André Lemaire and Jean-Philippe Delorme recently published an article in Biblical Archaeology Review (Winter 2022) summarizing new evidence supporting the claim that the Mesha Stele (Moabite Stone) refers to Beit David, the “House of David.” While Lemaire first suggested the possibility 30 years ago, recent developments in photography have provided new images to analyze. In 2015, a group of researchers from the University of Southern California used Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), combining multiple high-resolution photos taken from different angles into a single 3D image. In 2018, a team from the Louvre Museum took new photos while shining a light through the original squeeze, a papier-mâché impression that was taken of the stele before it was damaged. Since the phrase “House of David” appears partly in the undamaged part of the original stone inscription and partly in the damaged part that survives in the squeeze, both of the new developments in photography have been helpful. These images establish that, of the five letters in btdwd, the first, third, fourth, and fifth have been confirmed. Only the second letter is somewhat unclear, but it is likely a taw based on the context. Furthermore, the new photographs clearly establish that there are word dividers in the form of dots that occur before and after this group of letters, implying that it is a single phrase. In their article, Lemaire and Delorme conclude that “the new photographs clearly establish the presence of the first dalet and confirm the last dalet, while only the letter taw remains somewhat unclear. Given this and the presence of word dividers before and after this five-letter unit, we believe the reading btdwd is confirmed once and for all” (“Mesha’s Stele and the House of David,” Biblical Archaeology Review 48, no. 4 [Winter 2022]: 40). The Mesha Stele is a victory monument set up by the Moabite king Mesha, recording events during his reign, including his rebellion against Israelite subjection (2 Kings 3).
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