[Photo Credit: Ouria Tadmor/ Eilat Mazar]
Israeli Archaeologist Eilat Mazar announced this past Wednesday that she believed a seal impression of the Biblical prophet Isaiah was recently found near the southern wall of the Holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Mazar and a team of archaeologists from the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAR) had been conducting excavations at the Ophel site at the site of the Holy Temple (adjacent to the Western Wall).
In her announcement, Mazar explained why there was a strong possibility that the seal she and her team discovered was actually the seal of the Biblical Prophet Isaiah. The following was part of the article that Mazar published on the BAR website titled, Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?: “The seal impression of Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?] is divided into three registers. The upper end of the bulla is missing, and its lower left end is slightly damaged. The surviving portion of the top register shows the lower part of a grazing doe, a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem, present also on another bulla from the same area. The middle register reads “leyesha‘yah[u]” (Hebrew: לישעיה[ו]; [belonging] “to Isaiah”), where the damaged left end most likely included the letter vav (w; Hebrew: ו). The lower register reads “nvy” (Hebrew: נבי), centered. The damaged left end of this register may have been left empty, as on the right, with no additional letters, but it also may have had an additional letter, such as an aleph (’ ; Hebrew: א), which would render the word nvy’ (Hebrew: נביא), “prophet” in Hebrew. The addition of the letter aleph (’) creates the occupation name (like Baker, Smith, or Priest) for “prophet,” nvy’ in plene spelling. The defective spelling of the same word, nv’ (without the vowel yod), is present on an ostracon from the Judahite site of Lachish. Whether or not the aleph was added at the end of the lower register is speculative, as meticulous examinations of that damaged part of the bulla could not identify any remnants of additional letters.”
Mazar added that the seal that is believed to belong to Isaiah was found some 10 feet away from the site where a seal from King Hezekiah was found in 2015. Mazar wrote, “the close relationship between Isaiah and King Hezekiah, as described in the Bible, and the fact the bulla was found next to one bearing the name of Hezekiah seem to leave open the possibility that, despite the difficulties presented by the bulla’s damaged area, this may have been a seal impression of Isaiah the prophet, adviser to King Hezekiah.”King Hezekiah was known as one of the most riteous kings in Jewish history. In great part, his riteousness was tied to the fact that the king listened and heeded the council of the prophet Isaiah.
The Bible records one of the most powerful demonstrations of faith in the story of King Hezekiah and the threat that he faced from the powerful Assyrian King Sennacherib. During the reign of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib led a powerful force against Jerusalem and the King of Judah; a force that seemed unstoppable. The king’s advisor, the prophet Isaiah encouraged King Hezekiah to resist the Assyrian army and fight for Jerusalem and for the freedom of the kingdom of Judah. The Bible records that an angel of G-d fell on the Assyrian army and 185,000 of Sennacherib’s men were killed in one night. After that, King Sennacherib left Jerusalem and did not return for another conquest.
After the siege of Jerusalem, by the forces of King Sennacherib, was lifted, the Jewish people of the kingdom of Judah lived in peace for the remainder of the rule of King Hezekiah. In describing life in Jerusalem, the Bible (II Chronicles – Chapter 30, Verse 26) records, “there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel [there had] not [been] the like in Jerusalem.”
According to the rabbinic literature, Isaiah was a descendant of the royal house of Judah and Tamar. He was the son of Amoz, who was the brother of King Amaziah of Judah.