Archaeology


Another clay seal (bulla) bearing the name of a Biblical person has been unearthed in the City of David. The tiny clay seal was found in the remains of a large housing structure that had been destroyed by fire in the sixth century B.C. The seal reads, “[belonging to] Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.” Nathan-Melech appears once in the Bible, in 2 Kings 23:11, and is said to be an official in the court of King Josiah. (more…)

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A few weeks ago, a news story broke regarding a sealing ring discovered in 1969 in Herodium – a fortress built by King Herod near Bethlehem. This ring would have been used to stamp documents and goods with an inscription. Only recently was the artefact cleaned and examined, and discovered to bear the inscription “of Pilatus.” This is a Roman name, and a rare Roman name at that. The only Romans who would have been in Israel during this time were rulers and soldiers, and the only Roman ruler who lived near the area during this timeframe is the infamous Pontius Pilate spoken of in the NT, who was prefect of Jerusalem and the man responsible for condemning Jesus to death by crucifixion. Could this be his ring, then?

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In 2009, archaeologist Eilat Mazar discovered 33 bullae (small clay seal impressions) in the Ophel area of Jersualem. In 2015 she announced that one of the bullae bore the impression of the seal of King Hezekiah.  Now, she has announced that one of those bullae may belong to the Biblical prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah bulla

Discovery location

If valid, this would be the first archaeological evidence of the prophet.

The bulla in question was discovered less than 10 feet from King Hezekiah’s bulla.  Given the close relationship between the two men, it would not be surprising to bullae belonging to both of them in close proximity.  But is this truly the bulla of Isaiah the prophet?

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Unfortunately, someone took the scrolls from the cave years ago.  We can only wonder where those scrolls are now.

Two new books have been published reporting on the discovery of 25 Hebrew Bible texts, at least some of which may be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  There have been ~70 such texts that have appeared on the antiquities market since 2002.

The provenance of these manuscripts is uncertain since they were found on the antiquities market, but they may have come from the Qumran caves. They are believed to be ~2000 years old.

Nehemiah was the only book that was not found among the original Dead Sea Scrolls. This new cache of manuscripts, however, contains portions of Nehemiah (2:13-16), as well as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Samuel, Ruth, Kings, Micah, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Joshua, Judges, Proverbs, Numbers, Psalms, Ezekiel, and Jonah. Given the unknown provenance, however, the manuscript may not be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, even if it dates from the same period of time.

Work is currently underway to investigate the manuscripts to make sure they are not forgeries.

News articles:

Live Science

History

hezekiah-toiletArchaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be a toilet in a pagan shrine in Lachish. We know the practice of installing a toilet to desecrate a shrine was practiced from an account of King Jehu doing so in 2 Kings 10:27. The toilet in question, however, dates to the time of Hezekiah. While there is no Biblical record of Hezekiah doing the same, 2 Kings 18:4 tells us that he destroyed pagan sacred places. It would not be unexpected that he also desecrated pagan sacred sites by installing toilets. Tests indicate the toilet in question was never used, and just had a symbolic purpose.

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It was announced last week that another King Hezekiah bulla has been found (initially discovered in 2009).  This is a small clay seal (13×12 millimeters) used by Hezekiah to seal and authenticate a document. It was molded around the strings that tied the document shut. In fact, we can still see the impression from the fibers on this bulla.

We already had eight other bullae bearing King Hezekiah’s name, but they were unprovenanced. This new bulla was uncovered during an official excavation at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by Dr. Eliat Mazar. It reads, “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.”

There’s a nice video on the find here.

The discovery of this bulla should remind us again that the Bible is not a book of fairy tales. It is written as history, and archaeological finds such as this prove that it is based on real historical people and real historical events.

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