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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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1. Originally a town of Moab. Taken by Sihon, king of the Amorites (Numbers 21:30). Taken from Sihon with his other possessions by Israel, and assigned to Gad (Numbers 32:33-34); mentioned also as belonging to Reuben (Joshua 13:9), the two pastoral tribes less strictly defining their boundaries than settled populations would. Gad rebuilt it and gave it the name Dibon-Gad (Numbers 33:45). It was in Moab's possession in Isaiah's time (Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 48:18; Jeremiah 48:22; Jeremiah 48:24). Also called Dimon, the Hebrew letter Μem ( מ ) and the Hebrew letter Βet[h] ( ב ) being often interchanged. Dibon was probably the modern Dhiban, on low ground three miles N. of the Arnon; translated in Isaiah 15:2, "Dibon (the people of Dibon) is gone up to the high places," the usual places of sacrifice.

F. A. Klein, of the Church Missionary Society, in traveling from Es-Salt to Kerak was informed by a sheikh of the Beni Hamide of the now well-known basalt stone of Dibon, with its remarkable inscription by King Mesha. It was 3 1/2 ft. high, and 2 ft. in width and 2 ft. in thickness; rounded off at both ends. Unfortunately, the Arabs, in jealousy of the Turkish government which demanded the surrender of the stone, broke it in pieces by lighting a fire around and throwing cold water on it; but not before M. Ganneau had secured an impression of the inscription. Captain Warren obtained another impression and fragments of the stone. Ganneau and Warren subsequently obtained most of the fragments; so that only one-seventh of the whole is missing. It is now in the Louvre at Paris. Of 1,100 letters 669 have been secured. The first part (lines 1-21) records Mesha's wars with Omri, king of Israel (i.e. his successors); the second (line 21-31) his public buildings; the third part (31-34) his wars against Horonaim with the help of Chemosh, "the abomination (idol) of Moab."

The Moabite stone confirms the connection of Israel with Moab, founded on their common descent through Lot and Abraham, and afterward renewed through Ruth and her descendant David. The language of the stone is almost identical with that of the historical portions of the Hebrew Bible. The Αleph ( א ), Ηe[h] ( ה ) Vav [or Waw] ( ו ), and Υod[h] ( י ) are used (just as in the Old Testament) as "matres lectionis ", to express vowel sounds, and the Ηe[h] ( ה ) at the end of a word; confirming the Masoretic text. The alphabet is almost the same as the Phoenician one. It has the 22 letters of the earliest Hebrew, except Τet[h] ( ט ), which probably is on the missing fragments. The present square Hebrew characters, which we find in our Hebrew Bibles, are probably of Chaldean origin, and resemble those in the inscriptions at Palmyra.

The Greeks borrowed their alphabet from the Phoenicians. In Isaiah 15:2 Dibon is termed a "high place"; Mesha on the stone terms it his birthplace, and chose it as the site of his monument. The phrase of "Mesha" (named on the stone just as we read it 2 Kings 3:4-27), "Chemosh let me see my desire upon all my enemies," is word for word, substituting Jehovah for the idol of apostate Moab, David's phrase (Psalms 59:10). The revolt of Mesha (recorded on the stone) from Judah, to which he had paid a tribute of 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams (2 Kings 3:4; Isaiah 16:1), was probably in Ahaziah's reign, who died 896 B.C., so that as early as nine centuries B.C. the alphabet was so complete as it appears on the stone. As this tribute seems enormous for so small a country it was probably imposed temporarily as compensation for damages sustained in the revolt of Moab after Ahab's death.

Or if the revolt followed the tragic end of the confederacy of Judah, Israel, and Edom against Moab (2 Kings 3:26-27), the date of the stone is but little later, and the completeness of the alphabet on it shows it was then no recent invention. (See ALPHA.) Jehoshaphat's own territory had been previously invaded by Moab (2 Chronicles 20). Hence, he was ready to ally himself to Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 20:85); then to Jehoram and Edom against Moab. Mesha's words on the stone imply that he had more than Israel alone to contend with: "he let me see my desire upon all my enemies" (line 4). A confirmation of the Scripture account of Mesha's defeat by the three confederates appears in the Black Obelisk from Nimrud, of the same age as the Moabite stone. Moab is omitted in the list of Syrian independent states confederate with Benhadad of Damascus against Shalmaneser of Nineveh.

Scripture explains why; Moab was then subject to Judah. In later Assyrian lists, when Moab had recovered its independence, three distinct Moabite kings are named. The circuitous route taken by the three confederates to invade the E. of Moab is probably accounted for by the fact recorded on the Moabite stone; Mesha was carrying all before him in the W., and it would have been dangerous to have assailed him in that quarter. The stone notices expressly Israel's oppression of Moab in the reign of "Omri king of Israel and his son (and 'his son's son' is to be supplied in one gap of the inscription) forty years," and Mesha's breaking off the yoke; after which it says "all Dibon was loyal"; whereas previously "the men of Gad dwelt in the land of Ataroth" (compare Numbers 32:84-88), and "the king of Israel fortified" it. The 40 years would be the round number for the 36 during which Omri, Ahab, and Ahaziah reigned.

The Moabite stone probably takes up the narrative broken off at 2 Kings 3:27. There we read "Israel departed from the Moabite king, and returned to their own land;" ultimately, the Dibon stone informs us Mesha took town after town of Gad, "Medeba, Jahaz, Dibon, and Kir." Thus is explained how these towns in Isaiah 15; 16 (150 years later), are assigned to Moab, though David (2 Samuel 8:2) had long before so effectually subjugated the nation. From the time of Mesha, Israel was from time to time subjected to Moabite invasions (2 Chronicles 20:1; 2 Kings 13:20).

Mesha, according to the Dibon stone, "built (i.e. rebuilt and fortified) Baalmeon, Kiriathaim, and Nebo," all once in Reuben's hands; also "Bezer" (Deuteronomy 4:43). Mesha says in the inscription on the basalt stone, "I made this high place a stone of salvation;" compare Ebenezer, "the stone of help," 1 Samuel 7:12 margin See "The Moabite Stone," by W. P. Walsh. In three points the Dibon stone confirms Scripture:

(1) The men of Gad dwelt, in the land of old.

(2) Moab's successes caused the confederacy of Israel, Judah, and Edom.

(3) Moab's successes in the N.W. forced the allies to take the circuitous route S.E.

2. Dibon, reinhabited by men of Judah, returned from Babylon (Nehemiah 11:25) equates to Dimonah.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Dibon'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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