Monday, July 16, 2018

Digging up the Bible: Seals

Important Archeological Finds that help Us Understand Scripture

Dr. Paul Manuel—2018
Hezekiah Seal

Isaiah Seal

Dr. Eilat Mazar from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem led an investigation of debris near the southern wall of the temple mount. Sifting through the undisturbed Iron Age remains, archaeologists found two clay seals (bullae sg. bulla) of the type commonly used in antiquity (8th century B.C.) to authenticate documents. Each seal is about a half-inch wide with paleo-Hebrew characters. The first seal bears the name Hezekiah (Hizkiyahu), which means "The LORD has strengthened," and presumably belonged to that Judean king. The second seal bears the name Isaiah (Yeshayahu), which means "The Lord will save," and may have belonged to the Judean prophet. The following word on the second seal is partially broken off with only the letters nv intact, but it could represent the Hebrew word for prophet (navi'). Neither name is common in the biblical text, and neither name appears outside the royal court. Archaeologists discovered both seals only a few feet apart from each other.

The prophet Isaiah ministered during the reigns of several Judean monarchs but primarily during that of Hezekiah, for whom he served as an advisor and who had an outstanding reputation: "Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him." (2 Kgs 18:5) Isaiah offered counsel to the king during some difficult episodes in the nation's history. The two individuals figured prominently in events that the books of 2 Kings and Isaiah both record:
  • The invasion and subsequent withdrawal of Assyrian forces under Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18-19; Isa 36-37; see Digging- Sennacherib's Annals)
  • The reception of emissaries from Babylon (2 Kgs 20; Isa 39)
The prophet also made important predictions for people in his day and beyond:
  • King Hezekiah's illness and healing, and the sun's retreat (2 Kgs 20; Isa 38)
  • The advent and death of the messiah (Isa 9; 52-53)
Significance for Biblical Studies: The two seals, especially if the Isaiah Seal did belong to the prophet, represent confirmation for key biblical figures and lend support to the role they played witnessing and participating in major events from Israel's history.
The pdf for this post is here.

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