House of David Inscription on Mesha Stele Confirmed
More physical evidence demonstrating the Bible as a reliable historical document has surfaced concerning a royal Israelite House of David inscription. Using new advanced photographic techniques, the 2,800-year-old Mesha Stele was recently determined to contain clear references to King David that before were highly debated.
The Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stone, is one of the oldest and most remarkable artifacts connecting biblical history to the ancient world, but there have been long standing arguments over the possible misidentification of the phrase “House of David.” The area of the inscription that features David’s name is damaged and partly unreadable. Only two of the five letters were clear until now, thanks to a new method of digital photography and a re-examination of the evidence.
References to the biblical history contained in the Mesha Stele inscription include:
- ‟YHWH” (This is one of the oldest references to Israel’s God ‟YHWH” outside the Bible. The oldest comes from two Egyptian inscriptions and the recently discovered Mount Ebal curse tablet.)
- ‟Israel” – six times (This is the third oldest known use of the name ‟Israel” in an inscription, behind the Berlin Pedestal and the Merneptah Stele.)
- ‟Omri …king of Israel” (Omri reigned in Israel a half-century after the death of Solomon split the nation in two.)
- ‟The men of Gad” (Gad was one of the Israelite tribes that settled east of the Jordan River, north of Moab.)
The text in question on the stone has been proposed to read “House of David” and “Altar of David.” Before now, scholars could not be entirely sure that these references to King David were being correctly deciphered. The Moabite phrase “House of David” consists of five letters but only the first and fourth letters of the series, bet and waw were completely clear. Three letters completing the reference to David were assumed to be taw (like modern Hebrew tav), dalet, and dalet.
In 2019, the prominent Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, contested the reference to David in the stele. He claimed the letters had been misidentified. Finkelstein suggested that the king referred to in the stele was Balak, a biblical Moabite who lived 200 years before David.
The archaeology department at Tel Aviv University, where Finkelstein is a professor, has a reputation for being skeptical about much of biblical history. The scholars involved in the study are of like mind when it comes to their view of the early history of Israel in the Bible. This may influence their study and interpretation of ancient inscriptions.
Recent re-examination of the evidence by researchers André Lemaire and Jean-Philippe Delorme has led to a pro-bible conclusion. They published their findings in a late-2022 article entitled “Mesha’s Stele and the House of David” in the winter issue of Biblical Archeology Review.
Exciting new technology is allowing the re-examination of ancient artifacts uncovering even more information than before. This new study of the Mesha Stele helps verify that King David did indeed exist and the Bible is an accurate record of history. This is the second clear reference to the House of David from the era of the Israelite monarchy. The archaeological world is generally skeptical about David – many saying he never existed as the king of a powerful Israel like the Bible describes, making this discovery so important. We can be confident that we serve a real God, a God who works through history and has provided us with a reliable record of the past.