The Moabite Stone: Does it Reference the “House of David?”

david_moabite
Severely fragmented line, which supposedly reads “House of David.”

In 1994, while endeavoring to improve the interpretation of the inscription, André Lemaire claimed to have discovered a reference to the “House of David” on line 31. However, the line itself is severely fragmented. Keeping in mind that one-third of the inscription has been restored from available squeezes, the uncertain translation has been reconstructed partly by what is visible on the stone and what is visible from these squeezes.

Initially, Charles Clermont-Ganneau had proposed an uncertain reading concerning the end of line 31: ב__דו. In fact, this is reflected in W. F. Albright’s translation in ANET (1969): “And as for Hauronen, there dwelt in it [ . . . . And].” However, after Lemaire examined both the stone and available squeezes, he asserted that a (ת) followed the (ב), and more so, he identified the missing letter as a (ד). Thus, according to Lemaire, “the result is: בת-דוד, the ‘House of David.’”1

It should be noted that this reading has been rejected by both Nadav Na’aman and Anson F. Rainey.2 First they noted that Lemaire’s suggestion rests on the “assumed” similarity of the Moabite inscription and the Tel Dan inscription while failing to identify obvious differences and points of decent on the issue. Secondly, it is suggested the Lemaire fails to adequately explain why the inscription says the House of David “dwelt” in Horonaim instead of Jerusalem. Thirdly, Na’aman asks, since the inscription supposedly refers to a king of Judah, why call him by a collective term (“House of David”), rather than by his proper name—as with Omri? These arguments have led to a great deal of critical opprobrium toward Lemaire’s suggestion.

Once again, it should also be noted that the line in question is severely fragmented. Keep in mind that one-third of the inscription has been restored from available squeezes, the uncertain translation has been reconstructed partly by what is visible on the stone and what is visible from these squeezes. In my opinion, after examining the stone, it is at best, a guess as to whether the stone actually contains the phrase “House of David.”

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     FOOTNOTES

     [1] See André Lemaire, “‘House of David’: Restored in Moabite Inscription” in Biblical Archaeology Review 20, no. 3 (1994): 30–37.

     [2] See Nadav Na’aman, “The Campaign of Mesha against Horonaim” in Biblische Notizen 73 (1994) 27–30; and A. F. Rainey, “Syntax, Hermeneutics and History,” IEJ 48 (1998): 239–51

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