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MMST (Hebrew Mem, Mem, Shin, Tau) appears exclusively on LMLK seal inscriptions, seen in archaeological findings in Israel, and its meaning has been the subject of continual controversy.

LMLK stamp; Redondo Beach collection #21

ממשת transliterations into English[edit]

  • Mameshat (Yeivin, 1961)
  • mamsatt (Ginsberg, 1948)
  • Mamschat (Galling, 1937)
  • Mamshat (Sellers and Albright, 1931)
  • Mamshath (Conder, 1901)
  • Mamshet (Aharoni, 1960)
  • Mamshit (Vilnay, 1960)
  • Mamshith (Driver, 1909)
  • Memsath (McCown, 1947)
  • Memshat (Bliss, 1900)
  • Memshath (Macalister, 1905)
  • Mimshat (Macalister, 1925)

A place?[edit]

Charles Warren excavated the first two specimens in the original 1868-1869 excavations at Jerusalem (Warren, 1870); however, those were both only partial impressions showing the final two letters ST. The first complete inscription was published by Frederick Jones Bliss after excavating it from Tell Ej-Judeideh (Bliss, 1900), later determined to be Biblical Moreseth-Gath. Beginning then, here is a list of all the ancient sites scholars have associated with it:

These proposals fall into two main streams of thought. One philosophical school places MMST in a geographical region based on the identification of three other regions surrounding Hebron, Sokho, and Ziph (the other words on the LMLK seals). The chief problem is that the majority of the seal impressions were not found in any particular region associated with one of the four inscriptions. For example, the majority of HBRN stamps were found at Lachish significantly to the west. An alternative strategy identifies MMST in the vicinity of Jerusalem (which includes Ramat Rachel) based upon the datum that the majority of MMST stamps were excavated in and around there. The chief problem is that there were more HBRN stamps than MMST found at Jerusalem and more Z(Y)F stamps than MMST found at Ramat Rachel (Grena, 2004, pp. 354–60).

In further support of a Place Name interpretation is the notion that MMST was lost from the Hebrew Masoretic text, but preserved via a corrupt Greek transliteration in the Septuagint version of the book of Joshua, 15:59-60 (Rainey, 1982, p. 59):

  • Theco
  • Ephratha (Baethleem)
  • Phagor
  • Aetan
  • Culon
  • Tatam
  • Thobes
  • Carem
  • Galem
  • Thether
  • Manocho

A person?[edit]

In 1905 Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister suggested that MMST meant Mareshah, but instead of identifying it with the town, he proposed that the seal referred to a potter (or family of potters).

A proclamation?[edit]

If the LMLK seal inscriptions were votive slogans or mottoes instead of geographical places, MMST may share the same etymological root as MMSLTW (Strong's Concordance #4475), a Hebrew word used in the Bible translated alternately as domain, dominion, force, government, power, realm, responsibility, rule. (See Genesis 1:16, 1 Kings 9:19, 2 Chronicles 8:6, Psalms 103:22, 114:2, 136:8-9, 145:13, Isaiah 22:21, Jeremiah 34:1, 51:28, Daniel 11:5, Micah 4:8.) The parallel passage found in 2 Kings 20:13 and Isaiah 39:2 deserves special attention for its association of the word in the same chronological context as the LMLK seals:

And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures--the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory--all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.

Likewise 2 Chronicles 32:9:

After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem (but he and all the forces with him laid siege against Lachish), to Hezekiah king of Judah, and to all Judah who were in Jerusalem...

Note that Ginsberg suspected such a literal reading of the inscription in a paper presented in 1945, but changed to the geographic association with Jerusalem in 1948.

Note also the well-known Moabite inscription from Kerak that begins with the fragmented phrase ...MSYT MLK. While we may never know if the first word is a compound of KMS, the Moabite deity mentioned in the Bible as Chemosh, the MMST on the LMLK seals may have been "MMSYT" written scriptio defectiva with a possible relation to "mumsa" in the Arabic language.

See also[edit]


  • Abel, Pere (1938). Geographie de la Palestine II. p. 377, footnote 17.
  • Aharoni, Y. (1960). "Hebrew jar-stamps from Ramat Rahel". Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies. 6: 28*.
  • Albright, William Foxwell (1943). "The excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim, Volume III: The Iron Age". Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research. XXI-XXII: 73–5. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Barkay, G. (personal communication quote by editor Ephraim Stern; 1993). Ramat Rahel in New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. p. 1267.
  • Bliss, F. J. (1900). "List of casts and wax impressions of stamped jar-handles". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 32 (July): 298. doi:10.1179/peq.1900.32.3.298. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Clermont-Ganneau, C. (1899). "Note on the inscribed jar-handle and weight found at Tell Zakariya". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 31 (July): 204–7. doi:10.1179/peq.1899.31.3.204. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Conder, C. R. (1901). "Jar-handle inscriptions II". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 33 (January): 63. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Driver, S. R. (1909). Modern Research as Illustrating the Bible. pp. 74–7.
  • Galling, Kurt (1937). Biblisches Reallexikon. pp. 337–40.
  • Ginsberg, H. L. (1948). "MMST and MSH". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. The American Schools of Oriental Research. 109 (109): 20–1. doi:10.2307/1355843. JSTOR 1355843. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Grena, G.M. (2004). LMLK--A Mystery Belonging to the King vol. 1. Redondo Beach, California: 4000 Years of Writing History. ISBN 0-9748786-0-X.
  • Hommel, Fritz (1901). "MMST--Mampsis". The Expository Times. 12 (September): 288.
  • Lang, Bernhard (1972). "Recension: "Die Konigs-Stempel" par P. Welten". Revue Biblique. 79 (3): 441–4.
  • Lemaire, Andre (1975). "MMST = Amwas, vers la solution d'une enigme de l'epigraphie Hebraique". Revue Biblique. 82 (1): 15–23.
  • Macalister, R. A. Stewart (1905). "The craftsmen's guild of the tribe of Judah". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 37 (January): 243–53. doi:10.1179/peq.1905.37.3.243. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Macalister, R. A. S. (1925). A Century of Excavation in Palestine. pp. 37–8, 190-1.
  • McCown, Chester Charlton (1947). Tell en-Nasbeh I: Archaeological and Historical Results. pp. 156–61.
  • Rainey, A. F. (1982). "Wine from the royal vineyards". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. The American Schools of Oriental Research. 245 (Winter): 57–62. doi:10.2307/1356528. JSTOR 1356528. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Sellers, O. R. & Albright, W. F. (1931). "The first campaign of excavation at Beth-zur". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 43: 8. doi:10.2307/1354782. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Vilnay, Zev (1960 and possibly earlier editions to 1942). The Guide to Israel. Under listing for Gath (Kiryat-Gat).
  • Vincent, Hugues (1907). Canaan d'Apres l'Exploration Recente. pp. 357–60.
  • Warren, Charles (1870). "Phoenician inscription on jar handles". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 2 (September 30): 372. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Yadin, Yigael (1961). "The fourfold division of Judah". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. The American Schools of Oriental Research. 163 (163): 6–12. doi:10.2307/1355766. JSTOR 1355766. External link in |journal= (help)
  • Yeivin, Shemuel (1961). First Preliminary Report on the Excavations at Tel Gat (Tell Sheykh 'Ahmed el-Areyny) 1956-1958. pp. 9–11.

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