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Gadding About Town
In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Wendy Wippel

A dialogue currently posted on “Yahoo answers” could be viewed as is the poster child for ignorant dismissal of Israel’s right to their ancestral territory. The question posted was “why is there no evidence for an ancient kingdom of Israel?”  The “Best Answer”? “Because it is as mythological as the Anglo-Saxon legend of King Arthur and his empire." 

The answerer (equally as clever as the one who posed the question, apparently)  goes on to assert, smugly, that “historians are satisfied that it  did not exist; all major kingdoms and empires leave a great deal of artifacts in their wake and ample mention in the annals of neighboring states. There is virtually no historical trace of any ancient Israeli kingdom. No mention in the records of the Egyptians, the Persians, the Greeks or the Armenians. No ruins.

Heavy Sigh.

Let me just say that, from the icons chosen, both the asker (female) and the answerer (male) would seem to be young people, maybe high school or college students. And with the state of our public school systems in the U.S., maybe they are more to be pitied than censured.

But we all know that the existing evidence for the kingdom of David would fill the average high school library. So where do we even start? 

How about out a most unlikely source: the tribe of Gad.

Gad, the son of Rachel’s maidservant Zilpah, doesn’t get much press. Reuben we know was Jacob’s eldest.  We know Joseph became ruler of Egypt. But Gad? Not exactly a standout. 

So isn’t it interesting that Gad is actually mentioned as possessing territory in ancient Israel, in the annals of neighboring states?  Specifically, the annals of the Moabite King, Mesha.

It was 1868, and missionaries and scholars from Europe and America were just beginning to explore the lands mentioned in the Bible. German missionary, Francis Stein happened to unearth a black stone stele on the site of the ancient city of Dibon, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Moab, located on the left bank of the Dead Sea.

Dr. Clermont-Ganneau, a French expert in the lands of the Bible, heard of the find and sent an Arab scholar to make a stamp of the inscription. Unfortunately, a skirmish with the natives ended with the stele broken into pieces.

But not before he got the impression made. So we now know what the stele proclaimed:

  1. I am Mesha, son of Chemosh[-yatti], the king of Moab, the Dibonite.
  2. My father (had) reigned over Moab for thirty years, and I reigned
  3. after my father. And I made this high-place for Chemosh in Qarcho . . .
  4. because he has delivered me from all kings, and because he has made me triumph over all my enemies. As for Omri
  5. the king of Israel, and he humbled Moab for many years (days), for Chemosh was angry with his land.
  6. And his son reigned in his place; and he also said, "I will oppress Moab!" In my days he said so.
  7. But I triumphed over him and over his house, and Israel has perished; it has  perished forever! And Omri took possession of the whole land of Medeba,
  8. and he lived there in his days and half the days of his son (Ahab): forty years.
  9. But Chemosh restored it in my days. And I built Baal Meon, and I built a water reservoir in it. And I built
  10. Qiryaten. And the men of Gad lived in the land of Atarot from ancient times; and the king of Israel
  11. built Atarot for himself, and I fought against the city and captured it. And I killed all the people of
  12. the city as a sacrifice for Chemosh and for Moab. And I brought back the fire-hearth of his uncle from there; and I brought it
  13. before the face of Chemosh in Qerioit, and I made the men of Sharon live there, as well as the men of Maharit.
  14. And Chemosh said to me, "Go, take Nebo from Israel."
  15. And I went in the night and fought against it from the daybreak until midday, and I took it
  16. and I killed the whole population: seven thousand male subjects and aliens, and female subjects, aliens, and servant girls.
  17. For I had devoted them to destruction for (the vessels of Yahweh, and I presented them before the face of Chemosh. And the king of Israel had built
  18. Yahaz, and he stayed there throughout his campaign against me; and Chemosh drove him away before my face. And
  19. I took two hundred men of Moab, all first class (warriors), and I led it up to Yahaz. And I have taken it
  20. in order to add it to Dibon. I have built Qarcho, the wall of the woods and the wall of
  21. the citadel; and I have built its gates; and I have built its towers; and
  22. I have built the house of the king; and I have made the double reservoir for the spring in the innermost part of the city.
  23. Now the innermost part of the city had no cistern, in Qarcho, and I said to all the people, "Each one of you shall make
  24. a cistern in his house." And I cut the moat for Qarcho by using Israelite captives.
  25. I have built Aroer, and I constructed the military road in Arnon (valley).
  26. I have built Beth-Bamot, for it had been destroyed. I have built Bezer, for it lay
  27. in ruins. And the men of Dibon stood in battle formation, for all Dibon were in subjection. And I am the king
  28. over the hundreds in the towns which I have added to the land. And I have built
  29. Beth-Medeba and Beth-Diblaten and Beth-Baal-Meon, and I brought there . . .
  30. flocks of the the land. And the House of [Da]vid dwelt in Hauranen, . . .
  31. Chemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Hauranen!" I went down . and Chemosh restored it in my days. "

There’s actually all kinds of corroboration of the Biblical account on here.  Notice that line 17 says that Mesha took the vessels of Yahweh and presented them to his God Chemos, verifying the Biblical description of the religion of ancient Israel and, in fact, accounts in I Kings 11:1-8 that tell us that Solomon was led astray by Moabite princess and erected near Jerusalem to Chmosh.

And notice that line 30 mentions "The house of David".

And notice that line 10 says that “the men of Gad lived in the land of Atarot from ancient times; and the king of Israel built Atarot for himself”.

Atarot was an ancient town about 15 kilometers from Jerusalem.  The moabite Stele (otherwise known as the Stele of Mesha) says that the king of Israel owned Atarot, built it for himself, and the tribe of Gad lived in that area from the beginning. 

And notice, last but not least, line 30, which refers to the house of David.

My guess is that people who ask questions and answer them on Yahoo probably don’t read any actual educational materials, because this excerpt from Time Magazine would have stopped that whole ludicrous conversation in its tracks:  

"The skeptics' claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend. Last year the French scholar Andre Lemaire reported a related "House of David" discovery in Biblical Archaeology Review. His subject was the Mesha Stele (also known as the Moabite Stone), the most extensive inscription ever recovered from ancient Palestine. Found in 1868 at the ruins of biblical Dibon and later fractured, the basalt stone wound up in the Louvre, where Lemaire spent seven years studying it. His conclusion: the phrase "House of David" appears there as well. As with the Tel Dan fragment, this inscription comes from an enemy of Israel boasting of a victory--King Mesha of Moab, who figured in the Bible. Lemaire had to reconstruct a missing letter to decode the wording, but if he's right, there are now two 9th century references to David's dynasty."

- TIME Magazine                                 
December 18, 1995 Volume 146, No. 25

The Moabite Stele has been patched back together, and if you ever get to the Louvre, be sure to go take a gander at it.  But you might want to hurry.

Jordan is insisting that they give  it back. 

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Redemption, Right on Time

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