Many archaeologists and Bible scholars are very excited at the recent news coming out of Israel regarding the prophet Isaiah. A team of Israeli archaeologists headed by the widely renowned Dr. Eliat Mazar have discovered a 2,700-year-old clay seal – also known as a “bulla” – that may bear the “signature” of the biblical prophet Isaiah! In ancient times a clay seal was used to authenticate a document much in the way we think of a signature being a mark of authenticity. In the ancient world an individual would have a seal unique to them that they would press into the document, or into a medium such as wax or clay that was affixed to the document. The practice dates back at least to ancient Egypt and was used extensively throughout the biblical era well into the medieval and middle ages when it became commonplace for officials to wear their seal as a signet ring. This important discovery was made as part of the Ophel Excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Mazar said this discovery is especially significant because the Isaiah seal was found in very close proximity to a bulla belonging to King Hezekiah. The Ophel Excavations unearthed numerous artifacts that were apparently thrown out from a royal bakery during the 586 B.C. destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. In 2015, archaeologists at the Ophel Excavations confirmed one of the recovered seals belonged to King Hezekiah. The proximity of the second seal –containing the name “Isaiah” –appears to indicate the two seals are related.
While the bulla defiantly bears the name “Isaiah” and may likely indicate “the prophet Isaiah”; however, Mazar was careful to point the possibility that the bulla may have belonged to a different Isaiah as the oval-shaped Isaiah bulla is not intact. On its legible portion, there is an inscription with First Temple Hebrew letters that seem to spell out the name l’Yesha’yah[u] (Belonging to Isaiah). On a line below, there is the partial word nvy, which presumably spells out “prophet.” “Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at the end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah,” Mazar said. However, Mazar also pointed out “the name of Isaiah is clear.” The image below illustrates the missing portion of the bulla that prevents an identification with 100% certainty. However, the fact that this bulla was found in such close proximity to a bulla belonging to King Hezekiah lends support to the idea that it did belong to the prophet Isaiah.
Relevant Bible Passages
Isaiah and the king had a close relationship, and the prophet advised the king following the conquest of the northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. This is recorded in recorded in 2 Kings 19-20; 2 Chronicles 26:22; 32:20, and Isaiah 37-39. Not only did Isaiah advice Hezekiah regarding the impending Assyrian conquest – specifically that the LORD had hear Hezekiah’s prayer and would deliver Jerusalem from this attack, but Isaiah also famously offered Hezekiah the prophecy of Hezekiah’s healing from a life-threatening illness (Isaiah 38). Therefore, it is worth mentioning again that the close physical proximity that this Isaiah bulla was discovered in relationship to the bull belonging to King Hezekiah lends significant credence to its authenticity as belonging to the biblical prophet Isaiah. Only time will tell if the Lord allows more evidence confirming the validity of the Bible to be discovered, but every time I read of such archaeological discoveries I am reminded that Jesus told the Pharisees if His disciples remained silent, the stones would cry out (Luke 19:37-40). I cannot help but think of this passage every time a new and exciting archaeological discovery is made that further validates another detail of Scripture. The stones and seals of the ancient biblical world are indeed crying out to us concerning the real people, real places, and real history of the Bible!
Pray: Pray that the LORD will continue to allow us such insight into the validity and historicity of his Word. Pray for Dr. Mazar and her team that they will find even more exciting biblical discoveries!