Impression of King Hezekiah's royal seal discovered
Published on Dec, 03 2015
Rare mark from biblical king's seal found in Jerusalem. The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar, have unearthed an impression of the royal seal of King Hezekiah (727-698 BCE). 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.
The impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script:
"לחזקיהו [בן] אחז מלך יהדה"
"Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah"
and a two-winged sun, with wings turned downward, flanked by two ankh symbols symbolizing life.
The symbols on the seal impression from the Ophel suggest that they were made late in his life, when both the Royal administrative authority and the King's personal symbols changed from the winged scarab (dung beetle) - the symbol of power and rule that had been familiar throughout the Ancient Near East, to that of the winged sun - a motif that proclaimed God's protection, which gave the regime its legitimacy and power, also widespread throughout the Ancient Near East and used by the Assyrian Kings.The clay imprint, known as a bulla, was found at a dig at the foot of the southern part of the wall that surrounds Jerusalem’s Old City, an area rich in relics from the period of the first of two ancient Jewish temples.
Hezekiah, who ruled from 727-698BC, is described favourably in the Bible, as well as in the chronicles of the Assyrian kings, who ruled during his time. 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. "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," says one verse in the second Book of Kings in the Bible.
The bulla was found in 2009, but was put into storage after an initial inspection failed to establish its origin. Only recently did an archaeologist discern what the inscription said. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology said that the bulla sealed a document written on a papyrus rolled and tied with thin cords, which left their mark on the back. "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," she added.
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.