Q&A: What is the Moabite word for “Israel” in the Mesha Stele?

Exactly as in Hebrew—Yisrael ישראל (blue rectangle below)—as evident at the start of the third sentence (line 5), in which he describes how Omri king of Israel had oppressed Moab:

Top of Mesha Stele (b&w rendering) Source: en.wikipedia.com https://images.app.goo.gl/jzFsMqXUisxZAVFo8
Source: en.wikipedia.com https://images.app.goo.gl/jzFsMqXUisxZAVFo8

Moabite in the ninth century BCE was still very similar to Hebrew (about the same as Norwegian and Swedish today)—and certainly almost entirely mutually understandable. And of course the script was the same script used throughout the Holy Land and its vicinity (modern-day Jordan, southern Syria, and Lebanon).

The sentence in question (transcribed in Square Hebrew script) says:

עמרי מלך ישראל, ויענו את מאב ימן רבן, כי יאנף כמש בארצה

which transliterates phonetically:

Omri melekh Yisrael, veyaanu et Moav yamin rabin, ki ye’enaf Kemosh be’artzo

meaning: “Omri king of Israel, and they oppressed Moav many days, so that Kemosh’s wrath was kindled in his land.”

4 thoughts on “Q&A: What is the Moabite word for “Israel” in the Mesha Stele?

  1. Pingback: Q&A: What is the Moabite word for “Israel” in the Mesha Stele? — Notes by Autumn Light | Talmidimblogging

    • Solomon reputedly built sacrificial altars for the gods of all his foreign wives—or at the very least (according to the Sages) allowed them to build them—which is why the kingdom split after his death. But alas, there is very little correlation between how good or God-fearing a king was and his fate: King Menashe, for example, who is said to have been among the “wickedest” of Judean kings in terms of worshipping foreign gods—enjoyed a reign of 55 years (more than any other Israelite king), and during his time, Judea was rebuilt after the destruction wrought by Assyria. Under King Ahab, another “wicked” king, whose wife was the infamous Isabel, Israel prospered like never before. Conversely, “good” kings Hezekiah and Josiah, who are both praised by the biblical authors for “pleasing the Lord”, were conspicuously unrewarded for their efforts: Under Hezekiah, Judea was overrun and laid waste by Assyria, and avoided conquest of Jerusalem by the skin of his teeth, and Josiah was swatted like a proverbial fly by an oblivious Pharaoh on his way to battle much larger enemies to the north. This complete lack of correlation probably did not help the Yahwehite cause among Judeans and Israelites at the time.


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