Mesha Stela

About the Poem

Erection of a sanctuary at the city of Dibon, modern Dhiban, prompted the inscribing of this Moabite poem. The portion treated below concerns the Israelite colonization of Moab.  The latter’s king Mesha is presented as the speaker of the text.  Notice how the vanquished are massacred in honor of the national god Chemosh (“And I seized it and killed everybody of it . . . because I had dedicated it to Ashtar-Chemosh”).  That sort of ban is familiar from the context of holy war in the Bibles of Judaism and Christianity.

MoabiteEnglish
`omriy melek yisra’el wayyi`anniw ‘et mo’ab yamin rabbin kiy yi’nap kamosh ba’artsoh

wayyachlopehu benoh wayyo’mir gam hu’ ‘a`anniw ‘et mo’ab
biyamay ‘amar ken
wa’er’ boh wabibetoh
wayisra’el ‘abod ‘abad `olam wayarash `omriy ‘et kol ‘erets mahedaba’
wayyeshib bah yamehu wachetsiy yamey benoh ‘arba`in shat wayyashibeha kamosh biyamay
wa’iben ‘et ba`alme`on wa’a`as bah ha’ishwach wa’iben ‘et qiryaten
wa’ish gad yashab ba’erets `atarot mi`olam wayyiben loh melek yisra’el ‘et `atarot
wa’iltachim baqqir wa’ochazeha

wa’ehrog ‘et kol ha`am mihaqqir riyyat likamosh walimo’ab
wa’ashib misham ‘et ‘ari’el dawdah wa’eschabeha lipney kamosh biqariyot
wa’osheb bah ‘et ‘ish sharon wa’et ‘ish macharit
wayyo’mir liy kamosh lek ‘echoz ‘et neboh `al yisra’el
wa’ahlok bilelah wa’iltachim bah mibaqi` hashshachrit `ad hatstsuhrem

wa’ochazeha wa’ehrog kullah shib`at ‘alapin gabarin wagerin
wagabarot wagerot warachamot
kiy la`ashtar kamosh hachramtiha
wa’eqqach misham ‘et keley yahweh wa’eschab himmo lipney kamosh

wamelek yisra’el banah ‘et yahats wayyeshib bah bihiltachimoh biy
wayyigarishehu kamosh mipney
wa’eqqach mimo’ab ma’ten ‘ish kol roshoh
wa’issa’ehu biyahats wa’ochazeha lispot `al daybon
Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab many days because Chemosh was angry with his land.
Then his son succeeded him, and he too said: “I will oppress Moab!”
In my days he said so.
But I gloated over him and over his house,
while Israel was utterly destroyed forever.  Now Omri had occupied all the land of Medeba
and dwelt in it his days and half the days of his son, forty years.  But Chemosh restored it in my days.
Then I built Baal-meon and made the reservoir in it, and I built Kiriathaim.
Now the men of Gad had dwelt in the land of Ataroth from eternity, and the king of Israel built Ataroth for himself.
But I fought against the city and seized it
and killed all the people from the city–a satiation for Chemosh and Moab.
Then I brought back from there the altar-hearth of its beloved and dragged it before Chemosh in Kerioth.
And I settled the men of Sharon and the men of Maharit in it.
Next Chemosh said to me: “Go, seize Nebo from Israel!”
Thus I went at night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon.
And I seized it and killed everybody of it–seven thousand male citizens and aliens,
and female citizens and aliens, and slave women–
because I had dedicated it to Ashtar-Chemosh.
Then I took the vessels of Yahweh from there and dragged them before Chemosh.
Now the king of Israel had built Jahaz and dwelt in it when he fought against me.
But Chemosh drove him out before me.
I took two hundred men from Moab, its entire unit,
and brought it against Jahaz and seized it to annex to Dibon.

Listen to the Poem in Moabite

Read by Edwin Hostetter

Listen to the Poem in English

Read by Michael Cai

Historical Information

The poem was discovered in Dhiban and dates to the second half of the ninth century BCE, after Moab rebelled against Israel.  The text is inscribed on a black basalt stone, measuring slightly over one meter tall and roughly two-thirds of a meter across.  The Moabite script used is the same as Hebrew writing of the time.  Here the words are separated by dots, and the sentences are separated by vertical strokes–as can be seen in the accompanying photograph and handcopy.

Sources

***transliterated (with vocalization) and translated by the curator***

Curated by Edwin Hostetter, Department of Religion, George Washington University

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Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.