Mnamon

Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources

Moabite

- 9th-6th century BC


Examples of writing



Moabite inscription from El-Kerak (first or second half of the 9th century BC)

Moabite inscription from El-Kerak (first or second half of the 9th century BC)

l. 1: K]MŠYT MLK M′B HD[YBNY

l. 2: BBY]T KMŠ LMB‘R KY ′H[BTY

l. 3: ]NH WHN ‘STY ′T [

 

"K]mšyt, king of Moab, the D[ibonite

in the temple of] Kemoš in sacrifice, because [I loved

] and lo, I made ["

 

Unearthed in Jordan in 1958, this inscription was carved on gray-black basalt either by Meša himself or by his father Kemošyat, around the middle of the 9th century BC. The surface is carefully polished and wavy lines cover the bottom of the fragment; that led to the hypothesis that the inscription was carved on an expressly prepared panel, cutting in two the garment of some standing figure or image. Such a procedure does have parallels (compare, for example, the Aramaic funerary stone of Nerab in the 7th century BC). The finely carved writing, close to that of the Meša stone, shows the specific feature of a four lateral stroke H, found also in two seals from Sokoh and Gibeon.  The text appears to be a celebrative one (a dedication?), listing and recalling the king's deeds in autobiographical style. Based on the analogies with l. 1 of the Meša stone, some scholars prefer to read ’NK MŠ‘ BN ("I am Meša, son of Kemošyat..."), before K]mšyt in l. 1.



Stone of Meša, king of Moab (second half of the 9th century BC)

Stone of Meša, king of Moab (second half of the 9th century BC)

Discovered in Dibon in 1868 by a German missionary, published two years later and now kept at the Louvre, the Meša stone reports in autobiographical style some military and building deeds of the king of Moab who managed to free that region of Transjordan from Israelite control in the second half of the 9th century. The bottom of the inscription ends abruptly and we don't know how long the text actually was. This stone offers the rare chance to test reliability and bias of the Biblical narrative, as it relates another version of the rebellion of Moab against the kingdom of Israel (see 2 Kings 3, 4-27). The two versions diverge in many, important details; the stone doesn't even mention the kingdom of Judah. On the linguistic level, some features deserve attention: the masculine plural ending -în, the 3rd person masculine suffix pronoun -h, instead of the common -w, the feminine absolute ending -t, and a reflexive, -t infixed verbal form (ll. 11.15.19.32), elsewhere attested only in Ugaritic, Accadian and, later, Arabic. The first two may be traced back to a north-Arabic origin, notwithstanding that they both appear also in Hebrew (the second one, it must be said, just in a late period and probably under the influence of Aramaic); the other ones appear to be lateral area archaisms. The correct translation and the interpretation of many points in the inscription are still under debate, most of all, the sequence ′R′L DWDH in l. 12 and the reading BT[.]WD in l. 31, which A. Lemaire restores witha further D and translates "House of David". This proposal has undergone many attacks and critiques, and other hypotheses of reconstruction have been advanced. Among them, G. Garbini's translation of DWD with "governor" deserves to be mentioned, based on the use of that root in Mesopotamian sources of the first half of the 2nd millennium BC.



Meša stone: transcription and translation

Meša stone: transcription and translation

l. 1: ′NK MŠ‘ BN KMŠ[YT] MLK M′B HD

l. 2: YBNY ′BY MLK ‘L M′B ŠLŠN ŠT W′NK MLK

l. 3: TY ′R ′BY W′‘S HBMT Z‘T LKMŠ BRH BN[

l. 4: Š‘ KY HŠ‘NY MKL HŠLKN WKY HR′NY BKL ŠN′Y ‘MR

l. 5: Y MLK YSR′L WY‘NW ′T M′B YMN RBN KY Y′NP KMŠ B′R

l. 6: H WYLPH BNH WY′MR GM H′ ′‘NW ′T M′B BYMY ′MR K[

l. 7: W′R′ BH WBTH WYSR′L ′BD ′BD ‘LM WYRŠ ‘MRY ′T ′[R]

l. 8: Ṣ MHDBH WYŠB BH YMH WY YMY BNH ′RB‘YN ŠT

l. 9: BH KMŠ BYMY W′BN ′T B‘LM‘N W′‘S BH H′ŠW W′B[N]

l. 10: ′T ḲRYTN W′Š GD YŠB B′RṬRT M‘LM WYBN LH MLK Y

l. 11: ŚR′L ′T ‘RT W′LTM BR W′ZH W′HRG ′T KL H‘M [M]

l. 12: HR RYT LKMŠ WLM′B W′ŠB MŠM ′T ′R′L DWDH W′[S]

l. 13: BH LPNY KMŠ BRYT W′ŠB BH ′T ′Š ŠRN W′T ′[Š]

l. 14: MRT WY′MR LY KMŠ LK ′Z ′T NBH ‘L YŚR′L W′

l. 15: HLK BLLH W′LTM BH MB‘ HŠRT ‘D ṢHRM W′

l. 16: ZH W′HRG KL[H] ŠB‘T ′LPN G[B]RN W[GR]N WGBRT W[GR]

l. 17: T WRMT KY L‘ŠTR KMŠ HRMTH W′ MŠM ′[T K]

l. 18: LY YHWH W′SB HM LPNY KMŠ WMLK YŚR′L BNH ′T

l. 19: YHṢ WYŠB BH BHLTMH BY WYGRŠH KMŠ MPNY [W]

l. 20: ′ MM′B M′TN ′Š KL RŠH W′Š′H BYHṢZH

l. 21: LSPT ‘L DYBN ′NK BNTY RH MT HY‘RN WMT

l. 22: H‘PL W′NK BNTY Š‘RYH W′NK BNTY MGDLTH W′

l. 23: NK BNTY BT MLK W′NK ‘ŚTY KL′Y H′ŠW[ BM‘]YN BR[B]

l. 24: HR WBR ′N BRB HR BRH W′MR LKL H‘M ‘ŚW L

l. 25: KM ′Š BR BBYTH W′NK KRTY HMKRTT LRH B′SR

l. 26: Y YŚR′L ′NK BNTY ‘R‘R W′NK ‘ŚTY HMSLT B′RNN W

l. 27: ′NK BNTY BT BMT HY HRS H′ ′NK BNTY BṢR KY ‘YN

l. 28: [H′] B[′]Š DYBN MŠN KY KL DYBN MŠM‘T W′NK MLK

l. 29: T[Y ‘L H]M′T BRN ′ŠR YSPTY ‘L H′RṢ W′NK BNT

l. 30: Y [.. MHD]B′ WBT DBLTN WBT B‘LM‘N W′Ś ′T N[.]

l. 31: [........] Ś′N H′RṢ WWRNN YŠB BH B[...]W[..]′Š[.]

l. 32: [........ WY]′MR LY KMŠ RD HLTM BWRNN W′RD W[′L]

l. 33: [TM BR W′ZH WYŠB] BH KMŠ BYMY W‘L[.]DH MŠM ′Ś[...]

l. 34: [29 to 31 letters missing]T ŚD W′N[K .]

l. 35: vacat

"I am Meša, son of Kemoš[yat], king of Moab,

 

from Dibon. My father ruled over Moab for thirty years, and I became king

after my father. I raised this altar to Kemoš in Qeriho (following Garbini; others translate: in the citadel), altar

 

of victory, because he rescued me from everyone assaulting me and made me look down upon the enemies who hated me. Omri,

 

king of Israel, had humiliated Moab for many days, since Kemoš was angry with his land.

his son ruled after him, and he too said: «I will humiliate Moab!», that he said in my days.

But I eventually looked down upon him and his family, and Israel was wiped out forever. Omri had conquered the land of

Madaba, and dwelled there in his days and for half the days of his son, forty years, but

in my days Kemoš settled there. I built Baal-meon anew, and dug a water reservoir there; so did I build again

Qiryaten. Since immemorial times had the men from Gad settled in the land of Atarot, and the king of

Israel had built Atarot for himself. I fought against the city and seized it, I killed all the inhabitants

to satisfy Kemoš and Moab. I took Ariel, the governor (following Garbini; others translate: the lion or altar of David), away, and dragged him

before Kemoš in Qeryot, and I settled there men from Šaron and

Maharot. Then, Kemoš told me: «Go and seize Nebo from Israel!». So I did:

I came at night and fought against it from daybreak till noon. I

seized it and killed everyone, seven thousand, men and women, foreigners,

 

and female slaves, because I had devoted it to Aštar Kemoš. I took

YHWH's furnishings away and dragged them before Kemoš. The king of Israel had built

 

Yahas, and dwelled there as he fought against me, but Kemoš drove him out before me.

I took from Moab two hundred men, the whole contingent, and led them against Jahas. I seized the city,

and added it to Dibon. I built Qeriho, the wall of the forest and the wall

of the Ofel, I built its gates, I built its towers,

I built the king's palace, and the water mains for the reservoir at the centre of 

the city. There was no cistern in the middle of the city, therefore I said to the people: «Let everyone of you have

a cistern in his home». I let the prisoners of Israel cut trunks for Qeriho.

I built Aroer, I built a road along the Arnon,

I built Bet Bamot anew, since it was destroyed, and Basar, since it was in ruins,

with fifty men from Dibon, because all Dibon obeys me. So I ruled

over hundreds of cities that I annexed to my territories. I built [...]

Madaba, Bet Diblaten and Bet Baal-meon, and I led there [...]



Meša stone: the Tetragrammaton YHWH (l. 18)

Meša stone: the Tetragrammaton YHWH (l. 18)

YHWH

"YHWH"

Regardless of the Egyptian texts documenting the existence of "Š3sw Yhw" , nomadic tribes of the desert moving through Edom, Seir and Southern Transjordan, this is the first, assured mention of the Tetragrammaton-to-be, as the name of the national god of the kingdom of Israel.



Meša stone: the name of Omri, king of Israel (ll. 4-5)

Meša stone: the name of Omri, king of Israel (ll. 4-5)

‘MRY MLK YSR’L

"Omri, king of Israel"

The oldest mention of the name "Israel", after the one on the Merneptah stone (approximately 1208 BC).



Seal of Kmš′r (8th century BC)

Seal of Kmš′r (8th century BC)

To the left (from the bottom up): LKM

To the right (from the bottom up): Š′R

 

"(Belonging) to Kmš′r"

 

This scaraboid seal, mounted in bronze, bears the image of a winged human figure dressed with skirt. Egyptian influence is evident, as it is in contemporary and later seal manufacturing in Judah.



Seal of Kmšntn (7th century BC)

Seal of Kmšntn (7th century BC)

l. 1: KMŠ

l. 2: NTN

"Kmšntn"

This round, lapis lazuli seal bears the name of its owner, Kemoš-natan ("The god Kemoš gave"). Its unearthing in Ur may suggest that the man lived there; whether he settled in Ur as a merchant, as a deportee or as a descendant of deportees, is still unclear.