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Dibon: Num 21:30; 32:3,34; Josh 13:9,17; Neh 11:25; Isa 15:2; Jer 48:18,22  Dibongad: Num 33:45,46  Waters of Dimon: Isa 15:9 Dhiban: Arabic

Dibon was the capital of Mesha, the deliverer and the mutton king. The name contains the meaning:  Wasting from a root meaning to cause sorrow (eg Lev 26:16) and used as idea of silence. Dibon, Aroer and Madaba are considered by local legend to be ancient daughters of king Heshbon for which all the local identities are named.

Dibon is located 64 km south of Amman, and 4km north of the wadi Mujib. The town is built of two natural hills; the ancient tell is located on the northern hill, and the modern Dhiban on the southern. The northern hill covers an area 150 x 200 m, and is very defensible, with ravines on the west, north and north-east. Today the southern edge has a saddle, and excavations indicate this is artificial from detritus, so in ancient times, the southern wall was most likely also naturally defensible. Dibon, alongside Areor marks the southern boundaries of the Madaba plateau all of which is taken by conquest from Sihon Num 32 It is possible that as a result of the severe fighting at Dibon, the city required re-building and is called Dibon-gad, Num 33:45,46.

Mesha styled in history as “the mutton king” due to the large number of sheep that he produced is commemorated both in the discovery and content of a stele outside Dibon  In August 19, 1868 FAKlein travelled from Strausbourg through what was then Ottoman Jordan acting as a Anglican missionary. Meeting local bedu of the Bani Hamidi tribe, he was intrigued by a story of an inscribed standing stone. He sketched it, and copied a few lines of the ancient Phoenician characters, but darkness stopped his continuing investigations. 15 months purchase negotiation ensued. Charles Clemont-Ganneau heard of the story and travelled to meet the Bedu. He succeeded in obtaining a squeeze of the original stone, albeit poor quality. Negotiations continued, being complicated with issues of transport through adjoining bedu lands. The stele then nally was purchased, but the Bedu had broken it in pieces either by fire or by dynamite, hoping the smaller segments may fetch a higher price. Pieces were subsequently obtained by Charles Warren (of Jerusalem fame) [18 pieces] and Charles Clemont-Ganneau [38] which was subsequently reconstructed by the Louvre and found to read:

  1. 1 I am Mesa, son of Chamos-nadab, the king of Moab (son of) Yabnis.
    2 My father ruled over Moab (** years), and. I have
    3 reigned after my father. And I have built this high-place of sacrifice in Karkha, and platform for Chamos **.
  2. 4 (I call myself) Mesa, because he (Chamos) has saved me from (all who fought against Moab).
    6 (Omri) the king of Israel joined (Moab’s) haters, and oppressed Moab (many days). Chamos was angry.
    6 The king’s son succeeded him, and tyEoab was oppressed very sore.
    7 ** And I saw him and his house (temple?). Israel was dispersed for ever. Omri took
    8 Medeba, and remained there, and built forty **.
    Line 10 Kirjathaim = Shaveh Kirithaim, mentioned in
    9 Chamos is our god. To him I built Baal Meon (walls and mounds), and sacrificed.
    Gen 14:5; Num 32:37; Josh 13:19; Jer 48:1,23; Ezek 25:9
    10 I took Kirjathaim, and men of Gad dwelt in the land from the days of their fathers.
  3. 11 The king of Israel* built Kirjathaim. I fought against and took it, and
    12 killed all the people that were in the city (as a sacrifice) to Chamos, god of Moab,
    13 *** before the face of Chamos, in Kirjathaim; then I made prisoners the (old) men and the ****
    14 * of the youth (morning). Chamos said: Go rule over Israel.
    15 I went by night, and fought with him from the *** of the dawn to mid-day. I ***
    16 ****entirely*****
    17 **** who is for Astar Chamos ***
    18 ** Yahveh (Yahweh) ** before the face of Chamos and the king of Israel (came to)
    19 Yah as, and dwelt there (until?) my combat with him, and Chamos drove him from ****.
    20 I took of Moab two hundred men in all, and I made them go up to Yahas, and I ******* (to annex it to)
    21 **** on Dibon. It is I who built the esplanade (?) to the walls of Yearim(?) and the walls of
    22 *** And it is I who have built its gates, and it is I who have built its fortress, and it is *** in thing,
    23 I who have built Bet-Moloch, and it is I who have made the two ****
    24 ** Kir a i K j there were no wells in the interior of Kir on its esplanade. And I said to all the people
    25 Make every man a well in his house. It is I who have o ered the holocaust on the esplanade (?) in
    26 * * Israel. It is I who have built Aroer(?) and it is I who have made the road of Arnon.
    27 It is I who have built Bet-Bamoth, which was destroyed (?) It is I who have built Bosor, which ***
    28 *** Dibon, of the military chiefs, because all Dibon was subject, and I have
    29 *## with the cities which I have added to the earth, and it is I who have built ***
    30 *** Bet-Diblathaim and Bet-Baal Meon, and I have erected there the ***
    31 *** the land. Horonaim, where resided **
    32 ** Chamos said to me ** Fight at Horonaim, and I
    33 ** Chamos ** on **
    34**
    Some pieces missing see also (3)

“From all this we infer that the land of Moab, which had apparently recovered its independence during, or immediately after, the reign of Solomon, was, at least in part, reconquered by the warlike Omri. And from the list of towns which in other parts of the inscription Mesha mentions as having been retaken, we conclude that Omri had invaded Moab from the north, while afterwards the allied armies entered it from the south. Accordingly a number of places are named as such which the king of Israel had fortified and Mesha recaptured”. The events give an understanding of the anxiety of Jehoshaphat on the rising power of the adjacent nations.

BC 853 saw rebellion in the land of Moab. Having been oppressed by the house of Omri and Ahab, the heavy tribute led to revolt. The biblical record of the time is recorded in 2 Kings 3 and at the time of rebellion by Mesha, a coalition of Edom, Israel and Judah suppressed the revolt until the time of the sacrifice of the son of the king of Moab 2 Kings 3:27. A play on the name Mesha is used in 2 Kings 3:18 where Yahweh would  deliver (Mesha) the Moabites also into the hands of Israel. The abominable practices of Chemosh are also highlighted in this chapter where the son of the king was sacrificed on the wall 2 Kings 3:26,27.

Nebuchadnezzar finally destroyed Dibon in 532BC.

The Mesha stone has interesting connections with the bible:

  1. Line 3: Chemosh is mentioned in the bible: Num 21:29; Judges 11:24; 1Kings 11:7,33; 2Kings 23:13; Jer 48:7,13,46
  2. Line 10 Kirjathaim = Shaveh Kirithaim, mentioned in the bible: Gen 14:5; Num 32:37; Josh 13:19; Jer 48:1,23; Ezek 25:9
  3. Line 12 Mesha dedicates the slaughter of Kirjathaim as a dedication to Chemosh: equivalent to Cherem of Saul’s spoils of slaughter 1Sam 15:21 and Jericho’s spoils “accursed” Josh 6:17,18; 7:1,11,12,13,15
  4. Line 18 Mesha also claims to take the vessels of Yahweh, and outside a temple reference in northern Sudan, this would be the oldest extra-biblical reference to the God of Israel
  5. Line 24 Kir Isa 15:1, and it’s dominion Kiriot(h) translated in Jer 48:41 RV Margin as the “the cities are taken” Noted as a place for palaces Amos 2:2
  6. Line 31 appears to read the house of David lived at Horonaim

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  1. D. Mackenzie, Dibon: the City of King Mesa and of the Moabite Stone, Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, pp. 57-79
  2. F. V. Winnett, Excavations at Dibon in Moab, 1950-51, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 125, pp. 7-20
  3. A. Douglas Tushingham, Excavations at Dibon in Moab, 1952-53, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 133, pp. 6-26
  4. W. Morton The 1954, 55, and 65 Excavations at Dhiban in Jordan, in Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab, pp. 239-46
  5. Michael Avi-Yonah, Ephraim Stern: Encyclopedia of archaeological excavations in the Holy Land pg 330f
  6.  Eusebius Onom 372:1,2: Notes by Jerome: 372. Daibōn (Debon) or Dibon. Numbers 21:26f., 30; K. 76:17; L. 257:42. Textual variant Dabōn (Greek). The Onomasticon does not equate the station of the Israelites with the Moabite Dibōn (K. 80:5). But no doubt the large village was Dhiban which has been excavated. Probably a garrison was there according to Notitia Dignitatum (81:27). But curiously it is not on the Tabula Peutinger. This is the only listing of this important town unless Dēbous (K. 104:12) is equated with Dibōn rather than Hesbous (K. 84:4). In Interpretation of Hebrew Names “Dibon, su cient intelligence or abundant understanding” (80). 373. Daibōngad (Dabira). Numbers 33:45; K. 76:23; L. 257:48
  7. Lost treasures of the Bible ClydeE Fant, MitchelG Reddish pg97-103
  8. The moabite stone translated by EUllendor (DOTT, p 196-197
  9. André Lemaire, House of David restored in Moabite Inscription BAR 20(1994) pg 30-37
  10. Albert Ediersheim, Old Testament History vol 6: chapter 9, pg 91
  11. The new encyclopaedia of archeological excavations in the holy land pg 350-352
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