the Hebrews and the Moabites:

2 Kings 3:1-27-Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. 2  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, but not like his father and mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal that his father had made. 3  Nevertheless he persisted in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin; he did not depart from them. 4  Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheepbreeder, and he regularly paid the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams. 5  But it happened, when Ahab died, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6  So King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. 7  Then he went and sent to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?” And he said, “I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 8  Then he said, “Which way shall we go up?” And he answered, “By way of the Wilderness of Edom.” 9  So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom, and they marched on that roundabout route seven days; and there was no water for the army, nor for the animals that followed them. 10  And the king of Israel said, “Alas! For the LORD has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.” 11  But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?” So one of the servants of the king of Israel answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” 12  And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the LORD is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. 13  Then Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” But the king of Israel said to him, “No, for the LORD has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.” 14  And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. 15  But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. 16  And he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ 17  For thus says the LORD: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’ 18  And this is a simple matter in the sight of the LORD; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand. 19  Also you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall cut down every good tree, and stop up every spring of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” 20  Now it happened in the morning, when the grain offering was offered, that suddenly water came by way of Edom, and the land was filled with water. 21  And when all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them, all who were able to bear arms and older were gathered; and they stood at the border. 22  Then they rose up early in the morning, and the sun was shining on the water; and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood. 23  And they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely struck swords and have killed one another; now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!” 24  So when they came to the camp of Israel, Israel rose up and attacked the Moabites, so that they fled before them; and they entered their land, killing the Moabites. 25  Then they destroyed the cities, and each man threw a stone on every good piece of land and filled it; and they stopped up all the springs of water and cut down all the good trees. But they left the stones of Kir Haraseth intact. However the slingers surrounded and attacked it. 26  And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him seven hundred men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom, but they could not. 27  Then he took his eldest son who would have reigned in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering upon the wall; and there was great indignation against Israel. So they departed from him and returned to their own land.

The Bible here recounts the following intriguing facts about the conflict between the Jewish people and the Moabites.

First, the conflict existed between the rulers of Israel (i.e., the house of David) and a Moabite king named Mesha.

Second, the battle progressed well for Israel until Mesha offered his oldest son as a “burnt offering.” This sacrifice was no doubt offered to the gods of the Moabites.

Third, at that time, there was “great indignation” against Israel.

Archaeology has confirmed all of these things.

Archaeologist describes something known as the Moabite Stone.

“The Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone is a 9th-century BC stone victory monument composed of 34 inscribed lines, commissioned by King Mesha and discovered in Moab. The stele is carved basalt from about 835 BC and measures 4.07 feet (1.24 m) tall, up to 2.6 feet (79 cm) wide, and about 1.2 feet (36 cm) thick. The inscription, which is the longest known in the Moabite language, relates the successful victory of Mesha over Israel and Judah after his rebellion and refusal to continue tribute. The text names Omri as a king of Israel in the 9th century BC, Mesha as a king of Moab in the 9th century BC, the tribe of Gad, locations such as Ataroth and Dibon, Chemosh the chief god of Moab, recounts the rebellion by Moab during the reign of Jehoram from the Moabite perspective, has the earliest known Semitic inscription mentioning Yahweh, and even seems to contain an early reference to the “house of David.” The stele was discovered in the ruins of Dhiban in 1868 by a bedouin who subsequently showed it to a missionary and scholars living in the area. Unfortunately, the bedouins looted and then smashed the stele during negotiations for sale, but the recovered pieces were eventually sent to the Louvre Museum and reconstructed with the help of a paper squeeze that had been taken before it was broken. Translation revealed the Moabite perspective on a conflict also recorded in the book of Kings, plus additional information about events before and after, and insight into the religion of Moab. The inscription begins with the lineage of Mesha and recounts how he constructed a sanctuary to the god Chemosh. Lines 5-8 describe how Omri, king of Israel, had oppressed Moab and taken the land of Medeba, continuing through half the reign of his descendant (Jehoram). Line 3 mentions Chemosh, the main god of the Moabites also mentioned in the book of Kings. Lines 11, 16, and 17 indicate that the Moabites exterminated inhabitants of captured cities as a dedicatory sacrifice to the god Chemosh, which is consistent with the Hebrew Bible account about Mesha offering his son as a sacrifice in order to appease his god Chemosh and inspire his followers. Line 31 is fragmentary, but using a combination of detailed examination of the stele, a paper impression of the inscription taken just after the time of discovery but before it was smashed, and an early drawing of the stele based on the impression and the fragments, analysis indicates that the “house of David” is mentioned near the end of the text. 54 The remainder of the stele recounts Moabite victories over Israel and details how Mesha led a successful campaign against cities in Israel, substantiating the claim in the book of Kings that the land conquered by Omri was taken back by the Moabites in the days of Mesha.” (Titus M. Kennedy, Unearthing the Bible: 101 Archaeological Discoveries That Bring the Bible to Life, 112-113 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers)


Especially interesting is the reference on the Moabite Stone to the “house of David.” As noted in the reference above, some have disputed this. However, the findings of archaeology also answer this objection.

“The stone reads b[-]wd; however, ever, through additional independent analysis by several scholars (for example, Mark Lidzbarski and Rene Dussaud) traces of a t were discerned after the b, thus making the inscription read bt[-] wd Lemaire was then able to confidently supply the last remaining letter as a d, giving the complete phrase bt[d]wd (“House of David”).” What is interesting, ing, and a cause for objection for some, is that “house” is spelled with the shortened bt instead of the Tel Dan Stele spelling of byt. However, Lemaire answers this concern by explaining that the stone’s Moabite inscription appears to spell “house” both ways; five times it is spelled as bt and once as byt. They may have been an optional consonant or an archaic spelling of the word.15 the Mesha Stele provides us with a remarkable extrabiblical reference to the dynasty of David, a view into the political and military climate of the ninth century BC (2 Kings 1-3), the names of surrounding geography (Moab, Israel, Dibon, Arnon, Madaba, Aroer, territory of Gad), and personal names mentioned in Scripture (Yahweh, Mesha, Omri,* Omri’s son [Ahab], David).” (Joseph M. Holden & Norman Geisler, The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible: Discoveries That Confirm the Reliability of Scripture, 3040-3046 (Kindle Edition): Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers)

Why would Mesha believe offering his son as a sacrifice to his gods would win him the battle?

“The rabbins account for this horrible sacrifice in the following way:-When the king of Moab found himself so harassed, and the royal city on the point of being taken, he called a council of his servants, and asked them how it was these Israelites could perform such prodigies, and that such miracles were wrought for them? His servants answered, that it was owing to their progenitor Abraham, who, having an only son, was commanded by Jehovah to offer him in sacrifice. Abraham instantly obeyed, and offered his only son for a burnt-offering; and the Israelites being his descendants, through his merits the holy blessed God wrought such miracles in their behalf. The king of Moab answered, I also have an only son, and I will go and offer him to my God. Then he offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall.” (Adam Clarke, Clarke On The Whole Bible: Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary, 2568 (Kindle Edition))

Perhaps the Moabite advisors forgot to mention to Mesha that God stopped Abraham from the offering of Isaac, and that He never intended Abraham to follow through with it in the first place (Genesis 22:1)!

What does the Bible mean that great indignation came against Israel when they witnessed this?

Some believe that this means that the chief god of the Moabites (Chemosh) rose up against Israel and defeated them.

Who was Chemosh?

He is mentioned numerous times in the Bible (Numbers 21:29; Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 11:7, 33; 2 Kings 23:13; Jeremiah 48:7, 13, 46). He was the primary god of the Moabites, and is connected in both the Bible and extra-biblical accounts with child sacrifice and other atrocities.

Why was the sacrifice of Mesha’s son so profound that the Hebrews turned back and returned? John Gill notes:

“….when they saw the Moabites would sell their lives so dear, and hold out to the last man, they thought fit to break up the siege; and perhaps were greatly affected with the barbarous shocking sight they had seen, and might fear, should they stay, something else of the like kind would be done.” (John Gill., Gill’s Bible Commentary, 83815 (Kindle Edition): OSNOVA)

Chemosh-like all the gods of paganism-were defeated soundly by Yahweh. Not only do we see this time and time throughout the Old and New Testaments, but even ancient records of the pagan god worshipers themselves bear testimony of this fact (such as the famous Ipuwer Papyrus, an Egyptian document which chronicles the Ten Plagues and the defeat of the gods of that nation).

Truly, archaeology continues to confirm and corroborate the Bible.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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