In the mid-1990s a very important bulla showed up on the antiquities market. A bulla is a flattened lump of hardened clay bearing the impression of a seal. They were used to seal papyrus documents. The papyrus would be folded and tied with a string. A soft lump of clay would then be placed on the string and impressed with a signet ring or pendant bearing the seal of the sender. The clay would harden, thus securing the contents of the document.
Bullae are usually small. This one measures a mere 2/5” wide. The back of the bulla still bears the imprint of the papyrus it once sealed, as well as the double string which held it together. It even contains a fingerprint on the left edge. Like many bullae, it was preserved due to fire. When a city was burned by an invading army, it would cause the destruction of most artifacts, but would cause the bullae to be preserved. Just as in a kiln, these bullae were baked to perfection.
Many bullae have been discovered. What makes this bulla remarkable is its inscription. It reads: “Belonging to Ahaz (son of) Yehotam, King of Judah.” Given the process that created and preserves bullae, they are virtually impossible to forge, so most scholars believe this bulla to be authentic. It bears the seal of King Ahaz of Judah, who ruled from 732-716 BC.
- This is another extra-biblical confirmation of the existence of King Ahaz.
- This find puts us in much closer touch to the Biblical king than a mere mention of his name in extra-biblical documents/artifacts. This was the seal he himself used to certify official court documents!
- It is possible that the fingerprint is that of Ahaz himself. If so, it would be the only fingerprint evidence of a Biblical king.
Around the edge of the bulla is a 1mm thick groove, indicating that the seal which made the impression was encased in a ring or pendant.