What Does the Mesha Stele Say?

Full translation of the Mesha Stele, an ancient Moabite inscription that might reference the “House of David”

Mesha Stele. King Mesha of Moab details his victories over Israel—and seemingly the “House of David”—in this ninth-century stela. Photo: Mbzt 2012 / CC by 3.0.

The Mesha Stele details the victories of King Mesha of Moab over the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. It was found at Dibon, the capital of Moab, and dated to the ninth century BCE. The stone contains 34 lines of text, which have been translated into English.[1] The italicized portions of the text, though likely, are not certain. Bracketed words and letters represent restorations of the text. The dots between brackets indicate places where text is missing. Words in parentheses have been added for clarity but do not appear in the original text.

(1) I am Mesha, son of Chemosh[ît], king of Moab, the Di-

(2) bonite. My father ruled over Moab thirty years, and I ruled

(3) after my father. I made this high-place for Chemosh in Qerihoh, high-pl[ace of sal-]

(4) vation, for he saved me from all the kings and made me enjoy the sight of my enemies. Om-

(5) ri, king of Israel, oppressed Moab for a long time because Chemosh was angry with

(6) his country. His son succeeded him, and he also declared: “I will oppress Moab.” In my days, he declared thus,

(7) but I enjoyed his view and that of his house: Israel was destroyed forever. Omri had taken possession of the land

(8) of Madaba, and he dwelt in it (during) his days and, (during) half of my days, his sons, forty years, but Chemosh

(9) restored it during my days. I built Baal-meon, and I made a reservoir in it; I built

(10) Kiriathain. The men of Gad dwelt in the land of Atarot from ancient times, and the king of Israel had built

(11) Atarot, but I fought against the city and took it; I killed the entire population.

(12) The city belonged to Chemosh and to Moab, and I brought back from there the hearth-altar of his Well-Beloved, and I

(13) installed it before Chemosh in my capital. I settled there the men of Sharon and the men of

(14) Maharat. Chemosh said to me: “Go, take Nebo from Israel!” I

(15) went in the night, and I fought there from dawn until noon; I

(16) took it and killed everyone: seven thousand men, boys, women, [daught]ers

(17) and pregnant women, because I devoted it to Ashtar Chemosh. I took from there the hear[th]

(18) altars of Yahweh, and I brought them before Chemosh. The king of Israel had built

(19) Yahaz, and he lived there while fighting against me, but Chemosh drove him out before me;

(20) I took two hundred men of Moab, all its divisions, and I led them against Yahaz; I took it

(21) to add it to Dibon. I built Qerihoh: the wall of its parks and the wall

(22) of the citadel; I built its gates, its towers, and

(23) a royal palace. I made the retaining walls of the water reservoir within

(24) the city. There had not been a cistern within the city, in Qerihoh, and I said to all the people: “Build for yourselves

(25) a cistern, each one in his house!” I had Qerihoh’s ditches dug by Israelite priso-

(26) ners. I built Aroer and made the road in the Arnon.

(27) I (re)built Beth-Bamoth because it had been destroyed. I (re)built Bezer because it was in ruins.

(28) The men of Dibon (were) fitted out for war because all Dibon (is my) guard. I ruled

(29) over hundreds of cities that I added to the land. I built

(30) [the temple of Mada]ba, the temple of Diblaten, and the temple of Baal-meon. I transported there

(31) […] the small cattle of the land. The House of David dwelt in Horonain […

(32) …] and Chemosh said to me: “Go down, fight against Horonain!” I went down, [fought

(33) against the city and took it.] Chemosh restored it in my days, and I made up ten […

(34) […………………………….] ………………. and I [ ?……..]

André Lemaire is a Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic Philology and Epigraphy in the Department of Historical and Philological Sciences at the École Pratique des Hautes Études at the Sorbonne in Paris. He works in the fields of Northwest Semitic epigraphy, archaeology, and ancient Hebrew literature and history.

Subscribers, to further explore the Mesha Stele and its possible reference to the “House of David,” read André Lemaire and Jean-Philippe Delorme’s article “Mesha’s Stele and the House of David,” published in the Winter 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review


[1] See André Lemaire, “The Mesha Stele: Revisited Text and Translation,” in Meir and Edith Lubetski, eds., Epigraphy, Iconography, and the Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Press, 2022), pp. 22–23.


Read more in Bible History Daily:

Bible Artifacts Found Outside the Trench: The Moabite Stone

Scholars Identify Biblical King Balak on the Mesha Stele

FREE ebook: Frank Moore Cross: Conversations with a Bible Scholar. Download now.

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