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DISCOVERY OF A MONUMENT TO A MOABITISH KING.

Me Grove, the Hon Secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund, gives publicity to a monumental discovery of- great importance — the first inscription of undoubted authenticity confirmatory of the Biblical narrative at so ancient a date : — A few months ago Captain Warren heard of a stone covered with writing, which was said to be existing at Dhiban, the ancient Dibon, on the east side of the Dead Sea, in the heart of the old country of Moab. The stone was then whole, but, on finding that the Franks were inquiring for it, the Arabs broke it up into several fragments, which they hid in the granaries of the neighboring villages. By the tact and perseverance of Captain Warren and M. Ganneau, of the French. Consulate, the whole of these pieces appear to have been recovered. Captain Warren is in possession of two of them ; others, as I understand, ore ittM. Cranntan'g

hands. The lnrger of the two, 22in. by Uin., belongs to the centre of the lower part of the stone, and the smaller, 12in. by 9in., to the right hand top corner. The stone itself appears from Captain Warren's sketch to be 3ffc. sin. high by lft. 9in. wide. Its sides taper very slightly from the bottom upwards, and the top is rounded to nearly a semicircle. The writing runs across the stone in straight lines about 1| inch apart. At present we have only one full sized tracing of our two pieces, but the others have been sent to Paris, and copies, and " squeezes" are on their way to us. Meanwhile not a moment has been lost in sending the tracings to Mr ' Deutescb, of the British Museum, the eminent Semitic scholar to whom the Palestine Fund has been more than once deeply injdebted, and I subjoin a letter from him about them. j I conclude with two remarks :— lf the I stone be a Moabite record it is the first fragmenfc of the literature of that people that has , yet been encountered ; for though chapters xxii., xxiii., xxiv. of the Book of Numbers, I and verses 5 to 8 of the 6th chapter of Mi cab, are probably from Moabite sources, we have no means of knowing howfar they havesuffered in adapting them to the Hebrew records. The indication of Isiah xv. and xyi. imply that Moab was more civilised and important than we are apt to suppose, and the general interest attaching to the discovery of such a portion of its literature is therefore naturally great. But (2) if the " Mesha" whose name appears in the first line is the hero of the tragical story of the 2 of Kings iii., then we have indeed a discovery which may well make us stand breathless till the whole document has been deciphered. To find a. passage of Moabite chronicle so parallel in date to a portion of the Bible is an event of no mean importance ; and it should stimulate us to further researches in the same direction. In the letter of Mr Deutsch we read :— " The Moabite inscription, of parts of which you have forwarded me tracings, is of very great importance indeed. Being at present in possession of about a third of the whole only — this third being a copy of squeezes taken- from two mutilated fragments of the upper and lower portions of the monument in question — I refrain from dwelling on its apparent general purport. The twentysix lines before me (eight and eighteen respectively), averaging from seven to twenty four-letters to a line are incomplete in every single instance. A few exceptions apart, both the beginning and the end are wanting. About another third of the letters thus extant are marked by the hand of the copyist, Captain Warren as doubtful. Finally, certain gaps, several inches wide, occur at times in the very midst of these mutilated characters. And yet, even in this piteous state, the document reveals things of the utmost moment. — Leaving such conjectures as I have formed until such time as I obtain eight of the (promised) fuller text shall confirm them or cause me to reject them, I shall content myself with a few items, which are absolutely incontestable even now. " The document starts with the words ' I, Mesha, son of C 0...' Whether this be the Mesha who, driven at bay by the three allied armies of Judah, Israel, and Edom, sacrificed his son to save his country, or not, I cannot yet determine ; but there is no special reason against the assumption. A king of Mesha's prowess might have spoken of his doings as proudly as is done on this monument. And, what is of much greater weight, the character of the writing, which, in default of a better word, we must still call ' Phoenician,' looks even older than that of many of the Assyrian (Mesopotamia) bilingual cylinders in the British Museum, the date of which is, at the very least, as old as the ninth century 8.C., the time of this Biblical Mesha. It is, indeed, the palasographical part of the document which at present seem paramount. Apart from the very primitive character of the whole alphabet as it here occurs, there is one letter (the Kaph) which, to my knowledge, is found on no other Semitic remnant in this peculiar' ' Moabite' shape. Next to this point ranks, always for the present, the geographical iraportanoe of this record. There start up with absolute clearness such names as BethBamoth, Bethßaal-Meon, Horanaim Dibon, well-known Biblical cities, either situate in Moab (' the names whereof were changed by the Israelites,' whence their variations), or temporarily held by Moab. These places among others, King Mesha on this stele boasts of having ' built.' Indeed, the words 'I built' occur so frequently that they form welcome landmarks to the decipherer. Besides these places which occur in the Bible, I find ' Karkha,' which I ventured to identify with Kerek, the latter name of the whole country, also the name of a hamelt still in existance. But apart from this, mention is also made repeatedly of ' Israel,' the rival, often hostile power, and ' Chemosh,' the national God of Moab. An account of the same monument appears in the French " Official Journal." A correspondent of the " Journal Officiel," writing from Jerusalem on the 19th ult., says : — An archteological monument of the greatest importance has just been discovered by M. Clermont-Ganneau, interpreter to the French consulate here. It is a large basalt pillar, found to the east of the Dead Sea on the territory of the ancient Moabites. On it is engraved an inscription of more than thirty lines, in Phoenician characters, commencing by these words : — 'l, Mesha, son of Charaos.' . . . Now Chamos was a king of Moab, mentioned in the Bible, and contemporary of the Prophet Elisha and Jehoshaphat, king of Judea, and with Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram, Kings of Israel. The third and fourth chapters of the second book of Kings give a detailed recital of the campaign undertaken by Jehoram and Jehoshaphat agaiest Mesha. the King of Moab. The monolith relates also the struggle of Mesha against the King of Israel, and enumerates the towns constructed and the temples raised by Mesha, and consecrated by him to the god of hia nation at Chamos." . . . This precious text, which permits the value of the historical statements in the Scriptures to be tested by a document contemporary with the events, and which will bring to ethnography, mythology, geography, thestu- | dy of langugages and paleography, the richest contributions has just been sent to the Academy of Inscriptions, by M. Ob. Clermont Ganneau, with a memoir will be immediately published.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/WI18700512.2.20

Bibliographic details

DISCOVERY OF A MONUMENT TO A MOABITISH KING., Wellington Independent, Volume XXIV, Issue 2992, 12 May 1870

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1,279

DISCOVERY OF A MONUMENT TO A MOABITISH KING. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIV, Issue 2992, 12 May 1870

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