The recent discovery in Jerusalem of a 2,700-year-old stamped clay seal potentially belonging to the Biblical prophet Isaiah is being published by a prominent Israeli archaeologist on February 22, 2018. Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem is breaking this find in her new article, “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?”, which is part of a special double issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (March/April–May/June 2018).
“We appear to have discovered a seal impression, which may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah, in a scientific, archaeological excavation,” says Mazar, whose team made the discovery in the Ophel Excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The excavation is sponsored by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York. “We found the eighth-century B.C.E. seal mark that may have been made by the prophet Isaiah himself only 10 feet away from where we earlier discovered the highly-publicized bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah.” The clay seal impression—known as a bulla—was found right outside the royal bakery in undisturbed Iron Age remains.
“If it is the case that this bulla is indeed that of the prophet Isaiah, then it should not come as a surprise to discover this bulla next to one bearing King Hezekiah’s name given the symbiotic relationship of the prophet Isaiah and King Hezekiah described in the Bible,” says Mazar, who reveals her find in the special issue of Biblical Archaeology Reviewhonoring its recently-retired founder, Hershel Shanks.
At about a half-inch wide, the oval-shaped bulla is inscribed in ancient Hebrew script with the name Yesha’yah (the Hebrew name of Isaiah), followed by the word nvy. “Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph,” says Mazar, “which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah. The absence of this final letter, however, requires that we leave open the possibility that it could just be the name Navi.” Mazar concludes, “The name of Isaiah, however, is clear.”
The fantastic discovery of the possible Isaiah seal impression brings to life some of the Biblical narratives of Jerusalem’sFirst Temple period. The Bible records in 2 Kings 18–19 that King Hezekiah trusted the prophet Isaiah’s counsel to protect Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege. No other figure was closer to Hezekiah, who reigned from about 727 to 698 B.C.E., than the prophet Isaiah.