Saturday, June 25, 2011


Some additional correspondence which Dr. Hess shared with me:

[In lines 11-12 of the Mesha stele] h-y-t implies a feminine subject, such as “city”.  A masculine subject would be “people” and, if singular, should have h-y-h as its verb.  Furthermore, the verb followed by a lamed preposition means “to belong to” and does not say anything about some sort of religious or cultic act of sacrifice.  The reason why Albright and others interpreted the phrase in the way they did was because they were misled to read r-y-t there in place of h-y-t.  R-y-t is a “hapax,” that is, it occurs only here and therefore its meaning is conjectural.  However, André Lemaire was the first epigraphist to go back to the squeeze that was taken before the inscription was smashed (soon after its discovery).  Lemaire read h-y-t there in place of the otherwise unknown r-y-t.  See André Lemaire, “’House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription,” Biblical Archaeology Review 20/3 (May-June 1994), pp. 31-37; and especially Lemaire, “New Photograph and ryt or hyt in Mesha,” Israel Exploration Journal 57 (2007) pp. 204-207.  Since that publication this has become the standard interpretation of the text.  Mr. Stark’s appeal to the earlier ANET and the translation of Albright from the 1960’s cites an authority who at the time did not have available the most accurate reading of the inscription.
The ‘olah or burnt offering is one of the most frequent types of offerings mentioned in the Bible.  It also occurs at Ugarit by the same name.  There the offerers could eat of this offering while in Israel it was unique in that the whole of the offering was burnt to God.  So the evidence we do have suggests it was a frequent offering and one that took on different meaning and practice in different cultures of the time.  However, Moab was culturally closer to Israel and Judah than to Ugarit, so my guess is that this is some sort of burning of the prince on the walls as a sacrifice of some sort.  Again, the point is that the text does not emphasize the god to whom it was dedicated or any deity or divine element.  Rather, the whole thing appears as a horrible act of propaganda to demoralize Edom and to turn them in anger against Israel so as to break up the alliance.

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