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2,800-year-old altar confirms war between Israel and Moab, as documented in biblical texts

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout - Public Domain

J-P Mauro - published on 08/28/19

Archaeological evidence once again suggests that biblical accounts can be reliable historical sources.

Examination of an ancient stone altar, discovered in Jordan in 2010, has led to the discovery of inscriptions that document a war which saw the Moabite kingdom wrest control of the city of Ataroth from the Kingdom of Israel.

Discovered within a Moabite sanctuary of the ancient ruin of Ataroth, in Jordan, Live Science reports that there were two lines of inscriptions, written in the ancient Moabite language, with numerals drawn from the Egyptian Hieratic writing system. The first inscription appears to describe a quantity of bronze, which was looted from the city of Ataroth during the conquest. Live Science notes that the researchers speculate that these spoils of war may have been offered at this altar.

The second inscription is still a mystery to experts, as it is fragmented. They were able to decipher, however, that “4,000 foreign men were scattered and abandoned in great number,” and that the post-conquest city of Ataroth is described as “desolate.” This suggests that the Moabites were victorious, scattered the remaining forces of Israel, and took the city.

While much about the altar remains unclear, the researchers theorize that the age and subject matter of the inscriptions suggest that they could be referring to the Moabite rebellion against Israel and capture of Ataroth. This theory is supported by mentions of the rebellion in the Hebrew Bible, which documents a large tithe that Moab would have to pay Israel annually.

The inscriptions dug into the stone altar confirm the Biblical records of this war between the Ancient Israelites and the Moabites, which in turn offers another example of the authenticity of biblical records. They also present evidence that the Moabite culture was more advanced than previously considered, with a written language and skilled scribes and artisans who could immortalize their words in stone.

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