Archaeologists deciphered a seal impression bearing the name of the 8th century BCE biblical King Hezekiah recently found during excavations next to the Old City of Jerusalem, the Hebrew University announced Wednesday.
The bulla, a stamp seal impression, was one of dozens found in recent years in a royal building in the Ophel, excavation leader Dr. Eilat Mazar said at a press conference held at the Mount Scopus campus, and bears the name “Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, king of Judah,” an 8th century Judean ruler.
Mazar called the artifact “the closest as ever that we can get to something that was most likely held by King Hezekiah himself.” She said that the bulla “strengthens what we know already from the Bible about [Hezekiah].”
The bulla in question used to seal a papyrus scroll and an impression of the fibers was preserved on the inverse, Mazar said, suggesting the seal once enclosed a document signed by the king himself.
[email protected] prof presents find: stamp seal with name of biblical king Hezekiah found in #jerusalem pic.twitter.com/jjcuXPGrxW
— Ilån Bεn Zıon (@IlanBenZion) December 2, 2015
Hezekiah ruled the kingdom of Judah from around 715 and 686 BCE. During his reign the kingdom was invaded by the ascendant Assyrian Empire and the capital, Jerusalem, was besieged by the army of King Sennacherib. The Book of Kings II 18:5 says of Hezekiah that “after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among them that were before him.” He’s also mentioned in the annals of Sennacherib.
According to the biblical narrative, Hezekiah ordered the excavation of a water channel to bring water from the Siloam Spring into the city and foil the siege. That tunnel was discovered in the 19th century and an inscription found inside it gives an account of its construction.
The minuscule, centimeter-long artifact is decorated with Egyptian-style motifs — a winged sun disk and an ankh, symbol of life. Iconography of this sort had already been appropriated by Judean leaders and appear on other contemporary seals across the ancient Near East.
“The Egyptian motifs were spread over the second millennium BCE all over the region” and no longer bore their original significance, Mazar explained. Ancient Judeans employed the sun disk to denote the Almighty, and its bowed wings may connote Hezekiah’s expression that “my power is thanks to God’s protection,” she said.
“It was nothing like what it meant to the Egyptians,” she said.
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SOURCE: The Times of Israel, Ilan Ben Zion