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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NAME OF GOD OF ISRAEL




The name that God gave himself — Yahweh (YHWH) — is found in the Hebrew Bible and also in other ancient documents.
The Bible was written in Hebrew. And ancient Hebrew is related to other ancient languages in and around Canaan. One such language was found on an inscription know as the Mesha Stele or the Moabite Stone. The Moabite language and the Hebrew language belong to the same family, the Northwest Semitic family.
Within the context of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God gave his name to Moses. His name is pronounced something like “Yahweh.” Other nations of the ancient Near East learn to identify Him by that same name. Yahweh was known as the One who had united himself in close association with Israel. The Mesha Stele (or Moabite Stone) is an instance of pagan nations calling God by that name.
My interests in the Moabite Stone are related to 1) the ancient Hebrew language, 2) the development of Hebrew, 3) the cracking the Byblos syllabary by examining other ancient languages, 4) the theology of the nations that surrounded Israel and 5) historical events recorded in the Bible and also found in non-Biblical texts.
Moabite Stone


The inscription consists of thirty-four lines containing about 260 words and is well engraved in old Hebrew (Phenician) characters. It was written about 860 B.C. in the name of Mesha, the King of Moab. The translation of the first two-thirds of the inscription is as follows:

"I am Mesha, son of Chemosh . . . (?), King of Moab, the Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I became king after my father, and I made this high place for Chemosh in , the high place of deliverance, because he had delivered me from all that attacked me, and because he had made me see my desire upon all my enemies. Omri, King of Israel, oppressed Israel many days because Chemosh was angry with his land; and his son succeeded him, and he also said, 'I will oppress Moab.' In my days he said this, and I saw my desire upon him, and Israel was humbled with everlasting humiliation. Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba and [his people] occupied it during his days and half the days of his son, forty years; but Chemosh restored it in my days. . . . And the men of Gad had occupied the land of Ataroth for a long time, and the King of Israel had built up Ataroth for himself. And I fought against the city and took it, and I slew all the people from the city, a sight for the eyes of Chemosh and of Moab. . . . And Chemosh said to me, 'Go, take Nebo against Israel.' And I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, and I took it and slew all [that were in] it, seven thousand men and boys and women and girls and maid servants; for to Ashtor-Chemosh I had devoted it. And I took from there the vessels of Yhwh and brought them before Chemosh. And the King of Israel had fortified Jahaz and occupied it while he was at war with me, and Chemosh drove him out from before me. And I took of Moab two hundred, all its chiefs, and I attacked Jahaz and took it, in order to add it to Dibon."

One can see that there are many reasons to be interested in the Mesha Stele. Finding a reprint of it that I can use for translation work was not trivial. I found the earliest transliterated copy in M. Héron de Villefosse’s monograph under the title of Notice des monuments provenant de la Palestine, Paris, 1876. I have reproduce an image of the relevant pages here (click on it to get an enlarged view).
Newer photographs are regularly released, as in the case of this article which contributes to an ongoing debate about line 12 of the text: Lemaire, Andre. 2007. “New Photographs and ryt or hyt in the Mesha Inscription, Line 12.” Israel Exploration Journal. 57 (2):204
Expensive, hard to find, but also of importance is Studies in the Mesha inscription and Moab edited by Andrew Dearman. 492.6 S933 Published Atlanta, Ga. : Scholars Press, c1989.

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