A clay seal found in Jerusalem has given further evidence of the reign of the famed Biblical Jewish King Josiah, who is noteworthy in Jewish history as the king who brought the Jewish people back to observance of the Torah after the nefarious reign of his predecessor Manasseh.
Discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, the seal was found underneath a current-day car park; the archaeological team found evidence of a large building that featured ornate architecture and tiled floors that was later burned by the Babylonians when they conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Those features enabled archaeologists to identify the building as an administrative center for the Jewish government of the king.
Archaeologists Ayyala Rodan and Sveta Pnik, who are part of the project to excavate the original city of King David, made two finds; both of them bullae, which were utilized to hold rolls of papyrus. Yuval Gadot, one of the excavators, said excitedly, “This bulla connects to a whole context, a whole world, that we have been uncovering in this spot.”
Archaeologist Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority added, “What is importance is not just that they were found in Jerusalem, but [that they were found] inside their true archaeological context. It is not a coincidence that the seal and the seal impression are found here.” He added that the significance of finding the seals where they had originally been left helps to “connect between the artifact and the actual physical era it was found in.”
The Times of Israel reports:
One is a bluish agate stone seal “(belonging) to Ikkar son of Matanyahu” (LeIkkar Ben Matanyahu). The other is a clay seal impression, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King” (LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech). Nathan-Melech is named in 2 Kings as an official in the court of King Josiah.
According to the Second Book of Kings, King Josiah succeeded to the throne when he was eight years old. When he was 18, Hilkiah, the High Priest, informed Josiah that he had found a Torah scroll hidden away in the Temple. The discovery prompted Josiah to institute reforms destroying idol worship in the land, dismiss priests who had practiced idol worship, and instruct the entire Jewish people to come to Jerusalem en masse and bring a Passover offering, the first time that had happened in 400 years. In chapter 23 of the Second Book of Kings, verse 11 states, “He also abolished the horses that the kings of Judah had designated for worship of the sun, which would race from the entrance to the Temple of the Lord to the office of Nathan-Melech, the officer in the outlying area of the city.”
The Times Of Israel adds, “The newly unearthed two-story public building, constructed with finely cut ashlar stones shows, illustrates the beginning of a westward move of the administration area in the large sprawling city. The multi-room large structure bears clear signs of destruction in the sixth century BCE, which likely corresponds to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, according to the IAA press release.”
Shalev and Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University asserted:
Since many of the well-known bullae and stamps have not come from organized archaeological excavations but rather from the antiquities market, the discovery of these two artifacts in a clear archaeological context that can be dated is very exciting. They join the bullae and stamps bearing names written in ancient Hebrew script, which were discovered in the various excavations that have been conducted in the City of David until today. These artifacts attest to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king’s closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city.
Doron Spielman, vice president of the City of David Foundation, said delightedly, “This is an extremely exciting find for billions of people worldwide. The personal seal of Natan-Melech, a senior official in the government of Josiah, King of Judah, as described in the second book of Kings. The ongoing archaeological excavations at the City of David continue to prove that ancient Jerusalem is no longer just a matter of faith, but also a matter of fact.”
One year ago, Israel announced the exciting discovery of bullae that testified to the existence of the prophet Isaiah.