Archaeologists digging just south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount have made a historic discovery:a 2,700-year-old seal of King Hezekiah was unearthed, making it the first-ever seal impression of an Israeli Judean king ever exposed in situ in a scientific archaeological excavation.
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.
“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) symbol 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,” said Dr. Eilat Mazar, a leading Jerusalem archaeologist whose landmark discoveries include an ancient golden treasure at the foot of the Temple Mount.
King Hezekiah is considered one of Judea’s most righteous kings, and 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 reign.
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.
Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.2 Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Abi, the daughter of Zachariah. – 2 Kings 18:1-2 (KJV).
The discovery, made by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar during Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, is an impression of the royal seal of the Biblical King Hezekiah, who reigned between 727–698 BCE.
It is thought to have originally sealed a document written on papyrus which had been rolled and tied with thin cords, the marks of which can still be seen on the back of the seal.
Measuring 9.7 X 8.6 mm, the oval impression was imprinted on a 3 mm thick soft bulla (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.
Although other seals that purport to belong to King Hezekiah are known to exist, their provenance has not been confirmed.
The new bulla was discovered during an excavation of an ancient ‘rubbish dump’ that dates back to the time of King Hezekiah, who lived between 727BC and 698BC.
It could now help provide new clues about the role the Kingdom of Judah played in the region at the time, and helps to underline the importance of King Hezekiah in the history of the region.
Under King Hezekiah, who appears in II Kings, Isaiah, II Chronicles, Judah emerged out from under the rule of the Assyrian empire following a series of battles that included the siege of Jerusalem.
During the conflict, Hezekiah allied himself with Egypt, which may help to explain the presence of the ankh symbol – the Egyptian hieroglyphs for life – on his seal.
He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. -2 Kings 18:5 (KJV).
Judah went on to become one of the most powerful states on the frontier between Egypt and Assyria under Hezekiah.
Dr Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was leading the excavation, said: ‘This is a most unique item – it is the private seal impression of King Hezekiah.
‘It is the first time such an item has been found ever in archaeological excavations.”
‘It is so tiny but we can see very easily the name of King Hezekiah and the symbols he chose to put on his impression.
The change is thought to have reflected both the Assyrian influence in the kingdom and Hezekiah’s desire to emphasis his own political sovereignty.
The researchers said the addition of the symbol of life may have occurred after Hezekiah recovered from a life-threatening illness, as depicted in the book of Kings.
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. – 2 Kings 20:1 (KJV).
In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign. -2 Chronicles 32:24 (KJV).
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. -Isaiah 38:1 (KJV).
Dr Mazar continued that the seal helps to vividly bring the Biblical narratives about the king to life.
WHO WAS KING HEZEKIAH?
- Mentioned in the books of Kings, Isaiah and Chronicles in the Bible, King Hezekiah is regarded as one of the greatest kings of Judah.
- He is thought to have ruled between 715BC and 686BC following the death of his father King Ahaz. According to the Hebrew Bible he was 25 when he assumed the throne.
- Following the death of the Assyrian king Sargon II, Hezekiah took the opportunity to throw off the subservience of his kingdom to the Assyrians.
- He ceased to pay the tribute imposed upon his father and instead allied himself with Egypt.
- Sargon’s son Sennacherib embarked on a series of attempts to suppress this rebellion which culmulated in the siege of Jerusalem.
- Hezekiah’s reign is thought to have brought about a notable increase in the power of Judah in the region and it became an important state on the frontier between Assyria and Egpt.
- The Hebrew Bible also describes how Hezekiah made a miraculous recovery from a sickness after praying to God. He went on to live for another 15 years.
Watch – King Hezekiah’s seal: what does it tell us?
‘This was the private seal of the king that was most likely held by the king and nobody else. We found it in a Royal quarter that means we have got as close as possible to King Hezekiah.
‘He was one of the most important figures in the bible. King Hezekiah is known from Assyrian documents too. This is as close as we can get to touching him.’
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE SEAL
- The seal is just a third of an inch across (1cm) and a tenth of an inch thick (0.3cm).
- It was discovered during an excavation of an ancient ‘rubbish dump’ that dates back to the time of King Hezekiah, who lived between 727BC and 698BC.
- The tiny oval piece of clay bears the impression of a sun with two wings turned downward, flanked by two ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs that symbolise ‘life’.
- These symbols suggest the seal was made late in King Hezekiah’s life when the king’s symbols changed from the winged scarab beetle – which had been used as a symbol of power throughout the Ancient Near East – to that of the winged sun.
- This motif proclaimed God’s protection, giving his rule its legitimacy and power.
- The change is thought to have reflected both the Assyrian influence in the kingdom and Hezekiah’s desire to emphasis his own political sovereignty.
- The researchers said the addition of the symbol of life may have occurred after Hezekiah recovered from a life-threatening illness, as depicted in the Book of Kings.
The seal was discovered in a dump close to the royal building constructed during the 10 century BC.
At this time, King Solomon laid part of the fortifications of the Ophel – a governmental quarter that connected the City of David to the Temple Mount.
The tiny seal was found together with 33 other bullae imprinted with other seals, many bearing Hebrew names.
Marks on their back suggest they had been attached to coarse fabric or thick cords, suggesting they sealed sacks containing foodstuffs.
King Hezekiah appears in several books in the Bible – Kings, Isaiah and Chronicles – where it states ‘there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him’.
According to archaeologists, the symbols on the seal impression suggest it was made late in his life when the king’s symbols changed from the winged scarab beetle – which had been used as a symbol of power throughout the Ancient Near East – to that of the winged sun.
This motif proclaimed God’s protection, giving his rule its legitimacy and power.
Join us at: He Is Coming -Are You Ready?
Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, and rose again for the sole purpose of saving us from our sins. Are you saved? The bible declares that “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:13 (KJV). Salvation is turning your life over to Jesus Christ, believing that Jesus is the son of God, and renewing your mind with his spirit, that is done through repentance of sin, and following JESUS with all your heart, mind and soul. JESUS transforms lives, if you are ready for this life saving step, call upon your savior TODAY! Learn more here.
Unearthing God’s Word in the form of living artifacts should be viewed as prophetic, as it proves that God’s Word endures forever, just as he said!
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” – Matthew 24:14 (KJV).
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35 (KJV).
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. – Isaiah 40:8 (KJV).
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. – Isaiah 55:11 (KJV).
“…many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” – Daniel 12:4 (KJV).
For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof – Psalm 102:14 (KJV).