Dhiban, south of Amman and west of the Dead Sea has been occupied off and on for more than 5,000 years, at least as far back as the Early Bronze Age in the 3rd century BCE through the Iron Age, the Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods. It’s location on the King’s Highway made it an attractive spot to settle. Yet, each successive settlement seemed to wither away after only a few centuries.
The Israelites made a stopover in Dhiban during the Exodus. In the Bible it is mentioned as Divon or Divon Gad, meaning the city was wasting or pining (Numbers 33:1, 46).
In 1868, the discovery of the Meshe Stele confirmed some biblical passages and attracted more tourists and scholars. The Moabite king, Mesha had the stele (stone) inscribed. He described how Kemosh, the god of Moab was angry with his people and allowed them to become overrun by the kingdom Israel (House of Omri). But, after a time Kemosh came back and helped them to defeat the Israelites and restore Moab to its people.
“I am Meshah, son of Chemosh, king of Moab, the Daibonite [Dibonite]. My father reigned over Moab for thirty years, and I reigned after my father. And I made this high place for Chemosh in KRKHH, a high place of salvation, because he had saved me from all the assailants, and because he had let me see my desire upon all them that hated me. Omri, king of Israel, afflicted Moab for many days, because Chemosh was angry with his land. And his son succeeded him; and he also said, I will afflict Moab. In my days said he thus; but I saw my desire upon him and upon his house, and Israel perished with an everlasting destruction.”
That story is, to a great extent, reflected in 2 Kings 3:4-8; And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool. But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and numbered all Israel. And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, the king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses. And he said, which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom.
The writer of 2 Kings told a different version of the story, saying Israel won the battle. Which, if either, is true? We may never know..
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