The rare royal seal. (Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor) (Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor)
ancient king seal

As testimony to Jerusalem’s rich and ancient Jewish history, a Biblical-era royal seal belonging to King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, was found in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Israeli archaeologists digging in Jerusalem Old City have discovered a rare seal which bears the name of a Judean king mentioned in the Bible.

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar, have unearthed an impression of the royal seal of King Hezekiah (727–698 BCE).

Measuring 9.7 X 8.6 mm, the oval impression was imprinted on a 3 mm thick soft bulla, a piece of inscribed clay, measuring 13 X 12 mm. Around the impression is the depression left by the frame of the ring in which the seal was set.

The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script:

“לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה”

“Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah”

 

The seal, probably made late in Hezekiah’s life, also shows a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life.

The winged sun is a motif that proclaimed God’s protection, which gave the regime its legitimacy and power, and was also widespread throughout the Ancient Near East and used by the Assyrian Kings.

The seal originally sealed a document written on a papyrus rolled and tied with thin cords, which left their mark on the reverse of the bulla.

The bulla was discovered in 2009 together with many pottery shards and other finds such as figurines and seals.

The bulla, discovered by Efrat Greenwald, a member of the Ophel expedition, was found in a refuse dump dated to the time of King Hezekiah or shortly after, and the royal building that stood next to it and appears to have been used to store foodstuffs. This building, one of a series of structures that consisted the royal complex that also included a gatehouse and towers, was constructed in the second half of the 10th century BCE (the time of King Solomon) as part of the fortifications of the Ophel — the new governmental quarter that was built in the area that connects the City of David with the Temple Mount.

“Although seal impressions bearing King Hezekiah’s name have already been known from the antiquities market since the middle of the 1990s, some with a winged scarab (dung beetle) symbols and others with a winged sun, this is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation,” Mazar said when the finding was revealed to the public on Wednesday.

A Vivid Depiction of the Bible

A third-generation archaeologist, Mazar directs excavations in the Old City. Among her many archaeological finds over the years, in 2013 she revealed to the world an ancient golden treasure discovered at the Ophel.

Ophel dig Jerusalem

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (Courtesy: Andrew Shiva)

King Hezekiah is described favorably in the Bible (II Kings, Isaiah, II Chronicles) as well as in the chronicles of the Assyrian kings— Sargon II and his son Sennacherib—who ruled during his time. Hezekiah is depicted as both a resourceful and daring king, who centralized power in his hands. Although he was an Assyrian vassal, he successfully maintained the independent standing of the Judean Kingdom and its capital Jerusalem, which he enhanced economically, religiously, and diplomatically.

The Bible relates of Hezekiah that “there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him” (II Kings 18:5).

The discovery of King Hezekiah’s Royal Seal impression in the Ophel excavations vividly brings to life the Biblical narratives about King Hezekiah and the activity conducted during his lifetime in Jerusalem’s Royal Quarter.

By: United with Israel Staff

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