When the Moabite Stone was discovered in 1868, it provided firm support for the historical accuracy of the Bible at a time when little direct evidence existed. The nineteenth century saw the growth of exploration in the Middle East and especially the Holy Land. Scholars and travellers moved throughout the region recording their experiences and discoveries. These finds included inscriptions such as the Moabite Stone that threw direct light on the Bible.

The Moabite Stone, or Stele of Mesha as it is more correctly termed, was discovered by FA Klein, a German missionary, at the site of ancient Dibon in what is modern day Jordan. Klein opened negotiations with the local Arabs to secure the black basalt stele for the Berlin Museum, but the French learnt of the discovery and also started to show interest. This alerted the Arabs to its value and led to the stone being broken into pieces which were then distributed among the local Bedouins. After further negotiations by CS Clermont-Ganneau of France, most of the fragments were secured and brought to the Louvre where the reconstructed monument is housed today. Fortunately a squeeze (an impression of the text using a soft material like damp paper or wax) had been made before the stele had been broken, so it was possible to reconstruct the text from the fragments.

The importance of the discovery of the Stele of Mesha in authenticating the Biblical record should not be underestimated. Study of the Bible as a historical record was revolutionized by the find. The Stele of Mesha provides an independent contemporary record that is closely connected with the Biblical narrative, linguistically and historically. The style of language is very similar to that of the Bible and most words in the inscription are common to Old Testament Hebrew.

The names of Chemosh, the god of Moab, and Yahweh are found in the text, along with references to Omri (king of Israel), David and several place names mentioned in the Bible. Dated around 830BC, the stele records in early Hebrew script the victories of Mesha, king of Moab, over Israel. Moab had been subjugated by David (2 Sam 8:2) and was subject to the northern kingdom of Israel in the time of Omri. But when Ahab was succeeded by his son Jehoram, Mesha took the opportunity to revolt (2 Kings 3:1–5).

Shortly after the discovery of the Stele of Mesha, the Siloam inscription recording the construction of Hezekiah’s conduit at Jerusalem was found and similar inscriptions have since been uncovered that confirm the Bible record. These include important finds such as the Gezer calendar and the Lachish letters. Indeed, there is today a substantial body of inscriptions that provide firm support for the integrity of the historical record of Scripture. We can place full confidence therefore in the Bible, for there is no good reason to reject it as a reliable historical narrative. And there is every good reason to trust its wonderful Author, the God of heaven, for all He has promised shall surely be fulfilled.

References:

W.F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Penguin, 1949. p.132–135. E. Ullendorff, ‘The Moabite Stone’, in Documents from Old Testament Times (D. Winton Thomas, ed.), Nelson, 1958. p. 195–198. ‘Moabite Stone’, in The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, 1980. Pt. 2, p. 1016–1018.