The Mesha Stele and the Biblical World in the 9th Century BCE - Pittsburgh

The Mesha Stele, commissioned by King Mesha of Moab around 840 BCE, tells the story of the Moabite kingdom’s subjugation to the Israelite kings Omri and Ahab and Mesha’s claim to have thrown off the foreign yoke to restore the kingdom under the protection of the Moabite god Chemosh. When an Anglican medical missionary became the first westerner to see the inscribed monument at the site of ancient Dibon in 1868, immediate attempts to control it erupted in bellicose encounters between local Bedouin and Arab emissaries, competition between governments and professional societies in Britain, France, and Germany, and growing tensions between Arab cultures and the ruling Ottoman powers in Constantinople. The dramatic circumstances of the inscription’s discovery and restoration read like a true novel . . . and with good reason. The stone bears the longest inscription from the biblical period ever found in the region. It contains a treasure trove of information relating to the Moabite language and the intertwined histories of Moab, Israel, and Judah in the ninth century BCE. Today, 150 years later, the Mesha Stele remains one of the jewels of West Semitic epigraphy and probably the inscription that throws the greatest light on the Hebrew Bible and the history of the southern Levant in this period. Recent examinations, with the help of new photographs taken with “Highlight RTI” by West Semitic Research Project at the University of Southern California, now make it possible to solve some of the interpretive problems inherent in this damaged text. Thanks to these improved readings and a few other epigraphic discoveries, we can understand better the historical context of this inscription as well as its connection with the biblical books of Kings. Today, the Mesha Stele has its home in the Louvre in Paris.

But come see a life-sized cast of this monument from our own Kelso Museum and hear Professor Lemaire, the world’s leading authority on the Mesha Stele, share his new insights into this incredible inscription.

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Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
616 N. Highland Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
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