Telling Seal Unearthed in Jerusalem Names Biblical Figure
Archaeologists in Israel have announced an amazing discovery that could add further evidence for the historicity of the Bible. Two beautifully crafted seals found in Jerusalem are providing new insights into the First Temple period (1000-587 BC). These discoveries are also allowing experts to understand the role of the City of David in the administration of the Kingdom of Judah and cast light on the story of King Josiah.
City of David Excavation
There is at present an excavation in Jerusalem that has made a number of astounding discoveries, including a fragment of pottery with a depiction of a grotesque image used to ward away demons and evil spirits. The dig is taking place under an old car park and it is believed that the site was once an important administrative building before it was destroyed by the Babylonians. This probably occurred when Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to and destroyed the City of David in 587 BC, after which he deported its population to Babylon.
Givati Parking Lot Excavations in the City of David, where the discoveries were made. ( Kobi Harati )
Seals from Ancient Jerusalem
Archaeologists found the rare seals during their latest excavation at the site. These seals or stamps were used to authenticate documents and were important in ancient bureaucracies. The recovered items are both small and one is made of clay and the other was made out of a semi-precious stone. The artifacts miraculously survived the destruction of Jerusalem and they were found among some charred pottery fragments. According to Fox News , ‘both artifacts feature ancient Hebrew script’ .
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The seal made of clay is only about a quarter of an inch in length and its script was deciphered by an expert from the University of Jerusalem. According to Behold Israel, the seal reads “belonging to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.” This is a remarkable find because the name on the seal is referenced once in the Old Testament .
King Josiah’s Jerusalem
Nathan-Melech was an official or officer at the court of King Josiah , the religious reformer and breaker of pagan idols and one of the most important figures in early Jewish history. It appears that Nathan-Melech had chambers near the Temple in Jerusalem, and this would indicate that he held high rank and was part of Josiah’s inner circle and possibly participated in the king’s efforts to remove the last vestiges of paganism from Judea and Jerusalem.
The find is not conclusive evidence that the Nathan-Melech mentioned in the Bible was the same as the owner of the seal, but there is a strong likelihood of a connection between the find and the 7th century BC officer. It also provides evidence for the existence of King Josiah ‘that has never been corroborated before,’ according to Buzz.
The other artifact is made from a blue stone known as agate and it bears the words ‘Ikar, son of Matanyahu (or Mattaniah)’ according to the Behold Israel website. The name Ikar could mean farmer, but it seems to also have been used as a personal name in this context. Mattaniah is a name that was not uncommon at this time. Many scholars believe that King Zedekiah , the last king of Judea before the destruction of Jerusalem, was originally named Mattaniah.
The 'Ikkar Ben Matanyahu' seal found in the City of David. ( Eliyahu Yanai, City of David )
Significance of the Discovery of the Jerusalem Seals
The seal and the stamp are demonstrating that Jerusalem was not only a religious center during the First Temple period but was also the center of government. It provides archaeological evidence that supports the description of Jerusalem as a powerful city before its fiery destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II.
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The seals also provide invaluable socio-economic information on the Kingdom of Judea before its destruction by the Babylonians. More importantly, the find of the seal of Nathan-Melech adds more evidence to support the view that the Bible is a valuable historical document. In particular it may provide proof for the historicity of King Josiah, one of the most important figures in the development of the Jewish faith .
Josiah hearing the book of the law. ( Public Domain )
Top image: The 'Natan-Melech/Eved Hamelech' seal found in the City of David, Jerusalem. Source: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David
By Ed Whelan