The Mesha stele is a large inscription tablet from the 9th century BCE. Mesha the king of Moab, a country on the eastern side of the Jordan River during the 1st Temple period (1200-586 BCE) authored the inscription tablet. It was discovered in 1868 by a German missionary by the name of Fredrik Klein.
In the stele Mesha describes how the Israelite kings Omri and Ahab* enslaved the kingdom of Moab in the 9th century BCE. The tablet details Mesha’s rebellion against the Kingdom of Israel; Mesha destroyed Israelite towns in Moab to rid his kingdom of foreign domination. Additionally, the stele describes routine affairs such as repairs and improvements to roads and city walls.
The stele has great significance for the study of the 9th century BCE for the following reasons:
It is the largest inscription in “Moabite”, a sister language to ancient Hebrew. The stele is a great contribution to the study of languages used in the region of the land of Israel.
The stele serves as the “Moabite version” of events described in the biblical book 2 Kings Chapter 3, which describes how the Kingdom of Israel reacted to Mesha’s rebellion.
It is the first non-biblical inscription to mention the Israelite tribes of Gad and Reuben.
*See 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 10 for the biblical description of these two kings and their rule.
For the full translation of the stele as well as references scholarly articles on the subject, click on the link below: