Moabite language

The Moabite language, also known as the Moabite dialect, is an extinct sub-language or dialect of the Canaanite languages, themselves a branch of Northwest Semitic languages, formerly spoken in the region described in the Bible as Moab (modern day central-western Jordan) in the early 1st millennium BC. The body of Canaanite epigraphy found in the region is described as Moabite; this is limited primarily to the Mesha Stele and a few seals. Moabite, together with the similarly poorly-attested Ammonite and Edomite, belonged to the dialect continuum of the Canaanite group of northwest Semitic languages, together with Hebrew and Phoenician.[2]

RegionFormerly spoken in northwestern Jordan
Eraearly half of 1st millennium BCE[1]
Phoenician alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3obm

An altar inscription written in Moabite and dated to 800 BC was revealed in an excavation in Motza.[3] It was written using a variant of the Phoenician alphabet.[4]

Most knowledge about Moabite comes from the Mesha Stele,[4] which is the only known extensive text in the language. In addition, there is the three-line El-Kerak Inscription and a few seals. The main features distinguishing Moabite from fellow Canaanite languages such as Hebrew and Phoenician are: a plural in -în rather than -îm (e.g. mlkn "kings" for Biblical Hebrew məlākîm), like Aramaic (also Northwest Semitic) and Arabic (Central Semitic); retention of the feminine ending -at or "-ah", which Biblical Hebrew reduces to -āh only (e.g. qiryat or qiryah, "town", Biblical Hebrew qiryāh) but retains in the construct state nominal form (e.g. qiryát yisrael "town of Israel"); and retention of a verb form with infixed -t-, also found in Arabic and Akkadian (w-’ltḥm "I began to fight", from the root lḥm). Vowel values and diphthongs, which had potential to vary wildly between Semitic languages, were also largely typical of other Semitic tongues: there is inconsistent evidence to suggest that ā contracted to ō much like in Hebrew and later Phoenician, at the same time, there is evidence to suggest that the diphthongs /aw/ and /ay/ eventually contracted to ō and ē, another characteristic shared by Hebrew and later Phoenician.[5]

Moabite differed only dialectally from Hebrew, and Moabite religion and culture was related to that of the Israelites.[6] On the other hand, although Moabite itself had begun to diverge, the script used in the 9th century BC did not differ from the script used in Hebrew inscriptions at that time.[7]


  1. ^ Moabite at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. ^ Simon B.Parker, 'Moabite, Ammonite and Edomite' in John Kaltner, Steven L. McKenzie (eds.), Beyond Babel: A Handbook for Biblical Hebrew and Related Languages, SBL Press, 2019 ISBN 978-0-884-14384-0 pp.43-59 p.46ff.
  3. ^ Owen Jarus (2019-08-22). "Biblical War Revealed on 2,800-Year-Old Stone Altar: The altar reveals new details about a rebellion against the Kingdom of Israel". Retrieved 2019-08-24.
  4. ^ a b Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (2007). Moab. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 395. ISBN 9780802837851.
  5. ^ W. Randall Garr (2004). Dialect Geography of Syria-Palestine, 1000-586 B.C.E. Eisenbrauns. pp. 31–39. ISBN 978-1-57506-091-0. OCLC 1025228731.
  6. ^ "Moabite | people". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  7. ^ "isbn:0805446796 - Sök på Google". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-04-13.