Monday, August 01, 2005

AN INSCRIBED ROYAL SEAL EXCAVATED IN JERUSALEM? So says the New York Sun. The Sun is a subscription-only service, so only the beginning of the article is available to me:
Royal Seal Supports Biblical Depiction of Jerusalem

BY BENNY AVNI - Staff Reporter of the Sun
August 1, 2005

A royal seal dating to biblical times has been unearthed in the City of David by Israeli archaeologists, and the artifact's inscription supports Old Testament depictions of ancient Jerusalem.

According to an Israeli daily newspaper, Maariv, the seal bears the name of one of the top officials in the court of the last Judean ruler prior to the destruction of the First Temple, King Zedekiah, and was created in about 580 before the common era. It was found at a dig currently carried out in semi-secrecy by Israeli archaeologists in an area known as City of David in Jerusalem.

A Google search for "Temple Mount" also produces this excerpt from the article: "... A succession of Judean kings ruled the area until 586 BCE, when the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple, which stood on what Jews now call the Temple Mount. ..."

The entry appeared on Google just a few minutes ago, so hopefully more news outlets will pick it up. If this report accurate, it's quite an important discovery. We'll see. Incidentally, "about 580" is an odd date to assign the seal, since that would be after the destruction of the city.

If anyone has more information, please drop me a note.

UPDATE: Stephen Goranson e-mails more of the article:
Researchers under the supervision of an Israeli archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, believe that the current dig is conducted at the site where the palace of the Judean kings once stood. As described in the Bible, the First Temple was the center of Judean political and religious life, and is at the center of Jewish claims to historical links to Jerusalem, as articulated by generations of Jews who pray for "next year in Jerusalem."

The name of the court official as it appears on the newly discovered seal - Jehudi, son of Shelemiah - is cited in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah.

Several years ago, another circa-580 B.C.E. royal seal was found in the same region. It bore the name of Gemaryahu, son of Shaphan, who is also mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, and was a top official in the court of King Zedekiah's predecessor, King Yehoyachim. The existence of two seals from the same era lends historical credibility to the biblical descriptions, and according to Maariv, has encouraged the archaeologists to keep digging.


An excavation in the royal palace sounds very exciting indeed.

Jehudi appears in Jeremiah 36:14-23 in the episode in which King Jehoiakim burned the scroll of Jeremiah's oracles. Jehudi was the official whom the king ordered to read from the scroll as it was burned, piece by piece. However, there appear to be some errors in the article in addition to the "580" business. The book of Jeremiah gives his geneaology as "Jehudi son of Nethaniah, son of Shelemiah, son of Cushi," so Shelemiah was his grandfather, not his father as the article seems to indicate. And he was an official under King Jehoiakim, not King Zedekiah. The episode took place in the fourth year of the former's reign, c. 605 BCE. All this could have been learned by asking for the specific passage in Jeremiah and looking it up in a decent study Bible. So much for the mainstream media's much-vaunted multiple layers of fact checking.

The Gemaryahu seal was recovered in a controlled excavation as well and it's genuineness is not in doubt. Gemaryahu (Gemariah) appears in the same episode as Jehudi (Jer 36:10ff.).

Yes, please do keep digging.

UPDATE: Here's the Maariv article (via Yitzhak Sapir on the ANE list), which I don't had time to read. But it gives the text of the "seal" (bulla?) as יהוכל בן שלמיהו בן נובי, "Jehucal son of Shelemiah son of Nubi. This person is mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3 and 38:1 (Jucal in the latter) and indeed was an official during the reign of Zedekiah. The article in the Sun seems to have gotten the name mixed up. Very curious.

UPDATE: Yitzhak Sapir has posted a translation of much of the Maariv article on the ANE list. He also has some comments on possible reasons for the confusion about the name on the seal/bulla.

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