Charles Clermont-Ganneau 1846–1923 -- By: Milton C. Fisher

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 04:1 (Winter 1991)
Article: Charles Clermont-Ganneau 1846–1923
Author: Milton C. Fisher


Charles Clermont-Ganneau 1846–1923

Milton C. Fisher

The pioneer explorations at Jerusalem by the British Army engineers Charles Wilson and Charles Warren were followed up, as you may recall, by a French foreign service official named Charles Clermont-Ganneau. After he studied ancient oriental languages in preparation for a civil service post in the Near East, the young Frenchman spent a short while at the consulate in Constantinople, but was soon transferred to the Turkish province of Palestine. That was in 1867 — at the tender age of 21. By the time he was 23 his name would be known to everyone involved in Biblical research or interested in Near Eastern antiquities.

It was the spectacular “catch” he made on the heels of another man’s discovery that called the attention of the directors of the Palestine Exploration Fund to this young Frenchman and led him to embark upon a remarkably successful career as an archaeologist. For in 1869 Clermont-Ganneau became the reclaimer of a prize ninth century BC inscription, a three and a quarter foot high basalt stele which has direct bearing on the Biblical record.

The whole story is dramatic. It begins with the extremely close tie this Moabite inscription of king Mesha holds to the Bible text itself. Its language and script are so similar to Hebrew that it was instantly recognized and translated. The Bible says, “Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheepbreeder, and he regularly paid the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. But it happened, when Ahab died, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel” (2 Kgs 3:4–5). The Moabite stone puts it this way: “I am Mesha, son of Chemosh, king of Moab, the Dibonite.. .. As for Omri, king of Israel, he humbled Moab

Clermont-Ganneau, still in shock, bargains with the Bedouin over the fragmented Moabite Stone.

many years.. .. And his [grand-]son. .. also said ‘I will humble Moab.’ In my time he spoke thus, but I have triumphed over him and over his house. . .”a

Clermont-Ganneau hastened to Dhiban (ancient Dibon), Jordan, upon hearing that a German missionary pastor, Rev. F. A. Klein, had spotted an ancient inscribed stone there and that the bedouin Arabs were anticipating a fortune. By the time our Frenchman made his second trip to Dhiban with funds from Paris, thanks to his resourcefulness in sending home a “squeeze” (paper impression) of the text, he found to his horror the locals had fractured the stone. Now possessors of some 20 fragments,...

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