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Seal with Biblical Name found

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  • Seal with Biblical Name found

    Seal With Biblical Name Found in Jerusalem House Destroyed by Babylonians 2,600 Years Ago

    Archaeologists digging in Jerusalem have made a double biblical discovery. First, they uncovered the ruins of a massive building that seems to have burned down when the Babylonians conquered the city and razed the First Temple in 586 B.C.E. Then, amongst the charred debris, they found a tiny seal impression inscribed with the name of a man mentioned in the Bible: Nathan-Melech, a high-ranking official in the court of the king of Judah.

    The twin discoveries shed new light on the period in which – most scholars believe – the Bible was first put in writing, as well as on the destruction of the First Temple that followed shortly after.

    The tiny clay seal impression bears the Hebrew words LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech – which translate to “[belonging] to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King,” the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Sunday.

    The title “Servant of the King” appears often in the Bible to describe a high-ranking official close to the king of Judah, explains Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem, who deciphered the text. This title also appears on other stamps and seal impressions that have been found previously.

    This specific servant of the king, Nathan-Melech, is mentioned once in the Bible, in connection to the religious reforms enacted in the late 7th century B.C.E. by King Josiah.

    As part of his attempts to stamp out polytheism and centralize religious cult in the Temple, Josiah “took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.” (2 Kings 23:11)

    We cannot be sure that the Nathan-Melech mentioned in the Bible was the same person who, more than 2600 years ago, owned the clay bulla that was found by archeologists, says Mendel-Geberovich. But, “it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together,” she adds.

    The timing is definitely right, since the artifact dates to between the mid-7th century B.C.E. to the early 6th century B.C.E., which roughly corresponds to Josiah’s reign. The large public building in which it was found also suggests that whoever signed his name on the bulla was someone of importance. Finally, this official was mentioned by his first name alone indicating that he was known to all, and there was no need to add his family lineage, which often appears on seal impressions from that time, Mendel-Geberovich concludes.

    Bullae were small pieces of clay impressed by personal seals, used in ancient times to sign letters. Those parchments have long since turned to dust, leaving behind only the sealings.

    In previous digs, archaeologists have found multiple seal impressions thought to prove the existence of biblical figures, including a bulla signed by the 8th century B.C.E King Hezekiah and one that may have been the mark of the Prophet Isaiah. Yet another was found that had belonged to the governor of Jerusalem in the First Temple period.

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