The Moabite stone was discovered in 1868. It was found in the land of Moab and was carved with an inscription which its finder, a man named Klein, recognized as being important. He had insufficient funds to purchase the stone and had to go to Europe to raise them. While he was away, the Arabs broke the stone into pieces, so they could make more money out of the deal. (They did the same thing with some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.) Fortunately, a Frenchman, M. Clermont-Ganneau had the good sense to take an impression, so that they were able to piece the stone together correctly and decipher its message.
The language in which the inscription is written is very similar to Biblical Hebrew, and the events it records supplement most remarkably the record from I Kings chapter 16 to 2 Kings chapter 3. Both tell how that during the reigns of Omri and Ahab, Moab was tributary to Israel, but that after the death of Ahab, Mesha King of Moab rebelled. Mesha records on this stone that after this time, he was unable to defeat Jehoram in several battles and rid the land of him. The actual words are:
‘Now the men of God had always dwelt in the land of Ataroth, and the King of Israel had built Ataroth for them: but I fought against the town and took it and slew all the people of the town as satiation for Chemosh and Moab’.
Moab’s fortresses and her cities were restored and made stronger. Her earlier defeats were explained as being due to the anger of her gods.
The stone records the name of Israel’s God, Yahweh. The inscription does contain one error. It boasts that as a result of Moab’s victories ‘Israel perished for ever’. Many a nation has wished for the destruction of Israel as a nation, but it is a wish that will never be fulfilled. The proof of this is a marvelous story indeed and a separate study.
If we compare the events related on the stone with the Bible record, we see again the truth of the Word of God. It is all the more important when we realise that our knowledge of Moab is so small and yet one of the few incidents recorded about her can be proved in this way.