Lemaire and Delorme say "House of David" confirmed
In his 1994 Biblical Archaeology Review article, acclaimed epigrapher André Lemaire first proposed that the ninth-century BCE Mesha Stele from ancient Moab includes a reference to the Kingdom of Judah, identified in the stela as the “House of David” (btdwd). Now, Lemaire and colleague Jean-Philippe Delorme believe that new photographic evidence finally confirms the reading, while scholars Matthieu Richelle and Andrew Burlingame contend the reading remains speculative and hypothetical. The articles below highlight the evidence and arguments offered by the respective camps.
Does the ninth-century Mesha Stele mention King David of the Bible?
In the ninth century BCE, King Mesha of Moab set up a stela in his capital Dibon. It chronicled his military victories over his enemies, including Israel and possibly Judah, called the “House of David.” Unfortunately, the portion of the stela that might mention King David of the Bible—as the founder of Judah’s dynasty—has been damaged, which makes the reading of the “House of David” uncertain.
Richelle and Burlingame question “House of David” reading
The Mesha Stele and “House of David” take center stage yet again.
In the Winter 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, André Lemaire and Jean-Philippe Delorme examined the possible reference to the dynasty of King David of the Bible in the Mesha Stele, a Moabite inscription from the ninth century BCE. Their article, “Mesha’s Stele and the House of David,” explored new photographic evidence of the ancient inscription. Their consensus: the reference to the “House of David” could finally be confirmed.
Yet not everyone agreed. Scholars Matthieu Richelle and Andrew Burlingame challenged this interpretation in their article, “Set in Stone? Another Look at the Mesha Stele,” published in the Spring 2023 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
Lemaire and Delorme respond to their critics
In our article “Mesha’s Stele and the House of David” (Biblical Archaeology Review, Winter 2022), we showed that new photographs of the stone and the paper squeeze of the ninth-century BCE Mesha Stele confirm the reading of btdwd (“House of David”) in line 31 of the inscription. In the subsequent Spring 2023 issue of BAR, scholars Matthieu Richelle and Andrew Burlingame raised objections to our reading in their article “Set in Stone? Another Look at the Mesha Stele.” According to them, two of the five letters of btdwd—the taw (X-shaped letter) and the first dalet (triangle-shaped letter)—as well as the last word divider (dot) do not appear on the stone or the squeeze. This led them to conclude that “while the reading btdwd is not impossible, it remains purely hypothetical” (p. 57). Here we consider and respond to their arguments in detail.
A response to Lemaire and Delorme
In their article, “Mesha’s Stele and the House of David” (BAR, Winter 2022), André Lemaire and Jean-Philippe Delorme argue that the reading btdwd (“House of David”) can now be “confirmed once and for all” (p. 40) thanks to new imaging of both the inscription itself and the squeeze that was produced in 1869. In our response, “Set in Stone? Another Look at the Mesha Stele” (BAR, Spring 2023), we presented arguments in favor of continuing to view this reading as a hypothesis—not an unreasonable proposal, but nor one that could be judged “confirmed.”
Lemaire and Delorme replied to our article on Bible History Daily, to which we have been invited to respond.
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